Selling with e-commerce

How to increase sales on your e-commerce website

What you’ll learn

  • what conversion is and how to calculate it
  • how traffic sources and user types can influence conversion
  • the main areas where you can optimise your site for conversion

Measuring conversion rates

A conversion happens when a visitor to your website completes an action you want them to take. For e-commerce, this usually means making a purchase. So a conversion rate would be the proportion of visitors to your site that then go on to buy something. Understanding how and where you can improve conversion rate plays a large role in increasing sales and revenue.

There are many ways conversion can be calculated, but a simplified conversion rate could be calculated as the number of sales divided by the number of visitors to a website, over a period of time. For example, if you had 1000 website visitors in a week and 50 of them went on to purchase a product, you would have a sales conversion rate of 5%.

To improve your conversion rate and make more sales, you need to look closely at user activity on your website, and use the information to help you take action. To do this you should:

  1. Find out where your traffic comes from

    As well as understanding what your overall traffic numbers are, knowing where your users are coming from is also important.

    Direct traffic – these are visitors who type your web address into the address bar or save your website as a bookmark. These visitors know your website and brand already and are more likely to be returning visitors.

    Organic traffic – these visitors find your site after searching for a product or service on a search engine. The more you optimise your website for search engines, through good quality content and code, the more traffic you should see from this channel.

    Referral traffic – these visitors find your website by clicking on a link elsewhere on the web. This could be from places like online marketplaces, blogs email marketing and social channels. Social media channels are also a good area for growth, and much like organic traffic, the more you put in, the more you’re likely to get back.

    By managing your traffic sources appropriately, and keeping them as diverse as possible, you’ll give your site the best chance of having a reliable flow of potential customers to your site.

  2. Look at new vs returning visitors

    First time visitors to your site interact very differently to those who return time and again.

    New visitors generally spend less time on a site than returning ones and are more likely to ‘bounce’ off your site after only visiting 1 page (the percentage of visitors who do this is known as the bounce rate). In contrast, returning visitors stay on a website much longer on average and have a much higher conversion rate than new visitors.

    By looking at new and returning visitors as two separate groups, you can see where each is landing on your site and work towards optimising those areas to increase conversion. For example, new customers may be looking for clear messaging, reassuring them that they are in the right place. Whereas, returning customers may convert better with less ‘noise’ and a direct route to purchase.

  3. Look at clicks per visit

    When users land on your website, where do they click and which pages do they visit? If you are seeing a relatively high number of interactions per visit, but still no sales, your users may be struggling to find the information they are looking for. Use click analysis and heat mapping tools to pinpoint where users are spending the most time, so you can target your optimisation efforts in the right areas.

  4. Analyse your drop outs

    One of the most common places that users fail to convert is during the purchasing process, also know as the shopping funnel. These step-by-step processes have clear stages - from adding a product to the basket at the start to confirming an order at the end.

    Analysing the points at which users drop out along this process lets you pinpoint any problems fairly quickly. For example, if a product is added to the basket but there is a large number of people dropping out when they are asked to give a delivery address, there could be a problem with the design of the address input form.

  5. Make payment easy

    Keep your payment process clean and easy and, if possible, provide a number of different payment options. Digital wallets like PayPal and Apple Pay are used all over the world. They enable you to use one-touch payment or express checkout options. And they can have a significant positive impact on your conversion rate.

    Also, look at any local payment options in the regions you're operating in and see if they can be integrated into your site for those regions only.

  6. Assess your customer service

    Having the ability to answer customer queries, in real time and in the right language, can make a big difference to conversion.

    Large customer service teams are not practical for small businesses, but many e-commerce platforms offer multilingual chatbots that you can easily integrate into your website. Chatbots and other online customer service solutions are becoming increasingly popular, and studies suggest there is a strong link with their use and an increase in conversion.

  7. Don’t forget the basics

    Site speed, simple navigation, clear calls-to-action and good product photography may all be basic principles of website design, but they all play a part in increasing conversion. By simply monitoring and improving these areas you could improve overall site performance and see an increase in conversion.

When selling to overseas customers make sure you’re really clear on delivery costs and what your returns policy is. This can give confidence to customers and push them closer to making a purchase.

International trade adviser

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