5 Strategies to Improve E-Commerce Conversion Rates

Where supply chain used to focus on getting products to brick-and-mortar stores, they now have to fulfill significantly more online orders that end up being direct-to-consumer.

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Having 1,800 shopping carts full in your e-commerce store sounds like a dream, but what if I were to tell you that only six of those carts turned into actual purchases?

Our company worked with a manufacturer that was struggling with these numbers to find out why it wasn't seeing conversions. We asked what the manufacturer was doing to course-correct. The answer? Fix search engine optimization and other content issues.

While SEO and content are key parts of driving more visitors to your e-commerce site, they're solutions that don’t address the root problem. There’s no point in bringing more traffic to your site if that traffic is met with a host of issues upon arrival.

Those potential issues are plentiful. Think, for example, about how your e-commerce store is set up for mobile shoppers. The average abandonment rate of mobile shoppers is more than 85%, indicating something is going seriously wrong in the shopping experience. More online stores than you would imagine are simply not mobile-friendly.

Further, supply chains have also been rocked by e-commerce in terms of the volume of orders. Where supply chain used to focus on getting products to brick-and-mortar stores, they now have to fulfill significantly more online orders that end up being direct-to-consumer.

A Cure to What’s Not Ailing

Here's the thing. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of what leads up to an online sale. But you can't let those details prevent you from digging in and finding solutions because you can’t just build a site and expect people to come.

If your site is built correctly, you'll be able to pull data and use it to identify issues before they become the problems that prevent conversions. Every customer interaction with your brand's e-commerce platform takes place online, so there’s really no reason to simply guess why something is failing or why you’re falling short when the definitive answer is readily available to you through tracking and analytics. This information lets you know whether a navigation issue, a faulty redirect, or a lack of mobile optimization is the thing keeping customers from completing a purchase.

Further, if your store requires a login or has convoluted pricing, hidden shipping charges, a complicated checkout process, or basic system instabilities, it's understandable that people are abandoning carts left and right.

Imagine that you attracted 100 people to your website but lost 10 at each touchpoint. By the time the path to purchase was complete, you'd have 10 people left when you should have had 50 ready to buy.

Always keep your audience in mind and operate based on the needs of the people who rely on you as a supplier. It's easy to make mistakes if you don't live by this rule. As an example, a number of B2B sellers tried using B2C e-commerce platforms for some time, but those were clearly not the right fit for customers. They didn't offer the necessary customization and weren't tailored to meet consumer expectations or needs. That said, integrating back-end supply chain software with your customer-facing e-commerce platform makes for a more efficient, effective situation.

Ultimately, you have the access and the ability to map out and monitor potential touchpoints to identify where your e-commerce needs improvement — it’s just a matter of whether you choose to do it or not.

An Ounce of Prevention

Building a framework for e-commerce success isn’t always easy, but it can be made much easier when you learn how to identify and solve the right problems. Here are the best places to start:

1. Review analytics.

Somewhere along the path to purchase, potential buyers are dropping off. Analytics can pinpoint the likeliest reasons for that trend and shed light on new versus returning visitors, traffic sources, visit duration, and page views. Of course, you can’t pull analytics out of thin air; it requires proper coding to collect and send data to a web analytics service. If that service is Google Analytics, a GA consultant is the logical choice. A web developer can also edit HTML and add the necessary code to a site to track your data in an analytics report.

As a supply chain has to become more flexible and reactive to its customers, having data can allow it to see where they're stopping in the checkout process. With that knowledge, it can make updates. This might mean adding an alternate path, for example, that provides immediate shipping data where it would have been undetermined before.

2. Analyze conversion steps.

Once tracking is in place, grade each conversion step customers take on your site as it compares to “normal” behavior. This practice of benchmarking allows you to gather insights into any obstacle along the customer journey. And with a clearer picture of customer pain points, you can make more informed decisions on where to devote resources for developing creative solutions.

For suppliers, this could look like implementing predictive analytics into route planning, forecasting, and inventory. Any solution that makes customers' path to purchase smoother and more personalized is a solution worth pursuing.

3. Focus your efforts.

You can’t boil the ocean, as they say. Similarly, choose one e-commerce problem to solve first and then tackle others. Look for the most egregious, making sure it’s not just a symptom of a bigger problem but the actual problem itself, and make sure it's solvable. This improves your chances of success, allowing for an early win and bump in revenue, which can then be used to tackle the second problem, the third, and so on.

Suppliers that have tried to evolve in the digital age have likely dealt with an array of problems as they adjusted. High volumes of items to ship, for instance, can pose a challenge for these organizations that, before, had more control over how they met demand. That said, focusing on fixing that issue before moving on to the next fire will not only allow the supplier to move on to the next thing knowing that it's completely fixed, but it will also allow the supplier to better meet the higher demand with a solution and plan.

4. Think outside the box.

While chipping away at conversion problems can certainly improve sales, all you’re really doing is fixing what’s already broken — essential, yes, but putting other initiatives on the radar might also give you an edge over the competition. Try offering something new like free shipping, giveaways, "lightning deals," or social media promotions to see what the move might do to conversion rates in tandem with your efforts to address problems.

Think of it this way. Where suppliers used to ship thousands of boxes to Target stores, they now face demand to ship thousands of boxes to Target's customers — and those customers have different demands. When the recipients of what you supply change, so do expectations. Customers might expect extra merchandise, subscription services, etc., while stores did not.

5. Rinse and repeat.

Of all the tactics to improve conversion rates, the most important will be to realize that the work is never done. Make reviewing analytics, conversion points, etc., an ongoing process. Include it in your monthly meetings — or, at the very least, establish a quarterly check-in. Doing so will put you ahead of the curve, especially knowing that 60% to 73% of all data that could be used for analytics goes unused in organizations.

For example, some agricultural suppliers are using analytics and live cameras to determine when they need to get quality assessments for different kinds of seed.

In business just as in life, people will suggest solutions before really diagnosing the problem. Don't make this mistake with your e-commerce. Map out the path to move someone from awareness to conversion and beyond.

Your success with e-commerce all comes down to your willingness to use the analytics at your fingertips to improve each touchpoint along your customer's journey. Harness that and see how quickly shopping carts start becoming conversions.