When talking about improving eCommerce sales, more often than not it comes down to streamlining the conversion funnel - the journey which a consumer takes in visiting an eCommerce website through converting to a sale. And the efficiency of a conversion funnel is rooted in optimizing conversion rates.

So let’s get down to it-- how can you boost your conversion rate to keep up with the competition? We'll start by taking a closer look at the term itself.


What is an eCommerce Conversion Rate?

A conversion rate, in eCommerce, is the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action (such as making a purchase from your online store) in a certain time period. Conversions can be defined with any key performance indicator (KPI) that is relevant for your business specifically.



How to Calculate Your eCommerce Conversion Rate

The first step to determining conversion rate is to flesh out the “desired actions” that qualify as conversion. Common examples include:

  • Subscribing to receive content
  • Placing items in a digital shopping cart
  • Registering credit card information
  • Downloading a content piece
  • Spending a certain amount of time on your site
  • Upgrading to a higher level of service
  • Completing an online purchase

From there, the formula is actually quite simple:

Conversion Rate = Total number of conversions / total number of site sessions.

Keeping track of these numbers will require the use of fairly standard eCommerce site software. For example, if your site totals 100,000 visitor sessions and 10,000 conversions in a month, your conversion rate will be 10,000/100,000, or 10%.



What is a good eCommerce Conversion Rate?

The answer to this question is tricky, because it’s so relative! Average rates vary by industry, individual companies’ KPIs, and even by year. One source suggests, for example, that theaverage conversion rate for eCommerce is 1.33%, and companies operating at 3.6% or higher should be considered top performers. Other sources place the average anywhere from 2.48 to 3.1%. In large part, a company (especially one just starting out) can benefit from making growth in conversion rates a priority, rather than any hard number. Industry-specific reports are also a good resource for establishing general guidelines.



Tips for Increasing eCommerce Conversion Rates

Now that we have the foundation for tracking and calculating conversion rates, it’s time to examine some actionable tips for increasing those rates!


Be Proactive with Your Promos

It’s no surprise that sales, deals, and promotions play a major role in converting prospects to customers in the world of eCommerce. In one study, 47% of online buyers stated that they would only buy discounted products, except under exceptional circumstances, and 62% said they look for a section that identifies sales and specials when shopping online. For this reason, it’s important to devote significant thought and attention to creating and presenting them on your site. It’s best to display your company’s deals and benefits as openly as possible rather than lead potential customers on a scavenger hunt.

For instance, some stores will often provide a promo box for customers to enter promo codes. While a a good idea in theory, the feature has often proven to lead to cart abandonment in order to search for codes online-- which can even result in their finding a competitor’s site and choosing it over yours. Instead, including a dedicated sales page on your site, or displaying a “carousel” of promotional offers on your homepage, can prove considerably more effective strategies.


Show and Tell

Visuals are everything when it comes to online shopping, as buyers have no real direct way of interacting with the products they’re considering. Thus, creating a (literally) clear picture of what your company has to offer is crucial to boosting conversion rates. Diverse, high-quality, frequently included, and well-spaced images are a must. For some companies, product videos-- including product showcases and client testimonials-- can also enhance the experience. Video can be applied to several outlets, including your site, your social media, and even welcome series emails.


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Additionally, don’t neglect product descriptions. Powerful, actionable, non-gimmicky sales copy needs to be efficient, but communicative. An element of personalization, even if your products come from the manufacturer and already include descriptions, is necessary. When your product copy is descriptive and thorough, it won’t even need to be persuasive!


Encourage Customer Feedback

Did you know that 61% of eCommerce customers read online reviews before making a purchasing decision? It’s important to request customer feedback about their experience-- or to put it more favorably, provide them the chance to leave reviews. Depending on the nature of your products, it may be appropriate to showcase your best reviews, possibly even as longer testimonials from specific customers. Testimonial quotes are short and effective; but putting a name and photo to the words is even more potent to increasing your credibility.


Optimize Your Site

In eCommerce, your site is a cornerstone of your sales and marketing strategy, and deserves to be treated as such. Countless studies show the advantage held by sites with cohesive design, focus on user-friendliness, and faster loading times (which 2/3 of UK consumers say is the main reason they would abandon an online purchase!). Don’t let the last one discourage you from filling your site pages with high-quality visuals, however-- with the right tools, loading time can easily be trimmed down.

Although it may seem tempting to incorporate external opportunities for conversion, such as social media buttons and sign-up forms, an online store needs to retain focus on showcasing your products and facilitating the purchasing process. Superfluous features simply become distractions and clutter visitors’ visual experience.

CTAs (calls to action) and landing pages that convert are particularly important, as they’re practically designed with conversion in mind. These need to be designed as thoughtfully as the rest of your site-- clear, creative, and compelling. Personalized word choice is better-- using language like “review your order” rather than a cookie-cutter “continue” can make all the difference.


Curb Your Shipping Costs

With over 50% of merchants offering free shipping to customers and high shipping costs rated as the #1 reason why consumers abandon carts, this is an eCommerce trend increasing in popularity. Some companies offer free shipping unconditionally; others match it with certain promotions or special conditions. Though entirely free is of course the best option for converting customers, it may seem a radical financial move for some businesses.

In that case, several good intermediate options exist, including flat shipping fees, price thresholds, seasonal promotions, and customer memberships. The most important rule to remember if you choose to charge for shipping is that these costs should be mentioned upfront! Nobody enjoys being surprised with unexpected additions to their total in the last step of the checkout process.


Address the Abandoned Shopping Cart

Speaking of abandoned shopping carts, they continue to be major sources of lost conversion opportunities-- and the rate of abandonment has climbed over the past several years. (For clarification, an abandoned cart indicates the loss of interest of a customer who initiates but does not complete the check-out process of an online store.)

Top reasons why people abandon shopping carts include:

  • High prices
  • Shipping costs (see above)
  • Hassle with excessive/overly lengthy data registration
  • Site design and loading speed
  • Uncertainty in the purchase decision
  • Desire to conduct competitor research before buying

Tackling all of these involves a combination of solutions, but one additional factor that can improve rates of buyers’ return to their carts is a follow-up plan. Developing abandoned cart email campaigns can help your conversion rates bounce back, and all it takes is prioritizing the customer’s email address over other elements of the checkout process. You can adjust your emails to fit recipients’ needs best through tracking and testing emails with various send times and subject lines.


Quell Concerns and Keep in Touch

Cold feet are not uncommon among online buyers, which shouldn’t be surprising given the greater degree of uncertainty that comes with a digital purchase. It is possible to make the experience easier on the customer by addressing top concerns in various parts of the site. Examples include your privacy policy, security guarantee, shipping information, and returns policy.

Customer outreach is another small, but significant feature to highlight, especially advantageous for smaller businesses. Displaying company contact information legitimizes you as a company, and offers potential customers an outlet for their concerns, questions, and feedback, building a sense of trust. Offering a live chat option takes devotion to customer service to the next level, while including the profile of a specific company member makes the process feel more “human” in an increasingly automated world, particularly with respect to online shopping.

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This blog is part of Your Definitive Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization blog series.