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Fashion Conversion Rate Optimisation Guide

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In this post we discuss fashion conversion rate optimisation (CRO) guidance. As a well-known Liverpool web design company, we’ve designed countless e-commerce stores over the last decade.

This experience has taught us many important lessons when it comes to maximising online sales via your fashion e-commerce store. These nuggets of wisdom can broadly be categorised as tweaks and ‘a/b split testing’. Furthermore, it is essential you grasp that CRO is a progressive process i.e., you make small changes that will either hurt or improve your site’s conversions.

Over time, you establish a 'control'. A ‘control’ is old-school advertising speak meaning a version of an advertisement that is known to convert well. You then attempt to 'beat' this control via ‘split testing’. If the challenger generates more sales than the control, you’ve established a new control. You may make further tweaks in order to beat your control. Rinse and repeat.

Without further ado, we offer thirty CRO tips for fashion-based e-commerce outfits, plus a bonus tip detailing blogs specialising in this important topic.

CRO tip 1: Use high quality product images

Product images are essential for conversions. Better quality and more enticing images equate into more revenue for your business. However, poor product images may equally hurt the number of orders your e-commerce store is capable of generating. Thus, we advise you to ensure product images are clear and show the product from multiple angles.

Nothing will hurt your conversions more than poor product imagery.

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We also urge you to provide close-up images. If images are small, then they will not generate enough desire to purchase the item.

The image below illustrates how you can implement close-up imagery on your own e-commerce store:

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Another product image tip is to include 360-degree images. This really helps create that desire to purchase. 360-degree images help your prospective customers imagine what the product will look like in real life. This promotes buying signals:

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CRO tip 2: Make use of product videos where available

They say a picture tells a thousand words. Well, a video tells even more! Many leading e-commerce companies such as Zappos have seen huge conversion rate (CR) uplifts thanks to product videos.

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Ensure the video is not set to autoplay! Also, ask you technical team to set up a Google Analytics ‘Event’ so you can track the number of video plays.

CRO tip 3: Include a FAQ section

A ‘frequently asked questions’ section on your e-commerce store helps ease early concerns your customers may hold regarding your products and services. Remember you're asking people to hand over cash, and so overcoming objections is a key requirement for making the sale.

Create a dedicated FAQ page and ensure users can easily navigate to this page.

CRO tip 4: Take advantage of upsells

Ensure you build in an upsell module to your website. This module helps you ‘upsell’ a pricier version of a certain product.

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Pro Tip: Ensure the upsell price is no more than 30% greater than the original product the customer viewed.

CRO tip 5: Take advantage of cross-selling

If you sell cows, ensure you sell them the hay! Batteries, light bulbs and runner's socks are classic cross-sells. Also, consider "bundling" related items at a discount. Many e-commerce shops have built in a "frequently bought together" or "customers who bought this item also bought" module.

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Below is a screenshot of the “Frequently Bought Together” extension for Magento and sold through aHeadWorks:

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Cross-selling usually means selling accessories. A typical example would be a SDHC card and camera case for a digital camera.

Bundling is a structured cross-sell technique. If you decide to offer a bundle, it makes sense to offer a small discount if a bundling option is accepted by the buyer. This provides the buyer with a strong motivation to buy all accessories today rather than at a different point in time.

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Back in 2006 Amazon claimed cross-selling boosted their income by as much as 35%. This was when online cross-selling was relatively new, so don’t expect such a huge uplift in sales in 2015! However, cross-sells will probably increase Average Order Value. Implementing cross-selling on your e-commerce store is surprisingly simple. Many e-commerce CMSs allow cross-selling out of the box. If you require greater functionality a number of premium extensions exist.

PRO TIP: We urge you to cross-sell at each possible opportunity -- this includes ad copy, within landing pages and even checkout pages. Also cross-sell on the 'back-end' via email marketing and display retargeting.

One word of caution: only cross-sell items that are around 50% cheaper than the product the customer has added to their cart already. Do not push expensive ‘add-ons’ as this is unlikely to work out.

And don't overwhelm your customer with too many choices. Too many choices usually mean your customer won't take any action at all!

CRO tip 6: Take advantage of price anchoring

Price anchoring refers to the practice of offering three choices. Two of these choices are ‘duds’. The two other price options make the real price seem like a bargain.

See below for a ‘classic’ example of this technique in action:

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The $125 print subscription makes the $59 web-only subscription look like a bargain.

When presented with three different price tags in ascending value, the buyer is most likely to pick the middle option:

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CRO tip 7: Include a special offers/sale menu

Online shoppers are always looking for a bargain. So give them one by including an offer/sale page!

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Since most fashion websites have a sale tab built into their design template, many shoppers now expect this feature as standard. Like many of the tips contained here, this is a classic sale boosting tip borrowed from the ‘bricks and mortar’ world of retail.

CRO tip 8: Implement a modern 'auto-complete' onsite search feature

It's now not enough just to have an on-site search functionality in 2015. Ensure your on-site search bar has an auto-complete function below.

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A word of caution: ensure out-of-stock or discontinued stock items are purged from the search results. Also, enable category search as illustrated below:

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CRO tip 9: Include an 'add to wish list' feature

A 'wish list' feature has been popularised by sites like Amazon. This feature has the potential to marginally increase your site's conversion rate and so this is well worth the effort.

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CRO tip 10: Improve site speed

A slow loading website will reduce your sales. Research conducted in 2014 claims for every second your website takes to load, you'll see a 7% corresponding drop in conversions!

Ensure you read Google's best practices for minimising site load time.

Also, key your website address into Google's page speed testing tool.

Other ‘free’ page speed tools include GTmetrix and WebPageTest.

Click here for a more thorough treatment of the topic of page loading speed.

CRO tip 11: Make use of scarcity

Scarcity was identified as a 'weapon of influence' in Robert Cialdini's acclaimed 1980s book 'Influence'. Scarcity is all about creating a sense of urgency.

Scarcity revolves around time or quantity. Time scarcity could be "offer ends on Monday" whilst quantity-based scarcity could be "only 3 left".

Ensure you use a "stock level counter" on every product page of your fashion e-commerce website in order to instil a sense of urgency:

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CRO tip 12: Reduce unnecessary clutter and utilise 'white space'

Keep the design of your website uncluttered and cut down on unnecessary images/call-to-actions. Purge design elements that do not logically move the sale forward.

When people are faced with too many choices, they're unlikely to make any choice at all!

Also ensure you take advantage of ‘white space’:

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CRO tip 13: Install a 'live chat' feature

Live chat is something most e-commerce customers are accustomed to and even expect. Live chat means you're there if customers need you. 'Live chat' will cut down on the number of phone calls you receive. Live chat is essential if you sell technical products where customers will likely require some assistance before purchasing your offerings.

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CRO tip 14: Split-test product pages "Add to Cart" Button

Split testing small elements such as button colour is known as "multi-variant" testing. Multi-variant testing requires technical know-how in order to implement. The cheapest way to implement multi-variant testing is using a third party tool such as Visual Website Optimizer. Tools such as VWO allow you to implement testing that was before the preserve of very large companies.

You may test different colour "Add to cart" buttons as well as the button's size.

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Check out Google’s Content Experiment Tool

We urge you to split test the below elements of your "add to cart" button:

  • Position
  • Location
  • Font
  • Colour
  • Shape
  • Depth
  • Contrast

Also, add directional cues to your central ‘buy now’ button:

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The above direction cue is very direct. This just ‘screams’ for the sale. Instead, consider adding an ‘implicit’ directional cue:

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CRO tip 15: Ensure your website is mobile/tablet responsive

A ‘responsive’ website means your website will look good no matter what device your website visitor uses when he or she ‘lands’ on your fashion e-commerce website.

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Mobile e-commerce sales are set to increase drastically over the next twelve months. If you do not optimise for mobile and tablet you will lose as much as 60% of your annual revenue!

Research conducted by Shopify claims mobile traffic makes up around 50.3% of e-commerce traffic.

E-consultancy says 34% of UK consumers make a purchase on their smartphone.

An unresponsive website will also hurt your Google and Bing search engine ranking power. Google's Mobilegeddon algorithm update came April 2015. This meant Google punished sites not optimised for mobile in its ranking algorithm.

CRO tip 16: Split test social share buttons and remove if necessary

Don't assume social share buttons will improve sales. A social share button can be a friend and a foe. If customers press social share buttons, you've just bought yourself some free advertising. Other site visitors will also see the product has been shared. However, a 'zero' share count can also hurt your CRO since a social button distracts customers' attention away from the central "add to cart" CTO button.

Consider including a social share button in a below-the-fold position.

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CRO tip 17: Inject social proof into your landing pages

Social proof means people are more likely to buy an item if more people have done so before them. Like ‘scarcity’ above, social proof is 'weapon of influence' in Robert Cialdini's acclaimed 1980s book 'Influence'.

Social share buttons are a classic way of adding social proof. You could also tell customers how many people have viewed or bought the item over a defined time period.

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CRO tip 18: Add an email signup popup

Email signup popups allow you to build up your email list and market to your prospects ‘on the backend’. Offer an ‘incentive’ to sign up to your email list such as free shipping or ‘early access to sales items’.

Warning: Ensure the popup only appears once per website visit, not per page visit.

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CRO tip 19: Implement correct brand positioning

Ensure your brand position is communicated into your website's design. If you sell unbranded discounted items, your website should look substantially different to a website selling high-end fashion at premium prices.

The below screenshots illustrate this point:

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CRO tip 20: Ensure your "buy now" button is an "above-the-fold" position

Ensure the central ‘buy now’ button is ‘above the fold’. Above-the-fold means placing the button so that it is viewable upon page load without the requirement for the site visitor to scroll down the page in order to view it:

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CRO tip 21: Offer several payment methods

When it comes to payment methods, choice is key. Allow site visitors the ability to buy goods using their credit/debit card as well as PayPal.

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PayPal offers a trusted payment options. Since so many e-commerce stores offer PayPal as a payment option, many customers will expect this as an option. A lack of a PayPal payment option will likely cost you sales!

CRO tip 22: Allow customers the ability to leave a review

E-consultancy says a shocking 88% of customers consult reviews when making online purchases. If you are new to e-commerce, it is essential for you to implement the ability for customers to leave reviews. Many well-known retailers such as Top Shop, River Island and M&S shun reviews because of their pre-existing brand equity. An unknown e-commerce outfit does not have this luxury!

Allowing customers the ability to leave reviews helps build on the concept of social proof and trust. Opt for a well-known review service such as Trust Pilot, Trusted Shops or Feefo. You can even incorporate reviews into your Google Adwords ads!

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CRO tip 23: Follow industry leaders

As mentioned above, CRO is an ongoing and progressive venture. Ensure you stay abreast of industry leaders such as Matches Fashion, Reiss, Jimmy Choo and Cersei by frequently visiting their website.

CRO tip 24: Simplify order form completion

Complicated order forms and the requirement to ‘create an account’ is one way to slaughter your conversion rate. Instead, take advantage of modern simplistic order forms such as ‘one-click checkout’ and the like.

Do not require customers to create an account.

Instead allow customers the ability to ‘checkout as a guest without registering’:

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Also keep order forms linear in their progression:

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CRO tip 25: Write unique and compelling landing page copy

Write unique product descriptions and use unique imagery. Using stock product descriptions and photos makes your website seem stale and the same as every other e-commerce store on the internet. Stock product descriptions will also hurt your search engine rankings since Google will count this as 'duplicate content' and apply a penalty to your organic search rankings.

Spend the necessary time in writing unique and compelling product copy for each major stock item you carry. Use the "Product Performance" report in Google Analytics to find out your top performing products by sales/traffic. Focus your efforts only on these popular pages. Ensure copy is action-oriented. Focus on verbs and adverbs rather than nouns and adjectives.

CRO tip 26: Survey site visitors who have converted

Use a tool such as Qualaroo to implement visitor surveys on your website. This gives you important feedback on how customers perceive your website. Once you receive this information ensure it is relayed back to your design and development team for implementation. Another useful tool in this area is User Testing. You pay a set amount for ‘expert reviewers’ who will browse your fashion website and write up a full review of their experience. This includes lots of actionable ideas you can implement to increase your site’s CR.

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CRO tip 27: Make use of third party trust symbols

Third party trust 'badges' and 'symbols' offer credibility to an otherwise unknown e-commerce brand.  See below for an example of a website with a "Google Certified Shop" symbol:

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CRO tip 28: Offer free shipping

Free shipping is an almost guaranteed way to boost conversions. Many e-commerce stores offer free shipping when a customer has bought goods over a certain financial value. This value is typically £50.

If profit margins allow, we urge you to offer free shipping wherever possible. Many large e-commerce stores offer worldwide free shipping. This is because these businesses buy their stock in bulk. They are then able to pass on bulk buy cost savings to their customers:

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As a small online retailer, it’s unlikely you will be able to apply a blanket free shipping policy. However, customers expect free shipping when making a large order. You thus can and should apply a free shipping policy when you can afford to do so.

CRO tip 29: On category pages, place higher priced items first

Ensure higher priced items are displayed high up on ‘category pages’. This is effectively ‘upselling’ your most expensive items. Giving higher priced items more ‘spot light’ helps you maximise revenue from sales. This is because items higher up on category pages are likely to get clicked on by website visitors:

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CRO tip 30: Make use of promo codes

Promo codes are a major buying motivator for many savvy customers who seek a bargain. And many equally savvy online marketers have taken advantage of this trend by actively dishing out promo codes. Distribute promo codes on social media channels, via email and list promo codes on specialist ‘promo code’ websites. Many customers will feel they are somehow ‘cheating’ the system by getting their hands on ‘secret’ promo codes. As a marketer, be willing to take advantage of this psychology and be willing to sacrifice a small piece of your profit margin in order to acquire new customers.

We urge you to strategically place promo codes on ‘check out’ pages. This trick is known to reduce ‘cart abandonment’ by up to 50%:

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Bonus Tip: CRO blogs to follow

We would like to complete this post by referring you to a number of blogs specialising in the arts of CRO.  Please check out these blogs in order to enrich your knowledge in the area :

  • Unbounce
  • Content Verve
  • Conversion XL
  • Wider Funnel
  • Kiss Metrics
  • Crazy Egg
  • Site Turners
  • Visual Website Optimizer

Date posted, November 24, 2015