Ecommerce Optimization: The 5-Step Framework for Optimizing Conversions & Revenue

October 23, 2018 / by Tyler Hakes

Conversions, conversions, conversions.

It’s fair to say that’s the dream when selling online, right? The online shopping industry is due to reach 2.14 billion buyers by 2021which means there are a lot of opportunities for you to make the sales you want.

But in order to get your share of those shoppers, you’ll need to focus not just on having great products or advertising. You’ll also need to optimize your entire shopping experiencefrom the moment someone searches for a product all the way through to them receiving it in the mail.

Every step can prove to be a barrier to success. So, that means you need to look at the process both as a series of steps with individual components and also as an entire, end-to-end shopping experience.

Let’s break it down to the basics and think about which moving parts contribute either directly or indirectly to your conversion rateand your bottom line.

For customers, these 5 components make up the online shopping experience:

  1. Product listing and title
  2. Product pages and description
  3. Product visuals
  4. Shopping cart
  5. Checkout page

So, in order to optimize for conversions, we need to dive into each one and discuss how to optimize the entire way through the funnel.

Optimizing Your Ecommerce Product Listing Title

At the top of the product funnel is the product listing.

Whether your customers are finding your products through Google, Amazon, or on your own website, how your product is listed will be a major driver for conversions.

Optimizing your product listing involves a few moving parts that will affect how likely consumers are to click on your listing in the first place.

First and foremost, what you call your productthe product title or nameis, of course, the first thing that a potential buyer will see. So, of course, that makes it extremely important that you not just make it clear what you’re selling, but also optimize it based on best practices.

If the product title is confusing or doesn’t immediately communicate to the shopper that the product matches what they’re looking for, then they’ll likely never even bother to click on the link. Lost opportunity. Lost sale.

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Best practices for writing optimized product titles generally advise that you follow a simple formula:

Brand + Gender + Product Type + Attributes

So, if you’re Nitro Snowboards and you’re selling your product on Amazon, you might use a title like this:

Nitro Snowboards - Men’s Good Times Board - 155cm, Hybrid Flat, Twin Shape, Medium-Soft Flex

But, here’s the kicker: This formula might work well on Google or Amazon, but it probably doesn’t make sense to use the same product heading on your brand’s website.

Your product titles should be optimized on a per-channel basis.

Using the same titles on third-party channels like Google or Amazon as you would use on your website is a losing strategy. The context of a shopper on different channels is entirely different, and your titles should be written to reflect their needs and wants in that given context.

In one case study on optimized product titles, a shoe retailer was able to improve the CTR of their Google Shopping listings by 88% on products that had built-in, targeted search queries.

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That bump also translated into an 18% increase in CTR for queries that didn’t match the terms in the product titlesa hefty jump!

This also points to another important aspect of optimizing product titles, which is considering the SEO implications of your copy. Writing an eye-catching title is great, but not if no one is able to find your products.

You should optimize your titles for visibility and searchability. Conducting thorough keyword research will help you understand which products people are searching for and how you may want to position your product to be more discoverable.

Conducting keyword research is partially an art and partially a science.

First, you want to start with keyword data from a tool like Sonar or Google Keyword Planner.

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These tools will show which product keywords receive the highest number of searches, which keywords are the most competitive, and how much it would cost to purchase product traffic on a CPC basis.

But, you also need to carefully consider the intent behind the keyword. Do the most popular keywords accurately represent your product? Or would it be smarter to target a less-popular phrase that’s likely to lead to higher conversions?

There’s no simple answer here.

Part of the process is learning as you go. You can also test and optimize different product titles for different channels, using a tool like Plytix Index and Scope to make adjustments and measure the impact on sales and revenue.

Optimizing Ecommerce Product Pages & Descriptions

Once a customers finds and clicks on your product title, they’ll find themselves on a product page. This is generally a pivotal point in the purchase decision. Shoppers will scan the page quickly and make a snap judgement about whether the product is likely to match their needs or if they should try another seller.

Every detail counts.

On the product page, there will likely be a brief (or detailed) description of the product that includes all of the little details that a buyer needs to know in order to make a purchase.

The “perfect” product description will, of course, depend a lot on the product itself.

Technical products, for example, may require a deep list of specifications or other details that will make the purchasing decision easier. On the flip side, an apparel brand may have simpler product details because the buyer won’t be looking for an encyclopedia’s worth of facts and figures.

When considering what to include in your product descriptions, ask yourself some basic questions:

  • Who is your target buyer?
  • What features or specs matter to them?
  • How did the person arrive on this page and what questions will they have?
  • What other products may the buyer be considering?
  • What are your product’s relative strengths or weaknesses?
  • Are there complementary products that the buyer may own or be considering?
  • What questions will the buyer have about compatibility?

Take things a step further by using customer-generated questions or FAQs to provide the most important information for buyers.

The site Roller Skate Nation added a buying suggestion to their product pages, advising parents how to decide which size to buy for their kids. It resulted in a 69% increase in checkouts as buyers clearly felt more confident about their purchase.

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Another case study found that removing the product description from an apparel product lead to a 30% uptick in conversions. But, as commenters quickly pointed out, this could easily be caused not by the lack of a product description, but by the product description pushing the product photos and CTA further down the page.

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The most important part of optimizing your product descriptions is to tweak, test, and measure.

There’s no formula for writing a winning product description. But, remember that you’re telling a story. You’re helping the buyer envision not just the product that they’re buying, but what their life will be like after they’ve purchased it. Will it make them better, smarter, or more efficient? Explain how.

Answering questions and casting a vision for a product purchase is an important part of optimizing your ecommerce funnel.

Beyond just writing compelling product details that help buyers make an informed purchase decision, there’s another important factor on your product pages that warrants some extra consideration.

It’s your call to action.

You know, that button that you put on the page and desperately want people to click?

Yeahit matters a lot.

Even what may seem to be a small or obvious change can lead to massive improvements in CTR and conversions.

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In one study, Black & Decker found that simply changing their product page CTA from “Shop Now” to a more-direct “Buy Now” made a world of difference. They increased CTR by 17% and drove an additional six-figures in revenue.

While it warrants some testing to really dial in the right CTA, you may consider some general best practices as a starting point:

  • Use a color that highlights your CTA button: This button needs to stand out from the background and grab your attention. Use different color combinations in order to create contrast and draw the shopper’s eye.
  • Keep it simple: Many tests have proven that the best-performing buttons are those with simple design, nothing too flashy, and easy-to-read text.
  • Make the decision clear: Research has proven that giving consumers too many options is bad for conversions. A good example of this is the ‘jam study’ conducted by Sheena Iyengar, a professor of business at Columbia University. In the research, they found that consumers given only 6 options were 10X more likely to purchase than those given 24 options.
  • Use short, punchy copy: Snappy sells. Instead of writing “Get real product-level analytics in one place now” try to shorten your CTA to something simple, like, “Get Started”. Moreover, try to include words that suggest action: Shop, Buy, Start, Try, Learn, See, etc.
  • Create a sense of urgency: Creating a sense of urgency can drive an increase in conversions as consumers fear they’ll miss out a limited offer. Amazon masterfully deploys this strategy by urging customers to order quickly in order to receive their order as soon as possible.
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Optimizing Your Ecommerce Photos & Visuals

Getting the visuals right is one of the most important parts of optimizing the online shopping experience. Without being able to touch and feel a physical product, shoppers usually want to be able to get an in-depth look at what they’re buying to make sure it meets their needs and expectations.

People want to visualize the product they are buying. They want to know what they’re getting.

The more photos you show them, the better. Be meticulous with the quality of your visuals, show closeups and different angles of the same product and variations.

If possible, it’s best to leave product photography to the professionals.

Someone who knows how to properly light and stage your products can make a major difference in the perceived quality and value of what you’re selling.

But if you’re a small business on a tight budget, you may need to get the photos done in-house. If that’s the case, be sure to follow one of many in-depth guides on how to do DIY product photography or video that doesn’t suck. Take the time to get it rightit will pay off big time.

If you have a lot of similar products for sale, something as simple as standardizing your photos and your product grid could lead to a big boost in conversions. SmartWool conducted an experiment and found that cleaning up their layout and standardizing their product photos led to a 17% increase in the average order per visitor.

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It seems likely that creating this kind of standardization just make it easier for customers to browse and make a decision. There’s less distraction or confusion to take their focus away from the task at handfinding the right socks.

Photos are great, but sometimes, a video may be even better.

ZAGG.com found that leading the product page with a video, rather than a static image, boosted RPV by nearly 30%. Then, they tested a 360-degree product image and saw an extra 12% lift!

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Again, we see that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for creating the perfect visuals for your product pages. But that doesn’t mean you can’t follow best practices and then tweak and test in order to optimize performance.

Start with the basics:

  • Clear product photos that show multiple angles and viewpoints
  • Crisp lighting that highlights details, patterns, and colors accurately
  • Standardized angles, sizes, lighting, and color
  • Side-by-side comparisons for added context

From there, experiment with advanced formats like video and 360-degree product shots that let the shopper physically explore the product they’re buying.

Optimizing Your Shopping Cart Page

Once you’ve successfully attracted a prospective customer to your website, they’ve read your product description, and they’ve clicked your CTA, then all of the hard work is doneright?

Heh. Yeah right.

Getting a customer to add a product to his or her cart may only be about 25% of the conversion battle. According to some studies on cart abandonment, nearly 3 out of every 4 visitors who add a product to their cart will abandon the site before completing a purchase.

Business Insider even reported that an estimated $4 trillion in products are abandoned in the shopping cart every year.

But, don’t fret. The same report found that an estimated 63% of that $4 trillion in revenue is potentially recoverableif you optimize the shopping experience.

So, how do you get over this hump?

How do you get more people to actually buy the product instead of adding it to the cart and then closing the tab?

Reducing card abandonment is actually a function of 2 processes:

  1. Cart page optimization
  2. Checkout process optimization

Many would-be buyers may go entirely through the buying process only to abandon during checkout. But, some get stuck even on the shopping cart page itself. So before we dive into the entire checkout process, let’s focus on the first step customers take to complete a purchase, which is hitting the cart page.

One of the most important takeaways from optimization case studies on the cart page: Be precise in your language.

Make sure that your CTAs are clear and that the potential buyer knows what action they are taking at each step. There’s no worse scenario as a shopper than clicking a button that may cost you money and you’re not sure what will happen.

One case study found that changing a “Submit” or “Continue” button to a more clear call to actionin this case, “Review Order”drove a nearly 33% improvement in the conversion rate on the cart page.

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But, there are some other concerns that may be reducing the number of folks who follow through with a purchase on your site.

Namely: Lack of price transparency.

Many online retailers crow at the idea of giving the consumer an upfront look at how much a product will cost with tax and shipping included. There’s a lot of trepidation about the idea because it could stop some people from adding the item to the cart in the first place.

But, surprise fees in the cart can have a much worse effect on overall conversions.

Statista data from 2015 found that unexpected shipping costs were the #1 driver for cart abandonment. One-quarter of shoppers cited that as the reason for not completing a purchase.

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Retailers can handle this in a few different ways.

Shipping fees could be shown next to the price listed on the product page, so that consumers just have to do a quick bit of math to figure out what they’ll have to pay.

But, a more common approach seems to be simply bundling the cost of shipping into the product price itself. If it costs you $5-10 to ship an order, then you can raise prices slightly to offset the shipping cost (remember to factor in your average items per order to get a true sense of how much it will cost you to ship the average order) and offer “free” shipping to the customer.

Zappos has a model like this:

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Lastly, consider the UX of your shopping cart page.

Do you follow a clear and accepted design pattern that shoppers will easily understand?

The home stretch of your purchase process is not the time to get creative. Follow clear conventions that help shoppers quickly know what they’re looking at and what action they need to take to complete the purchase.

That goes for your entire checkout process, too, which should be as intuitive and friction-less as possible in order to maximize conversions and revenue.

Optimizing Your Checkout Process

Once a shopper has decided to buy and they’ve added an item to their cart, then you’re in the home stretch. The last leg of the transaction can be a perilous one, with many potential pitfallsand also opportunities for optimization.

Let’s dive into the final checkout process and how you can make it as seamless and pain-free as possible for your patrons.

There are a number of basic best practices you should be following.

1. Provide a number of payment methods

Customers expect a variety of payment options, so try to implement the most relevant ones. One survey found that 50% of regular online shoppers will abandon their purchase if their preferred payment method is not available.

2. Do not force your customers to create an account to buy

It may be tempting to try to force your customer into creating an account to complete a purchaseit’s for their own good, right? Don’t fall for the trap.

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As with anything related to the checkout, the goal should always be to remove friction from the process. Make it as simple and seamless as possible. If you make people jump through hoops, they’re more likely to just give up and leave without completing a purchase.

3. Maintain a consistent design and layout

Some retailers are careless with the design of the checkout page and the checkout process. In order to maintain trust and maximize conversions, keep the design and layout consistent.

Don’t confuse shoppers or give them a reason to fear that they’re not getting what they expect.

4. Make the process clear

Context is key during the checkout process. Shoppers want to understand where they are, how much they’ve done, and how many more steps it will take them to complete their purchase.

It’s best practice to offer a progress bar that makes it clear which step the buyer is on and what comes next.

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5. Reduce concerns about payment security

According to a study by Baymard, about 1 in 5 shoppers who abandon the checkout process simply don’t feel secure providing their payment information.

With news of recent hacks and website vulnerabilities, consumers are right to take their cybersecurity seriously and only make a purchase from a site that they trust is secure and authentic.

The same study found that a security badge on the checkout page can connote trust to consumers, but that different badges generate different levels of that trust.

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6. Make checkout mobile-friendly (responsive)

The modern world of retail is both omnichannel and omnidevice.

Shoppers can come from anywherethird-party sites, Google, Facebook, or directly into your physical store (if you have one). But, when they’re shopping online, they can also use a laptop, desktop, tablet, or mobile device.

Hell, they could even by shopping from their gaming console.

The point is that your shopping experience should be prepared to handle customers on any devicethe design should be responsive and work on a variety of screen types and sizes.

Test, Measure, & Optimize

As a final note, it’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits all strategy or design that works in every case.

Each company, shopper, and shopping experience is unique.

So, while we can provide some general ideas of what best practice exist or how to optimize the experience generally, true optimization is about testing and experimenting with different approaches. It’s about trying new copy or testing product photos versus video to learn what your buyers want and expect.

The heart of an optimization strategy is having the tools you need to test, measure, and optimize.

You can break the process down and analyze your shopping experience using a few different approaches.

1. A/B testing

This test allows you to compare two versions of a landing page, let’s called them version A and version B. The system will show these two versions to different users and will track behavior in order to see which one performs better.

See this example below of an seemingly identical landing page, notice that the CTA of the left snapshot use the text ‘Get Started’ (Version A) while the right snapshot text ‘Book a demo’ (Version B).

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2. Session replays

Consists of watching recordings of users screens as they use your site. This can help to find out how our customer interacts with our page and see where they may be confused or otherwise give up.

3. Eye-tracking

The most sophisticated way of tracking and understanding user behavior involves monitoring people browsing or using your website in-person and actually tracking their eye movements. Using this data, you can understand where shoppers look on the page and optimize the experience by either putting important actions within the natural line of sight or updating the site design to draw the user’s attention toward the action you want them to take.

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Optimizing with Plytix

Plytix makes it easy to test and optimize your product listings, details, and even pricing for each channel.

With Plytix Index, you can seamlessly manage and distribute all of your product information everywhere you sell. And Plytix Scope gives you per-product analytics and detailed purchase data to measure and optimize every aspect of your retail operation.

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At the end of the day, optimizing the sales funnel is like links in a chain, where each link plays a significant role. Product information is one of the central parts of that chain and essential to optimizing the entire shopping experience.

Optimizing your product listings, either in your ecommerce or across marketplaces, helps you display your products to the right people and ramping up your chances of sale. If you have a company of any size that manages complex product content and a high number of SKUs, it would be likely to implement a Product Information Manager (PIM) will give a hand with optimization and distribution of this information across channels in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Topics: Ecommerce Analytics, Product Descriptions, Omnichannel, Ecommerce

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Tyler Hakes

Written by Tyler Hakes

Tyler Hakes is a content writer for Plytix. He covers ecommerce optimization, testing, and copywriting.

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