12 Simple Rules for Boosting Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

12 Simple Rules to Boost Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

Would you be frustrated if you discovered that tons of your potential customers are leaving your ecommerce website (and that your conversion rates are in the pits) because of a poor visitor experience?

Unfortunately, that’s often the reality: many ecomm storefronts don’t have the best checkout experiences, and it absolutely crushes their sales efforts. This is most often the result of not understanding what customers need to see before they feel comfortable with buying.

There are several things you can do to avoid common abandonment pitfalls. Today, I’ll go over the 12 rules I follow to create a shopping cart experience that’ll grow your ecommerce conversion rates.

Rule #1: Avoid long forms

Let’s start with a classic example. In 2011, Expedia made a change to their checkout form that increased profits by $12 million.

What was it? Take a look:

Expedia boosted ecommerce conversion rates by removing a single line from their form.

They removed a single and inessential form field. We can learn from this.

Like Expedia, make the checkout experience as easy as possible for your customers. The longer your form, the less inclined people will be to fill it out. This can kill your conversion rates. For that reason, only ask for the information you absolutely must have (including billing and shipping information).

Consider this from the customers’ point of view. Every additional field is just another hindrance keeping them from buying your product—another missed chance at conversion rate optimization (CRO). Focus on the possibility of a lost sale due to friction instead of focusing on filling up your lead gen list.

If a field isn’t essential to your business, then why have it? 

Rule #2: Use “email” as the first field in your checkout forms

Repeat business (when a customer returns to your site to make a purchase) is essential for every retailer, not just ecomms. It’s vital to reach out to these customers to entice them to buy again. 

For this reason, a customer’s email address is the most critical piece of information you can get during the checkout flow. 

Even if a visitor doesn’t complete their purchase, you can still use cart abandonment automation to recoup a sale you might have otherwise lost. (We’ll talk about this a bit more in our next point.)

An example of using "email" as the first field in your form.
The Fixed Gear Shop leads with an email address field and lets customers know that they can create an account after checkout if they’d like.

Editor’s note. Even if your customers are based outside of areas where it applies, it’s always smart to ensure your forms are compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Like other security features, it’ll help your visitors feel more secure as well as protect you from liability.

Rule #3: Use cart abandonment software

Even if your checkout form leads with email first, you’ll still have people who drop off during the purchase stage. However, you can use cart abandonment software to engage and nurture these customers—and, hopefully, get them back on track.

There are plenty of options for cart abandonment software available. For instance, you can use Rejoiner to create personalized emails and send them a custom number of days after the date of cart abandonment. 

An example of Rejoiner.

Rejoiner automatically retargets window shoppers with products they’ve viewed and related items. It also follows up with abandoners in real-time by using messaging that relates to their desired product. Plus, it helps save your customer’s carts so they can continue checking out from any device without having to re-enter their data or retrace their steps.

The goal of this type of software is to catch people before they change their minds completely. Clearly, these individuals were in the market for your product and they were so close to getting it, but maybe the price or the cost of shipping threw them off. 

You can use cart abandonment software to reach out to these individuals with discounts and other offers to get them to complete an order. 

In addition, survey platforms like Qualaroo can poll visitors and find out what they don’t like about your site or why they’re lingering on certain product pages. Then you can put those insights to work to improve your checkout flow, too.

Rule #4: Show off your site security

Cybersecurity is crucial for ecommerce. Without proper protocols in place, online sellers put themselves and their customers at risk for payment fraud. Things can get messy fast!

Trust badges and seals, logos of your payment providers, the little “lock” icon on the browser—all of these add the needed sense of security to get your customers to buy. 

Most importantly, you must set up your store with an SSL certificate (“https://” pages). This isn’t optional in today’s ecomm world. 

Finally, make sure you require the CVV for debit and credit cards for added security. This extra step will discourage fraud without frustrating customers.

A secure credit card checkout is essential to improving ecommerce conversion rates.

Rule #5: Promise free shipping

Let’s say your product is $100 but your shipping cost is $5. Logically, the value of the product greatly outweighs the shipping cost—but for some reason, many folks are reluctant to pay that $5.

I’m guilty of this myself. People would rather spend an extra $10 to get free shipping than pay a $5 shipping charge. But why?

Like many of the rules I’m talking about, it makes sense when you think of the issue from the point of view of your customer. Why pay for shipping when you could spend an extra 10 bucks to get another item you wanted and have both items delivered for free? 

Free shipping is very appealing. In 2014, comScore released a study which found that 83% of US online shoppers are willing to wait an additional two days for delivery if shipping is free. Similarly, 58% of US online shoppers have added items to their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping.

Additionally, the number one reason shopping carts are abandoned is because of unexpected costs. Free shipping puts a stop to these nasty surprises. Since this data shows that since people are willing to buy more to get free shipping, it can also lead to greater sales revenue.

Prepping for Black Friday and holiday shoppers? Read expert-certified tips from Aaron Orendorff, Jonathan Naccache, Taylor Holiday, and Lianna Patch on how to best plan your campaigns and landing pages.

Rule #6: Include a checkout progress bar

Look at this beautiful checkout progress bar example from Haggar Clothing. It’s clean and easy to understand.

An example of a checkout progress bar
Letting your customers know where they are in your checkout flow is an essential way to keep your ecommerce conversion rates growing.

Your customers want to know how long the checkout process will take and what is required of them. So, if yours has multiple stages, make it simple and show them the steps along the way. If customers can’t see how close they are to completing their purchase, they can become frustrated and abandon the cart midway through checkout. 

Rule #7: Simplify your checkout form

As I mentioned above, avoiding long forms is the first principle of boosting ecommerce conversion rates. Beyond that, you’ll get a better understanding of how your visitors use your checkout form by examining the session recordings you receive from Hotjar, CrazyEgg, or other qualitative research tools. 

If people are unable to click through or follow the questions you’re asking on your checkout form, you may want to consider changing it. Either remove unnecessary questions or add more direction around what you want customers to do

When optimizing a form, I like to take these creative ideas from Mockupplus.com into consideration:

  1. Don’t force your customers to create an account. Guest checkout is your friend here. (More on this below.)
  2. Don’t use field labels as placeholders. When a prospect enters their information, the field label disappears and they could lose the context of what you’re asking them to do.
  3. Design single-column forms. Multiple columns can cause a confusing zigzag. Simplify the process here so your prospects know exactly how to navigate your page.
  4. Group relevant information together in chunks. This ties back into showing the checkout flow. By dividing information into buckets (such as an address, shipping, and payment), you can make checkout smoother.
  5. Set up autofill with Google’s geolocation search to help prospective customers add their address.
  6. Provide different payment options and design a perfect credit card form. Digital wallets are payment processors like PayPal Express, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and others.
Walmart checkout flow example
Walmart offers as many ways of paying as they can. You can even buy online and pay with cash in the store.

And, from my experience, always show shopping cart contents so customers know exactly what they’re buying. 

Your checkout form will either improve or hinder your ecommerce conversion rate. Make sure it’s a seamless experience that requires as little effort from the visitor as possible.

Add even more smarts to your ecomm campaigns and landing pages by connecting tools like Hotjar and Crazy Egg into Unbounce. Read about 900+ supported Unbounce integrations.

Rule #8: Let your customers checkout as guests

If you’re visiting a website for the first time, you probably have no intention of creating a long-term account. You want to see if this initial purchase is worth your while. 

When a customer buys something, the seller will usually get their name and email from the checkout form. However, forcing visitors to register just gives them another reason to leave—especially if they’re new to your online store.

Don’t distract your customers from completing their purchase by making them create an account.

If they’re happy with your product (and if you provide them with offers through retargeting and email), they’ll be inclined to create an account down the road. More importantly, they’ll feel comfortable buying from you again.

Rule #9: Offer social login options

I shop on a number of ecommerce sites. For the ones I visit frequently, I’ve created a profile. For the ones I’m new to or don’t visit often, I’d rather not have an account. 

If we’re not really invested in a website, the thought of making another account (and remembering yet another password) seems like a waste of time. Social login lets customers quickly use the same information for any new accounts they make across all of the sites they visit. 

This is a quick alternative to creating a new account because it doesn’t require a new username and password. 

Offering social login

Despite the concerns many people have with companies using their data, a Gigya survey found that 88% of US consumers say they’ve used social logins. This leads us to believe that more often than not, people will choose convenience over privacy.

Another example of social login

With the WooCommerce Social Login extension, customers can link their accounts on your website with their social media profiles for a simpler checkout experience. 

Plus, considering the size of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, customers may feel more comfortable in the security of their personal information knowing you’re using platforms that are current.

Rule #10: Give ’em an incredible return policy

How many of us are wary of purchasing a product that is “final sale”? 

The possibility of being stuck with that item makes you think a lot longer about whether or not it’s the right one for you, doesn’t it? A good return policy is an extremely important selling point.

Studies show that 60% of online shoppers make at least one return or exchange per year, and 95% will make another purchase if the return experience is positive

Return rates in retail and ecommerce

Returns are a big part of online commerce. However, if you craft and manage your return policy well, you can also drive growth.

A strong return policy should be a central part of your ecomm strategy

Look at how Midori Bikinis explains exactly how their returns work. Providing a 30-day return policy can increase conversions by 17% because they avoid locking their buyers into a commitment upon sale.

It stands to reason that the more flexibility you give your customers, the more inclined they’ll be to stick with your products.

Rule #11:  Provide online chat and phone support

If someone encounters a problem during the ecommerce checkout process, you’ll need to address it immediately to save the sale. Asking someone to wait 48 hours for an email reply when other companies offer real-time support will almost certainly result in increased sales—for competitors, not you.

Ensure that your customer service team on-hand as much as possible to address any questions customers have about your products. 

Rule #12: Include exit-intent popups

Let’s say someone decides they’re done browsing your site and starts to leave without buying anything. At this point, it looks like you’ve missed out. But wait! With exit-intent popups, you get one last chance to coax visitors into action—whether that be a sale or just capturing their email address. 

Exit-intent popups let you entice non-buyers with coupons, limited-time offers, or newsletter subscriptions. (Maybe the visitor is a fan of your brand, but they just aren’t in a place to buy at this very moment?)

You can create them in lots of different programs, but I’m a big fan of popups from Unbounce. They’re easy to create in the drag-and-drop builder, and you can apply them directly to your Unbounce landing pages and your web pages alike.

A Very Christmas Popup

In this popup from Livingshop, it’s hard to pass up the pitch for 50% off. As a buyer, I may not have wanted to buy before—but if I know I’m going to get my items half off, I may reconsider.

Instead of using popups to try to close a sale, you can also provide your customers with information. This will lead to a higher ecommerce conversion rate and amplified sales in the long run since you’ve added value instead of applying pressure. 

For example, Zulily uses this popup to provide important information about how their app works. It allows people to browse brands in their own time.

Exit-intent popups can stop people from leaving and boost your ecommerce conversion rates

Interested in a quick way to add popups to your campaigns? Learn more about how Unbounce popups and sticky bars let you present relevant offers to your visitors at exactly the right time.

Next Steps for Boosting Your Ecommerce Conversion Rates

Most of the tips above focus around optimizing your current checkout form. But don’t forget to install cart abandonment and customer review software so you can pinpoint where your customers are getting frustrated or confused. This will save you from losing many more customers down the road.

Your ecommerce checkout is one of the most vital parts of your business. Without sales, there’s no revenue—so it’s up to you to ensure your checkout process is as seamless as possible. 

Optimizing this flow may take time, but there are always new tactics out there to test and implement. (Testing should be mandatory when it comes to best practices, even these ones.) Try to keep up with the most effective checkout tactics and you should start seeing an increase in sales coming down your pipeline. 

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About Olivia Ross-Taylor
Bringing more than eight years of experience in graphic design and conversion rate optimization to the table, Director of CRO at Directive Olivia Ross knows how to make people say “yes” and increase her clients’ conversion rates. Olivia has managed large teams in the execution of various landing page and website tests that have successfully increased conversions for more than 300 clients. Where there is a “will,” Olivia will find a “way” to make sure your landing pages are optimized to succeed. When Olivia is not optimizing everything around her, you can find her watching films, playing video games with friends, or trying out new and delicious restaurants.
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