5 Behavioral Science Tips That Boost E-Commerce Conversions

By Darwin Liu

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E-commerce brands often spend substantial resources on ads to drive website traffic, but rarely optimize conversion rates enough to turn increased traffic into sales.

While conversion rate optimization may seem daunting at first, researchers of behavioral science have taken great strides in the last decade to further our understanding of buyer behavior. By designing solutions that align with our psychology, we can make it easier for people to do things they already want to do.

E-commerce marketers who apply the following five principles to e-commerce websites are poised to increase conversions.

How You Structure Your Navigation Bar Is Extremely Important


Most marketers randomly add menu items and CTAs (call to action) without thinking about consumer behavior.

Visitors of e-commerce websites (and all others) first look to the right, and then to the left of the web page. The center of the page will always get short shrift from users.

You should place your main CTA on the upper right, second most important item on the left, and the least important in the middle of your navigation bar.

These insights are critical when determining where to place important content blocks. Applications, such as Hotjar, that visualize website heatmaps are useful tools that help webmasters optimize website use.

Prevent Information Overload


When it comes to presenting information on the products offered, the adage "less is more" holds true. There have been many studies illustrating that an excess of information that is not critical to the purchasing decision will actually impede conversions (for example, see this study from researchers at the Soochow University in Taipei). In fact, users much prefer web pages that are simple and familiar (as discussed in a Google study from 2012).

A very clear navigation menu where people can discern where they need to look for products in which category, what is new, what is on sale, etc., will go a long way in providing visitors with the guidance they need to find and purchase the products they want.

Product pages that aren't cluttered with random details and images also fare better. Keep product pages as short as possible and as clean as possible.

Lastly, checkout funnels that are clean with clear directions will boost conversion rates compared to pages that have irrelevant information.

Use Social Proof


Social proof is one the original seven principles of persuasion famously proposed by Robert Cialdini. People will be more willing to buy a product if they know that others have bought it as well and preferably also recommend the product.

E-commerce websites can no longer go without highly performing recommendation engines that share information on what others think of what the brand has in store. Recommendations are not only of critical importance for conversion rate optimization on the website, but also show up in Google SERPs, making them even a critical part of SERP conversions.

Avoid Friction (Especially On Mobile)


Website visitors abhor having to jump many hoops to accomplish simple tasks. This applies equally to both desktop and mobile versions of websites, but we still see most problems arise with mobile applications where check-outs often become strenuous.

It's understandable that e-commerce businesses would rather not pay fees to Apple or Google for using Apple/Google Pay, but the cost of having customers struggle with inserting credit card information manually and abandoning a purchase mid-process is likely to dwarf whatever they're charging the business.
Friction of any kind will always hurt sales.

Provide What Is Expected


Whether you like the typical make-up of an e-commerce website or not, there is a common template in use with e-commerce sites that people have gotten accustomed to. When you present a website that looks different from the typical site people have come to expect, your conversions will suffer.

The aforementioned Google study affirms that people prefer websites that are "prototypical" of their categories.

Bottom Line


Website design is critical for e-commerce businesses in any vertical that want to optimize their conversions. While the task at hand might look daunting at first, valuable research is available on many aspects of website design, from content placement and density to social proof and friction avoidance. E-commerce managers that apply evidence-based best practices will optimize conversion rates and grow their bottom lines.


The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.


Darwin Liu is the founder and CEO of X Agency, an integrated digital marketing agency of growth engineers with offices in Boston, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee.