E-commerce professionals tend to obsess about conversion rates and how to optimise them. Why? Because a tiny increase in conversion rates can generate millions in additional sales for large retailers, so it’s obviously worth throwing resources at ongoing optimisation strategies.

A lot of the basics are obvious. Selling online is about being relevant, removing distractions, and having a clear proposition. It’s about having a competitive price and a trustworthy brand. By testing and experimenting these things you can boost conversion rates.

What else is there? Well, I’ve compiled an A-to-Z of conversion rate optimisation for your viewing pleasure, along with a bunch of links to further reading. Hopefully this will help you to boost sales at your firm.

A is for Accessibility

This one is simple and rather obvious. If 10% of the market cannot access your landing page because your website is inaccessible then why not make some improvements, and increase your potential market by 10%? There is no such thing as ‘the wrong browser’. Inaccessible sites always lose sales. 

B is for Brevity

This applies to the text on your pages and also forms. Keep the noise to a minimum. Ultra-long pages work for some but many retailers have found that less is more, when it comes to visible text on the page. Let visitors drill down into the detail via expandable areas.

C is for Customer Intent

Web pages that mirror and harness customer intent are winners. Pages that fail to connect will fail. You can do various things to determine customer intent, by analysing where the visitor came from, or how they have progressed through your website to the product page. Learn from this customer journey and adapt your pages. Avinash Kaushik has some excellent advice about customer intent.

D is for Differentiation

What makes you different to your competitors? People notice what stands out, so explain why people should buy from your company. Sell your products and service based on your USP, and if you don’t have one then urgently schedule a strategic beer with your team / shareholders / advisors and figure something out. ‘Me-too’ brands are for losers. Uniqueness FTW!

E is for Ease of Use

Customer experience is everything. The user experience had better delight your visitors. Pages must load quickly and navigation must be intuitive. You simply must invest in usability if you want to optimise conversion rates. The mantra is this: test, tweak, monitor, repeat. Check out our user experience buyer’s guide if you need pointers on choosing the right agency.

F is for Forms

Optimising forms is not a particularly sexy business until you realise the effect this activity has on driving sales and reducing cart abandonment. Fields must be properly labelled and annotated. Clarity is essential, if you want to avoid frustration. Shorter forms tend to be less daunting for consumers, and have lower abandonment rates. We have a concise report on designing e-commerce forms if you need help.

G is for Good Service

Promise it, and then make sure you over-deliver. Managing customer expectations is one of the most crucial things you can do in business. Delight customers and they’ll be more likely to refer your company to their friends and to buy more frequently from you. A satisfied repeat customer is far more likely to convert than a newcomer, so it pays to invest in quality customer service to increase loyalty rates.

H is for Help

People need to know that assistance is only a moment away, should they need it. Visible contact numbers on every page are a smart idea if you want to guarantee the sale. Online customer service (aka ‘sales’) tools can be very helpful. Easy to find contact details are essential if you want to engender trust in your brand. Let people know that you will be responsive and keen to help should problems arise.

I is for Incentives

Help the visitor make a mental commitment to buy by reducing any barriers, and offering incentives. For example, most retailers know that free shipping is a no-brainer (it’s easy to understand and obviously delivers value to the customer). Cross selling / promotions can also work a treat, such as Amazon’s “buy this with that and save $$$”. Understand all about customer psychology in our Online Retail User Experience report (it remains a must-read for all e-commerce professionals).

J is for Jargon

Avoid it. The more jargon, the lower the conversion rate. Plain English is the only way to go, in terms of clearly communicating ideas, value, pitches, products and services. Keep your pages and descriptions short and to the point. Typos are obviously a big no-no. Check out my top online copywriting tips here if you need some pointers.

K is for Key Information

It needs to be above the fold. Big fonts, big pictures, big buttons. Shipping information (options / fees) must live on the product page, and not just the checkout (change this and watch your abandonment rate fall). I’ve previously suggested that there are 37 things that I want to see on product pages: the challenge is how to best organise and display that information. 

L is for Labelling

You need clear (and persuasive) page titles, calls to action, ‘add to basket’ buttons, annotated forms, and images. You should invest in an MVT tool to test placement and labelling (it works for John Lewis).

M is for Merchandising

Most supermarkets greet shoppers with a vibrant display of fruit and veg. Ever wondered why? Online retailers can learn from offline merchandising practices to boost average order values and conversion rates. Figure out how to make the best use of your page estate, how to display key information on your pages, and how to optimise promotions in real-time according to the customer journey. You should also make the most of cross-selling and cross-promotion opportunities, which can boost average order values, and also help to reinforce purchase intent via social reinforcement (“people who bought X also bought Y”). Ran Nir has some great ideas on running online promotions that are worth taking a look at.

N is for No Good

A clear returns policy is essential. The easier you make it for customer to return unwanted goods the better. This can include paid-for shipping and multichannel returns (buy online, return in store). There are also a variety of things that you can do to minimise online returns.

O is for Options

The more payment options, the higher the conversion rate. The fewer navigation options in the checkout process, the lower the abandonment rate. Flexible shipping options and returns policies also help drive conversions.

P is for Persuasion

This is a fascinating and deeply relevant subject. For the lowdown check out our interviews with persuasion gurus B.J. Fogg and Bryan Eisenberg. There’s also a great A-to-Z of online persuasion by cScape here. We also published a Persuasion Marketing Briefing that covers a lot of the fundamentals.

Q is for Quality

This stands for quality of service, quality of experience, quality of content and quality of visitor. Improve all of these areas and I guarantee that you’ll generate higher sales.

R is for Repetition

Repeat your key statements and offers. Leave prospective customers in no doubt about the price, the shipping commitment, the price, the service guarantees. Repeat these pledges throughout the purchase process. You might also want to experiment with repeating ‘add to cart’ buttons and search boxes (above and below the fold). 

S is for Speed

People still refer to the eight-second rule… that’s the amount of time people will tolerate when waiting for a page to load. The truth is that it is now probably more like one second, according to Jakob Nielsen. Once a page has loaded a visitor will quickly scan the page to determine if it matches intent. If they proceed into the checkout process then the same rules apply. Speed doesn’t kill online, but slowness does.  

T is for Trust

No trust, no sale. It’s as simple as that. What can you do to boost trust? Try testimonials, trustmarks, clear policies, visible contact details, and plenty of user generated content…

U is for User Generated Content

Reviews, ratings and testimonials are known to help improve trust, loyalty, conversion rates and therefore sales (and profits). Here are a bunch of tips to help you implement user reviews. Here’s how to organise reviews, and if you need more of them aim here.

V is for Value Proposition

Every company needs one. Your product pages must clearly communicate why a consumer should buy from your company. You must communicate the value of your brand, and also the product / service that you’re selling. On top of that be sure to reinforce scent trails from your marketing campaigns (ads, search results and social media campaigns) all the way through to your product pages. Bryan Eisenberg explains why here.

W is for Where Did They Come From?

The referral source can tell you a lot about conversion intent. For example, people that visit from a search engine will have a referring keyword query that you can replicate and highlight on the page. Match PPC ads to smart landing pages that reflect the search term. Ad campaigns should have dedicated landing pages. Campaign data can help you optimise your site in real time, as well as informing future campaigns and figuring out what works best.

X is for The X Factor

No, not the Simon Cowell show, but rather the thing that makes your company, brand, price, website, promise or service attractive to prospective customers. I guess it’s a combination of D and V and in that sense X is something of a cop out. Maybe you can suggest something better?

Y is for YES

This is an old offline sales trick. Help convince your visitors to say yes. You want them to mentally commit to the sale and you can help them along the purchase path by encouraging them to say ‘yes’! You want them to say ‘yes’ when they first visit your page, and to the price, and so on. The more head nodding the better.

Z is for ZZZZZZZ

Because if you snooze, you lose. Don’t switch off. Constantly test your website, your pages, your text, your messaging, your price points, your offers and so on. Invest in MVT tools. Measure everything and obsess about the finer detail. Conversion rate optimisation is all about making small tweaks on a regular basis.

What did I miss? What has worked best for you, and where is the low hanging fruit? I’d love to hear more real world feedback from people working on the front line of e-commerce, so please leave your comments below.