Anyone who has an online store wants to increase sales as much as possible. The question is, how do you do it?
While you can make drastic changes to your marketing strategy or your online store, sometimes all it takes is changing and testing a few small elements on your website.
This process is called conversion optimization. The goal of conversion optimization is to increase the percentage of website visitors that become paying customers. For new online businesses, conversion optimization is crucial, as it will help you maximize each visit to your website. The more of those visits you turn into leads or customers, the better your cash flow.
This guide will teach you how to increase your online sales with some basic website changes you can quickly implement when doing conversion optimization. Each of these tips are based on statistics or case studies that have shown increases in sales.
The Key Statistics for Increasing Your Sales Online
Before you go through this guide, it’s best to review the different types of metrics you’ll be using to measure your success. Of course, you'll need to have web analytics software such as Google Analytics (with eCommerce Tracking set up) so that you'll know your current metrics and how your changes will measure up.
Here are the essential metrics you need to be familiar with:
Your leads are simply the people who have expressed active interest in your products or services. Unlike your typical website visitor, they have given you their name or contact information, as well as permission to send them additional information. They're the first major step in your online sales funnel, which you can learn more about in this tutorial:
Here are some of the ways you can use to count your number of leads:
- Email subscribers. If you collect email addresses for a mailing list or newsletter, your number of subscribers is your list of leads.
- Registered users. You can invite users to register to your online store or website, even before they're ready to buy. For example, if you've ever created an account on one fo the online retail stores like Amazon, Etsy, or Walmart without buying anything, you're already one of their leads.
- Contact form submissions. If your site has a contact form that users tend to fill out to ask you more questions about your business or initiate purchases, these count as leads.
- Quote requests. Requests for quotes typically applies to services. Whether you provide garden maintenance or website development, odds are potential clients have contacted you in an attempt to get an estimate on what their project would cost. These potential clients are your leads.
- A combination of the above. You can use all of the above ways to gather leads. Just make sure that with each channel you use, you have a way to easily keep track of the number of leads you have per channel.
If your online shop is new, these leads will be easy to count and keep track of manually. But as your customer base grows, you'll need to find specific tools for measuring your leads depending on how you gather them. This could be through email marketing software or your website analytics program.
Your conversion rate is based on what you want users to do on a specific page. It’s the number of visitors who perform the action you want divided by the number of visitors who don’t.
Let’s say you’re looking to improve the conversions on a specific product page. To compute your conversion rate for the month, look at the number of unique visitors that clicked on the “Buy Now” button on that page throughout the month. Then, divide it by the total number of unique visitors on that page for the same month. If your product page received 200 unique visitors, but only 10 clicked on the “Buy Now” button, then your conversion rate is 5-percent.
Your goal could also be to increase the number of leads you get. If you’re measuring email subscribers to your newsletter, you can create a squeeze page to capture email addresses. Get your overall conversion rate by comparing the number of subscribers you get from that page with the total number of visitors to that page.
Since your goal for each page on your site will be different, you have many options for measuring your conversion rates.
Bounce Rate and Exit Rate
Your bounce rates and exit rates will give you an idea about how many people leave your website or a specific page. It’s important to know the difference between the two so that you can tell which you should use for each situation.
Your site’s bounce rate is the percentage of your visitors who view just one page on your site, then leave. For example, a squeeze page with a high bounce rate and a high conversion rate is a good thing. This means that once a user lands on the page, the majority of them do the action you want them to do, whether it's making a purchase or signing up for your mailing list. But if your goal is to get visitors to browse through your product catalog, a high bounce rate indicates that most visitors probably didn't dig deeper into your products.
The exit rate of a page, however, is the percentage of users who leave your website from that page—regardless of how many other pages they visited beforehand. You can make sense of your exit rate by looking at your users' behavior throughout your website and seeing how they navigate through it. If you use Google Analytics, you can find this under your "Users Flow" report.
How to Increase Your Online Sales (Quickly)
There are many simple ways to improve your online sales. Now that you're aware of the metrics you need to track for improving your online sales, here are ten changes you make right away:
1. Use a Personalized Call-to-Action
Since measuring conversion rates is essential to increasing sales, it’s important to optimize where that conversion takes place: Your calls-to-action.
A call-to-action (CTA) is an element of a page that tells the reader to take a specific step. For example, in product pages, this could be a button labeled “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart.” But CTAs can also call visitors to do other things, such as subscribe to a mailing list, follow a social media page, or share content.
A "personalized" call-to-action is more specific. While it doesn't necessarily address each individual visitor separately, it takes into account where they are in your sales funnel. In a study of over 93,000 CTAs, HubSpot found that tailoring the CTA text based on whether users are visitors, leads, or paying customers increased their conversion rates. This approach led HubSpot to convert 42-percent more visitors into leads.
While the approach they used was a bit more technical, you can follow the basic idea by segmenting visitors whenever possible. For example, if you have an email marketing campaign, you can have a separate campaign directing paying customers to a specific landing page for them, while unconverted leads get a link to a different page. The idea is just to keep the customer journey in mind when designing your CTAs.
2. Write Clearer Headlines
Headline text is also an essential factor in increasing your sales. Whether it’s a headline for an article, a product page, a squeeze page, or your homepage, a headline is usually the first thing your visitors will read. It has to capture their attention enough to keep them reading or browsing your site.
First, make your offer clear in the headline. Who is the target customer for your business? What can you do for them? According to a study from Conductor, an SEO technology company, clarity resonates with readers. The more explicit a headline was about what the content offered, the more people preferred it.
In one case study, an investment firm was able to increase their conversions by 52-percent just by specifying what they do and who they do it for. Their original headline read "The Wilson HTM Priority Core Fund"—a simple statement of the product name.
The image above shows the headline they tested that brought in the highest conversions. It states the target audience (investors) and what the fund does (has managers who try to consistently outperform the market). By rewriting their headline with a clear offer, they're now getting more leads.
Review the headlines in the major pages of your website, including your homepage and product pages. Do they specify who your target audience is, what you do for them, and what they can hope to achieve with you? If not, rewrite your headlines and watch for any changes in your conversion rates.
3. Declutter Your Site Navigation
Since you want your calls-to-action to be the main focus on most pages, it’s important to declutter the navigation menus on your website. By minimizing the navigation elements on your key pages, your visitors’ eyes will be directed to the CTA. This will make them likely to follow through on your CTAs rather than unnecessarily bounce from page to page.
In one experiment for an online store, MECLABS found that removing the top and sidebar navigations on checkout pages increased checkout rates by 10-percent. This experiment seems to fall in with some classic research from Marketing Sherpa, which found that removing navigation on key landing pages can lead to a 10 to 50-percent increase in conversions.
This doesn’t mean that your entire website shouldn’t have navigational elements at all—just that these elements shouldn’t distract from the main purpose of the page. Check out the example below from Hummingbird Hammocks. There is minimal navigation at the top of the product page, but the product photo and "Add to Cart" button are both more prominent.
4. Optimize the Text Near Your Call to Action
Just because your call-to-action is the center of attention, it doesn’t mean that you have to ignore the other elements around it. Usually, the text around or near your call-to-action can greatly impact your conversions.
There are several case studies showing that optimizing the text near your call-to-action can positively affect your conversions. In a split-test for an online betting community, Unbounce saw a 31.54-percent increase in sign-ups or conversions just by changing the text on and around the CTA.
Online retailer Zalora also changed the product text near the CTA and found a 12-percent increase in checkouts. Another case study for a venue space company found that changing the text directly above the contact form increased their number of leads by 69-percent.
What these case studies show us is that writing copy in the space near the CTA shouldn’t be haphazard. Be deliberate in writing about the concerns, goals, and needs of your target audience. The following guides can help you optimize your copy in this area:
- How to Increase Your Online Sales With Psychological TriggersBrad Smith24 Aug 2016
- How to Structure a Successful Long-Form Sales PageJulia Melymbrose14 Jun 2016
- How to Write a Click-Grabbing AdWords AdDavid Masters12 Jan 2015
5. Use Pop-up Offers
It’s easy to hear the word “pop-up” and think about an annoying distraction that jumps out at you while you’re browsing through a website. But, when employed sparingly and strategically, pop-ups can help lessen shopping cart abandonment rates and increase your conversions.
Sumo, a company that provides lead capture solutions, found that on average, pop-ups had a 3-percent conversion rate. But the top 10-percent highest performing pop-ups had an average conversion rate three times higher.
Ensure that your pop-ups will perform well by offering something relevant and useful to the user. If your offer is a promo or freebie that your visitors are glad to use, then the pop-up window will be seen as a gift rather than a distraction.
Kutoa, a company that sells health bars online, saw a 187-percent increase in their sales conversion rate just by adding a discount pop-up offer. If it's more leads you're after, you can follow the example from Teabox below, which encourages users to give their name and email address in exchange for a 20-percent discount.
6. Add Ample Whitespace to Your Site
There should be enough “breathing room” or whitespace between the different elements of your website and online store. Otherwise, your elements will look crowded, making it more difficult for your visitors’ eyes to navigate between the different elements of your site.
In a series of case studies, The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm, found that decluttering online stores led to higher conversion rates and more sales. In one particular example, they more than doubled the conversion of a product page by eliminating unnecessary elements and increasing the use of whitespace.
7. Replace Stock Photos
If you’re currently using stock photos on your online store, don’t feel too bad. Most new businesses often can’t afford to have professional photos taken of their products or team. But the cost or effort of using your own photos can be justified because real photos of people and products have a positive effect on conversions.
Best Made Company is a good example of mixing typical product photos with photos of their products in-use. Their product pages have large photos of the entire product shown in different angles, as well as close ups of small details. But they also have an "In the Field" section, showing the product being used or worn in the right setting.
The same goes for photographs of people. Rather than show stock photos representing your team or your customers, it's better to opt for photos of real people. A truck-driving training company saw a 161-percent raise in conversions just by swapping out their stock photos of truckers with photos of their real students.
8. Improve Readability
Previous points have emphasized the importance of the text content on your online store, whether it’s the headline, sales copy, or the words on your CTA buttons. Apart from the content itself, the readability of the content also matters. If persuasive content isn’t readable in the first place, it’s not going to get opportunities to convince users to buy from you.
Here’s how to make your sales copy easier to read:
Make Font Sizes Larger
If your online store’s text is sized at 10pt, then it might be too small. Click Laboratory, a design firm specializing in conversion rate optimization, found that increasing the font size on a software company’s website decreased the bounce rate by 10-percent and led to a 133-percent increase in conversions. Though the original font size of 10pt looked better, increasing the size to 13pt and improving the spacing between the characters and lines led to better business results.
Simplify Your Language
If you want to check your site's language for readability, you can use tools like the Readability Test Tool and Readable.io.
One example of a website that does all the above elements well is Basecamp. The Readability Test Tool indicates that their homepage copy can be understood by 10 to 11 year olds. The font sizes are also large, making the text legible even from afar. The bullet points and the hierarchy implied by the different font sizes also add to the readability of the page.
9. Prove Customer Satisfaction
To encourage more sales for your online store, you also need to prove that your business has a history of satisfied customers. Your proof can come in the form of industry awards, a list of former or current clients, case studies, and testimonials.
This kind is especially important for new businesses that want to establish themselves quickly as a trusted brand. In fact, a survey from BrightLocal found that 84-percent of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.
Also, the more reviews a product has, the better for your conversion rates. Having more than fifty product reviews can increase conversion rates by 4.6-percent.
If you haven’t collected testimonials or reviews yet, now’s your chance. The guide below includes tips on how to request testimonials, the tools you can use, and a list of sample questions you can ask customers when soliciting reviews:
One example of an online store that does social proof right is Casper. Each of their product pages display star ratings and reviews. When you hover over the star rating of a product, a small window shows up displaying the ratings breakdown, as well as a link where you can read all the reviews.
10. Display Prominent Guarantees
You can also increase your eCommerce conversions by providing visitors with guarantees that your products or services are high quality. You can do this in the following ways:
- Security badges. These are the badges indicating that transactions on your website are private and secure. Digital marketing firm Blue Fountain Media saw a 42-percent increase in conversions by adding a security badge from VeriSign. Not all badges are created equal, however. According to a study from Conversion XL, consumers only tend to trust the badges coming from familiar brands such as Google, PayPal, and Norton.
- Return policies and money-back guarantees. This earns the trust of potential customers because they’re assured that if they’re not satisfied with your product and service, they can get a refund. A case study from Visual Website Optimizer found that adding a badge indicating a 30-day money back guarantee resulted in a 32-percent increase in conversions.
- Industry-specific badges. These badges are specific to your industry or field. They could be industry ratings, awards, accreditations, or memberships to organizations. Online retailer Bag Servant saw a 72-percent increase in conversions just by displaying an award they won.
The following example from Crofters Organic shows industry-specific seals that their target customers will find important. These include seals labeling products as organic, GMO-free, and gluten-free.
While the same information can be conveyed via text, it’s faster to see and interpret the images. Key information won’t disappear among the product description and details.
Increase Your Online Sales Using Minor Tweaks
As the above tips show, you don't need to do an entire website overhaul to maximize your sales. Sometimes, running simple tests on different website elements—such as calls-to-action, images, and navigation—can be enough to increase your profits. At the very least, run one or two tests every few months so that you know your small business is making the most out of your online store.
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Editorial Note: This content was originally published in 2017. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.