The #1 rule for eCommerce conversions explained

I generally don’t like to speak in absolutes – especially when it comes down to starting and operating a successful online business. there’s a lot that goes into a successful business and many different aspects of the site, the marketing, operations, logistics etc can play crucial roles at different stages in the life cycle of a business.

With that said, there are certain aspects of running an online business that hold universally. Most of these “rules” are fairly easy to comprehend, but not all are as easy to implement. This article is going to look at what I consider the number one most important rule for successful eCommerce (although arguably I would consider it a tie with quality content, targeted and focused marketing and great customer service).

#1 eCommerce rule: Make it easy for visitors to convert
In a nutshell, arguably the most important thing you can do as an online store or eCommerce site owner is make it easy for customers to convert. A conversion can be anything from signing up to a newsletter, generating a lead, or making a purchase. For the sake of argument, let’s go with making a purchase.

You might be feeling a bit let down. After all, this is not a new rule. Also, it seems a bit redundant to say “make it easy to convert” when it should be obvious that this needs to be the case. The problem is, understanding this rule and implementing it are very different things.

When I started my first online business (a long, long time ago), RankTracer – a service for performing market research and sales analytics on any products sold anywhere in the world on Amazon, I had a terrible time with new customers. I had all sorts of frustrating problems that really hampered the site’s early growth.

All of the problems related to this number 1 eCommerce rule. Let’s run through some of the sub-sections of this rule.

Make the value offering simple
Often products and services are not simple. There are a multitude of options, intricacies and all sorts of add-ons and other odds and ends. Don’t overload the visitor on their first glance. What appears to be simple to you (as someone with intricate knowledge of your value offering), will not appear simple to a visitor.

There is both science and art involved in creating the perfect landing page that is a mixture of important information combined with engaging and appealing visual and written content. You need to understand which aspects of the product or service need to be prominently displayed and which should be linked to in order to avoid information overload.

By the same token, you don’t want to hide to much information either. Visitors won’t waste their time hunting around for the information they need – they’ll simply look elsewhere.

Ranktracer, at the start, did nothing simply. I put everything the service involved on the front page. There was reams and reams of information, lists and all sorts of complex stuff. Stuff that could all be replaced with a simple primary marketing message like:

Amazon sales analytics and online market research

The fact that users could create custom graphs in a variety of different formats, 3D, variance, sales estimates and so on, is not immediately relevant. What is relevant is getting the idea of the service across.

Make the value offering clear
Initially, I had spent so much to programming and building the back end, that the front end of the site, facing potential customers, read like a technical specification. Unless my potential customers were also mathematicians, it was unlikely they would have understood what I was saying – let alone been interested in using it.

While what I was saying was accurate and correctly described the site and service, it focused on what the site did, not what it could do for customers. There’s a big difference – do you need to understand how an internal combustion engine works before buying a car? Of course, not. The science and engineering that goes into a car is not where the value lies. Safety, reliability, comfort… these are the things that consumers need to know.

A big part of making it easy for customers to make a purchase, is explaining clearly what benefits they will enjoy.

Make the UI (User Interface) simple
This is a big one! You might be able to explain what you are offering succinctly, but this advantage is neatly squandered if it is difficult to make a purchase. Once a visitor has made up their mind to buy something from your site, you want them to be able to give you money as quickly and easily as possible – preferably in no more than a few clicks.

Initially, Ranktracer had a series of forms that users needed to complete before they could make a purchase. They had to decide on locale, then duration, then ASIN/ISBN and so on. It took about four or five pages of setup before they could even complete the financial part of the transaction – which was already a four page checkout process. A complete disaster by today’s standards.

All of this has been replaced by a single form and a much quicker checkout process – making it about 5 times quicker to transact. This in itself has led to a far greater capture rate on the site.

I learned a lot from Ranktracer and the site has recovered from its earlier setbacks to cater for several thousands publishers, authors, professionals, marketers and celebs. Each time I worked on a new project there was more and more knowledge and skill available to me.

How has your experience led to changes in the way you present your eCommerce site? If this isn’t something you have yet looked at then consider performing a full business website report or looking at performing a conversions analysis.

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