3 Hidden Techniques to Increase Conversions


3 Hidden Techniques to Increase Conversions

By now, it may seem like you’ve heard it all when it comes to increasing conversions.

Factors such as clear product descriptions, high-resolution videos, and a smooth, simple checkout process have been proven to increase conversion rates, and chances are that you've spent countless hours obsessing over all of those details.  You might also find that conversion rates differ by channel as well; people who click on a Facebook ad might be less likely to convert than those who come to your website organically.  Understanding and optimizing for all of these factors can make a substantial difference in turning site visitors into paying customers.

But what is an e-commerce site manager to do once some of the more straightforward options have been exhausted?

In this post, we’ll take a look at a few tactics which don’t get enough of the spotlight, but can nevertheless be effective in the ongoing quest to optimize the number of site visitors who decide to become paying customers.

Tactic #1: Simplify Product Choices

As the manager of an e-commerce site, it’s tempting to be everything to everyone, especially when it comes to offering customers choices.

After all, the more options available, the more potential customers a given item is relevant for, so the more you must therefore be able to increase conversions…right?

As it turns out, the answer may be slightly more complicated – researchers from Columbia and Stanford found that when presented with an overwhelming set of product options, potential customers can at times get overwhelmed and abandon a potential purchase altogether.

In the study, two different jam displays were set up in a supermarket on consecutive weekends:  one with 6 flavors available, the other with 24.

Interestingly, 60% of store visitors stopped at the larger display, but only 3% purchased a jar of jam.  Conversely, while only 40% of visitors stopped at the smaller display, 30% actually made a purchase – quite a remarkable difference!

As the jam study clearly demonstrates, more options isn't always better! As the jam study clearly demonstrates, more options isn't always better!

In some cases though, it’s simply impossible to get down to a handful of product options.  Examples such as clothing come to mind, where best practice is typically to offer each item in a number of sizes and styles, which creates an immense number of combinations.

With the jam experiment in mind, what’s a site manager to do?  When there are potentially tens (or even hundreds!) of options for a single product, surely a dropdown menu isn’t the answer.

The answer lies in making the options selection process as “frictionless” as possible; in other words, the more a visitor has to search for the options he’s looking for, the lower the chance he’ll make it to checkout.

There are a number of companies developing simplifying, innovative tools in this field to improve the chances that a customer actually ends up adding a product to their cart.  If you’re on Shopify, one such tool is Onlygrowth’s Product Options, which allows merchants to split each product into a variety of easy-to-understand alternatives for the customer.


In the image above, note how appealing the product selection process is to the eye.  Compared to a series of dropdown menus, using radio buttons and form fills allows the visitor to breeze through the variant selection process.

Unsurprisingly, creating a more seamless product selection process can have dramatically positive results on conversion rates.  In fact, in a recent study by MECLABS, radio buttons were shown to outperform dropdown menus by a whopping 14.6%!  For site managers who have optimized much of the site experience for their visitors, product selection is often an overlooked area of opportunity.

Tactic #2: Social Proof 

While the experience of shopping online has improved at an incredible pace in the past 10 years, there are still elements of the in-person shopping experience which are difficult to replicate.  One such experience is the effect that the in-store experience can have on conversion rates.

While walking over the threshold, a shopper seeing that the physical storefront is busy helps a retailer in two ways.  First, it creates a degree of social proof; the person visiting the store feels more comfortable shopping there because she sees that her peers are too.  Second, it helps increase the likelihood that the visitor will make a purchase – by seeing others browsing in certain areas or checking out with certain products, the visitor is more likely to browse those areas or buy those particular products as well.

This phenomenon is simply very difficult to replicate online.  In fact, at first blush, the goal for any e-commerce website should be to make the visitor feel like she’s alone on the site – delayed load times can have extremely adverse effects on conversions!

That being said, some of today’s emerging tools aim to replicate the social shopping experience which happens in a “brick and mortar” store, while of course not compromising page speed.  For example, the Notify app (also for Shopify!) actually displays which products shoppers who are on the site are buying – in real time!

swell-notify-post Tools such as Notify create a sense of urgency, and help the shopper feel more like they’re in a busy storefront rather than alone on a website.

Because Notify and other tools help add a social component to an otherwise lonely shopping experience, their impact on conversion rates has been significant.

Tactic #3:  Start a Loyalty Program

When businesses consider implementing rewards programs, they often consider (as they rightly should!) the potential impact the program is likely to have on repeat purchase rates and average cart sizes.

However, rewards programs often get overlooked for their ability to help tilt the conversion rate battle in your favor.  This is best explained from a qualitative perspective; people are simply more likely to buy when they know they’re getting something in return. In other words, if a site visitor lands on your page for the first time and is considering making a purchase, he’s much more likely to make that purchase if he sees that he’s going to get something (points, in this case) in return.

What’s more, that same customer might initially be wary of paying full price for an item on a website that he’s unfamiliar with, but ultimately feel better knowing that the purchase is in effect allowing him to make progress towards an eventual discount.

To test this for your store, we would recommend giving a rewards program a try!  If you’re not sure where to find an effective one, we can point you in the right direction :)

Before implementing the program, make sure you first know your current conversion rate – you’ll need a benchmark against which to evaluate the effectiveness of your potential program.  Your e-commerce platform should be able to readily provide this data for you.  After that, study your conversion rate after you’ve had the program running for a month or two.  Has it changed?  Is it different between rewards program participants and those who aren’t earning points?  If so, that’s likely a good indication that the program is paying off!


Whether it’s improving upon some of the basics, or try new tools such as cleaner product options, social proof, or rewards programs to your site, it’s always important to think of conversion as an ongoing challenge.

With that in mind, we’d encourage you to experiment with a variety of tools and see which ones work for your site. Good luck experimenting!

Josh Enzer

Josh Enzer

Co-Founder and CEO at Swell


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