As a rule of thumb, it’s a bad idea to blindly chase a competitor and try to replicate their strategy. That’s because you don’t know if what they’re doing is working or what specific elements of their strategy and tactics are producing results.
For the most part, it’s best to assume that your competitors are in the same boat as you and struggling to get their numbers up.
It’s tempting to “have whatever they’re having,” though, in hopes that something within their marketing is working—every online store has a primary goal of boosting sales.
Rather than run continuous and costly acquisition campaigns, you should aim to increase the conversions on your site to win over more of the traffic you already have.
That leads to the unanswered question of “How do I increase conversion rates?”
Don’t trap yourself by trying to blindly mimic what your competitors are doing. There are so many variables that impact your conversion rates, so a direct comparison (and direct mimicry) won’t provide much direction.
What you can do is dig in strategically and reverse engineer what they’re doing to uncover what works.
And the industry giants are a great place to start.
I’m talking specifically about Amazon, ranked the world’s third largest retailer.
Amazon has run countless tests and variations on page element layout, design, and conversion optimization to create a shopping experience that is second to none.
Here’s what you can learn from their strategy, and success, in improving your own eCommerce conversions.
Implement a personalized shopping experience with volume in variety.
Amazon isn’t just winning as a leader in eCommerce because of the sheer quantity of products. It’s the variation of the products they have that is a major draw for customers.
Your customers don’t want to feel limited to a few selections. They want more variety because it lets them customize a product so it feels like it’s personal to them. This makes the customer feel like the purchase decision is more in their control.
When they can choose between size, color, texture, pattern, and other design elements and features, then the product feels like a better fit with their wants and needs.
Other brands have learned from Amazon’s example; Gemvara takes personalization to the next level by allowing customers to completely customize the jewelry they want to purchase.
It makes every piece personal to the shopper, and the company is winning big from this level of customization, having earned millions in revenue its first year.
Implement Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
Amazon has become a master tactician with the use of countdown timers and with inciting the fear of missing out in consumers.
This is huge during the holiday shopping season, but Amazon’s lightning and daily deals, along with countdown deals, still run daily across various products and brands.
It’s not just about timing, though. To create urgency, the item must have some value to the audience. When you can communicate the value of the product, then use an urgency message to trigger FOMO, you greatly improve the odds of a conversion.
Amazon creates urgency with its daily deals but, also, with its shipping notifications.
Such simple triggers create an overwhelming feeling that time is of the essence. When a call to action is attached to time, the urgency level automatically climbs.
Never miss a cross-sell or upsell opportunity.
Why spend money trying to acquire more customers when you can simply sell more to the customers you have?
Upselling and cross-selling are a huge part of Amazon’s success in boosting conversion and average order value, but be mindful of where you do it.
If you pay close attention to Amazon’s approach, you can see there’s some strategy to it.
- Offers are only on related items.
- Offers and recommended products are typically cheaper than what is added to the cart.
You can see this on virtually every product page on Amazon in a few different forms.
The first ones are product recommendations that get purchased with the product you’re looking at.
And another recommendation for “customers who bought this product also bought.”
One thing you won’t see are heavy promotions during checkout. Amazon keeps its recommendations to the shopping experience.
It’s not like a grocery checkout, where they try to sell you candy while you wait to cash out.
Don’t try to push too much when the customer is finished. This just creates friction, which slows down the conversion process.
Make products super easy to find.
Search is a crucial element for any eCommerce store. The more products you have, the more important it is for customers to be able to find their solution quickly and easily.
Amazon has this down to a science. Not only do they offer extensive filters that change based on the product types and categories, but their search functionality isn’t limited to site-wide results.
Along with in-category searches, the auto-complete feature of search enhances the shopping experience for customers to help them find exactly what they’re looking for.
Just having a search box and filtering isn’t enough. You need to optimize your products for search and enhanced filtering:
- Know how your customers search for products.
- Optimize product titles and descriptions.
- Make product types and categories accurate.
- Include model numbers and variations for purchase-intent searches.
- Make sure product fields are validated and populated, with no missing data.
According to IBM, 70% of consumers use in-site search while shopping, and those customers are twice as likely to convert over other customers who are just browsing.
Create a visual shopping experience.
People want to see the product they’re purchasing.
Images satisfy the need to handle and look over a product, which is what most of us are used to when shopping in a brick and mortar store.
Quality images are the cornerstone of a solid shopping experience and central to boosting conversions. Everything from the image size to placement and quality can impact engagement.
The most successful Amazon listings not only offer great images but numerous images from multiple angles.
Because visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text.
That’s why major brands like Nike have focused on making their eCommerce sites a heavily visual experience.
They use bold, quality images to sell products the same way Amazon does.
Don’t limit the shopping experience.
There’s a wealth of advice on reducing the number of clicks it takes to get a user from the start of shopping to the checkout.
The goal, of course, is to optimize the funnel so a person can get to the end of checkout as quickly as possible to minimize friction.
This is absolutely true, but never at the expense of the shopping experience.
Look closely at Amazon, and you can see that the site is designed to let the user shop to their heart’s content. They are presented with a wealth of information and opportunities to continue shopping and checking other products.
There’s nothing necessarily trying to push them to the checkout, save for the persistent calls-to-action to add an item to the cart.
Amazon doesn’t interrupt the shopping experience.
Once the customer is ready to check out, though, Amazon is ready to rocket them to the end with one-click ordering and a fast checkout with a minimal number of steps.
Include amazing product copy.
There is no set length for good product copy.
If you examine various Amazon listings, you’ll find product descriptions that are short and to the point, while others include several screens’ worth of product info and details.
You’ll even see this when comparing products sold directly by Amazon.
On the above page for the Amazon Fire TV Stick, there is a short bulleted description at the top of the page, with a much longer, detailed write-up with images farther down the page.
Your product copy should be as short or as long as you need to provide both clarity and persuasion. The best sales copy isn’t about the length of content—it’s about communicating everything the customer needs to know without fluffing it out with hype.
A typical product page in eCommerce has a short and a long description. Use these spaces strategically to focus on the features and benefits.
Here’s an example of a short description on Amazon featuring a good feature/benefit matrix for a computer desk.
Combine storytelling elements with product benefits to help communicate product value.
The content is optimized for search, using keywords and phrases customers normally use to find those products.
Most importantly, the best product copy is completely unique. If you’re selling someone else’s product, never copy the manufacturer descriptions. Write your own, and write it for your audience first.
Make products shine with video.
The great thing about video is that most people prefer watching it over reading or viewing images. There’s data to back that up, as well: The average conversion rate of websites using video is 4.8%, compared to just 2.9% for those not using video as part of their conversion funnel.
Simply put, videos can increase conversion rates.
Visitors are up to 85% more likely to buy a product if you have a featured video.
Images are great for letting a customer experience the product, but nothing shows them how they can interact with and use a product like a simple explainer video.
Not sure what kind of video to create for your products? Turn to your audience.
Call on them to submit videos of using your products, or run a user-generated content contest to solicit videos you can use on your product pages.
Do what you can to create a visual shopping experience like Amazon to help boost your conversion rates.
Avoid the shipping charges.
You know what the #1 killer of conversions is in eCommerce?
Customers hate paying for shipping, and they will bail—even at the end of the checkout process. That will send your cart abandonment rate soaring.
If there’s one thing to learn from Amazon in all of this, it’s that Amazon does everything it can to entice customers with free shipping.
And a lot of brands are paying attention. More than half of online retailers now offer free shipping to some degree or another.
- Always-free shipping
- Free shipping coupon cycles
- Free shipping for members (think Amazon Prime)
- Free shipping based on order volume or price threshold
People want free shipping, and they’re even willing to spend more to get it. In one study, 93% of consumer respondents indicated that free shipping on an order would encourage them to purchase more products!
Take cues from Amazon and find a way to eliminate shipping costs to reduce cart friction, drop cart abandonment, and boost conversions.
Use social proof in reviews and recommendations.
Reviews are a major part of the online shopping experience.
Reviews carry significant sway in the conversion funnel. That’s why Amazon carefully polices its reviews, going so far as to limit reviews to accounts that make purchases, deleting fake reviews, and even filing suit against those who use and sell fake review services.
Amazon knows those reviews greatly influence sales.
Customer reviews and testimonials should be front and center on every product page in your online store, featured prominently next to each product within product and category lists, and incorporated as part of any shopping ad campaigns you may be running.
Make sure you’re using after-purchase marketing, such as email automation and social campaigns, to solicit reviews from your customers.
Amazon sends follow-up emails after each purchase, encouraging customers to rate their experience and product after they receive it.
Do the same for your online store and let those reviews provide social proof to boost your conversion.
The big brands and marketplaces like Amazon have a huge advantage over the rest of us—they have serious brand power.
Don’t go out of your way to copy what they’re doing.
Instead, analyze it. Don’t copy blindly. Work from the tips included here to see what works for you.
Whenever you make a change, be sure to watch your analytics and see how those changes impact your conversion rates. Continue to make improvements and changes based on your data—and nothing else. That way, you can focus on what works and drop the changes that aren’t moving the needle.
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