11 Quick and Dirty Ways to Increase Conversions

    February 6, 2007

Increasing conversion rate can be a daunting task that requires a delicate touch and some expertise, not to mention some trial and error. Don’t be afraid to fail at it – just remember to keep trying until you succeed.

If you work hard at optimizing your site, you really can double or triple your conversions. That said, I put together this quick and dirty list to give you a few changes you can make to get started optimizing your e-commerce site for better usability and more conversions.

1. Remove clutter
Cluttered web pages are one of the most common mistakes on the Web. For some reason people like to jam all their information on one page. Clean things up by removing distracting, useless images, charts, or text. Provide users with information as they request it. You don’t need to put it all in front of their face at one time. The path you want the user to take should be clear from the homepage. When you stack up text and images, it dilutes the goal message, and can confuse users. Less is more!

2. Remove ads
If you’re trying to get people to buy a product or a service and you’re running Adsense or another ad system on your site you may be making a big mistake. These ads provide exit points for your traffic (and potential customers). Keep your customers focused on the task at hand. If they leave the site through an ad, “Great you made $.25,” but just don’t assume that person will hit the back button or ever return to your site. You may have just lost yourself a sale.

Not to mention, ads look extremely unprofessional on e-commerce sites. They are fine for blogs with no other means of monetization, but if you’re selling something do yourself a favor and leave the ads off.

3. Offer more payment options
I generally recommend offering 3 forms of payment for e-comm sites. Taking credit card is obviously the first choice. I think two good alternatives to offer are PayPal and BillMeLater. BillMeLater gives you the money right away and then just bills the customer at a later date. This is great for sites that target demographics who may not have credit cards or checking accounts. Adding BillMeLater and PayPal makes sure all bases are covered.

4. Show shipping costs upfront
How many times have you been ready to purchase an item online only to get to the last step of the process and find out shipping was $15.00? Shipping charges are already a huge deterrent to buying online. Why make it a bigger problem by hiding them?

Be honest and upfront with people about extra charges. When hidden fees are applied, it can anger the customer, and, worse, cause them not to trust you. ( Loss of trust is a loss of sale, and most likely a loss of any future sale.) Put the shipping charges on the shopping cart page before the customer clicks checkout.

5. Sales, Promotions, Free
Many practices from traditional retail simply don’t apply online. Running sales, however, is one that does. Incenting customers to buy is a pretty broad and well documented topic. But the basic principle still applies: everybody loves a sale. Experiment with different promotions to up your orders. Also experiment with different wording and calls to action. I recently tested a category on an e-commerce site called “specials”. We renamed the category “sales” and click-throughs and orders went up noticeably.

6. Sales copy
Strong sales copy is a must. Check out The new SEOBook sales letter by Brian Clark. Your copy doesn’t necessarily need to be a “sales letter” per se, but Brian does an awesome job explaining the benefits of buying the book to the visitor. I am by no means a sales copy expert, but I do know that with more expensive products and services you need more than a simple description. Explain why the potential buyer absolutely needs this product, and needs it now.

7. Stronger calls to action
Evaluate your calls to action on a site-wide level. I just bet you find some great content or images that really pop, but lack a call to action. You may have come up with some outstanding copy about how special your service is and then left the reader hanging by not telling them to take the next step. You’re wasting your efforts if you aren’t telling your customers what they should be doing. I’m a fan of putting the word “now” on many calls to action because it implies a sense of urgency: “Order your money saving guide now!” This is just one example. There are many ways to form excellent calls to action. Find one that works well for you and stick with it.

8. Add reliability Indicators.
This another small step that can gain a customers trust. Consider adding brand-recognized logos “above the fold” on your site, such as the Better Business Bureau, and HackerSafe. Of course you have to actually join respective company’s services, don’t just put the logo up.

Security concerns such as using SSL to encrypt data are huge for web shoppers. Calm their fears by adding a security logo (maybe “Secured by Verisign”?), and a security policy to your policies page.

9. Offer expert reviews
Another way I like to drum up sales is by adding “expert” reviews / analysis of products. Sometimes a product description just isn’t enough. Customers want to know if this product is right for them. Offering fit and feel analysis, care tips, information about what the product should used for, how it performs under certain conditions, etc. can really help sell. Just be honest, most customers can see right through the B.S. if you tell them how great everything is. Don’t be afraid to list some cons too. Customer’s will appreciate your advice and your company’s willingness to share information (transparency).

10. Add another navigation path
Adding several navigational paths to a desired goal is usually a good idea. Of course, you should have some logical categories that products or services fall under. You may also want to consider adding a search field. Some people don’t like to browse if they know exactly what they’re looking for. If you can also figure out a way to monitor customer searches and search results to keep track of what people are actually looking for on your site, you can get clued into your customers behavior and buying patterns. From there you can fill in holes in your product offerings if there is a pattern of searches for something that you don’t offer.

11. Test. Measure. Rinse. Repeat.
Okay, so this one isn’t quite “quick and dirty.” But trial and error is one of the foundations of usability testing. Try out different elements, such as different headings, one at a time. Then measure the effect through an analytics program. You should test one variable at a time so you know what change caused which effect. If you have some kind of multivariate testing program that can tell you what the effect of each change was, then by all means use it – its much faster that way. Keep whittling away at different page elements (“add to cart” buttons, headlines, page copy, image placement, etc.) until you are satisfied with the results.

An effective way to split-test is to point the same pay-per-click ad at 2 different pages, one with with your changed page and one with the current page to see if your changes were effective.

(Disclaimer: If your site is paying your mortgage you may not want to just go diving into this head first. Use mock-ups and test changes on a development web server rather than your production box, and please don’t just change your site all at once. Roll changes out one by one.)


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Brian Thibault is an internet marketing guru specializing in E-commerce, SEO, and usability. He is originally from Columbus, Ohio, and enjoys his work, ice hockey, and exercise. Brian’s blog can be found at http://www.convertup.com