Ecommerce optimization is the process of building a seamless and enticing user experience for your customers that will encourage them to purchase, and win their loyalty for the long-term. Optimization can be accomplished with both manual and automated technology solutions. It can help you fine-tune many different elements of the experience you offer, from brand messaging to mobile apps. It can even be applied individually for each customer, taking personal and circumstantial differences into account.

However, as technology changes, so do customer expectations: these two forces keep the standards moving constantly forward, creating a competitive environment for brands as they try to keep up—and an intimidating one for brands looking to enter the ring.

When done well, ecommerce optimization can bring a significant surge in your sales and a boost in customer loyalty. The trick, however, is figuring out how to maximize your optimization efforts while staying abreast of the inevitable changes in technology and user behaviors at the same time.

In this post we’ll delve into the current state of ecommerce and the technology impacting it. We’ll also highlight some of the key site areas that can benefit from optimization, some of the challenges businesses face in doing so, and some concrete tactics that you can implement as part of an ecommerce optimization strategy to help guide your brand towards success.

The Current State of Ecommerce Optimization

Nowadays, customers want the ultimate personalized experience when they’re shopping online. In fact, 75 percent of consumers prefer that retailers use their personal information to improve the shopping experience. Providing customers with dynamic content is one of the best ways to do this. Whether this means showing product descriptions that are tailored towards the individual customer, or displaying product reviews based on items sitting in that shopper’s cart, the idea is to make life easier for your customers without overwhelming them.

In the current landscape, customer relevance is key. This can be a challenge, but as the personalization solutions available on the market become increasingly sophisticated, it’s only getting easier to keep your content relevant to the consumer. Loading up your customers with too many product options, related recommendations, descriptions, and prices will only drive them away from your brand, especially if they’re irrelevant. And content that takes up valuable real estate without providing value is worse than displaying nothing—all that clutter will only do a disservice to your customers, and, ultimately, your bottom line.

For example, the effects of irrelevant product recommendations can be seen in our our Ecommerce Quarterly report for Q2 2018, in which we found that the Average Order Value (AOV) of customers who were shown product recommendations but did not engage with them was $107.12 for approximately 3 items. However, when customers engage with the recommendations by either adding them to cart or purchasing them in the same session, their AOV jumped to $142.44 for approximately 4.5 items. This goes to show the importance of relevance: showing the right content is always better than showing more content.

How Technology is Impacting Ecommerce Optimization Tactics

As stated in 451 Research’s Global Unified Commerce Forecast, the number of mobile commerce transactions will surpass the number of desktop browser transactions made by 2019. With this surge, total online sales will reach $5.8 trillion by 2022. That’s six times the rate of in-store sales today.

These statistics show that brands will remain under pressure to keep their digital user experiences smooth and impressive, especially on mobile. Whether this means creating a mobile app specifically for mobile purchases or installing mobile contactless payments, your brand absolutely must stay in line with what customers are demanding.

Brands also need to pay attention to social media, which is increasingly intertwined with ecommerce: now that products can be sold from a simple swipe up on an Instagram story, your efforts on social media should be just as strong as everywhere else. The most popular platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, are known for throwing curveballs at the retail industry. Yet being mindful of brand presence in these realms will be crucial for businesses looking to stake out their share of web traffic. Social media is now an essential pillar of ecommerce optimization.

Stats to Guide Your Current Strategy

The best way to get a sense of the importance of ecommerce optimization is to review the statistics. Looking at some solid numbers will help you see what is going on in the industry at the moment, and can also help shape your strategy. Let’s take a look at few stats to set you off in the right direction: 

1. Conversion Rates

For starters, you will want to examine where your conversion rates currently fall. Typical rates are between 1 and 2 percent. Anything above 2 percent is generally considered good.

To figure out where you stand, dive into your Google Analytics to assess the benchmarks for your site. Find the channels where you are currently performing the best, and pinpoint where you are falling short. You should also consider using A/B testing to test these weak spots further. This will help you begin to form a plan for ecommerce optimization.

2. Site Engagement and Product Recommendations

As you identify your weak spots, it’s important to note that performance will not be spread evenly across all parts of your site: some areas will naturally perform more strongly than others in terms of engagement, conversion rates, etc. However, you should work with your ecommerce team to identify spots where there may be room to improve performance, even in non-intuitive or particularly challenging areas. For example, as shown in our Ecommerce Quarterly for Q1 2018, users are 72 percent more likely to bounce from a product detail page (PDP) than any other page. Because they are designed to sit lower in the funnel, PDPs are not usually optimized for newly entering visitors—however, they tend to pull in a lot of traffic from search and social media. While they may never carry engagement stats comparable to, say, the homepage, retailers should do what they can to improve the appeal and relevancy of their PDPs for new visitors while keeping them optimized for users who are ready to purchase, as well.

Personalization can help boost engagement on PDPs by offering new visitors easy ways to explore other parts of the site directly from the page, and using individualized data to predict what they might be most interested in. Product recommendations are a great tool to accomplish both of those ends—in fact, even a customer who navigated to that page from another part of the site may benefit from the facilitated exploration offered by recommendations.

In this and similar cases, once you’ve identified weak spots in your user experience using analytics, ecommerce personalization can be used to address those shortcomings and make improvements for all customers.

3. Shopping Cart Abandonment

Did you know that 75 percent of online shoppers abandon their cart? Be sure to consider your shopping cart experience when optimizing. Is it easy for customers to check out, or is it difficult for them to reach their goal? Mistakes like requiring registration prior to purchasing, or failing to including shipping costs upfront, could deter customers from converting. Slow load times in the checkout process can also hurt your sales, so beware. After all, an extra 2 seconds can drive abandonment rates up by about 9 percent.

Plus, 51 percent (EQ1 2018) of retail traffic is mobile, yet this share of traffic only accounts for 37 percent of total sales. Studies have shown that users on the go often prefer to do their research on a mobile device but purchase on desktop. However, comfort with mobile transactions is growing: it’s important to make sure your shopping cart experience optimized for mobile.

Personalized product recommendations can help mitigate the effects of cart abandonment. Users who returned to their cart after engaging with product recommendations were 45% more likely to convert than those who came back for a second session but had not previously clicked through on a recommended product.

4. Auto-Filled Fields

While mobile purchases are on the rise, it should be noted that most mobile purchases are made via the brand’s mobile website rather than on their app. Despite the increase, mobile conversion rates overall are still lower than desktop conversion rates. This difference could be due in part to forms. Users don’t want to type out their information using their mobile screen, as it’s too small and often finicky. Auto-filled fields can help users avoid this cumbersome process.

Average checkout is also too long, with 14.88 fields on average. According to Baymard Institute, 27% of users abandon their cart when forms are too long. A good place to start would be by decreasing the number of fields you have during the checkout process.

Items to remove from forms to make the checkout process easier include:

  • Using “Full Name” instead of having “First Name” and “Last Name”
  • Having the Address 2 line as a collapsible field
  • Having the Billing Address equal to the shipping address as a default (and hiding this from the viewer unless noted otherwise)

Final Thoughts

Ecommerce optimization can be challenging to keep up with in this evolving landscape, but you aren’t alone. Every retailer is trying to figure out how to build out their current strategy to achieve higher conversion rates and a boost in sales. Listen to what the statistics are telling you and pay attention to what your customers are asking for, and your plan will begin to come together.

For more information on how to start optimizing your ecommerce strategy, take a look at a few of our solutions. At Monetate we know that technology alone doesn’t lead to success—that’s why we pride ourselves on offering great education and support that enables our clients to achieve their goals. Contact us today to speak with one of our experts.