Every time a visitor leaves your ecommerce site without making a purchase, it’s a missed opportunity. Here are some ways to improve your conversion rate by turning more visitors into paying customers.

As an ecommerce merchant you've probably put a lot of resources, time, and money into the foundation of your business: your online store. And if it's not performing the way you'd hoped, or you're not growing your revenue the way you want, it'd be easy to think the solution is to invest more resources, time, and money into it.

Not so. The solution is to make the most of what you've already got with conversion rate optimization. 

What is conversion rate optimization?

"Conversion" at an ecommerce site means turning visitors into customers. Your conversion rate is the percent of unique sales you make at your site, divided by the number of unique visitors you get at your site. For example, let's say your online store averages approximately 50,000 unique visitor sessions per month, and you make about 1,000 unique sales per month. To calculate your store's average conversion rate, divide 1,000 by 50,000. That means your site's conversion rate is two percent. That's about the average for an ecommerce store.

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the set of steps you take to increase conversions at your site. CRO strategies include applying what you understand about your target audience, your site visitors' behavior, and conversion goals to appear higher on a search engine results page; drive more website traffic; improve the first impression customers get from your home page; enhance the website copy on your landing pages and product pages; and encourage more visitors to make a purchasing decision.

Why does your conversion rate matter?

Improving your website's conversion rate is the easiest way to increase profits for your business, because you're optimizing what you already have rather than having to spend more to get more.

If everyone who visits your site is just browsing and not actually buying, that doesn't bode well for your business. If you've made it this far, then you've done well enough to know that you could do even better. Conversion rate optimization can put you on the path to better growth.

Let's say the average order value (AOV) in the store example above is $50. If you increased your conversion rate just one percentage point, from two to three percent, you'd be making $75,000 per month instead of $50,000 — that's an extra 50 percent in profits.

Sales is not the only conversion goal worthy of your attention: you might notice increased revenue if you optimize conversion rates for other digital marketing goals, too. All along your conversion funnel you'll find opportunities to improve, such as the percentage of customers who click a link in your emails, use a coupon code, add items to a wishlist, recover their abandoned shopping carts, or share your social media posts.

11 effective conversion rate optimization strategies

One of the great things about conversion rate optimization is that you don't need a lot of resources or fancy analysis tools to do it. Since you're going to be tweaking what you've already got, you shouldn't need to invest an arm and a leg to build something new. That said, there are some great free tools out there to help you with your optimization efforts, from Google analytics to split testing software to surveys for collecting qualitative feedback. If you need further guidance, consider working with an ecommerce marketing agency to scale your business.

Wondering how to get started? Let's take a look at 11 effective CRO strategies you can implement at your own ecommerce website.

1. Make your online store mobile-friendly

Statista estimates that mobile commerce as a share of total ecommerce will nearly double by 2025. As more stores improve their user experience and security, or even build shopping apps, you can't afford to be one of the few stores that doesn't provide a great mobile experience.

Conversion optimization for mobile starts with looking at Google Analytics for the share of web traffic coming to your site from a mobile device.  If it's 10 percent or above, you may be losing website visitors shopping from their mobile phones and this should be an area of focus for you. Next, you want to ensure that your site performs well in both design and speed. You may only get one chance to make a great first impression, so focus on your home page or landing pages first. Modern websites are dynamic, meaning they automatically resize their design to adjust to smaller mobile screens. If your images aren't resizing correctly, your text is too small to read, or images aren't loading quickly, these should be your next areas for improvement.

2. Use compelling product images

Humans are visual and emotional: when making shopping decisions we care about price, sure, but we respond to images that are visually pleasing or invoke an emotion. Visuals are a surprisingly significant factor in your ecommerce marketing strategy. Gorgeous, high-quality images communicate a product far more efficiently than a text description, and multiple images are even better. If you're a small-business owner and not a great photographer, investing in professional product photos could be a game-changer in your conversion optimization efforts.

Make sure your images showcase the product in its entirety: this creates accurate customer expectations and builds trust. Include photos of the details you know customers care about most. And show the product in context, if relevant: if you sell apparel, for example, use a model; if you sell appliances, show the products in use in an appropriate setting. You can even include videos, giving shoppers a 360-degree view of your products. You want to help shoppers envision themselves wearing, using, or benefiting from your products.

3. Optimize your website loading time

If your pages take too long to load, shoppers will give up. In fact, according to Hubspot, your conversion rate drops by more than four percent for every second of load time. If you're thinking that four percent isn't statistically significant, remember above, where we calculated the rise in profits you'd see with just a one-point increase in your conversion rate? You don't want to lose valuable revenue just because your site is slow.

Caching images at the browser level is one of the most obvious ways to speed up your load times. Serve scaled images: a lower-res version that loads quickly, and a higher-res version for shoppers who want to see details up close. Keep in mind that the ecommerce platform you use has a strong influence on how these changes are made. Minimize redirects, or page addresses that actually send traffic to a different address. And make sure that your checkout process and payment gateway, especially, load as quickly as possible. Remember: You want to remove any source of friction from the purchasing process.

4. Improve your product descriptions

If you're describing your products using dry or technical language, or long, flowery sentences that don't actually explain the product at all, you've got room to optimize. If your shoppers come to your site as a result of a keyword search, make sure you're using that keyword in the product title and first sentence.  Consider having both a one-sentence summary description and a longer description, for shoppers who want to read all the details. Keep your descriptions concise, using bullets to help people skim quickly. And emphasize the benefits of your products, not just the features.

5. Create a sense of urgency

There's nothing like the fear of a lost deal to compel someone to act. That's why using urgency or scarcity in your marketing can help you boost your conversion rate. 

You can create a sense of urgency in the minds of your customers with a number of tactics. One is a time-sensitive offer, such as you might see on Black Friday or holiday weekends. Research shows that shoppers are more likely to buy during these time periods because they don’t want to miss out on an offer. You can emphasize this sense of urgency by showing a countdown timer, banner, or pop-up with the time remaining until the deal expires.

Another tactic that can make shoppers act on the buying impulse is to emphasize a product's scarcity. Many ecommerce platforms will allow you to connect your inventory management software to your front-end product displays, so that you can show when a product is in low stock. This can increase conversions as shoppers feel compelled to complete their purchase before supplies run out.

6. Include customer testimonials or reviews

Social proof — knowing the behaviors and opinions of our peers — is one of the most effective forms of conversion rate optimization. That's because we look to other people's experiences with a product to decide whether that product is worth purchasing. Buyers are more likely to purchase highly-rated products because they're indicators of high quality and reliability.

You can include reviews, testimonials, or product ratings all on a single page like your home page, or in a footer that appears across all your pages. But the most influential place to include them is directly on individual product pages. Giving shoppers an opportunity to read customers' opinions about your product not only builds trust, it can be the key factor in encouraging a purchase and, by extension, increasing conversions.

7. Use popularity to your advantage

Another way to capitalize on social proof for conversion optimization is to show shoppers which products are popular. No matter what interest brought a shopper into your website, once there they will naturally be curious to know what other shoppers purchased from you. For new customers especially, who may not be familiar with your products, knowing what other people purchased from you will establish credibility and trust.

You can highlight your most popular products directly on your home page, where visitors make the association between prime real estate and value. Or you might feature a sidebar that follows visitors across the site, reminding them which products other customers have found worthy. Another example of this conversion optimization tactic at work is the "customers also viewed ..." or "customers also bought ..." banner, showing related products or accessories. This is a great way to help shoppers consider products they may not have discovered on their own and can often increase your average order value.

8. Offer live chat

Live chat can improve your site's accessibility, convenience, and customer service. Forrester Research has found that customers who engage with live chat are almost three times more likely to proceed with a purchase.

Whether you use a real person or a chatbot, this mechanism gives you a way to answer questions, sell shoppers on the benefits of your products, and guide them to the products they seek. You can use a live chat system to "welcome" visitors as they come through your virtual door and interact directly with them as they navigate your site. Live chat can also double as real-time customer service, giving you a way to address a customer's concerns right away if they have problems or issues. And you might also try using live chat as a personal assistant, to make product suggestions based on the user's interests or navigation patterns.

9. Tweak your pricing

The way you display your prices can have a huge impact on purchasing decisions. Optimizing your pricing page or the way you display your product prices is a great place for conversion optimization.

There are various techniques to try when it comes to tweaking your pricing, which are backed up by human behavioral research. For example, did you know that we equate font size to numerical size? Try reducing the font size of your prices. Did you know that fewer syllables in a number make our brains think that it's smaller? So instead of $27.75 (eight syllables), try $27.15 (six syllables.) If your products have prices like $20 or $200, try instead using $19.99 or $199. Even though our rational minds know it's only a one-cent difference, reducing the digit farthest to the left by one can make the price seem smaller. Experiment  using alliteration ("two t-shirts for $25") and if you serve predominantly male customers, you might try putting your prices in red (research shows men equate the color red with savings.)

10. Use email and texting to follow up on abandoned carts

Buyers often add products to  their cart only to leave your site without purchasing anything. Abandoned carts are incredibly common (the average abandonment rate for online retailers is about 70 percent) but are a prime candidate for your conversion efforts. According to Baymard research, ecommerce stores that use abandoned cart reminders can increase their conversion rates by more than 35 percent.

Email may not be the latest fad in online marketing, but it's still an effective channel for reminding customers to return to their abandoned carts. Texting is even better, especially when it comes to Ecommerce SMS marketing, as text messages have nearly a 98 percent open rate (compared with just 20 percent for the average ecommerce email) and most text messages are read within minutes. With texting, you can reach your potential customers while your products are still on their minds and provide them with some incentive to return and make a purchase. Examples of effectives incentives that can help optimize your conversion rate are free shipping, coupon codes, or special offers that expire soon.

11. Do A/B testing 

A/B testing is one of the most effective conversion rate optimization tools because it can give you quantitative data on your visitors' behaviors and desires. With A/B testing you'll put two different options — whether it's a landing page, a call to action, a subject line, or something else — in front of your existing traffic, and see which one performs best. A/B testing lets you dig deeper into the real-time behaviors and decisions your shoppers make, and gives you enough data about what customers find compelling to make confident changes.

Get started with improving your ecommerce conversion rate

With more and more people turning to online shopping, running an ecommerce site is more competitive than ever. Optimizing your conversion rates can help you maximize the impact with minimal investment, because you're simply enhancing what you already have.

The first step is to calculate conversion rate for your site (unique purchases divided by unique web sessions) so you have a baseline of your performance given your existing traffic. But conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process, and there are more conversions besides purchases to optimize.  As you improve as many conversions as you can, you'll likely notice more traffic and higher revenue. And if you need a partner to help you grow your business, Emotive is here for you. Sign up for a demo.