Tips for E-Commerce Conversion Rate Optimization

Written by Alex Harris

About me

Alex's introductionI’m a website designer focused on improving conversion rates and maximizing return on investment from your marketing campaigns. I’ve been doing this now for about 13 to 14 years. I originally worked at a dot-com for 11 of those years. Now I work at home as a freelance web designer. We run a small team, helping people to create their WordPress sites, their e-commerce sites, and landing pages.

During my time at the dot-com, I was actually building my site business. I quickly realized, in 2001 to 2002, that not many people were doing conversion rate optimization and landing pages. For about seven or eight years, I was ranked as #1 and #2 for landing page design.

After I was let go finally from that job, I had the opportunity to marry my beautiful wife. In 2013, I created my podcast, “Marketing Optimization.” It’s likely this is one of the places you have found me from. I highly recommend you subscribe to my show. You can learn more about that at

In 2014, this year, I’ve really focused on not only providing services and building websites, but I also help people improve their conversions and teach them how they can do it on their own sites and their e-commerce sites as well.

What I do

Alex's work expertiseI’ve done hundreds of different e-commerce sites, WordPress sites, and landing pages. It really doesn’t matter what platform you’re working on, I’ve probably used that software: Shopify, Bigcommerce, NetSuite, Volusion, PayPal; lead generation companies like MailChimp, AWeber, Unbounce, LeadPages.

Through this whole process, I’ve done a lot of A/B testing. I’ve done over 5,000 different A/B tests. Here are just some examples of what you’ll see on the website today. It’s very funny.

Here are a couple of testimonials I’ve received. I’m very proud of these, because I’ve spent a lot of time really figuring out the right relationships to create.

Brian Eisenberg on Alex's workOne of my mentors, Bryan Eisenberg, who I’ve been working with, I had the pleasure of him saying that I have been one of his secret weapons for years. He is really one of the godfathers in the industry. He’s become a keynote speaker, and specifically talks about marketing optimization and conversion.

I also do a lot of e-commerce-related sites. In this particular site mentioned, I increased her conversion by five times.

Another landing page and lead generation focused site said after three months of my performing conversion optimization on their landing pages, I helped them increase their conversions by five times.

Here’s a little document I received today. I received it as spam, but it was actually a bit of worthwhile information. It’s that overall, e-commerce sites are a lot harder to really sell on the Web in general. While conversion rates have stayed between 1%, 2%, and 3%, cart abandonment rates have really gone up a lot.

Also, the checkout processes have almost become more complex. There’s more opportunity to buy different ways. So there are some great stats to really show you what’s going on in the e-commerce space as well.

Is Your E-Commerce Site Ready for the Holidays?

The year is halfway over. Within 90 days, the holiday season will be here. The holiday season really starts during Halloween. Even if you’re preparing your site for Christmas or New Year’s, you need to start working on your e-commerce site today to really maximize your return on investment as much as possible.

Top 5 Conversion Tips for E-Commerce

I’ll be taking you through the top five tips for you to improve the conversions of your e-commerce site.

#1 Quick Wins

Number one is quick wins. It’s all about trying to find out where you’re getting your traffic already, and then figuring out where the most opportunity is to get the most profit.

Getting quick winsTo do that, you really want to figure out what your 80/20 is. The majority of e-commerce sites – really, lead generation or content marketing sites in general – make 80% of their conversions or 80% of their leads off of 20% of their traffic.

What you want to do is go ahead and define what your top trafficked pages are, and then figure out from those top trafficked pages how much revenue each one of those pages is creating. Then reorganize them by the highest bounce rate pages.

You can also do this by looking in your AdWords or pay-per-click accounts, to figure out which queries are actually driving the best conversion rates.

I highly recommend you do not jump into a redesign, unless you’re completely changing platforms or starting from scratch. You want to iterate and test your way in figuring out the right way to actually redesign your site. Many people just jump right into a redesign to change their site, and it’s likely their conversion rates will actually go down.

So to do this, you can look into basic Google Analytics and just organize your site by the top trafficked landing pages or the top unique visitors, and then reorganize them by bounce rate. That way, you can figure out exactly where the right opportunities are for you to start optimizing.

Here’s an example of how we optimized a quick-win test within just two or three weeks. We increased the total revenue per visitor by $4. This averaged out to a percentage increase of about 65.95%. Not bad for a quick-win test. Anybody really can do this once you understand the right process.

#2 Create UVP

Number two, create a unique value proposition. You don’t want to go out and just necessarily copy your competition. You want to see what everyone else out there is doing, but you want to really define your website in a unique way to not make people think.

Creating a UVBHow do you do that? On your home page, you should have a clear headline. Within one to two seconds, you should know exactly what the company has to offer.

Have a clear tagline. A lot of companies miss out by having a unique value proposition on every single page on your website. Having that clear tagline or the value proposition lets people know what you are offering directly, regardless of what page they arrive, through a natural search or lower in your funnel process.

The thing is really just to not make people think. As soon as they arrive, they should clearly understand your unique value proposition. That way, there’s less friction. The less friction that you have, the more your bounce rates are going to continue to stay stable, and you’ll actually increase your conversions that way as well.

Trunk Club homepageSome quick examples here. Trunk Club does a great job of this. It’s not a traditional e-commerce company, but they are a personalized e-commerce company. “Hand-selected clothing for men.” You pretty much don’t need to think about what they have to offer. They’re specifically targeting their target audience. They know what products they want to sell to them, and then provide benefits and include direction on what the call to action is to get started.

Another competitor of theirs is Suitly. “Custom-tailored suits and shirts for men.” You really do not have to think about what they have to offer. Then they have a secondary call to action, “How does it work?” If you’re not ready to shop, more likely, you want to find out more about the particular company. This is a great example.

#3 Landing Pages

The third tip is to create landing pages. Too many times, e-commerce sites leave too much money on the table because they’re not capitalizing on their marketing campaigns as much.

Landing page optionsThere’s one thing that happens with every single website out there – somebody is going to leave. You’re not going to have 100% of your people convert. So find ways to capitalize on the marketing efforts that you’re doing.

Some examples of landing pages would be to create a lead generation type of website or microsite that’s specifically about soft selling the company, or having long landing pages where you clearly explain a little more detail about how the product is beneficial to their lives.

You want to test category versus product detail pages. A lot of people just assume that people want to arrive deep into product category pages. But it may be that they actually want to get to the product right away and convert as soon as possible.

I highly recommend that you test video on product-specific landing pages. Video has become super important, and people want to know exactly what the product has to offer.

Here are some quick examples of those landing pages. The one on the left is a product-specific landing page. You can see it’s unique as a landing page because it still has the navigation. So if someone happens to not be interested in whey protein powder, they have the opportunity to click on the navigation.

Now, we’ve tested this in different ways for this particular client. It turns out that having the navigation in their composition actually helps. It increases the clicks and gets more people to buy.

Because you guys know that as you are going through your e-commerce experience, let’s say you’re buying something on a site, you arrive there and it’s not necessarily the item that you were looking for, if there’s no opportunity to dig through other products that may be right for you, you’re going to back out. That’s what increases the bounce rates.

Superior Lighting homepageOn the right, from Superior Lighting, this is an example of how they’re using faceted search on their product categories. People obviously have different problems. So if someone’s searching for a particular type of light bulb, they may be looking for clear, white or plastic, versus a different material. You want to ensure you have some type of way for them to filter down to the exact type of product that they’re looking for.

#4 Improve Checkout

Number four, improve your checkout. Pretty self-explanatory stuff, but not many people focus on their checkout.

There’s one thing that every e-commerce site has in common, is that you have to go through a checkout process. You have your shopping cart page, your checkout process, then eventually your thank-you page.

Creating an effective checkoutHere are some tips to improve your checkout process. Number one, every person is looking for a way to checkout quickly. Creating guest checkout is a great way to skip a lot of the registration or particular processes. That’s one of the main things that a lot of e-commerce software don’t offer these days. I highly recommend offering some type of guest checkout.

Website security. People take this for granted. Just because you buy an SSL certificate doesn’t mean your site is set up for security properly. You want to test your e-commerce site in old browsers, to ensure that you’re not serving non-secure images.

Maybe back in the day, you went to a particular site, and all of a sudden, you get this pop-up that says, “This website seems a little bit unsecure.” That makes people think, “I’m supposed to be secure. Is it not secure?” So you want to ensure that in all your images, you use relative paths, and that your security is really set up properly.

Number three, checkout abandonment. There’s a lot of great ways to figure out where people are dropping off, and then how to decrease that checkout abandonment. You want to track your funnel and where the drop-off is, and then start to do tests and iterate, to figure out how to improve that abandonment.

Test removing the navigation. Once someone is in the checkout process, that is their main goal, to checkout. So having less links will avoid leakage in your funnel.

Add a progress bar. People want to know what’s next. Having a 1-, 2-, 3-step progress bar or better yet, if your e-commerce software offers it, apply a one-page checkout. That way, you don’t have to go through multiple pages to accomplish that one simple goal.

Lastly, offer multiple forms of payment. E-commerce is a global process. It’s likely that if someone’s buying in a different country, they’re not using the exact same currency that you’re offering in your payment process. So offer multiple forms of payment, especially PayPal, Bill Me Later, or obviously, credit cards. Having multiple forms of payment will definitely increase your conversions.

Here’s an example of some of the things we apply to all of our checkout processes. We want to test different security symbols, like GeoTrust, Better Business Bureau, and McAfee. Just because I put them up there doesn’t mean they’re necessarily right for you. So you can test a lot of these different things, because some of these security symbols can be expensive. So ensure that these are worth it for you to invest in.

If you don’t want to invest in one of those, you can easily just make a generic security symbol. Having that lock symbol right there will reinforce that it’s a secure process and people’s credit cards aren’t going to be stolen.

Also create a “Shop with confidence” box. This is something that we implemented from day 1 in all of our e-commerce sites. Right there on the sidebar, have a “Shop with confidence box.” Tell people how fast it’s going to be shipped, is there a money-back guarantee, what’s the deal with the returns, is it made in the USA or the country that you live in, and maybe what the ingredients are.

People are unsure of the claims you’re offering. So the more stuff that you can answer before they have questions, these are the things that you want to include in your “Shop with confidence” box.

#5 Mobile & Tablet

Number five, mobile and tablet is essential these days. In e-commerce, it’s a little bit strange, because it’s likely people are researching products in their mobile phone before they buy, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re about to buy in the mobile experience.

That’s completely different in the tablet and iPad world. People come home from work, they probably sit on their couch, and they’re browsing through their iPads in order to figure out what to purchase.

So having a great e-commerce experience for your web store in the mobile experience and tablet is essential to maximizing your return on investment in the e-commerce space during the holiday season.

Bonus – Send Promo Emails

The number one way to generate revenue for your e-commerce site is to send promotional emails, especially during the holiday season.

As you anticipate the upcoming holiday season, you can have different promotions based on scarcity – maybe pre-holiday sales, post-holiday sales, last-minute sales. This is a great way to get people to understand that you’re trying to make them save money before the holiday rush arrives.

Here’s an example. We send a lot of email. These are email we sent for clients, showing a variety of products that people have to offer, but then having some type of incentive. In this case, in the Costume Hub example, we’re adding a little bit of scarcity.

Having free shipping is the number one promotion through all e-commerce sites. We made them specific for Halloween. Then the offer is expiring on this date. That way, it creates demand. The more demand creates urgency. Also, have a great composition, using a mix of HTML and images, with clear call to action in your email.

So is your e-commerce site ready for the holidays?

If you have any questions or you want to reach out to me, I do help a lot of companies with this. We go through web analytics and user experience to really figure out where the pain points are, where people drop out, what people are clicking on. Then we find those quick wins. Where are you making 80% of your revenue off of 20% of your products?

If you want to learn more, you can visit me at

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