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Converting Visitors to Sales – 50 Tips for eCommerce Sites

Converting Visitors to Sales – 50 Tips for eCommerce Sites

You’ve built your site. You’ve spent countless hours optimising your pages and even more hours ensuring you have links with optimised anchor text pointing to your site. You’ve posted in blogs and forums and now you’re in a position where you have a healthy flow of traffic to your site.

But your visitors aren’t buying you products and/or services. What’s happening?

This is something that SEO can’t help with. This is to do with the behaviour of your human visitors, rather than Googlebots and spiders.

Not to worry. You can convert more of your traffic into sales without having to spend a lot of money. There are hundreds of ways to improve your conversion rate and the persuasiveness of your website, many of which can be done very quickly and most will cost you close to nothing to implement.

  1. Use real customer testimonials with authentic customer photos…no stock photography. Shoppers can quickly tell the difference. Also, in many countries, using false testimonials is an offence. Be aware of this before you start typing up how great your site is.
  2. Make sure your marketing effort attracts qualified traffic. For example, if you sell digital cameras, dont advertise that you sell lenses just to get more traffic to your site. This may drive more visitors, but they are visitors with no intent to purchase, thus decreasing your conversion rate.
  3. Get a toll-free number and make sure the placement of that number on your site is prominent and consistent.
  4. Include points of reassurance at every point of action. For example, if you are requesting that a viewer provide you with their e-mail address, clearly state that privacy is very important to you and that you will not share that information with any other party. Offer a link to your overall privacy policy.
  5. Use SSL (secure server certificates from a well known SSL authority) and make sure that the user knows you are using it. Display a prominent “Secure server” note at the top of the page. This shows users that you will protect their details when they’re purchasing or providing information. Also, many web browsers, such as Firefox3, are now actively advertising your SSL status.
  6. Build trust. Subscribe to a service like VeriSign, Thawte or ScanAlert and prominently place these logos to reassure your customer that you care about the security of their information.
  7. As previously mentioned, have a clearly defined privacy policy and link to it from all pages. Ensure that it is written in easy to understand English language – not legal jargon.
  8. Include a physical address on your site. This shows that you are contactable “in person” if anything were to go wrong.
  9. Don’t always concentrate on just making the buy now buttons the most prominent on every page, but rather concentrate on styling the primary action buttons the most prominently on every page. For example if you sell books, provide the customer with the ability to select a few related books and compare them before they can buy now. Make that compare button/link the same style as you would the buy now button/link on a page in which the button exists. This will help herd customers through your sales funnel.
  10. Clearly Define your return policy in the same way you would for your privacy policy.
  11. Make sure to include an “About Us section on your site. The majority of my customers will visit or look for that section before making a purchase. It’s also a great way to show customers your “personal” side, your values and make them understand that you’re not a faceless ecommerce site. If you have staff, include pictures of them too.
  12. Make your site load fast, easy to navigate and user friendly. I cannot emphasise this more; customers will leave if they cannot find what they need fast. No need for horizontal scrolling, excessive vertical scrolling, large animation files or intrusive pop-up windows. Keep it simple; make it work.
  13. Keep your buy now button consistently and prominently placed on all product pages. The closer to the top of the page, the better.
  14. Provide clear good quality images of your products with an “enlarge image” option. Don’t have a large image and squash into a small area. I’ve seen this so many times on osCommerce-based sites. It makes your site look les professional if you have distorted images.
  15. Make your checkout process as usable, intuitive, reassuring and simple as possible. Losing a shopper during your checkout process is a CRITICAL loss.
  16. Dont make people type their e-mail address twice. Get the site to remember and do it automatically.
  17. Dont force people to install crazy plug-ins just to make a purchase from your site. Stick with JavaScript, Flash and the other breads & butters.
  18. Read your copy, make sure it’s compelling, yet not exaggerated and too loud. Check for typos and spelling errors.
  19. Identify your unique selling proposition and exploit it. If you are the only seller of medium-sized green widgets in the UK, clearly state that and be proud of it.
  20. Implement a search box and make sure it is accurate. Not only it will allow users to find what they want quick, it will give you an insight as to what they are shopping for and what terminology(keywords/key phrases) they are using so you can tailor your copy (and ad campaigns) accordingly.
  21. Dont just focus on the many features of your product, but rather on the benefits those features will provide you customers with. Dont just say folding ladders, say Our folding ladders will save you valuable garage space. The simplest way is to use the phrase “which means that”: “The ladder folds, which means that it can be stored away easily and save you space.”
  22. Display your prices, shipping charges and tax clearly BEFORE the checkout process is completed.
  23. Don’t use a drop-down for the “country” or state list over your order form. Many people are using scrolling mice these days, many are sure to accidentally scroll off of their correct state. If you must use a list, keep it to the bare minimum contents.
  24. Let customers copy their shipping info to their billing info if they are identical, with one click.
  25. Remove distractions as much as possible from the final checkout process such as the main navigation that existed during the shopping portion of your site.
  26. Clearly provide a checkout process indicator. If your checkout process has 3 steps, clearly indicate at the top of the page what step they are on and how many steps there are to complete the order.
  27. Clearly identify what info you really require during your checkout process. Eliminate unnecessary text fields/questions.
  28. Use easy to understand, friendly error messages. No INCORRECT USER INPUT IN STATE FIELD! messages. Instead, “Please enter a state.”
  29. If your checkout error messages occur on a page other than the page with the errors, preserve the information that the user has already input and get the site to input it automatically.
  30. Double-check the spelling on your site. And the spelling on your error messages. “Ers in input filed” would look very unprofessional.
  31. Try and get good reviews from shopping authority sites (,,, etc) and from previous shoppers.
  32. Dont use complex formulas for shipping price calculations, Example – ‘if you buy 13.5 kilograms worth of x”, then multiply that weight by y shipping rate. Get the site to do the calculations and show the shopper the price.
  33. Consider shipping the product free. This is often a very good selling point with online shoppers.
  34. Display the stock status of the selected item and do so BEFORE the user puts the item in their cart.
  35. If you dont sell or run out of or discontinue an item, remove it from the site. Your site is not lap-dancing club; people don’t like being teased.
  36. If you are offering a lot of products, users should be able to sort them by important criteria…price, size, colour, etc.
  37. Provide an easy way for shoppers to compare details of similar products.
  38. Use a custom 404 not found page to link people back to the important areas of your site.
  39. Give a clear estimate of the delivery time.
  40. Accept a wide variety of payment options and clearly display those options.
  41. Important information should not look like ad banners. There really is such a thing as ad blindness and people will automatically skip over this important information.
  42. Make sure you have a first-time visitor page. This is where you are going to explain why and how you are different from your competitors. Perhaps add this at an account creation page.
  43. Update your copyright statements on page footers. Make sure that the current year is displayed….fix that 2003 copyright statement!
  44. Let customer make a purchase without having to register with your site.
  45. Consider making every link the last part of the statement I want to…. Dont just have a link that says the privacy policy, but rather read the privacy policy. Do you get it..? The shopper wants to Read the Privacy Policy. Please bear in mind your anchor text optimisation with this point.
  46. Dont use too clever names for your shopping cart like widget basket or widget box. Call it “My shopping cart” or “My shopping basket”.
  47. Dont make the shopper specify select an option when there is only 1 option. If the product only comes in red, dont make the shopper select the red radio button or choose from the drop down. Get the site to do it automatically.
  48. Provide clear shopping instructions in an empty shopping cart. Dont just say your shopping cart is empty.
  49. Provide a “special sale or “special clearance section. This will attract the budget-conscious shoppers.
  50. The most important golden rule…you must portray a lot of trust and credibility to instil shopper confidence and get them to make a purchase. Good luck!


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