How you can easily ruin your online store’s conversion process

No matter how professional your online shop’s design is, no matter how good your product is, you might still be far from success. A series of little things can go astray that will result in low conversion rate despite your best efforts.


The goal: To be able to recognize these issues, to see it for yourself what it is that prevents a user from making a purchase. In the long run you should be able not only to identify but to resolve these problems as well.


We will cover all these points in the article below:

  • Why you should pay attention to every detail
  • Systemic issues
    • Poorly organized webshop
    • User gets lost or puzzled
  • The two most common mistakes on product pages
    • Low quality photos
    • Poorly written product descriptions
  • Pitfalls of the checkout process
    • Not providing enough information
    • Not guiding the customer
    • Mandatory registration
  • Disharmonic design
    • Colours are way too bright or way too pale
    • Not responsive
    • Long loading times
    • Under no circumstances should you use sliders
  • This list has no end


Why you should pay attention to every detail


The answer lies in the „broken window theory” originally associated with criminology and introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982.

The theory itself is quite easy to understand. Let’s say you are walking in a neighbourhood and there is a building with a few broken windows. For it hasn’t been repaired, one would assume that people do not care about these kinds of things in this part of the city. The problem is not with the broken window itself, but the general principle that this sort of thing is tolerated.

Most customers relate to online stores the same way: They judge on the basis of a small part of the whole.

  • If your store is full of spelling mistakes,
  • the design breaks here and there,
  • outdated solutions being used…


All these seemingly insignificant issues convey the message that you don’t care enough to spend time with troubleshooting, you don’t pay attention to what your customers’ experience is, therefore you don’t respect your customers’ opinions and time.

In other cases, it might be simply that some processes haven’t been optimized properly to meet the needs of your audience: e.g. instead of a multi-page checkout process your customers might prefer a one-page payment process or that the colour scheme being used in the design does not match the product.

So if you see that the conversion rate is low, you have to find out what’s not working and fix it.

By using analytics you get a tool that helps you find out where your visitors get stuck. Then by testing you have to narrow it down what specific approach should be applied to fix the issue.

Let’s go through what kinds of mistakes you might run into.


Systemic issues


Poorly organized online shop


Has it happened to you that you walked into a shop and for minutes you did not know exactly where to start though you had arrived purposefully with specific purchase intentions?

Puzzlement just like this has dire consequences for conversion rate and it can appear quite easily in your ecommerce store as well.

One might make it hard for their own users to find certain products without even being aware of it. This may be caused by the search box being put to the wrong place or being inadequate for the purpose.

If there is no possibility of properly refining your search terms, for each search hundreds of products will show up that will cause your customers to drown in a sea of data. After a time they will eventually get tired of not finding what they came for and leave for another online shop.

Often there are defects with the navigation in general as well. Options may be hard to find, their use unclear and too complicated to understand. For the latter it is a good example when the product categories are piled up in a drop-down menu. In this case you need to control the cursor very carefully because one wrong move is enough and the whole multi-level maze disappears. Few things can be more annoying for online shoppers than that.


What you should do is to observe whether visitors manage to get from one sub-page to another. Analyse your page through the eyes of an outsider and ask your returning customers about their practices and experience on how they use it. Use Heatmap analysis to see what kind of activity is happening in your online store.


User gets lost or puzzled


A good rule of thumb is to make sure a user of your website is able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks.

However, the three-click rule by itself won’t solve all your problems. In addition to the rule, your primary concern should be to plan out the routes your customers are supposed to take.

A 2003 case study – which still many professionals refer to in the industry – says that the reason for dissatisfaction is not really that a lot of clicks are needed, but rather that the visitor is not being controlled firmly enough. It can be greatly confusing when one gets to unexpected places.

Therefore it is of high priority to let your customers know continuously where the next step will take them to. You should write down briefly what will happen, where he or she will get to upon clicking either on the CTA (call to action).

  • To the search results or the search engine?
  • To the product page or the category page?
  • To your shopping cart or straight to checkout?

Keep all these in mind at all times. Never let your visitors get puzzled and disoriented.


The two most common mistakes on product pages

unomptimized ecommerce page

Low quality photos


Pictures are your greatest weapons. This is your chance to fully showcase your product.

If your customers don’t have the possibility to zoom and see the product from every possible angle, if they cannot experience the product through photos, your chance to sell will dramatically decrease. Your conversion rate will hit rock-bottom.

It is no coincidence that in physical shops it is very important for people to be able to touch the product, to feel its weight and material, to try it on/out, before they pay for it at the cashier counter. In ecommerce stores images play the same role by enabling people to see the products’ size, colour and texture.

If you do not provide a proper insight into your products, your customers may interpret it as if you were trying to hide something. A low quality photo can easily imply that you do not want to show every aspect of the product.

When people start thinking about what might be the reason of this, some will certainly assume you try to hide the fact that something is not quite right with the product. This small, even subliminal distrust can cause your conversion rate to drop.

Therefore your ultimate goal is to meet your customers’ information need. By using high-resolution images, your communication becomes more honest and transparent. Use multiple photos on your site so the customer can truly experience your product and get every piece of information they need. It is also worth considering to hire a professional photographer to maximize the quality of the photos. These kinds of investments typically provide high return.


Poorly written product descriptions


Having a bad product description is usually even worse than not having any at all. A poorly drafted – Typos, spelling errors, meaningless phrases – description can easily discourage anybody from buying.

Running into obviously copy-pasted texts – that usually offer little relevant information – have the same effect on your visitors’ opinion about an online shop.

In addition, you should avoid copying any kind of content in general. Not just that Google doesn’t like it (you get penalty for it in terms of SEO), but your visitors won’t appreciate it either if they will have to hunt down the differences between descriptions of similar products.


Pitfalls of the checkout process

wrong checkout process

Most customers drop out at the very end of the process, i.e. at checkout. It may be that you don’t use „Call to action” techniques well enough – we have talked about this before. But it is also possible that your customers get puzzled by something else.


Not providing enough information


If you hide certain elements of information, you shouldn’t be suprised that the visitor gets confused. If shipping costs are not visible on the product page and there is no dynamically updated shopping cart that constantly shows how much you have put into it so far, your potential customers may see a higher sum at checkout than they have expected.

If you stand at the cash register in a shop and you need to pay more than expected, you will be likely to stick with it – if not for any other reason than because of other people in the queue waiting for you to finish. In an online store, however, buying is a totally impersonal process, there is a risk that the customer simply closes the window and leaves the shopping cart.

Therefore one should be informed about the total sum even before they reach checkout.


Not guiding the customer


You’d be surprised how many people visit an ecommerce store, add a product they like to the cart, then simply forget about it while they are browsing.


tips TIP: You’d better make sure that the cart is not only continuously visible and provides every necessary information – besides the total sum there should be the number of products and their names – but that it is very easy to spot as well. You can increase its effectiveness by adding a “call to action” to it.


Mandatory registration


Keep in mind: every extra step, every piece of requested additional information causes the conversion rate to decrease significantly.


If you require your customer to register before they could purchase your products, you make it very difficult for them to convert. As a result, you make your own life a lot harder.
Just imagine that you have been in a hypermarket for an hour, then you go to the checkout desk and the cashier tells you that you can take the goods – which you picked up and carried along for an hour – only if you are willing to sign up for their customer loyalty programme.

Registration is of course a huge advantage for you, but making registration mandatory is definitely not the right way to convince the user to do so, as this will only lead to a reduction in your income.

One way is to simply ask for an email address on the receipt: then in the confirmation letter you can offer him to sign up for your newsletter. You can also recommend your content valuable to him and there are a number of other ways to make them stay.


Disharmonic design

wrong ux

Colours are way too vivid or way too pale


If you’re curious to what extent colour combinations in themselves can affect how a user decides whether they will ultimately trust your e-store, check out our article on colour theory.

You need to choose a colour scheme that not only matches both your corporate identity and products, but doesn’t drive away the customers either. Whatever your target audience may be, if your online shop has a citrine colour scheme, they will run away from you after the first click.

Many of today’s most popular web design trends are influenced by minimalism (a web design movement that began in the early 2000’s), but many people fall into the trap of overdoing it.

If you end up with a meaningless page that looks like as if it was created in 1995 or simply as if not enough energy was invested into the creation of it, you are on the wrong track.


Not responsive


It’s 2016: if your ecommerce store is not responsive, it’s like you were deliberately hurting your own business. Like not having a website at all…


Smart device users are taking an increasing slice of the ecommerce pie, and they spend more and more money per purchase and per person as well – although for the time being typically these numbers are still lower in value compared to purchases made on desktops.

The important thing is making the mobile user experience completely smooth: so that one can achieve the same result on mobile with a touchscreen as on PC with a mouse. Besides making sure the site does not fall apart, you should also avoid having to scroll sideways and having to type too much.


Long loading times


Of course this could be due to the inefficient design or implementation of the backend part of the system, but most of the time it is caused by an overdesigned frontend with impractical solutions. Although it is less and less of a problem as broadband internet is getting more and more accessible, it can still lead to serious troubles when it comes to smartphones and tablets.


The rule of 3 works here too

None of your web pages should be larger than 3MB, and should not load more than 3 seconds. The user is impatient: at times even 3 seconds is too much, and it does not take much for an online customer to hit the go back button and look for the product he needs in another, better-working store.


Under no circumstances should you use sliders


Despite what some designers say, the use of sliders and carousels are really bad for your conversion rate.

By visiting the Conversion XL webpage you can see the test results: the moving graphic ads lead to poor results, at times not even measurable in terms of whole percentage points.

Of course the usage of moving banners is a great way of getting the attention as it is part of the evolution. The phased-out movement of the slider, as it changes and changes again with little intermittences in between, draws your attention – the same way as your brain needed to focus on stalking predators’ movements thousands of years ago in order to survive.

Nowadays though it is no longer dangerous to neglect it and the customer quickly gets used to it and learns that the movement aiming to grab his attention does nothing but distract him.


Thanks to banner blindness thus the “habit of neglecting” is formed as time goes by.

Not only that, the lack of control would drive the customer crazy. He would find that there is something bothersome in his field of vision which cannot be turned off. You can bet, it is one of those things that does not improve customer experience.


And that’s just the beginning…

There are plenty of things that can go wrong with your online shop which in turn will lower the conversion rate.

These could be identified by using the tests mentioned earlier – the best method though is to simply ask your customers. Those who have not bought anything from you yet cannot be reached this way. By using analytics you can find the problematic elements that caused these lost customers to leave.

The next step would be to start the ruthless A/B testing: you need to try all of the important elements in various ways, and run these tests all the time. It is guaranteed that you will never get to the end of it, a perfect online store cannot be built as no homogenous customer base exists that will like all of your solutions.

There are a few things you can do though to increase your conversion rate by even 10%. By recreating your menu, removing a banner or slider and by uploading a unique text which speaks to your niche market, you can get even two-digit percentage increases in conversion rate.


2 replies
  1. OneStepCheckout
    OneStepCheckout says:

    Thanks for this comprehensive piece on online stores conversion Gábor. Very useful for merchants. We totally agree on responsiveness, additional loading time and most importantly “every extra step, every piece of requested additional information causes the conversion rate to decrease significantly.”

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