Mastering the best practices to boost online shopping conversions is crucial not only for handling peak demand during holiday shopping but also for achieving sustained success throughout the year. Dive into this comprehensive guide for brands and retailers on enhancing eCommerce experiences, covering everything from optimizing websites for mobile and omnichannel to increasing speed and refining checkout flows.
“Checkout times, checkout complexity, slow page load times — you need to wait for things. Then you have complex delivery options or additional payments and so on,” summarized Dirk Hoerig, co-founder and CEO of commercetools, on the challenges with digital experiences that still plague brands and retailers today. Managing all these aspects is a significant challenge for businesses to deal with daily on top of navigating ever-evolving customer demands.
There’s more: A recent survey by Contentsquare revealed that, in addition to slow site loading, consumers complain about retailers misusing pop-ups, promoting out-of-stock products and lacking quick-purchase options for checkout, such as PayPal and Apple Pay. Other annoyances, such as hidden shipping fees, unclear pricing and a lack of guest checkout, also increase abandonment rates.
These challenges, while amplified during the holiday season, happen year-round for brands and retailers, no matter their size, geography or industry. And as consumers tighten their wallets during the holiday season and beyond, businesses must tackle those issues head-on. This is how.
1. Improve site speed and optimize for mobile
If an eCommerce site cannot load quickly, it’s impossible for a brand to help customers find what they’re looking for, lead them to checkout, or enable them to complete the purchase. As Dirk mentioned in a recent interview with Inc., “Wait times are the number one killer of a customer placing an order, both online and offline.”
There are many reasons companies still struggle with site speed and performance, one of them being that they rely on in-house infrastructure that cannot scale online capacity automatically to match the increasing number of visitors landing on their website. A straightforward solution to this issue is to leverage the infinite scale of cloud-native platforms such as Google Cloud and AWS, which already help countless businesses to navigate Black Friday-like traffic without the worries of a system crashing down.
Another thing to consider is mobile optimization. Notably, 60% of eCommerce sales in the US during 2023 Cyber Week were completed on a mobile device. While many customers may download your mobile app, most consumers prefer browsing a mobile website. This means it’s important to not only speed up load times but also avoid the mistake of merely shrinking desktop layouts to fit small screens. A responsive website is critical for outstanding customer experiences in an increasingly mobile-first landscape and may require rethinking core functionalities, such as search, navigation and product descriptions.
2. Provide a robust product discovery and search capability
We’re in an era of hyper-choice, where an abundance of products, shops, and options is just a click away. While this plethora of choices is beneficial for consumers, it can become immensely frustrating when searching for the right product feels like a mission-impossible task. This highlights the critical role of product discovery and search in shaping today’s customer experience.
Beyond the evolving search functionality, enhanced by the capabilities of Generative AI, a robust product discovery furnishes shoppers with recommended products on the first page as well as offers detailed product descriptions and availability information. These key details are essential in aiding consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions, thus turning browsers into buyers
3. Get product availability data right
As mentioned earlier, customers still get promotions for out-of-stock items, which is a frustrating experience. That’s why making product availability data more transparent and available is crucial not only for retailers to promote the inventory that’s actually available but also to build trust with shoppers.
Brands can also use product availability information to their advantage: For instance, the retailer SPORT 24 provides instant information on product inventory for online shopping as well as across its brick-and-mortar stores. That way, shoppers can select items and buy them online — or utilize the reserve online, pick up in-store (ROPIS) service at the store of their choice.
4. Meet customers where they are with omnichannel
Omnichannel has been around for a while but it has never been more important. After all, over 50% of customers engage with 3 to 5 channels during each journey, increasingly switching between digital and physical channels. This is becoming even more important with the rise of phygital journeys to enable a truly unified commerce experience.
Adam Warne, CIO of fashion retailer River Island, shared an interesting analogy: “Think about it like your house. You might have a couple of bathrooms and a kitchen and you want warm water, hot water in those areas. You don't go and install three different boilers and have three different service contracts. You have one boiler, one thermostat setting, and that's what provides the hot water. That's how I see retail evolving. It's about businesses building one experience, one capability and then leveraging that across all of their channels.”
River Island has introduced self-service checkout that isn’t just about giving customers another channel. By using the same technology that the website uses, which is commercetools, it has helped to streamline operations and accelerate checkout. For instance, the retailer built one payment method and one checkout which is used across multiple channels, which reduces their cost of ownership while enabling a more compelling experience. Now, when a new promotion or feature is launched on the website, it is also automatically deployed to the in-store self-service checkouts. “We can turn them on and off, but it instantly delivers that satisfaction to the customer,” revealed Adam.
Another phygital way of increasing conversions is by turning every channel into a checkout opportunity. For example, you can add QR codes into regular packaging, stadium seats and app experiences that lead customers directly to a checkout interface. Mobile self-checkout possibilities such as Scan & Go enable customers visiting a brick-and-mortar store to scan the barcodes of items they wish to buy using their mobile devices, creating frictionless experiences.
5. Hyper-personalize shopping experiences
When 72% of customers and 89% of B2B buyers today expect brands to know their unique needs and expectations, it’s clear that we have arrived at the age of hyper-personalization. By leveraging advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, this marketing strategy delivers tailored experiences according to individual preferences.
A hyper-personalization journey begins with data collection from user interactions and behavior across various digital channels, such as website analytics, cookies and mobile app usage. AI processes this data to understand user preferences and predict needs, helping businesses to segment customers based on demographics, behaviors and preferences. Utilizing this information allows you to start meeting customers at their preferred touchpoints at their preferred time, from mobile apps to email.
For example, frequent clicks on outdoor product categories trigger intelligent recommendations for hiking or camping gear, and abandoned carts may prompt personalized email follow-ups with product-specific offers. At the end of the day, it’s all about cranking up customer engagement, ultimately increasing sales conversions and loyalty.
6. Reduce checkout friction
Your customer has arrived at checkout; congratulations! But there’s still work to be done: According to the Baymard Institute, about 70% of consumers abandon their carts. In addition, as shoppers become more cost-conscious and reduce spending, 19.6% of consumers are now abandoning shopping carts due to additional shipping costs alone. To minimize abandonment, brands and retailers can apply a wide range of best practices, including:
A lengthy or complicated checkout experience with numerous forms, clicks and intrusive pop-ups can cause frustration and confusion for shoppers. Enhance your purchase experience by reducing the number of steps and pages, making the process organized, intuitive and as simple as possible. One such possibility is guest checkout.
Offer guest checkout
Guest checkout enables customers to complete a purchase on a website without the need to create or use an account. This streamlined process involves entering shipping information and selecting a payment method, enhancing the shopping experience, especially for one-time or infrequent shoppers.
Freeze the cart
Promotions with short expirations or prices with limited validity may result in changes to the cart amount after initiating a payment. For instance, a promotion might expire during the payment process, causing a discrepancy in expected amounts. One potential solution is to temporarily freeze the cart before payment, thereby securing its amount.
Nevertheless, this approach poses its own challenges, such as navigating the complexities associated with unfreezing a cart if the customer wishes to make modifications after being redirected for payment. A potential alternative to cart freeze is to permit cart changes at any point. If an amount discrepancy arises, you can process a refund automatically and prompt the customer to reinitiate the payment with the adjusted amount.
Provide payment methods aligned with customer expectations
To align with customer expectations and minimize checkout friction, brands and retailers should prioritize offering payment methods like PayPal, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. These popular and user-friendly options enhance the purchasing process, providing customers with convenient and secure ways to complete transactions.
By incorporating these widely-used payment solutions, businesses can streamline the checkout experience, reducing barriers to purchase and fostering a more seamless and satisfying shopping journey for their customers.
Provide clear pricing
Companies should provide clear pricing upfront to mitigate cart abandonment and reduce checkout friction. Transparent pricing enhances customer trust by avoiding surprises during the checkout process, reducing hesitation and the likelihood of cart abandonment, as well as promoting a positive buying experience.
Imagine if you arrive at checkout while purchasing a makeup product and, upon completing the purchase, can get free goodies that match the lipstick color you just bought. That’s exactly the personalized experience that Trinny London offers. More than meeting the basic requirements for a stellar experience, this next-level checkout experience is a best practice on how to persuade customers to finalize the purchase.
Strengthen security measures
Companies should prioritize implementing robust security measures to effectively reduce checkout friction. By visibly demonstrating a commitment to security, like displaying trust badges, businesses can minimize hesitations during the checkout process, ultimately reducing the likelihood of cart abandonment. In addition to protecting customers, strong security measures contribute to a positive shopping experience, encouraging them to complete transactions confidently and fostering long-term trust in the brand.
Test and tweak your checkout process
Monitoring, testing and continually tweaking the checkout process is paramount for businesses seeking to implement constant improvements in their online shopping experience. Through meticulous monitoring and payment orchestration, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer behavior and preferences, enabling them to make data-driven adjustments. A proactive approach to A/B testing different elements of the checkout process ensures that the user experience remains seamless and efficient.
7. Leverage reordering and subscriptions
By providing customers with the convenience of easily reordering their favorite products or opting for subscription services, businesses can streamline the purchasing process. This convenience saves time for customers, encourages repeat transactions and fosters loyalty. The predictability and simplicity of subscription models create a hassle-free experience, reducing friction and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
Boosting conversions in 2024 and beyond with composable commerce
Mastering the intricacies of online shopping conversions is not just about capitalizing on seasonal peaks but ensuring sustained success throughout the year. Embracing these best practices is easy for companies powered by composable commerce. Not only does this technology help organizations increase performance and speed but also customizes checkout flows, boosts omnichannel experiences, and more.