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Ecommerce Trends Silently Killing Your Conversions

Jun 11, 2014

Despite the fact that they are complete and utter fails, some trends catch on and spread like wildfire. Yes, UGGs are the perfect example, but for the purpose of this post, I’m speaking more specifically about trends within the ecommerce vertical.

Sometimes it’s just too easy to follow the herd. And when you see something on all of your competitors’ websites you might think “Well, everyone has that thing on their site, so it must be working!”

But that logic is seriously flawed.

With an average online shopping cart abandonment rate of 69.71%, it’s clear that the herd may not really know what works and what doesn’t. Chances are, those competitors you’re copying are just as clueless about the effectiveness of some trends as you are.

Let’s discuss some of these trends.

1. Social sharing on product pages

Allowing visitors to easily share your products seems like a sound idea, especially because:

Based on these statements, we may assume that adding social share buttons on product pages will increase social media presence and thus, earn you new fans, followers, and conversions, right?

Wrong. In fact, adding social share buttons may kill potential conversions for two core reasons:

  • Distraction from the ultimate goal. The main conversion goal of product pages is typically to increase clickthroughs to the ‘Add to Cart’ button. But the more distractions users have from the call to action, the less likely they are to convert. Having Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. buttons below the product to make it easily sharable has the ability to sidetrack visitors from clicking what should be the most important button on the page.
  • Lack of (or negative) social proof. It takes two clicks to tweet someone’s page or post. And if you don’t have any tweets displayed on the social share buttons of a product page, you’re telling visitors that your product isn’t worth two clicks. Now, that’s probably not the case because, generally speaking, product pages have low social shares, but sometimes perception is everything.

This case study by Visual Website Optimizer explains how, a Finnish hardware ecommerce store that sells plumbing, electrical, gardening and other similar things, increased the conversion rate of their product pages by 11.9% by simply removing the social share buttons featured under the products.

Although used a prominent CTA on its product pages — the green 'Add to Cart' button— the social sharing buttons acted as a distraction to the ultimate goal.

2. Slick auto-rotating carrousels

Everyone wants to hear that their website looks cool but, if it’s not converting as well as it could, it’s really not cool at all. Sliders and carousels may look slick but they’re a serious conversion killer.

The logic behind this popular trend is as follows:

Placing multiple products and promotions in slider or carousel puts the information we want customers to see right in front of them (above the fold). Thus, they will click on these images, which will in turn help us dictate their path on a site, as well as the products they purchase.

It is true that site visitors spend more of their time focusing on content above the fold (about 80.3% of their time to be exact). But there are concrete reasons as to why this trend doesn't work (and why sliders ultimately suck):

  • They slow down your page speed, which is terrible for SEO and conversions alike. Keep in mind, every one second in page load time may reduce conversions by 7%.
  • They don't let users control the browsing experience and it's just plain annoying for users to lose control of the user interface.
  • They drastically reduce the probability that users will spot the item they want.
  • They create banner blindness and are often ignored. (Now, is that worth a 7% reduction in conversions?)
  • They dilute focus of the page when each slide features a different conversional goal.
  • They push relevant content below-the-fold, especially on mobile sites. According to Google’s 2012 update about content layouts, it can hurt your SEO efforts if you do not have relevant content above-the-fold. (Side note: Google launched a refresh of this algorithm in February 2014.)

So what can you use in place of a "cool" carousel? How about a static image? Here are two solid ways to make a static image on your homepage just as cool as a slider or carousel.

  • Highlight seasonal items. Let the seasons decide which product pages will be highlighted on your home page.
  • Geo-personalization. Geographic personalization that uses simple data on customers' location and weather conditions can help ecommerce players target visitors more effectively. For example, Burton Menswear worked with Qubit to implement a weather add-on to the homepage that adjusted which products were shown depending on the visitor’s local weather and temperature. Thanks to this weather test, Burton saw an 11.6% uptick in conversions across all users.

As much as we might hope that carousels and sliders' days are numbered, it's more likely that they will be around for a while longer. So, if there's absolutely no hope of removing the carousel or slider from your page, at the very least set it to be changed manually by users.

3. Prominent coupon code box

Including a coupon code box on your checkout page may seem like a good idea, but let's think about that for a second. It could go one of two ways.

Pretend you're the shopper and you have just found a product you'd like a buy. You're all ready to check out and enter your payment information when you see a blank coupon code box staring at you just waiting to be filled in and save you a few bucks. You might think to yourself:

"Cool! Here's my 5-digit coupon code. So happy I just saved some money. This site rocks, I'll definitely be back!"

Or you could think:

"What the?! I can save money on this product? Where can I find a coupon code. Let me Google it."

All of a sudden the missed opportunity cost outweighs the value of the product and POOF! the shopper is gone and your cart abandonment rate gets a little higher. What thousands of ecommerce sites don’t realize is that a coupon code box in the checkout area is distracting at best.

That's not to say that offering coupon codes is bad. They just need to be implemented smartly. By adding a simple, non-invasive process for entering or earning discount codes, you can keep users on site and encourage repeat purchases.

4. Adding icons to navigation

Humans process visuals much faster than text so, logically speaking, replacing text with image icons seems like it would have a positive impact on user experience. tested this hypothesis with the help of VWO. The team believed that an increased focus on navigation with their most visited categories would increase interactions and sales. They tested two versions of navigation on their site, one with text and one with image icons. Much to their surprise, the version without the icons saw 21% more product purchases.

Disclaimer: In the case of this test, the conclusion was that the icons didn't provide any additional value because users knew what these items were and didn't need an image to figure it out. The icons ultimately cluttered the navigation and confused the user. However, this trend may work well for other ecommerce websites depending on the product you're selling or the category name you've chosen to use.

5. Forced account creation at checkout

This trend makes perfect sense to retailers. After all, they want to collect as much customer information as possible to make the experience better for users, while simultaneously increasing sales. However, forced registration is a major cause of basket abandonment, particularly for mobile users.

ASOS, one of the UK's largest online-only fashion and beauty stores, tested the way they ask new customers to create an account on the site and halved its abandonment rate. Rather than telling new customers to create an account in order to checkout like the original version, new customers were asked to simply click the continue button. It mentions absolutely nothing about account creation. Though customers are still essentially creating an account, not labeling this process "registration" makes all the difference. Again, sometimes it's all about perception.

These trends are just some of the fads taking the ecommerce world and online shopping experience by storm. That's not to say that all trends are bad or that since they didn’t work for one website, they won’t work for yours. All I'm saying is that next time you come across a new trend and consider implemented it on your site, stop and ask:

  • Will this enhance the visitor experience on my site? If yes, how so?
  • Does this make sense for my target audience?
  • Are there case studies of people in a similar market who have tested this technique on their website?

Do you know of a site that has successfully implemented one of these trends? Have you been guilty of following one of these trends without testing its effectiveness? Let's discuss. Let me know with a comment below.

Cheryl Jones