How to Test Your eCommerce Site for Conversion

Published October 30, 2017 by Shawn Arora in eCommerce
⚡ Updated on October 2, 2023

There are a number of reasons why your eCommerce website may not be converting. The reasons could be as simple as your price being high or because you charge for shipping. At a more nuanced level, reasons for low conversions could include factors like your website not rendering properly on the customers’ device, or your checkout button not being placed prominently enough.

Not knowing why your visitors aren’t converting into customers could be the difference between success and failure in an eCommerce venture. User testing is thus an inextricable part of marketing an online store.

The trouble with automated A/B testing

A/B testing is a cheap and effective way to test what works on a website and what doesn’t. But this may not always help you in an eCommerce setup. This is because marketers may be unable to make use of heatmaps and automated screen recordings to know if a visitor bounced because of reasons like high prices or shipping fees.

A/B Testing answers the HOW, User Testing the WHY Image by Ben Dressler

A/B testing, in such cases, could thus hinge on trial and error and it is possible that the factors being tested have no bearing whatsoever on conversions.

When it comes to eCommerce, user testing is most successful when seeking manual feedback from real users. Understanding the thought process behind a user action helps a business know why a visitor does what they do. Conducting multivariate testing based on real user feedback tends to be more authentic and thus directly contributes towards higher conversion.

Understanding what doesn’t work

USER TESTING ECOMMERCE SITES: Find out why people abandon their carts or leave without converting by using this tasks. Learn more

User testing campaigns for eCommerce may be classified into two categories depending on their end-objective. The first category of campaign revolves around understanding what doesn’t work. Making use of real user feedback from services like UserBrain help marketers understand features or factors that prevent customers from buying from your website.

User Test done with Userbrain on the eCommerce site of Influenster

Testers looking to make a purchase from your website may come up with factors like high price, hidden checkout button, or a badly rendered website as reasons why they may not trust your site or buy from it. Seeking feedback from such testers to understand what doesn’t work needs to be a routine and necessary process for each of your product pages.

Knowing what works

Henry Ford is reported to have once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The essence of Ford’s statement is that while human beings very well know what they don’t want, they are not always reliable when it comes to their needs.

This is why neither human feedback or automated user monitoring tools are able to provide the complete picture for a marketer looking at increasing user conversions. However, there are a number of ways to find out what users need.

Peer benchmarking

Marketers may also look at their competitors’ sites to benchmark features and offerings. In addition to this, it is also highly recommended that you look at eCommerce sites that operate in niches outside your own. This way, you may potentially come up with website components that can potentially drive conversions up before such elements become mainstream.

FREE CHEATSHEET: Benchmark your competitor’s eCommerce sites by using this 5 usability tasks. Learn more

However, an issue with this process is it may be unclear if these components help or hinder your conversions. A good workaround is to peer-benchmark websites whose sales and traffic details are public.

UX Competitor Analysis done for Foodheros conducted by JPL UX

ECommerce platforms like Shopify have their own marketplaces and the traffic and revenue details of websites listed here are available to potential buyers. This can be a good place to reliably guess the effect of product features and website components on revenue.

Reverse funnel process

A sales funnel is the process of converting a visitor into a purchasing customer. It starts with visitor acquisition (through channels like SEO, PPC, social media or fliers) and proceeds towards steps such as making the visitor aware of your product, generating interest, building a desire to buy, nudging them towards action and finally providing them with great customer satisfaction.

But when it comes to user testing, it is recommended that businesses start from customers and then gradually move towards acquisition. This is because customer satisfaction and checkout is where most of your customers face helplessness and frustration. Tweaking these processes could bring about an instant improvement in conversion rates and customer loyalty.

Also, there are multiple visitor acquisition and product awareness channels and this makes user testing difficult and expensive. Checkout processes, on the other hand, happen over a handful of pages and user testing here is easier to control, test and execute.

When to perform user testing for eCommerce

Ecommerce businesses operate on wafer thin margins and this is a reason why many marketers choose to not invest in user testing. Even among those who do, it is common among businesses to allocate a fixed budget every quarter for user testing across the eCommerce portal.

Spread across multiple landing pages and webpage components, the amount invested to test any specific feature or element could be minimal and insufficient to make any meaningful interpretations.

While it is perfectly reasonable to have a fixed budget for user testing each quarter, make sure to invest in testing one or two specific elements that are new to your website. For instance, if your business has launched a new product, it is a good idea to test the user experience from visitor acquisition to sales for this specific product.

At the same time, it is also highly recommended to distribute your user testing budget across multiple web interfaces and device form factors. This way, marketers may benchmark user experience on various devices and also compare site usability on mobile apps against what users experience on a website or tablet.

Summing up

ECommerce is expected to be a $4.5 trillion market by 2021. While a significantly huge chunk of this is expected to come from the likes of Amazon, it needs to be noted that eCommerce user testing should not just be restricted to businesses with standalone portals.

Retailers selling their merchandise on Amazon could also test their product pages for usability and user feedback. This goes a long way into understanding the factors that can make or break your business.

About the author

Profile Picture of Shawn Arora

Shawn Arora is the founder of LaunchSpark, a Toronto-based explainer video agency with a focus on ROI. LaunchSpark works with SaaS / tech vendors to distill complex messaging into clear and concise insights that increase conversion rates.

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