Keeping up with an online store can be tricky. Luckily, Shopify is an ecommerce platform that makes it easy for you to set up, use, customize, and maintain an online store. With Shopify, you don’t need advanced technical knowledge to start selling your products online.
While Shopify will tackle the technicalities of the online store, marketing and addressing your target audience is still up to you.
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into how to optimize your Shopify store from top to bottom.
Before we examine how you can improve these pages, let’s next examine how your prospects go about shopping on your store and explore the funnel in more detail. Let’s discuss the flow of how a visitor turns into a customer.
The funnel is a visual representation of a typical shopping journey. It displays the steps in purchase in ever narrowing steps, noting the fact that not all prospects who enter the funnel necessarily end up buying anything from the website.
The funnel is visually represented like this:
The funnel is the place that offers the greatest opportunities to optimize a website conversion process. On the Shopify platform, a funnel process starts when a visitor adds a product to the cart. From there, the prospect then advances through the funnel, providing shipping and billing information.
Each of these steps is bound to have a fair amount of dropout. To improve the performance of the store, your aim is to reduce the dropout (also known as friction) within each step, resulting in more and more people completing the process. This is usually done by using a bottom-up approach, optimizing lower portions of the funnel first.
The reason to use a bottom-up approach is because the improvement lower down the funnel results in an immediate increase in revenue, while also solving the problems prospects from upper part of the funnel will encounter too.
In CustomerVox we chose to present the funnel through a customer lifecycle perspective:
The number of customers in each stage decreases from left to right. The lifecycle is like a funnel, except the goal is to keep customers in the ACTIVE stage rather than through the end of the funnel.
The Shopify platform offers customization of every part of the checkout process, so let’s start with the shopping cart.
Optimizing the shopping cart
The shopping cart in Shopify can be fully customized. That means you can add product details, include form field for discounts, and more. You can also add a ‘continue shopping’ link so your customers can add other products to their cart before checking out, which helps increase average order value via cross-sells or upsells.
Among other useful options, you can add shipping cost calculator or alert shoppers to items that are dwindling in stock to create a sense of urgency.
Your shipping information lets you find out where you’ll need to ship your buyer’s items. By simplifying and streamlining form fields here, you increase likelihood that more of your prospects will complete them and purchase a product from you.
Shopify offers a complete customization of shopping forms, meaning you can designate fields as required, optional, and hidden. Required fields should be reserved only for absolutely critical information, without which the product cannot be shipped to the customer.
Shopify also natively supports Google Autocomplete, a feature that fills the form data automatically, reducing the amount of time and effort your prospect needs to put in.
The billing portion of the checkout process is all about getting your customer to pay for the items they’ve selected and complete the conversion process.
Paying is the step in the funnel that creates the most friction (and requires the most trust from your customers.) The key to preventing this fear and friction is to make them trust you. Trust is improved through the use of various security badges as well as testimonials, a money-back guarantee, and a solid return policy.
You should also think about your payment options. By increasing the number of different methods of payment you accept and allowing customers to login as guest (not requiring login at all), you can easily boost conversions in the payment stage of the funnel. Consider adding newer payment methods (like mobile wallets) to make checkout ultra-fast and painless.
The ideal structure of an ecommerce website
Nailing website structure is essential for a successful ecommerce store. Studies have shown that to get your audience to interact with your website, you need to convey your purpose in less than five seconds of initial exposure. This means your message and format need to be extremely clear from the get-go, or visitors will navigate away without ever interacting with your website.
To create an appealing and reliable image for your brand, the visual design should be consistent throughout your website. You can accomplish this by using the same basic design or template for each page you create and an overall theme.
Consistency in design has two major benefits:
- First, it’s just easier to use. Users will become familiar with your layout and know where they can look for things—product categories, links, additional information, and so on. The easier your site is for users to navigate, the more likely they are to come back.
- Second, consistency shows that the website has been carefully planned out and that there’s a legitimate organization behind it.
While we might think a unique design would be more memorable, research has shown that visitors prefer website layouts they’re familiar with. Think about the setup of a supermarket chain—they’re often using the exact same floor plan in different locations. When you walk into a grocery store you’ve never been in, you can usually count on a couple of things: Similar products will be grouped together, and each aisle will have a sign that tells you just what’s in it.
When people are using your website, the same principles should apply. It’s better to use what is frequently referred to as ‘a prototypical design’ than to try to be too unique in your layout. Users will find your unique content a lot more easily (and be more likely to become a customer) if they don’t get lost along the way.
- Visual Hierarchy: Pay attention to what your eye is drawn to first on your website
- Proportion: Principles like the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Sequence draw the eye and make layouts more interesting to look at
- Hicks Law: The more options presented on your website, the more difficult it will be to use
- Fitts Law: An object is easier to select if it’s bigger, like a button
- Rule of Thirds: To make an image more interesting, align objects with the lines that would divide it into thirds vertically and horizontally
- Gestalt design: The human eye tends to see an object as a whole before its individual parts
- Clean design: Avoid overloading your users with information by using white space to break up graphics and words
- Occam’s razor: The simplest solution is usually the best.
If you design your website with these principles in mind, your users will know exactly where to look for what they need. You can make sure your website is interesting to look at and your message is clear, holding users’ attention and hopefully guiding them smoothly through the purchasing process.
Templates help guide you to create a logically organized, easy to navigate site. Let’s quickly walk through a few different elements of what you’ll find in a template and see how you can optimize each different aspect, starting with the homepage.
A typical homepage on a Shopify store can include various features, depending on your purpose.
A header usually contains a brand logo and some basic information about your store (like contact information, your story, or maybe your company mission), but you can tailor it to fit the unique needs of your business.
Once you’ve created the visual identity of your store, you need to tell your customers what you do. Most stores use a hero image and a unique value proposition to indicate the service they provide or products they sell. You can use theme customization tools to edit the header and hero image to fit your message.
Be sure to take into account the types of devices your visitors might be using to view your site. You can use Google Analytics to find out the most popular screen sizes and resolutions your visitors use, and from there, you can make sure your site template displays correctly for those types of devices.
The informational content of a website is where your individual brand will shine. The way you present your company, your products and your offer to users is what establishes the difference between you and your competitors. Here you need to offer the most relevant and clear information to users so they choose you over other options.
Research has found consumers buy products from websites that offer them the clearest and most relevant information most conveniently. They’re not shopping online to work for information—your job is to make your offer easy for them to identify and understand.
Informational content on your website consists of several layers—information about you (your company, business), information about your products and general content with useful information. While the role of the first two layers is to establish trust in your business, the role of the third layer is to create a connection between your customers and your brand.
By providing content your customers find interesting, in line with their lifestyle or likable, you can establish a connection with them on more grounds than just the immediate use of your products. Content helps visitors identify with your company on more than one level.
You can present the informational content of your website on different pages, each serving a specific purpose in the visitor’s interaction with your website, and helping them navigate the site overall.
Main pages of your store
A homepage is usually the first part of the website your customers see. The homepage should convey what the website is, who is behind it, what you sell and how is that relevant to potential customers. It should also be designed in a professional way to assure customers that you are able to deliver on the promises you make.
The homepage should enable a prospect to find out more about you and your company at a glance, find out what products you offer and get a notion how using the products can benefit them. Outline the main message of the company, images of products and of course, links to your about page, shopping area and other content, such as blog, community or similar.
Typically, a homepage has several sections:
- A top menu, allowing easy access to various areas of the website, such as shop, blog, about etc.
- A headline with an explanation of what the site is about—in effect a value prop, telling customers what you are offering
- An image with a strong association to the item you are selling—a hero image
- A most popular or recommended products, so your prospects do not need to go any further away from your homepage to find what they need
- Usually, the bottom part of the homepage is reserved for links to ‘About Us’ pages, contact information and similar miscellaneous info
Baymard Institute has conducted a study of the current state of user interface and find out that 40% of ecommerce websites have a mediocre or poorly performing homepage. They used three sites as an example of state of the art homepage - Walmart, Home Depot and Sephora. Those three sites have managed to fulfill all of the guidelines set by Baymard Institute.
A page explaining who you are, how you do business and why you’re here is an indispensable part of your website. An ‘About” page helps reassure customers there’s a real and legitimate organization operating your site. Although the term ‘About’ page implies that it’s there for you, it’s really about your users.
Your ‘About’ page should present a human face to your customers and show them why you’re passionate about what you do for them.
Be sure to incorporate videos and pictures to create a more visual connection with customers. Showing images of your location, product, and employees, for example, can help would-be customers connect with you on a more personal level. Don’t be afraid to show life behind the scenes at your business.
You can add an ‘About’ page by using a customizable theme and adding sections.
Note: Don’t forget to update your site from time to time. This isn’t a one-and-done process. Adding new/updated information about your business helps keep things fresh and interesting. Plus: If your about page contains information that’s incorrect or outdated, it could affect your credibility (or confuse people.)
Next, let’s look at product category pages.
Product category pages
You probably have many different products available on your site—but does that make your site tough to navigate? Sometimes the sheer number of options can be overwhelming to customers.
Research shows the more options site visitors have, the harder it is for them to choose what to buy. This phenomenon is known as the Paradox of Choice...and it can result in customers not buying anything at all.
That’s why product category pages are an important part of your ecommerce site. They serve the same role as shelves in a supermarket: Helping to organize your products so customers can easily find what they’re interested in.
Shopify themes offer an easy way to create product category and subcategory pages, called collections. Having different collections improves the overall user experience by allowing shoppers to sort products by criteria (like price, product type, etc.)
You can also enable a description of the product that pops up when a visitor hovers over an item. This helps customers get information quickly (and without leaving the main category page.)
Another important item to remember in creating category pages is filtering. With filters, prospects have the ability to see only the products that fit their criteria. Filtering is important if you offer a wide variety of products across multiple categories.
Shopify allows you to let visitors browse your products by tags (which are words specific to a group of products.) For example: If you sell clothes and have multiple items, you can enable tags that let shoppers filter products by color, make, material, etc.
So what about product pages themselves?
A product page is a page directly tied to an individual product. On your product page, you should showcase your product and provide a view of the product that’s as close as possible to actually holding it in their hands. The goal is to bridge the gap of physical disconnect between the product and prospect.
To achieve this, you need to use multiple images and/or videos to show the product from every angle (and in every option available.) Images should be dynamic and reflect any choice a prospect may make in customizing their product, like color, size, etc. If you provide a video of a product, it’s best to showcase the product in use to provide visual context.
Your product page also needs to contain tailored copy to describe the product and its specifications. On Shopify, you can customize multiple product pages at once within your theme, such as captions, labels, quantity selector, color selector, etc.
While the ‘About’ page tells your story, your contact page allows prospects to get in contact with you. By providing prospects with a way to reach you, you further increase the trust in your store and create an “open door” for customers with questions or concerns. Most websites use a simple form where a prospect can provide an email address and state his or her question.
In addition to adding phone and emails as contacts, DODOcase features a geolocation of their facilities on a Google Map. The ability to locate the company in the real world increasess trust and helps convince customers that they are dealing with a real, legitimate company.
If you’re going to have a ‘Contact us’ page, make sure you address and respond to all the questions and feedback received through it within 24 hours maximum. If a visitor has to wait longer than a day to hear back from you, they’re probably going to look elsewhere to buy.
Another way to enable your prospects to contact you in a more immediate way is to have a chat feature enabled that lets your customers talk to a team member in real time. Keep in mind, however, this feature is not part of the Shopify platform and therefore you must use a third party chat feature, like Tidio. Research from Kissmetrics points to the studies that show having a chat feature on your website can improve conversions by as much as 4-8x.
Your homepage, about page, product and product category pages and finally contact page all represent the main areas of a website. All of these elements work together to get your prospects into the conversion funnel (and to eventually purchase your product.)
When you start an online shop, you may have a good idea of how you would want it to look like. You take care in designing elements, setting up the funnel, photoshopping images and jazzing up the copy. But, do you think you will get it right the first time?
The answer is almost certainly no. Shopify platform makes it very easy to make a well designed ecommerce store and no doubt with some effort, you will make a good site and generate decent revenue. However, regardless of everything, there will always be place to improve. By applying CRO methodology, you can make your site better and increase its revenue by understanding what you can make better and how.
The key is to understand the behavior and preferences of your customers and to make their shopping experience as smooth as possible. Improving your website not only makes new customers more likely to convert, it also makes existing customers more likely to return.
Platforms such as Shopify enable you to make effortless changes to many aspects of your website and this is why it is important to understand how you can evolve and improve your website. And keep in mind - always be testing and improving.