Redesigning Your Site to Increase Conversion

Apr 21, 2009 3:03 AM  By

We’ve seen a number of merchants during the past few months make small improvements to their Websites that make a big difference in converting customers to increase revenues.

With a focus on building trust, earning loyalty, and differentiating yourself from the competition, you, too, can achieve growth with manageable projects—even in this difficult economic environment.

Here’s how you can redesign your site with two small projects to improve customer conversion. As always, let user feedback and analytics data guide your decisions about where to focus your efforts.

Go wide
The first project is to maximize your merchandising space by going wide. With more than 87% of Web browsers now using screen resolutions of 1024 x 768 or higher according to Screenresolution.org, it’s high time to move to a design that’s 960 pixels wide.

Doing so gives you more merchandising space—a key advantage, given that shoppers are spending less time on sites than ever before. Shoppers must instantly register whether your site is relevant to them, and the more merchandise you can display, the better chance you have that they will connect and buy.

Moving to a wider format brings tangible results. For one merchant we work with, moving to a wider format brought the “one-and-out” rate (percentage of visits ending after a single page) down 9.62% in the month following implementation of a 960-pixel wide format. This simple change drove 10.49% higher engagement and 4.54% greater conversion rates as well.

Realign your category navigation
Poor navigation is the most common complaint about merchant’s sites, and it’s the top reason people abandon sites. That’s why you should regularly monitor navigation performance to help you prioritize your category display order.

Top-revenue-generating and popular categories should be prioritized from left to right or top to bottom. You should also group categories logically.

In other words, the navigation should display categories in clusters so shoppers can more easily grasp their logic. For example, here are some groupings to consider:

1) By product type—for apparel retailers this could be “tops,” “bottoms,” and “accessories”

2) By theme or usage-based categories—for a home furnishings merchant this could include “by activity” or “by room”

3) By merchandising categories such as “sales and clearance” and “best sellers”

As you think about how to prioritize your categories, remember to heed customer’s expectations. For instance, the “sales and clearance” category is almost always positioned at the far right, while “best sellers” is typically in the first position.

For example, the top half of the diagram below shows the category display order for a popular home furnishing retailer.

Ranking the categories by revenue revealed that the merchant’s top-selling category was buried amidst a jumble of theme- and product-based categories. The proposed restructuring puts top-selling categories closer to the front, while taking into consideration logical groupings and customer’s expectations for where categories should be placed.


(Click to enlarge)

As you go through this exercise, it is important to make sure category names are clear and mutually exclusive. Call categories by their most commonly used, unambiguous names and avoid overlapping terminology.

You should also consider implementing DHTML or “rollover” menus. These types of menus shorten the “path to purchase” since shoppers can comprehend the site’s logic more quickly and locate the product group they seek with fewer clicks.

There’s no doubt the year ahead will present challenges for online merchants. By focusing on discrete improvements that increase conversion through enhancing the customer experience, building trust, and smoothing the path to purchase, you can ensure your site remains a winner—not only for 2009, but for the long term.

Ken Burke (Ken.Burke@marketlive.com) is founder/chairman of e-commerce technology and services provider MarketLive.