In 2020, Amazon surpassed 50% of ecommerce retail market share, accounting for 3.2% of total consumer spending–and they likely won’t stop there. That leaves an increasingly small piece of the pie for every other retailer.
How can smaller retailers differentiate from market giants and achieve ecommerce success?
One proven approach is fostering customer affinity and loyalty through the continuous optimization of the customer experience.
In a comprehensive guide, we walk through ecommerce optimization strategies for five key touchpoints in the customer experience, plus some real-world examples of ecommerce optimization in action.
Here’s a quick look at some of the insights you’ll find in the guide.
Want to skip the small talk and get the full guide? Download it here.
1. Creating a great homepage experience
A great ecommerce homepage serves three purposes:
Introduces your brand to first-time shoppers
Communicates what your company sells clearly
Explains what differentiates you from your competitors
Beyond these foundations, the key to a highly effective homepage is understanding and catering to your shoppers’ intentions when they arrive at your site. The average ecommerce bounce rate is nearly 46%–which is why it’s critical to anticipate your shoppers’ wants and needs from the start.
To get a sense of what it is that your shoppers are hoping to accomplish when they land on your homepage, leverage research methods like analyzing click maps and watching replays of user sessions. This qualitative data will help you understand how people are navigating your homepage, what they’re looking for (and if they’re finding it), how far down the page they scroll, and what site elements they’re engaging with.
And those insights will reveal opportunities for optimization that your teams can act on.
Example: Betabrand, an online clothing retailer, hypothesized that first-time shoppers were overwhelmed by the many styles and colors of pants on their homepage. This lead them to test a personalized homepage experience for new visitors.
What did they learn from the test? Download the guide to ecommerce experiences to find out.
2. Optimizing site navigation
Your website’s header—including the navigation bar—is one of the most critical elements of your ecommerce experience. It has a major influence on how shoppers discover products, transition pages, and (as the name suggests) navigate through your site.
As Shopify Plus wrote in their article on ecommerce navigation, “Your shoppers don’t want to think as they browse...Design a header that is tailor-made to their wants and needs. It should be simple, clear, and most importantly, attractive to your visitors.”
The catch is that every site’s navigation best practices are different, and what works for a big-box retailer might be very different from what works for a small ecommerce shop. There are infinite ways to organize and things to include on your header:
contextual information about your brand
a list of product categories
a hamburger menu
a search bar
An optimized header will enable shoppers to get where they want to go as easily as possible–and it’s important to keep in mind that what you think is most important might not be what your shoppers are primarily focused on.
For example, an online retailer might display a magnifying glass in the header that users can click on to expand the search bar. By looking at heat maps, the brand can see that the magnifying glass is one of the most clicked elements, leading them to understand that their users want to use the search functionality.
By analyzing the digital journeys of shoppers, the retailer could see exactly what people interacted with and where they went after clicking the magnifying glass. With journey mapping, the brand could check if the majority of shoppers actually perform a search as their next step in order to validate that the icon clicks are not accidental. From there, the brand can then test a version of the homepage where the search bar is already fully displayed, rather than requiring that additional click to open it, and increase searches drastically.
3. Simplifying product listings pages
Your product listings pages should make it as easy as possible for shoppers to locate what they’re looking for. This can be a delicate balance between making sure relevant products are highly discoverable but not overwhelming shoppers with disorganized selections.
One best practice for product listings pages is to allow four key sorting options: Price, User Rating, Best-Selling, and Newest. According to a usability study conducted by Baymard Institute, the majority of shoppers commonly seek these essential sort types. However, 64% of ecommerce sites don’t allow all four types.
Offering a robust sorting functionality allows shoppers to self-select the distractions they want to eliminate, making it easier for them to hone in on the product they’re interested in.
4. Product detail page best practices
Each of the customer journey touchpoints we’ve discussed so far are critically important—but the product detail page (PDP) is perhaps the most vital, as it’s the page that leads directly to a conversion.
(While we’re mainly focused on product detail page best practices, it’s crucial to note the importance of having PDPs at all. According to Shiprocket, 98% of shoppers will abandon a site if they find incomplete or incorrect product information.)
Here are some basic product details page best practices:
The item’s name is prominently displayed
The product description is accurate
There are multiple high-quality images (eMarketer reports that shoppers expect five to eight)
The product’s price is accurate and clearly displayed
The CTA (i.e. Add to Cart) is easy to find
Keep in mind that the top reason for abandoned carts is due to unexpectedly high additional costs, like shipping fees and taxes. Aim to be transparent about shipping costs up front to reduce abandonment rates.
5. The ecommerce checkout experience
The checkout page is the last place you want customers to encounter any sort of frustration or friction. In fact, according to FullStory’s consumer survey, 89% of US shoppers will leave a site after encountering even a single error in their ecommerce checkout experience.
To avoid order abandonment and provide the best checkout experience possible, keep these tips in mind:
Be proactive about optimizing your checkout flow by journey mapping the customer’s experience and extracting valuable insights about how shoppers move through the checkout process.
"FullStory gives us actionable insight into our customer journey and has allowed us to become more focused with our testing efforts. The ease of use and painless setup means anyone on our product team can leverage DX data quickly."
Steve Motiani, Senior Product Manager, TrueCar
Be transparent about shipping costs. Unexpected costs and fees are the top reason for shopping cart abandonment, according to Baymard.
Add a progress indicator bar. Many shoppers will abandon a cart if they feel the checkout process is too long or tedious–so adding a simple progress indicator bar can help orient them in the transaction.
Reduce “click energy.” Shoppers have a finite amount of click energy, and you don’t want them to run out before they get to the “Purchase” button. Make sure your checkout flow requires as few steps as possible.
Allow guest checkout. Being required to create an account to complete a purchase is the second most common cause of cart abandonments.
Conduct informed A/B tests with funnel analysis and Session Replay.
Quantifying customer drop-off during checkout and comparing results across experiment test groups is a great way to determine what to change to drive conversions.
For even more actionable ecommerce insights and real world success stories, get the full guide to creating delightful ecommerce experiences.