By Eric Leuenberger
To be successful in ecommerce, one must be proactive, not reactive. Continual testing, refinement and analysis to discover problem points is essential for improving the customer experience and website conversion. Each and every website layer must operate as a single cohesive unit. Store owners may wonder where to focus improvement efforts, or what objectives to target first in an effort to increase conversion. Because each business varies, every situation needs to be analyzed in order to develop an action plan for improvement, based on unique circumstances and objectives. The best route is to let website analytics dictate where to begin. There are at least three places to consider focusing attention when seeking website improvement: the home page, product pages and checkout pages.
Oftentimes, unless paid search or SEO efforts dictate otherwise, the home page of a website is where a bulk of visitors will end up at some point, if not right from the beginning. The home page needs to effectively speak to visitors in such a way that they desire to delve deeper into the site. If they do not move past the home page, which is often indicated by high website bounce rates, they are not getting to the product pages. If they are not getting to the product pages, they cannot add an item to their cart. If they do not add an item to their cart, obviously they will not checkout. It is that simple.
The home page should, at the very least, give visitors multiple options for accessing the products in the store, and should also have some room reserved for the latest promotions. Websites with high home page bounce rates should focus efforts there, with the single objective of getting deeper visitor penetration into the site, as in increased page views and longer time spent on the site.
Product pages are where most information is gathered and questions are answered, ultimately leading buyers to add items to their carts. Proper placement of descriptions, persuasive copy, photos and customer assurances will result in visitor action. The final goal of a product page should be to get the user to add an item to the cart.
The checkout process is critical, and it should always be monitored for abandonment rates using website analytics.
Once an item has been added to a visitor’s cart, the only way they can get out of your store with that product is through the checkout, unless they decide to complete the sale by telephone. The checkout process is critical, and it should always be monitored for abandonment rates using website analytics. Setting up a funnel and associated goal in Google Analytics for this process works well to keep track of its effectiveness. Keep an eye on the points where people abandon their carts, so they can be refined to take advantage of future opportunities. For multi-step checkouts, smaller goals at each step may likely need to be monitored, in order to achieve the final objective. Abandonment points reported by the tracking funnel will indicate where and what these smaller goals should be.
The list of pages provided here is only a starting point for organizing an ecommerce approach, and changing one will not always guarantee results. Retailers must interpret analytics to determine which pages need attention. Make alterations first to the most problematic pages, as reported by analytics. In doing so, you will be gradually building a “trail to the sale,” which will lead visitors down a specific and intended path toward the end goal.