Online retailers are always on the lookout for ways to drive additional revenue. However, many retailers this time of year focus only on making sales. But the smartest retailers are also concentrating on website performance and how to use the holiday shopping season to derive data that will help them increase conversion rates throughout 2014.
Between now and January, when online shopping is at its peak, online retailers have a chance to gather significant data on how visitors respond to their website very quickly using A/B testing tools. They leverage A/B tests to identify what’s not working well, and in turn, to validate that a new design or change to an element on the webpage will improve the conversion rate before investing in that change.
To gather actionable data that will continue to be useful after the holidays are over, online retailers should focus their A/B testing this holiday season on five key areas:
Because they are the best value proposition test point, many retailers begin their testing with the landing page. To do this, you can create two distinctively different homepages – one focused on emotion and the other focused on credibility. In a recent test we conducted with a customer, the page with the emotive approach experienced a 49% lift in sales. Whether your audience responds to emotion or credibility depends on the company, its core demographic and value proposition. Testing can help you dig deeper.
The homepage is the most over-scrutinized and under optimized page. For example, imagine you’re a consumer shopping on a retailer’s website for a pair of pants. You arrive on the site and see a banner for a sale. Just as you’re about to click it, the experience changes to sweaters. Now you have to reorient yourself. The rotating carousel of images has proven to be a distraction to the user. While the art director might love this feature, I can assure you that the consumer does not. It is confusing and because it doesn’t allow the consumer to focus, it kills conversion.
Often the most overlooked areas on a website are category pages. An easy and effective test focuses on the performance of tiled versus list views. For example, in our experience, the list views perform better and lift sales for scenarios in which consumers are making a complex purchase decision. This format enables consumers to scan information easily and compare between categories, as well as give the retailer space to display the best sellers above the fold.
Product detail pages
One of the most important areas of your website is the product detail page – this is where the consumer ultimately decides whether to buy or bounce. In other words, this is where the final persuasion happens. Imagine a retailer with solid brand awareness, but poor conversion. In this set of circumstances, it’s hard for the retailer to pinpoint exactly what to improve. I’d advise a retailer to carefully examine some key conversion factors in the product detail pages, such as:
- Value proposition – is it strong or weak?
- Relevance – is the content pertinent to the target audience and their needs?
- Clarity – how clear is the imagery, eye flow, copy writing and all to action?
- Distraction – are you redirecting attention from the primary message with too many product options, are up sell and cross sell options given prematurely, are design elements overwhelming the message?
- Urgency – are you giving the consumer a reason to act now?
Primary calls to action
At the site-wide checkout entry point, your primary calls to action—like “add to cart” or “sign up for emails”—are critically important to test. These tests should clarify what precisely you want your website to accomplish and whether you are effectively directing shoppers to accomplish those goals.
So where do you start, and how should you prioritize? To ensure the best return on your effort, first look at your web analytics to see which pages have the most room for improvement. You’ll want to first attack these pages.
Next, take a look at the traffic volume that hits each page and determine which are the most high-cost, such as those that originate from paid search or affiliate programs. Lastly, assess the ease of implementation—from both a cost and technical perspective.
Once you’ve conducted this type of assessment, you can rank the pages and start the A/B testing where you need it most. You’ll quickly find that the tests take the guesswork out of website optimization and enable data-backed decisions that shift business conversations from “we think” to “we know.”
Once you know your site’s weaknesses, you can turn them into strengths…and sales.