January 7th 2021

Due to COVID-19, and the resulting impact of lockdown, a lot of businesses have experienced an increase in online sales. According to The Office for National Statistics ecommerce is surging to more than 30% of total retail sales.

Internet sales ratio

Ecommerce is surging to more than 30% of total retail sales.

This question from many stakeholders to marketers is how do we sustain this growth?

Enders Analysis estimates that ecommerce sales were accelerated by four years within the first three months of lockdown. Whilst it is impossible to sustain this level of demand, except if there is another pandemic (keep everything crossed), it is possible to maximise the return on the current upsurge in traffic by doing the following.

  1. Improve the conversions rate (CR) on the users you have – Do you have a clear understanding of how your consumers use your site? Do they find it easy to locate what they want and check out? Using simple ratios you can calculate if the (CR) for the new level of traffic is at an expected rate.  
  2. Behavioural analytics – Getting insights into how your customers use your site is key to improving their experience. Use Google Analytics to identify your most visited pages, examine your checkout funnel to see where customers drop off. You can also use the navigation summary and behavioural flow report to examine if user behaviour is as expected.  Install Hotjar to get additional insights (video recordings) into the behaviour of your customers.

Things to investigate

  • Returning users – Returning users should be familiar with your site. They have purchased from you before; they understand your brand and your USP that’s why they are coming back. They should already understand how to navigate your site and so they should be completing tasks quickly. If they are not, this might be an indication of friction within the checkout process.
  • New users – Do they understand your site’s navigation or are they getting lost? Browsing the main navigation before heading straight to the site search might be an indication that the main navigation isn’t easy to use or that core categories and hero products are not being highlighted on the homepage.

Some of the causes of friction we see in the checkout process are:

  • Long check out forms – Filling forms on mobile can be very frustrating due to the size of the screen. Even the shortest of forms can appear longer due to the screen size. Most addresses require two form fields. However, the average checkout address form has four fields increasing the need to scroll, especially on mobile, giving the impression that it takes longer to check out. Integrate system like postcode search, one-tap sign in and autofill to reduce the pain of form filling.

If you cannot reduce the length of the checkout form, consider using a progress bar so customers have a clear indication of how many stages are left in the form completion process.  Sometimes the perception of ease is all that is needed to reduce friction. An example is the form optimisation we implemented for Neals Yard Remedies:

Neal's Yard Remedies. Form optimisation
NYR – Form optimisation before and after

Extrapolating the improvements across the whole year sees the additional revenue increase by £30,723.87. This is a good estimate for potential revenue uplift from the test.

  • Limited payment options – According to statista.com PayPal is the most used payment method in the UK accounting for 49% of all online transactions. In 2019, The UK counted more than 330,000 daily active PayPal users.  For an emerging brand, having a checkout process where users don’t have to hand over their credit card details to you adds that extra reassurance to the checkout process.
  • Lack of guest check out – I already have 100 passwords which I store securely on my phone (😉). I do not want to create a new account and think of a new password for a site I am not sure I will ever visit again. If possible, give the option for quest check out or integrate with accounts they already have i.e., Facebook, Instagram, etc. 

Some payment systems are rigid and require an account for checkout, in that case, creating an account can be cheekily moved to the end of the checkout process. The customer needs to fill in all that information anyway.  In our experience asking for a password at the end of the process instead of asking the customer to create an account at the beginning helps to reduce the friction in the checkout process.  

Results for the implementation of quest checkout

Results for the implementation of guest checkout

Form validation – There is nothing more annoying getting to the end of the checkout only to realise you have made a mistake. To make matters worse on some forms all the information you have already filled in disappears and you have to start all over again. Implement form field validation so users are aware as soon as they have made a mistake.

  1. Provide the best user experience – One of the major pain points for users is a slow loading site. According to the 2016 Ericsson Mobility Study, “single website loading delays lead to a 38% increase in heart rate on average”. If users have a stressful shopping experience on your site, once there is an alternative to online shopping (when things return to normal), they are unlikely to come back. Give your users a reason to keep coming back to your site by improving the performance of your site.

For one of our clients, we halved page load time on mobile and this lead to a 54% increase in mobile revenue. To find out more about improving the performance of your site please read my article on speed audit quick wins.

  1. Loyalty – Are you rewarding your customers for coming back? According to research conducted by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, the inventor of the net promoter score, increasing customer retention rates by 5% lead to an increase in profit of up to 25%. No matter how well your website performs if you are not delivering the best service to your customers they are not going to come back.  Reward them for loyalty with personalised content, discounts on products they buy often, exclusive access to sales items, free samples etc. 54% of buyers will buy retargeted products, if a discount is offered – VWO ecommerce Survey.

Continuously woo your returning customers as they are easier to convert. Don’t forget to encourage them to tell others about your services via reviews.

  1. Ask your customers – Get valuable insights directly from your customers by asking them what they think. There is often a gap between how we perceive our customers will interact with/experience our website/product and how they do.  You can conduct non-intrusive surveys with Hotjar. Ensure the survey doesn’t pop up as soon as the user lands on the page (allow some time for interaction with the site). Do not load the survey in the middle of the page and give users a very clear and obvious way to decline the survey (you do not want the survey to become another source of friction).

Remember your job is not just to bring traffic to the site, if that traffic doesn’t convert, your SEO effort has added no value. Speak to other teams and other departments to come up with strategies for customer retention.

  1. Cost of delivery vs cost of the product – How many times have you gotten to the checkout only to be discouraged by the delivery cost? According to research conducted by SAP, high shipping cost accounts for 58% of cart abandonment.  Whilst it might not be possible to offer free delivery to your customers, offering flexible alternatives like delivery to local stores (not just your store but convenience stores which are likely to be closer to the customer’s location) will help reduce cart abandonment. For grocery items, offering multipacks will also reduce the cost to delivery ratio and help push that customer over the line.

Annual delivery passes also helps to encourage loyalty. If I have free delivery for a year, I am most likely to order from you. That’s why we keep going back to Amazon. Asos experienced 53% growth in premier customers when they launched their premier delivery service (unlimited next day delivery for £9.95).  As an SME, it will be difficult to match this offering, however, you don’t have to offer next day delivery, research into consumer behaviour during COVID has shown that consumers are more inclined to support smaller and local brands. That means they understand that they might have to wait longer. You can also set a minimum order value and limit annual delivery to only off-peak seasons.

  1. Upsell and cross-sell – Cross-selling and up-selling is a great way to increase your average order value. Using blog content and relevant product pages to display related product is not only a great way to interlink orphan pages but also good for introducing the customer to new products. However, you need to be careful not to overwhelm the customer with too much choice as this can become a distraction and you want to eliminate as much distraction from the road to conversion as possible.
  1. Information delivery Cisico.com annual internet research (2018-2023) predicted that more than 80% of consumer traffic will be driven by online video due to the increase in fixed broadband speed (expected to double by 2023) and mobile speed (expected to triple by 2023). Whilst younger brands have responded quickly to this trend, not all businesses have moved as fast. Ensure you are delivering engaging information to your users via video and don’t forget to include transcripts for accessibility.
  1. How is your social – In this day and age, social proof is a powerful validation that you are making the right choice. That’s how trends get started. We see other people doing it and don’t want to feel left out.  Sarah and Sian Davies (founders of The Behavioural Architects) stated that social proof is dialled up during the consumer making process as a result of COVID. The research states that “in times of change, people look to others for guidance and reassurance”. Use your social media page to show your audience how real customers (not just models) use your products.

In conclusion, maintaining the growth brought on by a change in consumer behaviour due to COVID requires collaboration with other channels. Whilst sustaining the entire growth is unrealistic, even small retention in customers can have a great impact on revenue growth.

At Erudite we are specialist in Behavioural Analytics and Conversion Rate Optimisation. If you need help retaining those new visitors, why not give us a call.