How to Improve Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate

5 years ago

When Aira onboards a new ecommerce client talk quickly moves to the ultimate increase the number of sales and thus revenue generated from the website. Let’s look at the two possible ways this can be done:

  1. Increase website traffic while maintaining the current conversion rate
  2. Maintain a consistent level of traffic (with natural growth) while improving the conversion rate

In an ideal world we would be able to do both and indeed over time this can be done, however it is unlikely that both objectives will work alongside one another. 

In my last post I focused on the first objective of increasing traffic to your ecommerce website. This post will focus on the second objective, improving your ecommerce conversion rate. The post will discuss:

  1. Ecommerce conversion rate benchmarks
  2. Utilising software: HotJar & Google Optimize
  3. Onsite changes:
    • High quality product images and videos
    • The power of reviews 
    • Free shipping vs thresholds 
    • Cart abandonment emails
    • Let customers checkout as guests
    • Progress bars on checkout

Ecommerce conversion rate benchmarks

Understanding the benchmark conversion rates for any campaign or website type is really important. Without this information it is difficult to understand how your website compares and whether your website is or isn’t working well. So, what is a good ecommerce conversion rate? 

In a post titled 33 ecommerce Conversion Rate Optimization Tactics, BigCommerce state that the benchmark conversion rate is between 1-2%. That means that on average, even if you’re doing most, if not all work correctly, you can expect to win a customer 2% of the time. 

The following tips are here to help you achieve or exceed the benchmark results. 

Utilising software: HotJar & Google Optimize

Identifying current conversion issues and working to improve them is a simple but underestimated undertaking. Often when I talk to clients about conversion rate optimisation (CRO) they focus too much on new features or functionality and not on what they already have. Luckily, there are some great, inexpensive tools that can help us identify areas for improvement. Both tools can be installed without the need of a developer if your site is running Google Tag Manager.


Hotjar is a tool I have been using for a number of years now. It is a great tool for understanding at a high level how your users interact with you website.

The platform itself has a number of useful features. The two I will be focusing on are heat mapping and session recording. 

Heat mapping 

Depending on your plan you will be able to capture 1,000 to 10,000 pageviews, which are then collated, aggregated and reported in the form of heatmaps. 

hotjar heatmapping

As Hotjar put it:

‘Visualize behavior – understand what users want, care about and do on your site by visually representing their clicks, taps and scrolling behavior – which are the strongest indicators of visitor motivation and desire.'

Why is this important? It allows you to develop a better picture of what your customers care about. Acting on this data will mean you are able to make ‘hot’ elements more prominent and consider moving ‘cold’ elements out in place of elements that may be more beneficial to the user. 

Session recording 

Session recording if used correctly is an invaluable tool for customer behaviour analysis. 

Hotjar will record individual user sessions, which you can watch within the Hotjar portal. This means you can better understand how users interact with the website in real time.

An added benefit is that you can drill down to a granular level with attribute-based filters such as visit length, page URI, country, device, and more.

Google Optimize 

It is my opinion that in the next three to five years large scale optimise testing will become the norm for all online businesses. The reason I believe that we are a minimum of three years away from this is existing website infracture or accessibility. Onsite A/B testing platforms at the moment are anything but cheap. 

That being said, there are tools coming to the market that help to tackle this problem and help marketers dip a toe in the water when it comes to A/B testing. My tool of choice when it comes to it, is Google Optimize

Google have designed Optimize to be easy to use and interpret the results at the end. Using it’s clever WYSIWYG editor you are able to change almost any text or HTML element (some HTML/CSS knowledge required) on the page to see how this impacts conversion rates. 

google optimize


NOTE: Making HTML changes via Optimize could conflict with existing website code. Always test your changes before pushing them into a live testing environment. 

When using Optimize for the first time, my advice is always to start off small. Experimenting with a different colour CTA on a product page is a personal favourite of mine and can have a significant impact on ecommerce conversion rates. 

Google has also made it easy to interpret the results:

‘Optimize calculates results based on your existing Analytics metrics and objectives using advanced Bayesian methods, so the reporting shows you exactly what you need to know to make better and faster decisions.’

google optimize report

Onsite changes

The number of onsite changes that can be made to help improve conversion rates in great, so, for the sake of my sanity and this blog I have picked out the six I always start with when onboarding an ecommerce client. 

1. High quality product images and videos

If you remember back to the forgotten art of highstreet shopping, you would look, touch and make a connection with any product before walking to the checkout and making a purchase. When shopping online the look and touch can almost be forgotten. I grant you that the touch part is impossible to account for, but the look you can certainly help with. 

This is why showing detailed images or video is so important. It helps the customer know exactly what they are getting.

I often get asked how many product images should be shown. My advice is to test this with Hotjar. Start with a larger number of images (8-12) and see if the final few images are generating clicks. If not, start to reduce that number. 

2. The power of reviews

Do not underestimate the power of reviews. I can almost guarantee that the last time you bought any product of value online, you considered the customer reviews. 

When it comes to collecting reviews focus on two types: product and organisation reviews. This will allow you to get the most out of your customers. Display organisation reviews on pages like the homepage or about us page, and product reviews on...well...the product pages. 

As you’re reading this, I can hear the muted tones of ‘Reviews are hard. My customers won’t leave reviews’. I do agree that getting reviews from customers can be hard, which is why it is so important to automate the process. 

We have all heard the phrase ‘Strike while the iron is hot’ and this is certainly the case when it comes to reviews. Automating the process so review emails are sent a couple of days after the customer has received the product should help to increase the number of reviews you are able to obtain. 

Try offering customers a discount code or other incentive next time they purchase as a reward for providing a review.

3. Free shipping vs thresholds

As a result of online giants like Amazon free shipping is almost expected. As a minimum this would be the case when your basket exceeds a value determined by the business. 

While conducting research for this post I found that almost all articles on the matter advised that offering free shipping is an absolute must, however I do believe there are exceptions to the rule. 

For the record I do believe that not offering free shipping in most cases puts you at a competitive disadvantage. To the point that I would advise increasing the price of your products to cover shipping costs if it means you could make shipping free. 

What is the exception to the rule? If you’re operating on very tight margins or if you see your average order value falling think about creating shipping thresholds slightly above those averages. For example if your average order value was £32 and has fallen to £28 experiment with a shipping threshold at £35 (free shipping for orders over £35). 

4. Cart abandonment emails

Every ecommerce website should be running a cart abandonment email programme. If someone lands on your site, puts an item in the basket/cart and then leaves, abandoned cart software can greatly increase your store conversion rates. Cart abandonment emails can work with any user who has entered their email address at the checkout. 

Word of warning: When it comes to personalisation in cart abandonment emails, err on the side of caution. It can be a bit creepy for a user to receive a personalised email when they may not be aware that you have captured their details.

Below is an example of an abandoned cart email recently produced for one of our clients, Just Tyres:

just tyres cart abandonment exampleA pro tip when it comes to cart abandonment programmes is to avoid leading with a discount code. Run a two stage programme:

  1. Email one: A simple reminder email about the cart. Send this email within an hour of abandonment. 
  2. Email two: If the first email in the series did not work, this is when you ramp up with a discount code. Send this email around six hours after the first. 

I advise experimenting with send times here. 

While researching I saw claims of up to a 30% increase in conversion with the implementation of an abandonment programme.

5. Let customers check out as guests

Having a membership/account checkout only option can seem appealing as it allows you collect that all important customer data. However, it comes with the significant cost of isolating those who do not want to create an account. It simply creates another barrier to purchase, giving customers a reason to leave the site that doesn’t need to be there. 

On the guest checkout, give the user the option to create an account on completion of the order, but do not have the barrier before purchase. 

6. Progress bars on checkout

If you are not running a one-step checkout on your website, consider adding a progress bar along the top of the checkout process. 

This will let your potential customer know how far along the process they are. Having this information can go a long way to securing a purchase. 


I will be the first to admit that not all of these changes will work for everyone. This is simply a collection of thoughts and ideas that I have developed over time and have seen work in the sometimes daunting world of ecommerce conversion rate optimisation. 

If I can leave you with one final piece of advice, it would be to leave annotations in your analytics reporting software so you are able to track, report and understand the impact of your changes. See an example of how we do this at Aira below: 

google analytics examples

If you have any questions about any of the points or software in the post, you can reach me on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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