Eight Quick Tips for Boosting Conversions

Forrester Research outlines eight simple steps small online store owners can take to increase conversions. Some are as easy as testing and changing the color of your key task buttons.

Keeping a Web shop fine-tuned is an ongoing process, and sometimes, overwhelming when it comes to prioritizing tasks, given the budget of small online business owners and the demands on their time.

A new report by Forrester Research, however, can help. "Small Web Site Investments that Pay Off," by Adele Sage, Harley Manning and Andrew McInnes, outlines eight low-cost techniques that will increase conversion and click-through rates, boost cross-selling opportunities and help shoppers find what the products they want.

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The study was conducted to help e-tailers figure out what kinds of small Web site improvement projects "give them a big bang for their buck and provide fast results. Here are the key findings:

1. Focus on the end of the funnel to boost conversion rates.

"The easiest way to increase conversion rates is to ensure that people who already want to buy can do so easily. Optimize the checkout (or application) process by removing any barriers, clarifying language and eliminating superfluous elements (see accompanying graphic table below)," states the report.

It also suggest that you identify drop-off spots using your Web analytics data, and then evaluate and test to determine possible causes of shopping cart abandonment. For example, the study says one e-tailer "had an order review page that 20 percent of customers were mistaking for an order confirmation page because of the way it was laid out — so shoppers never completed their purchases, even though they thought they had."

2.Optimize site copy, titles, and labels to improve natural search results.

Optimizing a Web site for natural search results doesn't necessarily involve revamping your entire online store or rewriting all of your content. Starting with the basics, such as ensuring that title and category labels are keyword-specific, and if appropriate, including a glossary.

The study states, "Lincoln Educational used its focus groups to find out what language its audience used to describe relevant topics, such as "mechanics" versus "technicians." Although Lincoln Educational and industry dealerships refer to the career position as "technician," pages that use that term also include the term "mechanic" so that search engines will still find the site no matter which label users prefer."

3.Add location cues to encourage customers to stay on the site.

The study also advises that e-tailers take note of the trend in which the product page essentially doubles as a home page. As both the e-commerce industry and online shoppers become more sophisticated, the importance of the home page is declining. This is because many shoppers find sites through search engines and wind up entering on third- or fourth-level pages, which can be disorientating if the pages are not designed properly.

Optimizing Checkout: Forrester Research
Forrester Research Graphic from "Small Web Site Investments that Pay Off," by Adele Sage, Harley Manning and Andrew McInnes.
(Click for larger image.)

The authors of the study recommend that each page provides location cues or reverse tabs that allow visitors to immediately determine where they are and how they can find related content. It's also a good idea to include on product pages links to your company profile page and to provide contact information and other messaging usually found at the home page.

4. Eliminate unused content to improve user experience and save money.

Another low-cost tactic that can improve your site's shopper experience is to get rid of pages with no or little traffic. "Use Web analytics data to look for content on the site that is rarely used and remove that content altogether," the report says.

"When Macromedia redesigned its site, its review of Web analytics data showed that roughly half of site content received little or no usage, which led it to eliminate infrequently used pages and concentrate on designing paths that encouraged traffic through higher-value content."

(Continue to Page 2 for tips on Home Page and Button Functionality and Design)

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