10 Proven Ways to Increase ECommerce Conversions Using Magento & Beyond

Increasing conversions. It’s what every organization wants. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of ways to improve conversions and it can become overwhelming knowing where to start. So we wanted to offer a few ideas that we’ve tried with our clients that have seen success, many specifically with Magento, but will work with any ecommerce system.

Before we begin, I want to mention that we are not talking conversion rates, which I believe to be a bad metric for various reasons (and which I will discuss in another post), but rather conversions themselves.

Here are the ways to increase your ecommerce conversions:

1. Get Lots of Reviews

I don’t know about you, but when I shop online, I’d rather read what others who have already purchased the product say about it rather than read a description from the manufacturer. And I’m far more likely to purchase a product from a website that has lots of reviews than one that does not. There are a few ways to increase reviews. First off, make the form easy to fill out. There are a number of extensions to boost Magento’s own review system. We actually made our own because we found most extensions to be lacking. You can see our review extension in action here.

Rudyi Reviews Extension for Magento
Our own magento product reviews extension.

Besides a good, easy-to-use reviews extension, couple it with an extension to follow-up with your customers and ask for a review. Many people enjoy posting their reviews so sending a reminder email a week or two after they’ve had the product or enjoyed the service is a solid way to build up reviews quickly. Magento has a number of extensions that do this. Here’s a link for Magento follow-up email extensions to get you started. We’ve used a number of these so we can give you our honest feedback if you reach out to us.

Two more things I’ll mention about reviews. First, search engines are taking into consideration what user-generated content has to say. To put it simply, the more user-generated content you have (more customer reviews), the more points you’ll rack up with the engines for organic ranking.

Second, make sure to include all reviews, including the ugly ones. Don’t filter and display only 5 star reviews. Let all your customers have a voice. This will highlight your company’s transparency and provide new customers with all the information to make informed decisions.

In short, add the ability for your customers to review and ask them for reviews. If you want to incentivize them for doing so with discounts, that’s fine, but you’ll get reviews regardless. Seriously, this is a total win-win for everyone and is an easy thing to do.

2. Make Your Site Fast

There are many factors that determine site speed, especially for Magento which is resource heavy. There are a few things you can do yourself and some best handled by your developer. As anyone knows, a slow site makes for a frustrating experience. But here’s some data that should help you decide if doing this work is worthwhile.

Page Speed in Relation to Website Conversions
Your page speed directly affects your conversion performance.

Here are 4 speed improvements we recommend for most Magento sites:

  1. Enable Flat Categories and Products (best if your store has over 1000 products)
    1. Select System > Configuration from top navigation.
    2. In the left navigation, go to Catalog > Catalog
    3. From the tabs, select Frontend
    4. Set ‘Use Flat Catalog Category’ and ‘Flat Catalog Product’ to Yes
  2. Enable Compilation
    1. Select System > Tools > Compilation
    2. Run Compilation Process and Enable
      Note that compilation will need to be turned off prior to any updates, modifications, or extension installs
  3. Merge CSS and JS Files
    1. Select System > Configuration from top navigation.
    2. In the left navigation, go to Advanced > Developer.
    3. From the tab ‘Javascript Setting’ set ‘Merge Javascript Files’ to Yes
    4. From the tab ‘CSS Setting’ set ‘Merge CSS Files’ to Yes
  4. Magento Cache (do this one last)
    1. Select System > Cache Management from top navigation.
    2. Select All and from the dropdown menu, select Enable.

These coupled with server tweaks and getting your site on a CDN are effective methods to speed up a resource-heavy system like Magento. (Here’s more on our Page Speed Performance Service if you’d like us to help.)

3. Your Shipping Charges are Killing Your Conversions

Nearly half of all ecommerce websites now offer some sort of free shipping. It’s so widespread that consumers now rate unconditional free shipping as their #1 criteria for making a purchase. People want free shipping and more than 60% of online shoppers are at least somewhat likely to cancel their entire purchase if free shipping isn’t involved.

Unfortunately for many retailers, offering free shipping makes little economic sense if the net profit of some products is close to, or less than, the shipping costs. What’s more, many store owners have offered free shipping in the past, gotten burned by lower profits, and have decided that they will no longer try to offer free shipping.

While it can be a challenge to find the right free shipping formula, it is possible that properly built and tested, store owners can realize the true potential that free shipping can provide. So for those that are skeptical or for those that want to try free shipping, here’s a broad overview on how free shipping can still work for, and increase, your business.

I recommend doing the following on two versions of your site and running A/B split url testing. The instructions below will be using this approach of split url testing as that will give you the most accurate results. However, you can still do it without this split testing, just be aware of other variables in play that could disrupt the data (like testing free shipping over Cyber Monday and comparing with a normal week). This one not Magento specific.

First, Find Your Conversion Rate Before and After Your Free Shipping Offer

With 2 versions of your site, offer free shipping served on one and regular shipping on the other. Determine the increased conversion rate on the free shipping site. Within 2-3 weeks, you should get a good baseline rate. We’re looking for an increase of 15-30%. Besides the conversion rate, determine the average order amount before and after the test, which may remain relatively neutral. Finally, determine the net margin for the average order. Expect this to be a percentage loss since you’re taking a hit on shipping costs. Multiplying these together would give you the total baseline.

Ex: 18% conversion improvement, 2% average order amount increase, -29% net margin per order
1.18 * 1.02 * .71 = -15% Total Baseline

This means that, even though conversions increased to 18% with free shipping and the average order amount increased slightly, the net was a loss of -15% due to the loss in shipping fees. So offering just free shipping across the board, while getting more orders, you’re operating at a loss. But we need this information.

Create Various Scenarios

There are a number of different scenarios that can be run at this time and each of these can be tested against the baseline.

Offer Free Shipping On Orders Over a Certain Amount – Test your free shipping with, say a $50 minimum and another with a $75 minimum. Run the same calculation above to test both offers.

Ex: Free Shipping with $50
12% conversion improvement, 7% average order increase, -12% net margin per order
1.12 * 1.07 * .88 = 5% Improvement in Net Profit

Not bad. Just creating a free shipping offer with a minimum amount has changed the net margin from a -15% to a +5%. Can we do better?

Ex: Free Shipping with $75
9% conversion improvement, 5% average order increase, -5% net margin per order
1.09 * 1.05 * .95 = 9% Improvement in Net Profit

Now we are getting somewhere. Offering Free Shipping on orders of $75 or more has yielded a 9% improvement in net profit.

Ex: Free Shipping with $100
3% conversion improvement, 7% average order increase, -2% net margin per order
1.03 * 1.07 * .98 = 8% Improvement in Net Profit

With free shipping on orders of $100 or more, we are now at +8% which is not as good as the +9% we received with the $75 or more offer. Our sweet spot appears to be free shipping on orders of $75 or more.

Other Scenarios

Your Product Prices – Compare your profit with various product price increases to compensate for the loss on shipping fees. Usually, an increase in prices will result in lower conversion rates. But we are looking for total net profit. Calculate the decrease in conversion rate against the increase in net profit to determine if your net profit goes up even with the loss of conversions. Keep in mind that if you are in a competitive niche, this strategy may not work well for you, although it’s still worth the test.

Create Restrictions – Create scenarios where only certain products have free shipping. This is best done when you know that the shipping costs of those certain products are low. Expect that this test won’t cut into your margins, but it may not do as well as offering free shipping across the board over a certain amount. If you have one type of product or category that dominates sales and shipping is low for it, this type of scenario may work best.

The best thing is to find the right variable that works for your business and adjust it over time. Test out new combinations or restrictions, free shipping on various price adjustments, different free shipping thresholds, or some other variable that might work for your niche. And at certain intervals, revisit the total test to make sure you’re still exploiting the best solution.

4. Use A Persistent Shopping Cart

How nice is it to go to a store you once visited a few days ago and see those same products still in your cart, ready for you to complete your purchase? This is called a persistent shopping cart. This functionality uses your customer’s browser persistent cookie that can save a record for up to a year with Magento.

To set up a persistent shopping cart in Magento:

  1. From the admin panel, select System > Configuration.
  2. In the system configuration panel on the left side, under Customers, select Persistent Shopping Cart.
  3. Expand the General Options panel if not already open and do the following:
    1. Enable Persistence: Yes
    2. Persistence Lifetime (seconds): 31536000 (this is the default set to a year)
    3. Enable ‘Remember Me’: Yes
    4. ‘Remember Me’ Default Value: Yes (preselects the checkbox ‘Remember Me’)
    5. Clear Persistence on Log Out: No (this saves the shopping cart information when a registered customer logs out)
    6. Persistent Shopping Cart: Yes (If a guest shopper later logs in or creates a new account, the shopping cart information is restored.)

Magento Persistent Shopping Cart Settings

5. Send Reminder Emails on Abandoned Carts

It can be so frustrating to review your analytics and see all those abandoned carts. Nearly 70% of all shopping carts end up abandoned. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, be it a better price on another site, loss of interest, or finding another option elsewhere. But many of those abandoned carts are for other reasons like a family distraction, lack of motivation to buy at that moment, or a complicated checkout process. The bottom line is that getting your customers to recover their carts can add upwards of 10% more conversions. Sending reminder (or follow-up) emails is a cost-effective and automated way to help recover those carts. What’s more, many of those same plugins that can be used to ask for a review can also be used to win back abandoned carts! All you have to do is create a new email template, configure the wait time from the abandoned cart to the email release (we usually do a 7-10 day gap), and leave it be.

Reminder Email Example
An example of an abandoned cart reminder email.

Besides sending reminders for abandoned carts, you could send birthday greetings with special discounts, promote other products based on the customers past purchases (do you need this model toner for that printer you purchased a few months back?), even send them special emails for their loyalty.

There are a lot of options with reminder emails. Make sure you follow the proper guidelines with opt-in emails and don’t harass your customers, but with proper utilization, this is a great tool to gain conversions.

6. Create a Specific Page Dedicated to Your Brand’s Value Proposition and Key Selling Points

Customers are always looking for ways to save money on their purchases. Many times this involves going to discount and coupon websites like RetailMeNot or Groupon. While it’s nice to be able to offer discount codes and coupons, it a) possibly creates a sense of lowered perceived value of the products and/or your brand and b) may not be economically feasible. One way to counteract this push is to create a deals page that explains why they don’t offer discount codes or coupons and instead explains the brand’s value proposition and key selling points. There are many ways to promote the brand and increase consumers’ trust so that they make a purchase without the need to search for coupons or codes.

  1. Explained that they do not normally offer discounts or codes and why.
  2. Provides customers with multiple benefits of shopping with them.
    1. Offering a large selection of products.
    2. Excellent customer service available 24/7.
    3. Secure and safe shopping experience.
    4. Free shipping and free returns within a year.
    5. Speedy fulfillment.

An great example of a brand value page.
An great example of a brand value page.

As an added benefit, creating this page will compete organically in discount queries with these coupon sites, thus pushing customers directly to this page and ending their constant search for discounts.

To create a page like this in your Magento site, it’s as easy as going into CMS > Pages and creating new page. From there, consult your theme documentation or your developer on linking it in a nav bar, button or graphic.

7. Better Search

This is a big one. Search is crucial to e-commerce and customer satisfaction. Magento’s built-in search feature, while nice, lacks the search power you should be bringing to your customers. With the built-in search, people will end up with no results for misspellings, synonyms, and plurals just to name a few. In addition, you have very little information to tell you what your customers are searching for. We always recommend that our clients beef up their search capabilities. There are two extensions we prefer for our clients. For those on a dedicated server where there is the option of installing the Sphinx engine, we like the Sphinx Search Ultimate. For those on a shared environment, we recommend InstantSearch+. You can look on their websites for their specific features but a quick rundown of them include:

  1. Autosuggest as you type with products, images and prices.
  2. Popular search suggestions based on other peoples’ searches.
  3. Advanced word matching, synonyms, typos, singular and plurals.
  4. Very fast results.
  5. Analytics to let you know what your customers are searching for and what products were selected.

Example of Better Search for Magento
A great search extension offers autosuggest and autocomplete like this one from InstantSearch+

With every one of our Magento clients, we’ve seen conversion rates improve by implementing better search. It is an inexpensive and effective tool.

8. Use Smart Upselling

Upselling is a solid strategy to growing your bottom line when done correctly. Upselling is about selling a more expensive version of a product that the customer already has or is buying, or to add extra features (or add-ons) for that product. Here’s an example of how Apple upsells. Once an iPad is added the a customer’s cart, they are asked if they want to add some additional items to for their iPad.

An example of upselling
An example of upselling

As you can see in this example, Apple is offering a related product that might benefit me and my experience with my new iPad. They are not trying to upsell me on a new laptop. The upsell is something far less expensive than the original product I am purchasing and is clearly related to that original product.

Here’s another hypothetical example. While booking a weekend getaway with a hotel,you may be asked if you would like to add dinner for two at one of their premier restaurants at $60 for two for a full course instead of their normal rate of $120. For the hotel, this is selling an additional service and for you, a nice dinner that you may not otherwise have considered.

Upselling done right is about creating a relationship with your customer by actively researching what additional value you can add for them. It’s easier to upsell than it is to sell to new customers.

Upselling costs are usually low. Within Magento, you can use its built-in features to upsell. However, we’ve found that there are some good extensions that can make the process quick. We like this one from Amasty.

9. Build Trust For Your Business and Easy Access to Customer Support

As we continue our drive to a digital world, it feels like a month doesn’t go by without news of a hacking attack of some sort. Concerns about payment security rank high and will only increase over time. A primary focus for your business should be to guarantee that you are keeping up with security measures and let your customers know this by using various trusted seals. In order for them to have any significance, these seals must be well-known to either show that the site is trusted by a third party and/or the site contains security measures provided by this seal.

Here’s a sample of some known seals:

Trust Seals and Badges
Some of the more popular trust seals

Next, a company called ActualInsights.com did some heat map testing on these seals to determine which ones were the most recognized.

Trust Seals Heat Mapping
Heat Mapping on Trust Seals

There is evidence to show that trust seals have a positive impact on a site’s conversion revenue. Seals provide consumers peace of mind about giving their credit card information to an unfamiliar website. In addition, trust seals can also impact the average order amount as customers feel more comfortable making larger purchases.

Website Footer Seals
One example of trust seals in a website's footer.

And while we are talking about trust, keep in mind that there are other ways to build relationships with your customers. Providing live chat is a fantastic tool as long as you can have it manned during normal business hours. Zopium and LiveAgent are two that have Magento extensions. They charge a monthly fee but there are others, not Magento specific, that can be purchased outright and added to your site with a little more effort.

Another great tool is Q&A on your product pages. Similar to Reviews, Product Q&A adds new content for search engines and provides customers with a level of support that not all sites have. It builds trust by highlighting your desire to help your customers make wise choices on their purchases. For a solid Product Q/A Magento extension, we like this one.

10. Great Copy, Good Grammar, and High Quality Images … Please

Good copy matters. Whether its product descriptions, your unique voice, or your customer support pages, provide your customers with copy you’d enjoy reading yourself. Product descriptions should be more than the canned manufacturer’s text. Add your unique voice to it and make sure it is complete enough that the user has a clear understanding of the product and can convince themselves whether it is appropriate for them to purchase. And please, use good grammar, spelling and punctuation. A good copywriter is worth their weight in gold.

This should go without saying but high-quality, beautiful images boost conversions. Let’s look at this beautiful example from Best Made Company.

A great example of high quality product photography
A great example of high quality product photography.

Each product on this website has multiple, professionally shot photos and important details. In this example, they make their own products and they showcase them fabulously. Many e-commerce sites get their product photos from the manufacturer and the quality of these photos can vary greatly. If the images supplied to your business are not big enough and of good quality and you don’t have the ability to hire a professional photographer, you’d be surprised how well your phone’s camera can do. Have photos of the product in alternate and detailed views, highlighting important aspects. If you’re selling a coffee cup, photograph the handle, the edges, the image on it if one exists, and a photograph of someone enjoying a steaming, hot brew with that mug.

Example of good product photography
Don't just show a product. Let customers imagine using it.

In Summary

While not an exhaustive list, I hope I’ve provided you with some information that you can utilize for your business. Your online business is a dynamic brand with the ability to grow and fine tune. Speak with your customers and find out where new opportunities lie for your business. And feel free to share what has worked for you. We’d love to hear.

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