11 Lessons the World’s Largest Online Retailers Spent Millions to Learn

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This is your lucky day.

You’re about to access millions of dollars of ecommerce website testing results at no charge.

The big time, multi-million dollar online retailer websites have a lot in common. One of those being that they spend 100′s of thousands of dollars testing to improve conversion rates.

Look closely and you’ll learn what they’ve spent millions to find out. You’ll see the patterns. You’ll see the lessons they’ve learned.

Here are 11 of them,

 

Lesson 1 – Reduce the customers risk

 

Some of your customers are afraid — so they don’t buy. They’re afraid that you won’t do what you say you will do. They’re afraid of giving personal and financial information to you.
They are afraid of getting ripped off.
NewEgg does 2.5 billion in online sales and they take the reduction of fear very seriously. They prominently display the “NewEgg Promise” throughout the check out process.

 

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Lesson 2 – Make cart items visible at all times

 

Joseph A Bank clothiers, a big digital retailer in their own right, made a change that reduced shopping cart abandonment by as much as 8%. They made items in the shopping cart viewable from everywhere on their site.
They made this (and other) changes after studying the checkout process of the top 200 online retailers.
Crate and Barrel does 365+ million in sales online. Here’s how they are currently handling cart visibility. The number 15 in the image below indicates the number of items in the shopping cart. When you hover over the area, your items become visible.

 

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Lesson 3 – Shorten the number of check-out pages

Joseph A Bank Clothiers also shortened the number of steps in their checkout process from five to three based on their study of the top 200 online retailers.
Speed and ease of checkout is critical.
Amazon knows this — nobody does it faster than Amazon with their one click checkout.

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Lesson 4 – Offer free or flat rate shipping

This isn’t possible for every online retailer and every product — but offering free shipping makes a big difference. The next best thing is flat rate shipping.
A Forrester study showed that nearly 50% of customers abandon their shopping carts because of high shipping costs.
If you offer free or flat rate shipping advertise that fact early and often.
REI does 318+ million in annual online sales and, as you can see, they are advertising Free Shipping site wide in the header of the website. They also prominently display free shipping on the product detail page.
If you see a multi-million dollar online retailer promoting something site wide in the header, it’s probably very important to them.

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Lesson 5 – Reveal all fees as early as possible

Sometimes you simply can’t offer free shipping. Or, there are other fees that you must charge.
That’s ok, just reveal shipping and other charges as early as possible.
This WebCredible UK study indicates that nearly half of customers abandon their shopping cart because of hidden fees revealed upon checkout.
This is Step 1 of the New Egg checkout process for an 84 inch television — a product that isn’t possible to ship for free. New Egg is a multi-billion dollar retailer and they don’t wait to start talking shipping charges — do you?

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Lesson 6 – Allow people to “gift it”

The big online retailers put the processes in place to give products and services to others. And they advertise it.
Ancestry.com does over 300 million in online sales each year. Notice the “Give a Gift” call-to-action in the primary navigation.

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Lesson 7 – Give as many payment options as possible

Does your website take checks? WalMart.com does.
WalMart’s Cynthia Lin was quoted on the addition of check payments at WalMart.com, “Initial data show we’re reaching customers who have not bought from us before.”
In fact, WalMart.com even accepts cash. If you order online and select cash, you simply visit a WalMart store within 48 hours to make your cash payment.
You may not accept cash or check on your ecommerce store but do you accept American Express? PayPal? Are you offering financing through BillMeLater? Google Wallet?
The big digital retailers know that more payment options equals more payments.
B&H Photo offers credit card, BillMeLater and PayPal payment options,

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Lesson 8 – Show progress through the check-out process

You’ve heard it before, a confused mind always says no.
Let’s restate that to, a confused mind doesn’t convert. And one way to stave off confusion during the checkout process is to show shoppers their progress.
People want to know where they are and how much farther they need to go to complete their purchase.
Ancestry.com knows it is important to show shopping cart progress.

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Lesson 9 – Allow customers to add items to a “Wish List”

Depending on what you sell, some percentage of visitors to your ecommerce store are not ready to buy right now.
They are doing research. Kicking tires. Comparing prices. Comparing solutions.
According to the aforementioned Forrester study, 41% of shoppers abandon their online shopping cart because they were not prepared to make the purchase.
B&H Photo gives these unprepared shoppers an option to add items to their wish list.

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Lesson 10 – Don’t force them to create an account

At least not before you’ve made the sale.
The Webcredible research showed that 29% of online shoppers dislike creating an account in order to complete a purchase.
Multi-million dollar ecommerce stores, in most cases, give shoppers the ability to check out as a guest or “Express Checkout.”
Here’s how REI.com is handling the account creation process,
Crate & Barrel knows it too…

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Lesson 11 – Provide lots of interactive product images

E-tailing’s Connected Consumer survey showed that customers want to see high quality product images and lots of them. They want to be able to zoom and rotate those images and they want to see products in different colors, sizes and other options.
Product images sell and the big online retailers know this.
Notice all the options B&H Photo offers for this camera bag. They allow zoom, rotation, photos from customers and lots of them.
Your turn. Add your #12 element of a multi-million dollar ecommerce website. What have you tested that is increasing sales? Let us know in the comments below.

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