Ecommerce Conversion Optimization: What Other Guides Aren’t Telling You

business people conducting a meeting around a table - table has green matrix code in back with white text "Error Unknown" superimposed

So you have the traffic, but not the sales. You have online shoppers adding to cart, but not getting orders passed through… What gives?

If you’re on this blog right now, you probably know the answer lies somewhere in eCommerce optimization. And if you think the first place to start is to take a look at what is stopping you from increasing your conversion rate at checkout, you’d be right.

Currently, you have 100s of pieces of content to choose from when it comes to getting your list of conversion depreciators and conversion rate optimization (CRO) techniques together. But there is a bigger part of the puzzle that is missing, one that most blogs don’t talk about…

Blue puzzle piece labelled "Design tips";  Yelllow puzzle piece labelled "CTA Tests"; Green puzzle piece labelled "Speed enhancements"; Pink puzzle piece labelled "Social proof"; unattached puzzle piece outline labelled "?"

So without further ado, let’s take a moment to cover the commonly known contributors to lower conversion rates, then really dive into the conversion detractors that are just as important, but significantly less talked about, in the eCommerce industry.

Things We Know Are Killing Your Conversions

It’s no secret that there are a number of aspects that go into the buying decision process, and as eCommerce providers we only have control over a select few. It is for this reason that we now have a whole profession dedicated to ensuring that each of the aspects brands do have control over are perfectly ironed out and optimized to cut through the noise and doubt.

So imagine you’re taking a look at your metrics and are noticing a major leak in your sales funnel (or maybe you don’t have to imagine). You take a step back. The next logical step is to do some conversion optimization, right? You jump onto your search engine and type in something along the lines of, “How do I improve my checkout conversions in my eCommerce store?” or, “Best practices for conversion rate optimization.

In all likelihood, you’ll be served up tons of guides with 10s and 100s of CRO tactics and page design tips that contribute to lower conversion rates.

When tackling online sales conversion, the framework that has been most successful for industry professionals has been to focus their CRO efforts into 3 main goals:

1. Getting leads i.e. Persuading prospects to give you their email addresses
2. Getting “Add to cart”s i.e. Driving visitors to place an item in their cart
3. Getting Orders i.e. Having potential customer successfully complete checkout

5 Known Tactics to Drive Conversion Across All 3 Goals

These are often related to human psychology and common sense, then confirmed through A/B testing:

1. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Countdowns, number of people looking at the same item, limited time offers, all these trigger deep emotions that make consumers want to sign up to take advantage of exclusive deals

2. Hierarchy of messages: Online shoppers like to know what to read first and where to click. Call to Action overload is often a silent conversion killer

3. Colour combination: Many A/B test show that changing the colour of the main CTA button drives substantially more clicks

4. Trust signals: Product reviews, testimonials, store rating, security icons, social proof, and photos of real people all contribute to improving trust in your online store

5. Live chat: Having a chat bot, phone number, or live human help can aid in getting more people further down the funnel

6. Layout and Mobile optimization: If your buttons are too small for large fingers, there’s a whole demographic you’re losing

Top 5 Known “Add to Cart” Conversion Killers

1. Low quality product photos

2. Weak product descriptions

3. Lengthy delivery time

4. Muddied eye-path / Clunky landing page design

5. Pricing

Top 4 Known Checkout Conversion Killers

1. Mandatory registration at checkout: Around 25% of shoppers abandon checkout because they are forced to create a membership account during the checkout process (source: Baymard Institute)

2. Unexpected costs: This is the top reason for cart abandonment and it’s driven by either a checkout layout that doesn’t show all the costs upfront, or shipping costs that are too high

3. Too long and complicated checkout form to fill: It’s proven, the less fields the better. Forms with unnecessary fields to be completed, extra steps or pages, or added distraction present more opportunities for drop offs

4. Not offering enough shipping and payment: Limited shipping and payment options can cause potential customers to shop elsewhere. As an example, fashion customers are now expecting free shipping and free return, many European markets prefer to pay with bank transfer, and millennials love their Buy Now Pay Later apps

Known Checkout Conversion Quick Fixes

Most eCommerce platforms, whether they are SaaS closed source like Shopify, or open source like Adobe Magento, don’t allow users to fully customize their checkout pages. Mainly enterprise merchants with their in house eCommerce platform or a big dev team who perform heavy customization can play around with the various CRO tactics mentioned above.

Adobe Commerce (formerly known as Magento 2) customers, though, no longer have to be stuck with a hard to customize default checkout template.

Built on the idea that eCommerce folks should have creative and strategic control over their checkout flow, OneStepCheckout works with Magento 2 stores and allows users to break out of Magento’s multi-page, templated flow and create their own optimized checkout page.

Based on 10 years of feedback from tens of thousand of merchants, the plugin offers possibilities to choose:

Registration modes that cause less friction
Form filling layouts that work best for merchants’ respective customers
Popular shipping options and payment options for each market
– User experience that is proven to drive better completion rate (hiding coupon codes, showing total upfront, etc.)

Here is what a highly converting checkout page looks like, with an average improvement of 30 to 35% just driven by design changes.

OneStepCheckout Demo Checkout Page
OneStepCheckout’s Demo Checkout Screen

Personally, I highly recommend checking out their free and self service demo. They’ve been a great resource for many of my contacts. (You can see a few of their use cases here: Magento 2 Examples: 13 US-based online stores).

If your store is not built on Magento, you can still take inspiration from the features they chose to include in their product overtime as those are the one in highest demand from their clients.

There Are Hidden Conversion Killers Plaguing Your Checkout

Although you might have read through all the known reasons for cart abandonment in the past, we can’t stress enough the fact that Checkout is definitely the goal that matters the most to any online business.

A misconception is to start at the top of the online funnel and invest in getting traffic in the first place. Think of it as a colander. No matter how much you pour into it, it’s still leaking and doesn’t retain much water. You need to patch some of the holes before you pour more into it, and that’s all about fixing the top reasons that drive shoppers to leave at checkout.

One thing I have noticed, though, is there is a pretty massive portion of eCommerce conversion rate optimization that no one ever tells you about: hidden site errors.

"Failed to load resource: net::ERR_BLOCKED_BY_" error code superimposed on a frustrated woman in a black shirt

All the website best practices in the world can’t help you improve your conversions, and thus revenue, if at the very end of the line your potential customers are met with a checkout error when they go to buy.

There are literally hundreds of assets that go into your site development, and while your quality assurance and eCommerce teams can test a multitude of web session types in production, between the multiple browsers, different devices, and various methods used to access your web store once it’s live, it’s inevitable that an untested flow will come in or a server update for a platform will be released and suddenly… Your perfectly constructed checkout flow breaks.

And with only 10% of customers ever reporting site errors back to brands, you can bet there are a lot of instances that go unnoticed, unreported, and unresolved.

So, as someone reporting on eCommerce site conversion, you’re taking a look at your metrics on Google Analytics, for example, and you cannot account for the major drop in conversions. Or you’ve asked your digital marketers to implement countless conversion rate optimizations on site and yet you’re still not seeing the return on investment. What could be attributed to this disconnect?

Since every website is different, there’s no “one size fits all”solution that can help you out. You need to go granular and that looks very time consuming, but fear no more, there might now be a way for you to spot the top errors and prioritize them based on the lost revenue they each generate.

8 Hidden Killers to eCommerce Conversion

While your web design and development teams have control over the look and feel of your eCommerce store, there are some aspects that are subject to change without oversight from said team. Below, I’ll list the hidden critical bugs that can pop up and disrupt the buyer’s journey, affecting your bottom line and your checkout conversion metrics.

1. Button clicks not registering due to code definition error
– Something was incorrectly defined in the code structure or the code has stopped running, leaving an asset un-clickable.

2. Website security permissions blocking an event from firing
– Security settings on your eCommerce site are preventing a checkout-related event from firing properly.

3. 4xx and 5xx errors served when browsing
– Addressing commonly experienced user errors, broken page paths, etc. might seem simple and probably something you covered in your initial Best Practices run. But with an infinite amount of users, an infinite amount of paths to checkout, and an untold amount of new or edited pages from your marketing team, it’s inevitable that there will be some pieces missed. Catching them as soon as they occur will increase your chances for a positive interaction with your potential customer, and will drive up conversions.

4. Server or hosting shutdowns and/or disruptive software updates
– An external service provider or platform that is being used to operate a portion of your sales flow has updated their software or is experiencing downtime, and the result is causing your site to act unpredictably.

5. Null is not defined
– Applicable mainly to Magento 2 hosted sites, null is not defined occurs when a piece of data is incorrectly located in Magento’s memory.

6. Autofill errors
– A great innovation for time-savings, but it can create a significant hurdle when the auto-fill generator grabs the wrong information.

7. GTM clashing
– Tags deployed through Google Tag Manager are restricting or clashing with another piece of code, platform, or service.

8. JavaScript Code Errors
– Runtime and syntax errors produce unexpected results that cause your site to not work as intended, harming the user experience and sometimes blocking a critical conversion action from taking place.

You’d be surprised to learn how often each of those hidden detractors actually pop up on sites, and how often they go undetected. As I mentioned before, 90% of errors that come up on eCommerce sites are never reported by the customer.

A Solution to the Hidden Errors

In a perfect world, all online retailers would have a platform that could automatically pick up on rage clicks, buggy code that has stopped working, JavaScript that is being blocked from firing, etc. And ideally, that functionality would remove the headache of trying to figure out which errors needed to be actioned first… But the idea of this type of service is still relatively new to the market.

Noibu, thankfully, has been leading the innovation into this functionality. Monitoring your eCommerce site – be it hosted on Magento, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Oracle, IBM Websphere, Hybris, SAP Commerce Cloud – Noibu’s software automatically detects on-site errors blocking your customers from converting.

Simply knowing there is an error, though, is not really enough to resolve an issue, at least not efficiently.

The error-monitoring software also captures the behind-the-scenes data your development team needs to resolve any issue, auto-prioritizes bugs by their impact on revenue, and provides direction in terms of where resources should be allocated for the most impact. All this means your team can be enabled to tackle bugs that will truly move the needle, and make sure money isn’t being left on the table.

If you’re interested to see how it works – or simply want to test your site out to see how many errors are currently live – our team would love to set you up with a free demo account.

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