For all the progress of the last few years, we still have a long way to go in ecommerce. In many cases, the ecommerce effort is a staged battle against Amazon. In its other forms, ecommerce is simply a throw-enough-mud-on-the-wall approach where more products plus free shipping equals more sales.

That's not how it works.

To be successful in the extremely competitive ecommerce industry, you must understand what's most important and how exactly to fix it.

Ecommerce optimization isn't what you think it is.

In this article, I'm responding to several significant shortcomings that I've observed among ecommerce optimizers. First, there's a significant lack of understanding of the importance of product pages. Second, there is a lack of attention to the purchase process. Finally, many optimizers misunderstand what it means to optimize the category pages.

I'll explain the best strategy for optimization in each of these areas.

Optimize for mobile.

Ecommerce optimization should be synonymous with mobile optimization. Already, as recent holiday booms have shown us, mobile traffic and purchases often exceed the traffic and conversion rates of non-mobile users

Ecommerce is essentially a mobile industry. Shoppers are using their mobile devices to browse, compare, and learn. Buyers are using their mobile devices to convert on a purchase.

An ecommerce site without complete mobile optimization is limited from the very start.

Optimize your product pages.

Ecommerce is about purchasing items. This being the case, the most important pages on a an ecommerce website are the product pages themselves. Optimizing product pages is key to ecommerce success.

Here are the features of a product pages that require attention:

  • Focus on the longtail. A product page is basically a longtail keyword landing page. You will gain the most qualified and conversion-ready traffic from users who are inputting these longtail queries. Be sure you optimize the page title, H1, content, and images with this longtail in mind.
  • Add interactive elements. Interactive content is that which turns passive users into active participants. Interactive content engages users in such a way that they are doing something on the page not simply looking at the page. Interactive elements could include social sharing, price toggling, shipping customization, quizzes, easy forms, and user-controlled visuals. The more interactivity you can add to your page, the greater you will engage and attract the user.
  • Gain user generated content. User-generated content is content that your users create for you. UGC takes many forms, but it has its greatest advantage in e-commerce. Since content is a time-consuming prospect with limited ROI, it makes sense to get others to do it for you (for free). Product reviews are exactly where this technique can help an ecommerce site flourish. Product reviews are much like testimonials--letting your customers do your marketing for you. Obviously, reviews are a double-edged sword. While positive reviews can easily sell a product, negative reviews can do the opposite.
  • High-quality custom photos. The right images can dramatically improve your conversion rates. Even a technique as easy as making the pictures bigger can create a noticeable uptick in conversion rates. The higher quality your images, the better your page will be optimized.
  • Implement schema markup. Schema markup is a type of code that improves your page's results in search engine results. Much of the schema.org markup centers on product details. Adding markup neil to your products' price and star review level are two essentials.

Optimizing product pages is difficult, due to the fact that a site may have thousands of such pages. Creating unique copy for each item, let alone vast amount of additional content, is time-consuming. Taking a longview of the project while also improving and templating each page is crucial for full optimization.

Optimize your purchase process.

The CTA (Call To Action) button is the most-talked-about and most-optimized element on an ecommerce page. Is it really that important? I would say yes, but not to the neglect of the page's other features.

Whether the CTA is a micro conversion or an actual purchase, optimizers love to test it and refine it to the hilt. This is good as far as it goes, but it's a limited view of ecommerce optimization.

Conversion optimization is a process-focused pursuit, not a single-item improvement. In order to optimize an ecommerce page, you must iteratively improve and test multiple features, not just your prized CTA.

  • 2-3 steps. Once your checkout process exceeds the third step, you're going to lose some users. Keep things complete, but eliminate extraneous steps or forms in the process.
  • Focused and accurate error messages. One of the most frustrating features of a checkout process is the error message. Maybe you forgot to add a zip code, a phone number, or your CV code. When designing a checkout process, make completely sure that the user knows exactly where and how to fix the errors.
  • Progress bar. A progress bar keeps users informed as to where they are in the process, and keeps them motivated to complete the process.

Conclusion

Ecommerce is still expanding, growing, maturing, and improving. Like other efforts and methods of online business, there's still more growing to do.

Adjusting our perspective on what to fix and how to fix it will make an enormous impact on conversion rates and ultimately, upon revenue.

What are your biggest challenges in optimizing ecommerce sites?

Published on: Nov 5, 2015