WHY READ THIS BLOG POST?
In this post, we look at E-Commerce Conversion Rate. I’ll teach you what conversions to keep an eye on and then give you 11 vital trust signals you need to make your e-commerce store a more trustworthy place to shop. These trust signals are proven to help capture more online sales.
“Trust is everything. If your e-commerce store is missing vital trust signals, your customers will shop somewhere else.”
Matt Thorpe, The Webshop Mechanic
I get asked a ton of sales-related questions on a daily basis but one of the most common ones is ‘how can I improve my e-commerce conversion rate?
I’m asked so often that I thought would write a post about it. Actually, I’ll probably write a few.
The reason I need to write more than one post is that improving conversion rate is not just a quick fix. Unfortunately, there is no single strategy that will fix your conversion rate off-the-bat.
Yes, there are some small tweaks we can make to gradually move the needle but improving conversion involves lots of little improvements over a period of time with testing along the way. Your work is never finished.
What is Conversion Rate? (And The Conversion Myth)
First, I want to clear something up that’s a bit of a myth, if you will.
A conversion rate in e-commerce terms typically refers to the percentage of people that complete a purchase on your online store.
So, if 100 people visit your site and 5 of them complete a sale, your conversion rate is 5%. All fairly simple.
However, the problem lies when you start focusing on building out your content to attract people back to your online store.
Succesful e-commerce is about building something more than just an online store. It’s about creating a place where people want to come back to so they can spend time browsing, reading, watching and interacting.
Or, as marketing expert Ryan Deiss explains in this Rainmaker FM podcast, “if e-commerce retailers are to be successful they need to make their stores a lot less like Walmart and more like Disney World, so customers can come and play there”.
What Ryan means by that is you need to invest time and effort in creating content your customers can consume when they are not buying.
Think about it. You can’t expect the same people to buy a product from you every day, especially if you sell shoes. A person can only own so many pairs of shoes (apart from my wife that is!).
So you need to give them something else to get their teeth into. You need to show them videos that tell a story that resonates or create a super-useful guide that help them solve a problem.
You want them to engage in more than just the sale.
Now, the problem where this affects your overall conversion rate is when people start returning, who have already purchased, and they start browsing more pages across your site without actually buying.
Suddenly, your conversion rate goes through the floor because you’ve doubled the traffic but the number of customers checking out is the same.
Your conversion rate drops from 5% to 2.5% and you suddenly think your business is falling apart when, in fact, you’re actually no worse off.
So my advice to you is to take your overall conversion rate with a pinch of salt. Forget it. If you create loads of great content then it will likely plummet and be a pointless statistic.
So what conversion rates are important to measure?
Image Source: Kissmetrics Blog
Whilst you could measure every action on your store to the nth degree, you only have limited time on your hands. I’m also guessing you’re not an analytics expert!
Therefore, you need to be selective about what conversions you monitor. These conversions need to be business critical (i.e sales focused or important events) so you can take action to improve your sales.
My suggestion would be to set up 3 basic goals and monitor the conversion metrics of each. (You can do this in your Google Analytics).
The goals to focus on are:
1. Products added to the basket
This is important because you want to see how well your product pages are performing. If people are not adding anything to the basket then you need to work on making your product pages work harder to sell the product and communicate the right information.
Whilst you could track every individual product. I would suggest you track your best-selling or highest margin products as a priority. Get them right first.
2. Baskets that convert into a completed sale
This will tell you if you check-out needs improvement. In most instances, the checkout can always be improved with various trust elements, as I will explain later.
3. Number of email sign-ups
To grow your business you need to collect data (email addresses). If you don’t capture any email sign-ups then you’re not going to get very far and your business will die. You need to set up a basic goal to help monitor how many sign-ups are being captured and you need to continuously try new methods of getting people to hand over an email address. (You can check out my data growth strategy here)
Setting Up Your E-commerce Conversion Rate Goals
Setting up conversion goals in your Google analytics is dead simple. So rather than me waffle on about it in this post, I thought I would show you a basic video from the guys at Google to help you.
Check it out here:
These goals will help you to monitor and measure the effectiveness of your ‘money pages’.
Once you have your first set of conversions in place you need to work on continually improving those pages to make them perform harder and deliver better conversions. The more focus and effort you put in, the more sales you will generate.
What makes a good conversion rate?
Conversion rate differs from industry to industry. It also differs from activity to activity. The main conversion rate you want to be focused on is the completed checkouts.
A good conversion rate for completed checkouts is between 5%-8%. If you can convert more than this then you are doing great.
However, many small online retailers are tracking a conversion rate of way below 5%. If this is you then don’t panic. I have some quick wins to help you improve your goal performance.
Why is my conversion rate low?
As mentioned earlier, your conversion is probably low for a number of reasons. It literally could be 200 reasons ranging from poor layout, not being user-friendly, buttons that are difficult to click or even poor imagery.
But I’m not going to go into the depths of UX (user experience) in this post because I believe a poor conversation rate is often down to a more fundamental problem – a lack of trust.
I often see e-commerce sites that fail to show the basic trust signals needed by a customer. A customer has a set of criteria in their head (like little tick boxes) and they want these met before they are confident enough to take the jump.
If you fail to gain your customer’s trust then they will always fall at the last hurdle or before.
11 E-Commerce Trust Signals To Improve Your Conversion
I often see e-commerce sites struggling with conversion because they fail to show the basic trust signals expected by a customer. A customer has a subconscious set of criteria in their head (like little tick boxes) and they want these met before they are confident enough to take the jump and make a purchase.
If you visualise the doubts that go through your mind when you’re about to part with money for something expensive, then you’ll understand what I mean.
If you fail to gain your customer’s trust then they will always fall at the final hurdle, if not before.
This isn’t rocket science. This is simply making sure your customers trust your site.
Like in a physical store, they want to be confident they are spending their money in the right place and buying authentic products from a legitimate company that they can trust.
Regardless of the goodies sitting on the shelf, if the store looks a mess, if you can’t find where to pay or you can’t find a member of staff to answer your questions, it’s unlikely they will buy anything. That means you could be losing sales every day without even knowing it because they simply don’t trust your site.
Trust signals are your e-commerce store’s way of giving piece-of-mind to shoppers so they have confidence in your brand, your store, your company and your products before committing to a purchase.
In short, they want to be sure they are not going to get ripped off!
To help place your customer’s mind at ease, I have created a list of ‘essential e-commerce trust signals’ that you can use to improve customer confidence, increase time spent on your site and to increase your goal conversion rates.
1. Credit Cards Logo: Improve Confidence with Visual Trust Signals
This sounds an obvious one but shoppers like to see that you accept the most common credit and debit cards such as VISA and Mastercard.
These logos are often hidden away in the checkout pages which means they never see them because the customer fails to get that far.
In my opinion, the payment logos you accept should be present in your header or footer of your store, on all of your product pages and on your checkout pages. I’m not saying you need to plaster logos everywhere, but subtle placement can work wonders and add to that confidence factor.
Remember, some customers will want to pay with AMEX because they get loyalty points or cash back. Not all retailers accept this payment because it’s more expensive to process, but if you don’t mind taking a little extra processing fee from AMEX, then it’s probably worth it.
2. Show PayPal Logo: Proven To Increase Conversion Rate
Using PayPal as a form of payment is a great strategy for increasing your sales.
Research by PayPal suggests, that allowing people to pay by PayPal can increase your conversion rate by up to 3%. It may be slightly more expensive than a card to process but it’s easy to install and it works because people trust it.
If you choose to use this payment option you should clearly show the PayPal logo in your footer and on your homepage, product and checkout pages. You want to make your customers aware of this at every chance you get. This includes your email broadcasts.
Sending a simple email with a Paypal logo may remind your customer that they still have £20 sitting in their PayPal account from selling that old pair of shoes on eBay. That £20 could now be spent on your store.
If you accept PayPal as one of your payment methods then show the logo clearly in the header or footer of your store and also mention it on your product pages.
3. Visible Telephone Number: Be available to answer questions
It’s inevitable that some customers will have questions and they will want them to be answered immediately.
If you only show an email address or provide a contact form as the only way to reach you then you will almost certainly miss out on valuable sales opportunities. You will also annoy your customers because they have to wait for a reply.
Remember that a customer’s question could be time-sensitive if they are buying a gift and they may want the product delivered before a certain date. Alternatively, they may have a sizing query, a returns request or even an offer of some free PR. You certainly don’t want to miss out on that!
I would suggest you clearly show your telephone number in your header, in your footer and also on your product pages as part of your key product information. You should also place it in your Shipping & Returns section and, of course on your Contact page.
Don’t make people hunt around for your contact number because it will frustrate them. If you want to have a successful business then you can’t run away from your customer.
Important Point: Make sure the number is in working order and will be answered. There’s nothing worse than a company voicemail or a line that keep ringing and ringing. If you have limited hours of business, make it clear on your site. That way, nobody will be upset.
4. Zen Desk Live Chat: A Fantastic Sales Tool
Just like a telephone number, Live Chat enables customers to get their questions answered quickly and efficiently. We live in a very impatient world and customers don’t want to wait hours for an email reply. If they can’t get their answer in a few minutes, they will leave. That’s your sale lost.
Talking to a real person at the point of purchase (a bit like at a till point in a high street store) can increase conversion substantially.
On-site chat is also a great tool if the customer is unable to call because they are at work or if they can’t be bothered, which is also very common.
One of my favourite ecommerce tools is a live chat system called Zen Desk Chat (formerly Zopim). Zendesk Chat is a simple live chat plugin that’s really easy to set-up, very intuitive and does exactly what it says on the tin.
It works by using a chat ‘bubble’ box that appears in the corner of your screen like Facebook Messenger and enables your visitor to type a quick message. You are then alerted with an alert and you can easily reply and continue the conversion.
If you are offline or unavailable at any point, the customer can still send you a message through the chat box and it will arrive in your inbox as an email. You can then get back to them out of hours as you would normally. A great tool and certainly worth it!
Zendesk Chat has a FREE trial for one user and then goes up to $11.20 per month for advanced features. It’s perfect if you are a small e-commerce store and it also only takes a few minutes to install (with just a little snippet of code).
It also integrates with virtually any website platform which is ideal. You can check their integrations guide here.
5. Shipping Charges: Be Clear & Reduce Your Cart Abandonment
Hiding your shipping charges is a one-way ticket to losing customers. If your customer has made up their mind about the product they want to buy then don’t annoy them by hitting them with a sneaky shipping charge in the basket.
According to research by the Baymard Institue, this is the number 1 reason why cart abandonment is so high with many e-commerce stores.
Source: Baymard Institute
In order to achieve a higher conversion rate, you need to make shipping charges crystal clear from the very start of the shopping experience. Don’t make your visitors leave your product page to go hunting around your store for the information because most people won’t bother.
When a customer is viewing a product, they should be able to make an informed decision about whether they want to buy it.
A key part of that decision making is the shipping cost and delivery timescales. Can they wait that long? Is it affordable?
Make sure you show every delivery option available as you will get some customers that opt for the Standard Shipping and others who will happily pay for Next Day or Premium Delivery.
Provided your charges are not excessive then there is no reason to hide them. But, if your shipping is FREE then be sure to shout about it! Customers love free shipping and, in some instances, they expect it.
If you are not keen about offering completely free shipping then you could offer free shipping over a certain threshold (i.e £75). This is also a great way to increase basket values, especially if the item your customer wants is around the £60 mark.
6. Shipping Timescales: Be Realistic & Improve Customer Confidence
Amazon isn’t doing smaller retailers like us any favours because it’s making customers more and more demanding by the day.
Regardless of the order value, customers are starting to expect next day delivery as standard and they even want delivery at weekends with a time slot arrival notification.
Well, get used to it. This is the future of online shopping and it’s only going to get worse once all the courier companies catch up (or when the delivery drones arrive!)
Shipping is obviously an area where very few retailers will be able to compete with Amazon. But, in my experience, this isn’t a problem provided you make everything clear with your customer and offer realistic timescales.
Most customers will settle for a 3-5 working day delivery window if they are not paying for it. Any longer than that, you may find yourself losing out on sales.
The one exception to that rule is personalised products. Customers do appreciate more time and effort goes into creating a personalised product so they are prepared to wait longer, often as long as 10-14 days. Any longer is pushing it.
Finally, don’t ever use 2nd class postage. It looks cheap and doesn’t make your customers feel valued.
Always use First Class as standard and build it into your pricing.
7. Return Policy: Stand Out By Being Transparent
Product returns are frustrating for a retailer but they are just part of running an online business. Yes, you will get those annoying people who will order the same item in different sizes or colours and send one back, but they are few and far between. Returns are annoying and time-consuming but you just need to ‘bite the bullet’ on this one.
By law, you are obliged to provide a ‘cooling off’ period where customers have a legal right to return a product. There is nothing you can do about that either.
However, you can use your returns policy to your advantage and increase your conversion rate. In some instances, a customer won’t take the plunge if they are unsure they can easily return an item.
Going back to the Baymard Institute research above, they state that 10% of customers abandoned a purchase because the returns policy wasn’t satisfactory or couldn’t be found easily.
By clearly communicating your Returns Policy, you are giving your customers piece-of-mind and encouraging them to make the purchase.
I would also advise that your returns policy is clearly stated on your product pages and in your returns information via a link down in your site footer. Again, don’t hide it because it will just annoy people.
Promote it and stand out from the rest. That’s how UK retailer John Lewis managed to build such a loyal customer base.
It originally offered a ‘no quibble’ 90-day money back guarantee. That length has now be lowered to 35 days but it still heavily promotes that message to instill confidence.
Being transparent can go a long way to improving customer confidence in your store. Just because they read the returns policy, it doesn’t mean to say they will always want to return it.
Do yourself a favour by ensuring your product descriptions, measurements, and any other product detail is crystal clear and very accurate. That way, people won’t return items because they don’t reflect what your website says.
Take note of customer feedback when they say a product fit is not accurate. This is especially important in the world of fashion so you need to make sure your size charts are correct otherwise it could cost you.
If you can do that then you should be able to minimise your product return rate and improve your conversion rate.
8. Independent Customer Reviews: Let Your Customers Do The Talking
Amazon’s success has been partly driven by its focus on customer reviews. It’s time you thought in the same way.
Honest customer reviews give your products and your site credibility in the eyes of new people arriving. Feedback from previous purchasers who are singing your praises will drastically improve your conversion rate.
According to marketing blog CrazyEgg, 88% of consumers will check a customer review before they buy. Wow, that kind of tells you how important they are in the world of e-commerce.
There is a ton of plugins and software packages available to help you do acquire feedback and reviews in an automated way. I prefer to use a 3rd party software like Feefo or Yotpo because it adds that extra level of credibility as they work with so many large online retailers already. It’s also an external service so it appears more trustworthy.
You obviously need to weigh up the costs of what you can afford at this stage in your business. If your reviews are already built into your e-commerce platform then it may be worth using that option but make sure you have automated post-sale emails that are sent out 5-7 days after the order has been dispatched.
If your product is a something that may take longer to use (like a pair of skis), give it 14 days before asking for the review.
If you don’t have this mechanism built into your purchasing cycle then it’s unlikely that you will receive many reviews at all. In my opinion, it’s vital to conversion, so get onto it.
In my experience, customers will rarely leave positive feedback when they are happy unless you prompt them.
Because they are happy and content with their purchase and they got what they needed. They have already moved on to using it. Unhappy customers are the opposite.
Unhappy customers will, quite rightly, go out of their way to make sure they create a fuss until you resolve their problem. Some are reasonable and the very few are unreasonable.
Again, this is all part of running a business so embrace these people and try to turn the situation into a positive one.
Don’t go on the defensive. Sympathise with the customer and resolve the problems smoothly. A positive customer service experience could end up converting an unhappy customer into one of your best advocates.
Ideally, your customer reviews should be added to each product page, since that will be most relevant for someone looking to buy that item.
You should also ask your then to review your service levels (i.e website usability, speed of delivery, packaging, communication, etc.) This information is vital if you are to continually improve your service levels and your products.
Finally, note. Please, please, please, do not write your own reviews. Fake reviews can be seen a mile away and immediately screams ‘fraud’.
You must earn your reviews. If you sell quality products and provide a good customer experience this shouldn’t be a problem.
9. Shopping Security SSL: Remove THE Huge Obstacle For Your Customers
Shopping online is risky. Credit card fraud and identity theft are rife. Customers want to know their personal details are safe so it’s up to you to effectively communicate the security you have protecting your e-commerce store.
Again, referring back to the Baymard Institute research, 18% of people didn’t trust the site’s security with their card details. That’s huge!
If you are running your store on a hosted platform like Shopify, Squarespace, Big Commerce or Big Cartel then they will already have the security side ‘locked down’ for you as standard. If you have your site hosted with a developer or agency then make sure they have all the relevant SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption in place (also know as jumbling up customer information so it can’t be hacked).
Whether you are on any of these platforms or not it’s worth asking your web developer or hosting supplier for the hosting security credentials. It’s likely that a 3rd party will be providing the encryption and they will have their own logo you can use on your site.
A secure shopping experience is not just about what happens behind the scenes but also what happens on the site, so you need to communicate that your site provides a safe and secure shopping experience.
My advice would be to place the certificate provider’s security logos in your footer and on the checkout pages. It may not look the prettiest but it will undoubtedly improve your store conversion rate.
Note: Don’t expect your developer or agency to keep your SSL certificate renewed. I’ve seen clients lose sales because this has been forgotten and, the first they hear about it, is when a customer says they get a security warning from their browser. By that point, many customers may have left. So make sure you take control.
10. A Physical Address: Tell Your Customer Where You Are
Even if you run a small e-commerce business and work from home, you should still clearly show your office address. (Don’t panic, it’s unlikely people will turn up on your doorstep.)
A physical address helps to alleviate any distrust that a customer may have. It means that they have a place to send returns, they could write you a letter or even visit if they needed to.
There has also been research indicating that visible contact details with tax and company registration number can improve your search ranking. From an SEO perspective, the address town will certainly help you to rank locally.
11. Your ‘About’ Page = A Tool To Sell Your Story
Everywhere I look, I see e-commerce stores wasting this opportunity time and time again because they haven’t taken the time or made the effort to create something special.
If you create something unique and memorable, you immediately have one up on your competition and it will build trust. More importantly, it will help your conversion rate because customers will buy into your company.
Your ‘About’ page is not just a quick few lines to say boring stuff about who you are, where you live and what you sell. It’s a hugely important part of building your brand.
It’s a vital page on your site that gives you the chance to build a true emotional bond with your customers.
Let me give you an example as to why this is so important.
A salesman knocks on your door in the middle of the day. You open the door, he introduces himself as Larry and he tries to sell you a product.
The product he is selling is actually one you need. It ticks all the right boxes and the price is good too. But there is something nagging in the back of your mind that you are not quite sure about.
And why is that?
Because you don’t know him, you’ve never met him and you don’t trust him.
Larry only gave his name. He told you nothing else about where he was from, what his company represents, where the products came from, how they were made and who his well-known customers are. He comes across as a bit of ‘a chancer’ so you end up closing the door in his face without buying.
An online store with a crappy or non-existent ‘about’ page comes across as a little bit shifty too.
If visitors are unable to relate to you and buy into your business then it’s unlikely they will stay on your site for long, sign up to your mailing list or buy anything from you.
Your ‘About’ page is your opportunity to really sell yourself, your business, your company ethos and your inspiration for starting in the first place.
Check out this example by The Cambridge Satchel Company.
The company relays the story of how the product started on the owner’s kitchen table and went on to grow into an international business. It also shows it’s achievements along the way. By adopting this format the company builds trust and encourages people to buy into the Cambridge Satchel brand rather than just a bag.
This approach also helps to differentiate the Cambridge Satchel brand against the competition and reinforces credibility.
so there you have it. You About page is your chance to stand out in your market and be different from the competition. You can also use it to create a bond with your customers that will result in your visitor wanting to engage with you. Make it count!
My apologies for the long post but there was a lot I needed to cover and I hope you’ve found it all useful.
In the world of e-commerce, the smallest things make a big difference. Your store may rank well, have great products and great photography but if trust is missing, you will never fulfil your potential.
Take the time to address the above areas and get them right. Use the goals you have created in Google Analytics to continually measure how the conversion rate of your ‘money pages’ is performing.
Once you see your conversions moving in the right direction then it will be time to look at the finer details.
Feel free to comment, ask a question or share. I’m here to help.
If you have any questions or comments about e-commerce conversion rates or you want to share your experiences, tips or advice then feel free to add them below. I will be more than happy to reply.
We’re all here to help each other.
Cheers guys and girls