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“Why don’t my website visitors buy anything?”

Conversion Rate Optimisation

It’s a big question, why some people, maybe lots of people, visit your site but don’t buy what’s on offer. Let’s assume your products are great and you’re offering them for a reasonable price (you can compete with Amazon without slashing your prices). It comes down to the design of your website.

Take a look at the major culprits in web design that send your site visitors fleeing:

Poor navigation

Els Aerts, co-founder of AGConsult, looked at figures from a report on the ecommerce industry and concluded that 48% of e-commerce shoppers don’t buy because of usability problems. Take a look at the break-down in the chart below:

bar chart showing 34% of shoppers don't buy because they couldn't find what they were looking for.

iPerception Retail/E-Commerce Industry Report Q2 2009

The first and third most popular reasons shoppers didn’t buy anything are:

  • 34% didn’t find what they were looking for.
  • 13% dropped off due to navigation or usability problems.

Els asserts that at least half of the people who couldn’t find what they were looking for faced usability problems, rather than lack of appropriate products.

Els goes on to re-assign several others cited reasons for dropping off to lack of usability, but we can already see that navigation is the number one reason primed shoppers didn’t buy anything.

You got carried away with innovative design

Brian Massey says pro-innovation bias is making websites less user-friendly. What he’s referring to is the enthusiasm for adopting flashy design elements that may actually clutter, slow down or otherwise hurt the user experience.

Take the example below, a Gif of parallax in action on a website.

Parallax scrolling in action

Parallax in action

It’s a cool achievement for design but seen as a Gif like this, it’s quickly clear how annoying it is and the risk to the user experience it poses – not to mention accessibility.

Massey warns against adopting design trends without considering or testing their effect e.g. flat design. How do users react? Is the conversion journey compromised?

You’re causing shoppers to overthink it

You could be overloading potential customers with too much choice. Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, coined the phrase, paradox of choice. He has written and spoken about the phenomenon extensively.

A super simple example to illustrate the point is The Jam Study:

The jam study: reducing options from 24 to 6 increased conversions 300%.

Source: http://noahrickun.com/

In The Jam Study, customers were overwhelmed when given the choice between 24 different kinds of jam. When the jams were reduced to just 6 options conversions increased 300%.

Cassius Kiani shared with us his thoughts on why overthinking kills conversions. He approached it from the point of view of the designer or site owner, who overthinks a decision they need to make but many of his points can be applied to the buying experience too.

He cites a study that say we only need about 40-70% of the information we gather to make a decision (PDF). Rather than giving shoppers on your site more and more information, it would be more worthwhile to create less content that is more persuasive. That means highlighting benefits rather than features.

Your registration form

Registration forms are a pain in the butt. We’ve reported several times on the drop offs caused by the ‘log in wall’, which places a hurdle between the shopper and the buying step.

In a survey on cart abandonment, 23% of shoppers said they abandoned the buying process because they would have had to create an account.

Pie cart with reasons for cart abandonment

Data source: VWO Ecommerce Survey 2014

Combatting the pain

  • Only impose registration when appropriate.
  • Provide a guest checkout route.
  • Have users login with their email address, rather than forcing them to think up and remember a username.
  • Improve the experience of password creation by not being too restrictive.

Lack of urgency

Your site doesn’t create any urgency in the shopper to buy from you now. For most products, consumers don’t need to mull over the decision to buy that much. Indeed, we know that overthinking damages the conversion rate.

Evolutionary psychology says that our brains prefer to choose to the lazy option, making a decision as easily as possible to conserve our energy.

QI Evolutionary Psychology and UX from Laura Gordon

The emotional part of our brain is the first up when we’re making a decision. That could be the decision to donate money to cause that moves us, or scrambling to buy an item we fear losing out on.

Joanna Wiebe cites urgency as one of her enduring copywriting techniques:

Using urgency and scarcity to drive sales for those prospects and customer with high awareness of your offering.” – Joanna Wiebe, @copyhackers

Lack of trust

Tom Adams, senior designer at Code Computerlove, designs user experiences with the aim of driving conversions. Tom’s Persuasion Design Framework places trust high in the hierarchy of persausive design attributes.

Code's Persuasion pyramid showing the 4 persuasion factors

Created by Tom Adams, http://www.codecomputerlove.com/

Different sites suffer with different trust issues. A brand that isn’t well known has to convince shoppers the website is legitimate and they will deliver the goods or services they advertise, e.g. a aggregator site.

Well-known brands, on the other hand, aren’t as worried about legitimising their service delivery but about the quality of the customer experience. Customers of Ryanair, for example, can be fairly sure that the ticket they buy is legitimate. However, many travellers are wary of being spammed by Ryanair, tricked into buying add-ons they don’t want, paying more than they first expected or experiencing delays when travelling. There is evidence to suggest that Ryanair are trying to improve the brand’s reputation by improving the user experience on their site.

This blog post condenses the advice from our 2-part whitepaper, Optimising Ecommerce Sites. For more advice on creating a high-converting ecommerce website, download the first section of the whitepaper below.