April 17th 2020

In times when shopping online is almost the only shopping you can do, your marketing strategies may be focussed more on your online presence and how to convert all that traffic you’re getting.

Optimising your ecommerce site can seem like a daunting task but with these tried and tested strategies, you’ll be on your way to achieving conversion rate uplifts in no time.

A Homepage That Works

As your homepage is where a good portion of your traffic will land, it’s imperative that it’s suitable for most – if not all – of the traffic it gets. To do this there’s a number of things to consider:

Brand Positioning and USP:

The larger ecommerce stores seldom need to do this because they tend to be more established, but smaller ones competing against each other have to work hard on making sure their brand really shines through. If I stumble across your website and haven’t heard of you, are you conveying to me who you are, what you do and why I should buy from you? Far too often ecommerce sites assume the user already has this ‘buy-in’ and that they are distinctive enough to win the user over, but that just isn’t true.

This is your chance to pitch to the user and doing this in a succinct but compelling manner is a sure way to get the attention of those that need it, encouraging true ‘buy-in’ and loyalty.

“If I stumble across your website and haven’t heard of you, are you conveying to me who you are, what you do and why I should buy from you?”

New Vs. Returning Users:

Both user types have very different needs. A new user (as mentioned above) needs to get a feel for the brand and their USP. We also have to assume they may not be familiar with your offering or flagship product, which if not properly conveyed could discourage them and cause friction.

A returning user however, is usually already familiar with the brand and its offering. Therefore, we often see this user type know what they want, meaning quick and easy navigation to products/collections is a must.


Aside from the top header, the first piece of navigable content the user will typically come across is the ‘hero’ banner. On mobile – and usually on desktop – this is the only piece of real estate the user has to see, so it must be used wisely.

Heat map data through tools like Hotjar will often show a gradual drop off of users below the fold, as they navigate away from the page at different steps. Therefore, it’s important that your most valuable and sought after content is placed higher up the page and in front of most of your audience. The hierarchy of this all depends on what your potential customers are looking for most and what drives the most conversions.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What’s your main objective from the homepage?
  • What are the most sought after products and categories?
  • Do you have flagship products that users often buy?
  • What promotions are due to be run?
superdry homepage

Superdry have carefully structured their homepage to include calls to action to new arrivals, promotions and also login/store locator. Highlighted by the large orange font, it’s clear the promotion is the main objective however, whilst selling off old stock the business is also promoting their new arrivals.

User-Centric Navigation

The user has to be able to navigate your site quickly and easily or you can expect frustrated users, abandoned journeys and suffering conversion rates. Your aim is to give the user a positive experience whilst browsing the site, ensuring they can find what they want when they want it. Remember that what makes sense to you (the person familiar with the business) will not always make sense to the user. Here are a few ways to get started optimising your navigation:

“The user has to be able to navigate your site quickly and easily or you can expect frustrated users, abandoned journeys and suffering conversion rates.”

Card Sorting:

Card sorting is a way of getting your target audience to organise the different information areas for you. You present a list of products or product types and get them to identify what belongs where, and what label it should be defined by. Nielsen Norman Group have excellent information on different types of card sorting and how to conduct it.

Heat Maps:

These can be used to collect data on what navigation elements users click most or perhaps least. Having this data could reveal unusual behaviour and may help highlight issues with hierarchy, naming conventions or grouping.

navigation heatmap

An example header navigation heat map shows most users interact with the search first, suggesting difficulty finding a product.

Google Analytics:

Using Sequence Segments and reports like the Navigation Summary (below) can give you invaluable data on how users are navigating your site.

navigation summary report in google analytics

This can help identify patterns of behaviour that you can build hypotheses from, for example: if you see a lot of movement between product pages but have no in-page navigation, this could inform an A/B test that introduces some relevant other products to the page, making it far easier for the user to get to that other product.

Qualitative Data is a Must

Realistically, there’s only so much you can get back from tools like Google Analytics that will help inform your CRO strategy. Qualitative data is an absolute must as it helps highlight issues that you just can’t see using quantitative data alone, like what your users are thinking, their frustrations and questions.

By far the easiest to do is surveying the users on your site. You may already have questions that need answering from your quantitative data. Well now’s the chance to ask.

Let’s say you’ve identified a high exit rate from your main product page, but just can’t see why users are leaving. By using a website survey, you can ask users why this is. You then have to spot patterns in the feedback to try and identify what’s afoot. It could be that users can’t find shipping information or something isn’t working on a specific browser. We’ve conducted many of these user surveys, and they continue to be the driving force behind some of our most successful tests.

Other qualitative data sources include user testing, interviewing customer support staff or customer surveys (outside of your site).

Information Hierarchies

This is something we keep in mind when first reviewing a clients’ site, always asking ourselves the following: Is the content broken down in an easily digestible manner? Can I skim the content and pull out the main points? Is it clear what the page is asking of me? What’s the main conversion objective?

“Is it clear what the page is asking of me? What’s the main conversion objective?”

You may be asking yourself what’s important to your user and it’s very easy to go down the lines of: “The user needs shipping instructions, but also wants to know the price and product details too. They’re all important aren’t they?” Well, of course, we all know the importance of these elements but if we give them the same level of prominence, everything will be fighting for attention. This ultimately leads to additional load on the user who has to try and digest multiple pieces of information that are all shouting at them at once. This makes for a poor user experience and will no doubt lead to a loss of conversions.

the northface product page

The North Face show a good example of a clearly broken down hierarchy on their product page:

  • Each piece of information is in a clearly defined section, split by a horizontal line
  • All elements have enough negative space around them to give relief to the eye when browsing
  • The call to action is the only element with a different colour, telling me that this is the primary action required from me
  • The size chart and shipping information are above and below the call to action respectively. Both are placed strategically near the option to buy to minimize various friction points and encourage the conversion
  • The first and perhaps most important piece of supporting product info ‘Benefits’ is in an open accordion because they want the user to see this. The other sections are closed meaning it’s up to the user to find out more if they need it

Checkout Clarity & Ease of Use

So you have ‘buy-in’ from the user, they’ve added some products to their cart and they’re at the final hurdle before they become a conversion. Your checkout should, therefore, be as easy to use and as simplified as possible to prevent any friction. We’ll be honing in on this subject in another post soon, but here are some tips to get you started optimising your checkout.

Make Instructions as Clear as Possible

It’s important that your instructions make clear to the user what’s expected of them. This could be down to the heading of that specific checkout step, or even the form field titles. These seemingly small details can cause huge confusion if not properly executed. You have to think; the user has likely already spent a lot of time on your site, if they have to spend time figuring out what’s required of them, you’re risking losing that sale!

“It’s important that your instructions make clear to the user what’s expected of them.”

When Neal’s Yard Remedies asked for our help recently we came across this at the first step of the checkout. We found users were spending considerable time on this page and narrowed it down to this jumble of instructions and information.

before and after optimising checkout fields

We have since run a full checkout formatting test that focussed on these kinds of issues and produced a much clearer checkout experience. The test increased mobile conversion rate by 3.2% and desktop by 6%. A great result for some simple formatting changes. See more about how we achieved a 47% increase in mobile revenue for Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Guest Checkout

Terms like ‘Register’ or ‘Sign-Up’ scream to most users that there’s going to be another hour of filling out forms required. It then goes without saying that guest checkout is an absolute must. Not only should it be available but also easily accessible and the default option (if appropriate).

Customer Service

If a customer is having trouble but they have no way to get in touch with you in the checkout, then you’re leaving them no option but to exit to contact you. It’s good customer service to give the user some way of contacting you either through a chat or call line. If these can’t be achieved then it might be a good idea to test including some appropriate shipping/payment FAQs.


The above list is by no means all that needs to be considered but is certainly a good starting point when optimising your ecommerce store.

Ultimately, optimising for ecommerce (actually any site for that matter) is an iterative approach. You analyse, test, learn and improve. This cyclic approach means that you continue to learn about what works for your clientele and your offering, landing you the uplift in conversion rate that you’re seeking.

If you’re looking for help implementing a solid CRO strategy, and want to see how you could benefit from an A/B Testing programme – just get in touch.