Conversion Optimization 101: How to Increase Sales for Your E-Commerce Site

If you’ve been dragging your feet on setting up your e-commerce site, it’s time to seize the day. It’s now easier than ever to get started — and get started right. Not only can you now integrate your Square account with e-commerce platform Bigcommerce, but also we have their Managing Editor, Tracey Wallace, on tap for a series of e-commerce 101 guest blog posts. Her first installment is on what you probably care about most — increasing your sales. Read on for her top tips and tricks.

Are you interested in turning your e-commerce site into a converting powerhouse? Who isn’t? Getting there is all about learning who your customers are and how they shop. Different types of customers shop in varying ways online, and it’s important that your site appeal to your target audience. After all, there is a big difference in customer targeting for an online store selling candy versus one that sells juice cleanses

That said, there are a number of steps you can take to optimize your conversion funnel. But first, what is a conversion funnel? To put it simply, conversion funnel is a term that helps you visualize and understand the flow potential customers go through once they land on your site and then take a desired action (i.e., “converts”) — like buying something.

Let’s first go through the five main elements of a conversion funnel. Since this is such a highly visual concept, I’m using a food analogy to keep it interesting and help you envision how you want to capture and pull in your customers.

#1) Awareness

In this phase of the funnel, you’re working on attracting potential shoppers to your site.

  • Analogy: This phase is similar to when a delectable smell wafting from the kitchen catches your attention.
  • Potential action(s): Take a look at how you drew these customers in (social media, search results, your blog, etc.). You can find this information in your online store’s analytics or Google Analytics. Then make sure you’re targeting the right audience. If you’re attracting the wrong type of shopper, then you’re wasting time and marketing dollars and hurting your store’s overall conversion rate. Think it through here: would you bake chocolate chip cookies for someone who doesn’t like chocolate?

#2) Interest

During this phase of the conversion funnel, you’re working to pique shoppers’ interest in your product or service.

  • Analogy: This phase is much like when you peek your head around the corner to find a fresh, molten tray of brownies cooling on the counter.
  • Potential actions(s): Your website and content are the most powerful pieces for this phase. Focus your energy on polishing attention-grabbing aspects like headlines, images, and banners. Write compelling copy and have a well-executed layout for the places where people enter your site — like blog posts, your site’s homepage, and product pages. First impressions matter, so be sure the layout, copy, and images all make sense and look amazing. You want to keep pulling customers down your funnel.

#3) Desire

In this phase, you want to make your potential customers really want what you’re offering.

  • Analogy: Give your shoppers the same feeling you get when your mom tells you those brownies have a gooey, warm center and dark chocolate chunks. You can’t not have one, and it’s likely you’ve completely forgotten what you were doing before the smell hit your nose.
  • Potential action(s): Now that you have shoppers’ attention, build their interest. Use higher-level, more-attention-grabbing elements that focus on the details. A logical place to start is by providing great product photos, tantalizing product descriptions, [great product options, and vivid product videos. As you make sales, work on getting some great product reviews from your customers as well. This especially helps with the consideration phase for customers. You want to provide them with all the necessary information that will help convince them to buy what you’re offering.
  • Extra actions: Beyond your product pages, think about crafting supporting content. This could include a mission statement, blog posts for your business, a competitive shipping and returns policy, great promotional offerings, or anything that drives home that they don’t just need the product or service, they need it from you.

#4) Conversion

This is when shoppers take your desired action (i.e., convert). The action you want them to take could be many things (like signing up for your newsletter), but we’ll focus here on guiding shoppers to convert to customers (i.e., buy something).

  • Analogy: This is the equivalent of you face-planting into the tray of brownies and showing no shame.
  • Possible action(s): Really focus on your product pages here. You want to make sure you’re making it as easy as possible to encourage shoppers to place items in their cart. From there, examine your checkout flow. Make sure to include relevant information and answer common questions along the way. Improving your checkout to reduce cart abandonment is a no-brainer here, and you’ll find simple checkout adjustments can make all the difference.

#5) Reengagement

This is the missing step in most conversion funnels, but it’s extremely important for e-commerce businesses. After customers have taken a desired action and converted on your website, you want to make sure you encourage them to become repeat buyers.

  • Analogy: As you walk out of the kitchen and try to compose yourself, your mom tells you there is vanilla ice cream. You turn right back around for another go at the whole process.
  • Possible action(s): Consider one or more of the following to encourage repeat customers and purchases: Invite them to sign up for your social media channels or email newsletter so you may market to them later. Send them a coupon or promotion via email. Include marketing or loyalty materials in their shipment to encourage them to come back and make sure they understand how much you value their business. Expand your product line or services with something new to bring their business back.
  • Keep in mind: Your options are endless here. Do, however, avoid bombarding your customers with promotions and communication. Instead, strive for an assortment of these tactics over time.

As you can see, there are many small or inexpensive things you can do to help streamline your conversion funnel. Also know that the smallest changes can make a world of difference. Optimizing for mobile is not just important, it’s essential to e-commerce success. Below are a few additional ways to optimize for conversion, focusing more on color contrast, calls to action (CTAs), and your overall site design.

Pick colors with purpose

It’s fun to pick your favorite colors. But make sure you develop a cohesive color scheme for your e-commerce site and stick to it:

Here are three steps to get you headed in the right direction:

  • Acknowledge color psychology: Different colors communicate different things. It’s essentially like another language. Before selecting colors you personally like together, familiarize yourself with their subtexts. It’s not an exact science, but this infographic can give you some insight.
  • Select a color scheme (and stick to it): Pick two to three colors for your site’s color scheme. This helps you craft a recognizable brand that appeals to the right people.
  • Utilize the isolation effect: When selecting your color scheme, pick one color that stands out from the rest. This color helps guide your customer’s eye to take a desired action on your page. For instance, it’s a good idea to use a standout color for your “Add to Cart” button –– one of the most vital places you want people to click.
Calls to action that have a kick

A compelling CTA has a few important components. First, you need to get in your customers’ mindset. To do this, learn as much as you can about what they want to know about your product or business. Also keep in mind the following when crafting or designing your CTAs:

  • Size: Your most important CTAs should be larger than all the others. This is called “visual hierarchy” and it’s akin to the “above the fold” idea in traditional journalism. For e-commerce sites, there is no such thing as “above the fold” because different devices (like your phone, for instance) load the page differently. To account for this, use size to prioritize information.
  • Wording: Be as clear and concise as possible. Strive for a sense of urgency while maintaining your brand’s tone. Don’t overwhelm your customers with too much “click-bait” language. This is where understanding who they are and what they want comes into play. Be honest but not too sales-y. Is the sale for a short time only? Are the new products only available in limited quantity? Whatever the reason is to purchase now, be sure to get the point across -clearly without being gimmicky.
  • Color and contrast: Different colors initiate different moods and emotions for buyers. Keep this in mind as you choose brand colors as well as the color of your CTAs. Also be mindful of contrast. Make sure your CTAs contrast with your brand colors enough to stand out, but not clash. You want it to draw people’s eye, pushing them towards conversion.
Labor over layout

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to e-commerce site design, but it’s a good idea to keep current with industry trends. For example, on April 21, Google changed its algorithm to penalize sites without mobile-friendly variants (i.e., sites without a responsive or mobile-dedicated template). In general, your e-commerce site needs to be optimized for usage on any device and allow for the full functioning of these key areas:

  • Search and navigation: Be sure that your search and navigation bars properly scale to a mobile device and don’t crowd out or overtake the rest of your site content. For most mobile-friendly sites, the navigation scales down to a three-bar button while the search bar stays the same. This is ideal given that customers use their fingers, rather than a mouse, to click aspects of your site. Making something too small causes incorrect clicks and/or customer frustration. Making something too big drowns out the rest of your content. Make sure that navigation and search work well, no matter which device your customer is browsing on.
  • Product pages and checkout: All customers must first hit one of your landing pages and then proceed through checkout to fully convert. Be sure that your product pages include multiple product photos, proper size information, interesting product descriptions, a clear CTA to add to cart, and customer reviews.
  • Blog: A blog is a great way to drive traffic to your e-commerce site. Blogging on relevant topics helps to increase your SEO (aka your organic search result rankings), because it’s a cue to Google that your brand is an authority on a topic. That said, be sure to also utilize CTAs on your blog, and on your website in general. The sidebar is a great place for this, as is using a pop-up. Ideally, CTAs are subscription buttons that add readers to your email list. At that point, you can send email updates on the newest blog content and continue to nurture the lead.

Fine-tuning these tactics can make a world of difference for your online store. Better yet, they don’t have to cost a lot of time or money. In general, conversion optimization is always about testing and — as trends come and go — updating the colors, verbiage, and more that lead to conversion for your audience. Make sure to test your CTAs (an A/B test is a great way to do that) to ensure that your conversion funnel pulls in as many customers as possible and nurtures them all the way to checkout.

Bigcommerce is part of Square App Marketplace. Learn how you can quickly set up a beautiful e-commerce store for your business.