How to optimize your eCommerce website for max conversions

September 21, 2018

bold_optimize-ecommerce-site.jpgHow would you like to double your revenue?

I bet that caught your attention. Well guess what — optimizing your eCommerce store can do just that. And more.

Today I'm going to show you the big difference a small tweak can make, help you decide whether you should optimize your current template or start with a new one, and give you five optimization tips you can easily implement to start boosting conversions.

Let's start with an example.

Use conversion optimization to maximize your ad budget


Let’s assume you spend $300 on Facebook ads per month.

Say you’re a complete whiz at Facebook ads (maybe you’ve been reading tons of Neil Patel and Jon Loomer) and you have an insanely low cost per click of $0.10. This would bring you 3,000 paid visitors per month.

(To give you an idea of how good that is, the average CPC for retail stores on Facebook is around $0.45.)

With the average eCommerce conversion rate being 3%, you can expect approximately 90 orders per month.

What if I told you that by making one simple tweak, you could potentially increase conversions by 69%, giving you 152 orders instead?

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It can be done - just check out this case study involving eCommerce store Roller Skate Nation.

By adding a FAQ section to their product pages, they increased their conversion rates by a whopping 69%.

Pretty impressive stuff, huh?

So it’s obvious that optimizing your eCommerce site is a high-impact activity that will directly (and significantly!) affect your bottom line.

But the first question is:

Should I optimize my current theme or start a new one from scratch?

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to give you a clear-cut answer, I can’t.

There are pros and cons for each option — and it all boils down to which trade-offs you’re more comfortable accepting.

Let’s talk about them:

When to start a new theme

Picture this: you install a new theme on your website and you’re super excited to get it up and running.

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You’ve seen some great eCommerce stores that you want to emulate and you have a particular vision in your head. Your store has to have a countdown timer, a backorder function, and a video gallery which will auto-play.

Then you poke around a bit more with your theme and realise that’s not quite possible.

Sure, you can customize basic features like the font and placement of images, but when it comes to advanced functions, you’re left high and dry.

There are certain plugins or apps you can use, but you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription for each of these, and it adds up to a pretty penny. (That’s not to say they’re not all worth it!)

It can feel like a sad game of expectations vs reality. You started out with such a grand vision, but you’ve only achieved maybe 40% of it.

Moral of the story:

If you want full control over how your website looks and functions (and don’t want to be limited by an existing template!), your best bet is to build a new website from scratch.

But that’s not to say there aren’t any downsides of going with this option.

The first and most obvious disadvantage? It takes more time and money to build something from the ground up.

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Depending on how complicated your site is, it can take at least three to six months to build. You’ll also have to fork out a few thousand dollars for development costs.

Apart from this, there’s also more risk involved in building an eCommerce site from scratch.

With tried and tested platforms, you know you’re working with a solid foundation. But if you build a site from scratch, it’s possible that mistakes might sneak into the website’s code which can cause problems further down the road.

Let’s look at the alternative.

When to optimize your current theme

Optimizing your current theme is better when:

  • You’re short on time or money.
  • You can’t wait several months for development.
  • You already like your current theme and just need a few tweaks.

Regardless of whether you’re using Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, or Magento, you’ll have access to an app store with thousands of plug-and-play solutions to help you optimize your eCommerce store.

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If you really can’t find an app which addresses your specific needs, you can get a developer to build an app for you (as opposed to getting a developer to build an entire website from scratch). This will shorten your project timeline and cost significantly!

At the same time, as you’ll be building on a “professional” platform utilized by millions of users around the world, you’re more likely to end up with an efficient, well-coded website.

The downside to this, though, is that you’ll be restricted in terms of your website’s features, and you won’t have complete control over how your website looks.

Getting started with designing or optimizing a website

Regardless of whether you’re designing a website from scratch or optimizing your current website, you should always work with a reputable development agency… such as Bold Commerce!

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I don’t want to toot our own horn too much, so I’ll just gloss over this briefly:

We're Shopify’s largest development partner, and we work with a range of eCommerce merchants including small mom and pop stores to Fortune 500 companies. Learn how we can help you here!

But in case we’re not in the cards for you, we’d still like to give you some free advice to make your store da bomb. Here ya go!

5 Conversion optimization tips to maximize sales

At this point, you should have a pretty clear idea of whether you want to create a new store from scratch or optimize your existing shop. But what are some of the elements you should be optimizing? Read on to find out!

1. Streamline your cart page

There’s one golden rule when it comes to your cart page...

Less is more. That's why we often recommend implementing a one-page checkout

Think about it:

The people who visit your cart page are definitely interested in your products and already have some sort of purchase intent.

On the cart page, the purchase isn’t quite a done deal, but it’s half in the bag. So the role of your cart page is to reduce friction to checkout.

How do you do this? You’ll want to reduce the visual clutter on your cart page and emphasize your Call To Action (CTA).

Reducing visual clutter is fairly self-explanatory; as for emphasizing your CTA, best practices include enlarging the size of your CTA button, changing the colour of your CTA button to stand out and simplifying your CTA.

Want to see this in practice? Check out this case study:

EarthLED enlisted BoldCommerce’s help to increase the number of their add to carts, as well as the number of volume quotes requested.

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After a site audit, the BoldCommerce team recommended that EarthLED remove the ‘Volume Quote’ button and implement a smaller link below the ‘Add to Cart’ button instead.

The result? EarthLED experienced 12% more add-to-carts and a 66% increase in volume quote requests.

Not too shabby, eh?

If you want to make your checkout page truly awesome, you can learn more from our article 6 steps to optimize your eCommerce checkout page design.

2. Make sure your theme is mobile-friendly

Mobile eCommerce is massive. Data shows that 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase using their mobile device within the last 6 months.

If you’re already getting plenty of conversions from your mobile users, that’s great. But if not, this might be because your eCommerce site isn’t mobile-friendly. At least not really.

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The truth is, many eCommerce themes (even some which claim to be mobile-optimized) don’t look good and work well on mobile.

For example, many eCommerce themes come with buttons which aren’t tap-friendly. In order to counter this, make sure your buttons are appropriately sized and have enough white space around them.

It’s also important to look at how your image stacks up on mobile devices - if your CTA is pushed below the fold, you’re making your customer scroll unnecessarily, which might impact your conversion rate.

Here’s an example:

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This eCommerce store reached out to BoldCommerce because they wanted to increase their mobile conversion rates. After an analysis, the BoldCommerce team identified two main issues with their existing site:

Firstly, when there were more than six product images on a product page, these split into a second line and pushed down the Add to Cart button.

To tackle this, the team added a scroll function to the product pictures so they would show on a single line.

Secondly, the add to cart area was a big mess. The information presented in this area was split up into two rows on the mobile site, pushing the Add to Cart button even lower.

To deal with this, BoldCommerce redesigned the add to cart area so that the price, quantity, and Add to Cart button appeared on the same line; this made the information easier to consume.

By implementing these two changes, guess what results they had?

  • 35% increase in overall revenue,
  • 43% more Add to Cart button clicks, and…
  • 54% increase in average order value.

Pretty sweet, huh? You can have that too.

For more tips on optimizing your eCommerce store for mobile, check out this article.

Plus, this tool by Google will help you figure out whether your eCommerce store is currently mobile friendly.

3. Get your copy and product pictures right

Here’s a reality check:

You can have the coolest, most high quality products in the world. But if your copy and product pictures suck, no one will buy your stuff.

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Your product copy and photography can be a great asset to your business… if you do it right.

For example, if you’re selling generic drop shipped items sourced from AliExpress, you can use your product copy and photography to distinguish yourself from your competitors.

Your images can paint a vivid picture in the customer's mind, which they need because they can’t see or hold it. Make them see themselves using your product, and it will improve your conversions.

Want to fine-tune your product copy and images? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Copywriting tips

Firstly, before you get started with writing, take some time to identify your buyer persona.

Secondly, instead of features or specifications (eg: 5 GB hard drive), highlight the benefits (eg: 1000 songs in your pocket) of your product instead.

Last but not least, steer clear of generic phrases that don’t add value to your description (eg: “excellent quality”).

For more information, check out this article!

Product photography tips

Firstly, lighting is everything.

Secondly, other than studio shots, consider including “lifestyle” shots which give your product more context.

Also: include pictures taken from multiple angles, and close-up shots of your product.

Last but not least, if you really want to stand out from your competitors, go one step further and add videos to your product pages.

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Pro Tip:
Product photography doesn’t need to be expensive. This guide will help you to shoot great pictures on a tight budget!

4. Add upsells to your store

Rather than trying to acquire a new customer from scratch, why not simply upsell your existing customers?

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Image from Kissmetrics.com.

For example, if you’re looking at a 128GB laptop from Lenovo, they try to upsell you to a 256GB laptop instead.

One crucial point to take note of when upselling products:

Don’t just display the higher-priced product under your product recommendations section and call it a day.

You need to tell your customer why they should purchase this higher-priced item.

If you’re trying to upsell a bigger TV, talk about the amazing parties they could have on Superbowl Sunday or while watching The Walking Dead season finale.

If you’re trying to upsell extra sheets, talk about the hassle of washing your sheets or the importance of extra clean sheets and good sleep.

I could go on, but you get the drift. Remember: Features, not benefits!

To learn more about upselling, read this article!

5. Don't forget SEO

Ah, SEO. You knew it was only a matter of time before it popped up on this list.

In a nutshell, SEO refers to the practice of optimizing your site such that Google’s algorithms rank you highly for whichever keywords you’re trying to target. When done properly, this will drive tons of free, recurring, high-converting traffic to your site.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

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I know, I know, SEO is a pain in the ass to address, because there are so many elements to it. It also doesn’t help that Google’s constantly updating their algorithm.

But here’s what you need to know:

When compared with other marketing channels, SEO has been shown to bring the best, highest-converting traffic.

So unless you’re actively trying to make less money, I’d suggest that you get serious about SEO, and fast.

Let me break it down for you: to get started, you’ll need to...

  • Choose your keywords,
  • Optimize your pages for these keywords, and
  • Optimize your site structure and navigation.

Deep breaths. It’s not as scary as it sounds. We wrote a detailed step-by-step guide to eCommerce SEO you can follow.

A few parting words

In my opinion, the best thing about running an eCommerce store (or running any sort of business, actually), is that you have no income ceiling.

How much you make as an eCommerce store owner is 100% in your hands. You’re not restricted by a silly company policy which states that pay increments have to be capped at a maximum of 10%.

So here’s the deal:

If you can’t be bothered with growing, that’s completely fine. You can remain a small-scale business and still make enough money to live comfortably.

But if you want to make more money, you can easily double or triple your revenue simply by optimizing your eCommerce site. Isn’t that awesome?

For those of you who belong in the second camp (team hustlers!), this article should be plenty to get you started.

You can also check out our School of Commerce lesson in which Bold's resident CRO expert, Dylan, talks about A/B testing, heat mapping, and other conversion techniques. (Psst - you’ll want to watch till the end, where Dylan reviews an online store and gives his feedback, live.)

If you liked this article, please share it with all your hustler entrepreneur friends!

Topics: eCommerce News

Bill Widmer

Written by Bill Widmer

Bill is an eCommerce content marketing and SEO consultant. He's run several stores and worked with many well-known brands including A Better Lemonade Stand, SaleHoo, and Lifehack.

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