Increasing Sales by 69% with eCommerce Conversion Optimization

Spying on spys to increase conversion.

Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten to know reader Kris Kayyal, a conversion rate expert who has been studying user experience and usability online for more than six years.  He works with companies to help them increase conversion through a better understanding of their customers.  In addition, he also owns his own site selling spy camera equipment where he obsesses over eCommerce conversion optimization.

I’m always striving to offer real-world eCommerce details and so I’m thrilled Kris has agreed to share some conversion optimization tips – and real-world test results – from his own store below.


Conversion optimization doesn’t have to be hard and time consuming.  Dedicating just a few hours of focused testing a month can result in significantly more customers and revenue.  Listed below are three conversion tests I ran on my own eCommerce site, My-SpyCam.com, and the effects they had on our conversion rates.

 

Test #1 – Watching Customers Use Our Site

Watching recordings of customers interacting with your site can offer deep insights into potential problems and areas to improve.  Specifically, I studied customers in the checkout process and visitors who viewed a category page but left before clicking through to a product.  Below is an actual video of a customer using my site along with some commentary on the issues I noticed.  And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony of spying on folks shopping for spy equipment!

 

Some of the issues I discovered:

  • A bug made agreeing to the “terms and conditions” during checkout confusing
  • Lots of people viewed the category page without clicking on a product
  • People seemed to be overwhelmed by the numerous filtering options

What I did to address them:

  • Fixed the terms and conditions issue
  • Added more products on the category page
  • Reduced the number of filtering / shopping options

The result?  A whopping 36.1% increase in conversions, which is a massive testing (and revenue) win!  One of the great things about watching recordings is that is allows you discover problems quickly.  Without it, I could have gone for months not knowing that the terms and conditions was causing frustration and cart abandonment.

Here’s how you can duplicate my experiment to increase conversions on your site:

  1. Sign up for a visitor recording service like MouseFlow or Inspectlet
  2. Start watching customers interacting with your site
  3. Make a list of problems you find and improvements you can make
  4. Implement the changes and measure the result

 

IMPORTANT:  You’ll want to use an A/B testing solution like Content Experiments inside Google Analytics or a paid service like Visual Website Optimizer to confirm that your changes actually improve conversion.  It’s important to get validation with hard data vs. going with what you “think” will improves sales.

 

Test #2 – Understand Our Customers’ Hesitations

One question we frequently received from customers was “How will this purchase show up on my credit card statement?”  As many customers use our products in an attempt to catch their spouse doing despicable things (cheating, lying, etc), they’re sensitive as to how the charge will appear on their shared statement.  On the phone, we’ve always reassured customers that the charge will be discretely labeled, but we had never communicated that to customers who bought online.  And online purchases make up the majority of our orders.

So we decided to test adding the following statement next to the fields for entering credit card information:

“The charge on your card will be discrete and show up as “MSC LLC”

The result of this one minor change?  A 13.7% increase in conversions!  That’s an impressive boost in sales just for adding one line of text, and it illustrates the power of knowing – and addressing – your customers biggest purchasing hesitations.

Here’s a high-level process you can get started with to do similar work on your site:

  1. Create a list of what you think are the biggest problems / concerns your customer has
  2. Sign-up for a service like Qualaroo (formerly Kiss Insights) to collect feedback about visitors’ concerns and buying hesitations
  3. Identify your customers’ top 2 to 3 concerns
  4. Brainstorm solutions to solve / alleviate these worries for your customers
  5. Implement the changes on your site and measure the result

 

Test #3 – Conducting Usability Testing

Simply watching customers silently use our site (like in Test #1) is useful, but we end up missing out on a lot of valuable data.  Specifically, we only see what customers do and not why they do it.  To really gain some valuable insights, you’ll want to conduct usability testing which allows you to get real-time feedback from people using your site.

Recruiting your friends and family as test participants is an option, but usually isn’t ideal.  Why?  They’ll may be too kind with their feedback as they don’t want to hurt your feelings, and probably already are familiar with your business.  We want test subjects who don’t know us, will provide honest feedback and aren’t familiar with our site.

There’s lots of options for doing usability testing.  A few include:

  • Five Second Test - Great for understanding the immediate reaction visitors have of your site.  Offer your own opinion to get free tests for your site.
  • Feedback Army – For $20 get 10 people to look at your site and answer 4 – 6 questions.  Got some quality feedback from this service.
  • Try My UI – Listen to a user talk about interacting with your site while watching a recording of them using it.  Testers also answer written questions afterward.  One free test, then paid.
  • Fivver – Loads of people willing to give you feedback on your site for just $5.
  • UserTesting.com – Listen and watch as a user talks through the process – and problems – of using your site.  $39 / test and you have the ability to request testers from specific demographic (all males, under 30, etc).
  • YouEye – Similar to UserTesting, but also offers emotion tracking based on facial recognition software.  Wowza!  $39 / participant.

 

I conducted some basic usability testing – particularly focused on our home page – and discovered the following:

  • Most people understood that we were in some way related to spy cameras but weren’t sure how
  • Some people didn’t realize we were an online store
  • People thought our homepage video was an image
  • People were turned off by the low share count on our social media buttons
  • People found the videos boring and too long

 

Based on these insights, we made the following changes:

  • We reduced the homepage video length
  • We removed the Twitter and Facebook buttons
  • We made the video more obviously playable
  • We added products to the homepage

And the result?  These small changes to the homepage resulted in a 9.2% increase in conversion!  Not quite as large as the other two, but still a solid improvement especially given our focus on one page. And these changes represented only a handful of items we’ll be working to fix. You can see the difference I made to the homepage below:

Original Homepage

 

Updated Homepage

Ready for some full-blown usability testing on your own site?  Here’s how to get started:

  1. Sign up with one or more of the providers above.
  2. Design your test.  Plan on asking a list of questions or providing a goal for users to complete.
  3. Analyze the results and make a list of potential problems / conflicts / confusion points.
  4. Prioritize making changes based on (1) how easy they are to make (2) how large an impact they will have.

 

Compounding Improvements

The great thing about conversion optimization is that the improvement you make compound on each other to increase sales.  The three experiments I discussed resulted in conversion boosts of 36.1%, 13.7% and 9.2% which you might initially think is an overall improvement of 59.0%.  But you’d be wrong!  Instead, because each improvement stacks upon the previous one the actual increase in overall conversion is 69.0%!  It’s the same concept that makes compounding interest so amazing.

Conversion optimization is powerful stuff.  To increase my traffic by 69% would take an enormous amount of work or money.  And yet, I was able to increase revenues by 69% relatively quickly with these conversion optimization techniques – a major profitability win.

What successes have you had with A/B testing and conversion optimization?  Let me know in the comments below.

Co-written by Kris Kayyal and Andrew Youderian.  Photo by 33mhz.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    Awesome data, Kris! Thanks for sharing. It’s so easy to focus on more links / more traffic / more SEO when often improving the conversion on the traffic we DO have is the fastest and most efficient way to increase our bottom line. I’ve definitely been guilty of this and plan on doing a LOT of A/B testing and conversion optimization in 2013. Thanks for the great insights!

    • Kris says:

      You’re welcome Andrew! Thanks for having me on your blog!! We are ALL guilty of it I suspect. And conversion is a no brainer, we just need to do it. Btw if you are going to be doing alot of a/b testing in 2013 I might know someone who can help ;) lol

  2. Khuram says:

    Fantastic read. The results are pretty impressive. CRO is one of those things every e-commerce website should be doing on a very regular basis but admittedly most don’t. The technical and analytical nature of testing is sometimes too much of a headache. BTW, do you offer this as a service? I’d love to get in touch, please post some contact info.

    • Andrew says:

      Agreed – as store owners, we should be doing it but don’t. I was pretty impressed with Visual Website Optimizer in terms of easy-of-use for A/B testing. It’s not free, but if you want to get started with minimal technical involvement it’s a pretty impressive solution.

    • Kris says:

      Khuram, yes I do. You can contact me at kris.kayyal at gmail. And yes the technical side is half the problem. Implementing your idea is the biggest battle, some ideas will double your business but take months to implement. Others are simple and can be done in minutes and only improve by 5-10% but when you have lots of them you get a compounding effect.

      And I agree with Andrew, it’s where we should be spending our time but we don’t. There is an exception to this rule, if you don’t have traffic then you need to work on that first. You can have the best converting website in the world but if it doesn’t have traffic you won’t get any conversions.

  3. Ashima says:

    Fantastic tips there! Thanks so much for sharing them. Always enjoy your practical solutions from real online stores.

  4. Javier says:

    Very interesting experiment Kris. 69% is a lot! I’ll definetely will give some of these tools a try.

    I liked you theme, what script are you using for your store?

    • Kris says:

      Hi Javier, yes the 69% was well worth the time and effort that I put in.

      The theme is custom made and we are using Magento. If you aren’t very technical then I might suggest not to use Magento because it is very powerful but that comes at the cost of easy to use. :(

  5. Ian says:

    Hey Kris

    Thanks for the email. I started in aniche knowing that most people avoid it due to the competitvness and saturation. I love challenges :)

    Here are Google stats after some hard work

    Visits: 361
    Unique Visitors: 253
    Pageviews: 1,368
    Pages / Visit: 3.79
    Avg. Visit Duration: 00:03:52
    Bounce Rate: 28.25%
    % New Visits: 68.70%

    GUESS WHAT THOUGH – very little sales (affiliate site) but thinking of turning it into a dropshipping site.

    So like you I need to understand why they are not buying, so I try Test #1 – Watching Customers Use Our Site fist and see what they are doing then if I can see anything obvious that needs changing then I will change it. Then I move to Test 3 but really looking for the honest feedback.

    You could look at my site if you wish, seeing you already gone down this road and see what you can see and offer any suggestions :)

    Again thanks for all your useful suggestions around ecommerce as they are helping me a lot.

    • Kris says:

      Hi Ian,
      You said that you’re getting very little sales. Are those stats per month, per day?

      Your bounce rate is low which is good. I can’t prescribe you any solutions without understanding the problem. And without knowing what the customers are doing and thinking I can’t do much. So you should try and understand what they want and why they aren’t buying/taking your action.

      I can point out some obvious issues that might help. Your headline is offering too much information all at once. You should reduce it to something that actually conveys a message. “We help you get electronics from china cheaper and safer than anywhere else”. That has a lot more punch than the one you have right now.

      Also this is what you are doing right now:
      Someone is on your homepage and they are interested in the Android 4.0HD phone. (the middle one)
      They click learn more. It takes them to the product information page on your site.
      They spend some time on that page and they are interested to purchase so they click the “click to buy button”.
      Then…………… * screech the music stops* they are taken to the exact same page on your affiliate site!?

      This to me looks like you’re adding unnecessary steps to the process. I’d send them directly to their product page when they click ‘learn more’. Their product page is actually better than yours anyway because they have videos, more information etc. And this could help turn those kinda interested people into buyers.

      Hope it helps!

      • Ian says:

        Hey Kris

        1. Stats I gave arte month todate.

        2. Change the “Learn More” Button to go direct to Merchants site.

        3. Header I have to pay someone to do this but will do it..

        4. I have mouseover, free version, if you want to look. Email me and I send you the log-in details.

        Some were actually clicking on the buy now button on the details page BUT no sale eventuated from that click. Other seem to to find what they are looking for and then drop off the site.

        Many thanks for taking to the time to reply and offer some suggestions.

        • Kris says:

          Hi Ian,
          It shouldn’t cost much, use odesk or something like that.

          Also I wish I had the time but I have clients to take care of and my business to run that I just don’t have the time to take on new tasks. That said if your traffic is per month, you should get about 1-2 sales a month? If you are getting that then you are on average. If I was you I would work on the traffic side and improve conversion at the same time because more traffic would help you alot.

          And you’re most welcome. I wish I had the time to be able to help you out more!

  6. JP says:

    Fantastic post Andrew! Thanks for featuring this on your blog.
    And big thanks to Kris for sharing this useful information! Definitely going to take this actionable info & apply it to my sites. Awesome stuff!

  7. Ian says:

    Hey Andrew or Kris, not sure who I am talking to here.

    Thanks for the comments, 1-2 sales a month thats a waste of anyones time if thats all they going to get, certainly a waste of mine.

    Understand what you are saying about traffic and conversion very clearly.

    Again I am grateful for your comments, maybe one day we will all get to where we are going :)

    • Kris says:

      Hi Ian,
      It’s Kris :) And that’s why I suggested working on traffic. If you were getting 300 a day that would be good but its a month :(

      Ian I noticed you have lots of 302 redirects going to your site. You should 301 them, they will give you a boost in the search engines.

      Good luck!

  8. Ian says:

    Hey Kris

    The 302 redirects will be because I use two domains names for this site. One for New Zealand (nzwholesale.com) and the other one for the rest of the world. I will check with my domain name service if I can 301 that domain name.

    Yes traffic, traffic, traffic, we all depend on traffic, just like physical retail stores depend on walk in customers. Samething so I understand completely. Without spending huge amounts of money to achieve it, it is like running up a very vertical cliff face.

    Again thanks for your help and comments.

  9. One of the best CR blog posts I came across in a while. Keep them coming, I shared it with a ton of friends in the business. Its detailed, real life and actionable. I also loved the other post about the eCommerce business for sale.

    Thanks a Million

  10. Ian says:

    I thought I give some feed on how mouseover can help or a service that lets you see what your visitors are doing.

    I decided to use mouseover and surprising I found that people seemed to get lost – meaning that they did not seem to be able to figure out how to navigate the web site.

    Shop categories were in the right column as well as just under the header using wp menus, yet they had issue nbavigating the site.

    So for the frontpage at least I have place category images along with the link to category and a few words what the category is about. I see if that makes a difference.

    I will keep an eye on how this pans out using mouseover.

  11. Shabbir says:

    Thanks Kris and Andrew for a great post!

    I didn’t really pay much attention to CRO on my first site(which I ended up shutting down). I will most certainly pay more attention to it the next time around!

    Keep the great posts coming!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Shabbir! Yep, conversion can make a huge difference in a website. Best of luck with your next one….

  12. Jaclyn says:

    Great post! I have since moved products up on my home page and will definitely look into how we are showing up on credit card statements. We officially “opened” on January 1 so not a whole lot of time but I’m interested to see how people are navigating through my site.

    Side note: the Userfly website is not functioning, any ideas on this one? I will definitely be working on the other steps. Thanks!

    • Andrew says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Jaclyn!

      Not sure why Userfly – probably just a temporary outage. I’d try it again shortly.

    • Kris says:

      Jaclyn you’re right the Usefly isn’t working. In fact its been down for 2-3 days now. A good alternative is Inspectlet ( http://www.inspectlet.com/ ). I’ve been using them now instead of Mouseflow because they have a better plan and better interface.

      • George says:

        Hmm Kris, thanks, but I tried that but their demo won’t even load. A few seconds is now taking a few minutes. No loading indicator too. Hmm, a better interface you say? Furthermore, there is no API access and I can’t find any opt-out option for users like Mouseflow does (yes, I do care about a visitor’s privacy). . I’ll gladly stick with the other alternatives from the post :)

        • Kris says:

          I don’t know why that is happening. Yes they have no API access but which real users will use the API? I didn’t even know they had an opt-out option. I was just saying that for the general public its a good alternative especially seeing it has a nice free plan of 2500 recordings :)

          There is nothing wrong with trying something new :)

        • Justin says:

          It looks like their demo is working again, thanks for the recommendation Kris.

  13. Trent Scott says:

    Great post! My name is Trent and I’m on the Marketing Team at Mouseflow — thanks for mentioning us.

    We’d love to use your post in a case study. Would that be alright?

  14. Ollie Smith says:

    Found this via the DC, great content and excellent timing. There are somethings in here that will be really usable to me right now. Thanks :)

  15. Adam says:

    Andrew,

    Great post. I remember that you did a full class on a different website that takes you through the full process of creating an eCommerce site. Do you have a link to that?

  16. Tyler says:

    Great post! It’s one thing to talk about conversion tactics and another to show some before and after shots of a site. Brilliant idea. I think it’s especially interesting to see Kris’s site in its earlier phases and what it is now a few months later. The tinkering has clearly been thought out in terms of conversion. And it’s fascinating to see that the older site’s simpler, streamlined, more “bloggy” style is less attractive than what it is now, which looks more like a static site with a lot more print details. Is it the audience who would by a spy camera that prefers this type of layout, or shoppers in general… who knows? I’m gonna keep checking out the site in the future to see how it changes. Maybe keep a record for a later post?

    Thanks to the both of you :)

    • Andrew says:

      You’re welcome, Tyler! Will try to keep bringing “real-world” case studies like this in the future. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and will consider doing a follow-up future post.

  17. Smriti says:

    Hey Kris/Andrew, great post! I especially loved the first test where you recorded live visitors on your site to gauge their pain points. I knew about usability testing but wasn’t aware of video recording services. Will definitely give this a shot in future.

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning VWO. Cheers! :)

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  1. […] Increasing Sales 69% with eCommerce Conversion Optimization http://www.ecommercefuel.com/ecommerce-conversion-optimization/ Jan 4, 2013 … The actual experiments – and results – from three eCommerce conversion optimization tests that increased my store sales by almost 70%. […]

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