Whether it's the shift to mobile or the ever-present influence of social media, it’s no secret that the way we shop online is forever evolving, and if your business is to survive, then it’s essential that you evolve right along with it.
Nowhere is this more important than adapting to current best practices for eCommerce homepages, letting go of what you thought you knew about eCommerce design and adapting your content to deliver a better experience for modern customers.
Not sure where to start with that? We’ve got you covered.
Below, we look at the best practices you need to know about to boost your conversions and keep your online store relevant and successful in 2020 and beyond.
1. Creating Effective Value Propositions
If you only invest effort in one part of your homepage, your value proposition should be it.
A value proposition is a simple statement that outlines exactly what value or benefit you provide to your customers, who those customers are, and how you do it well. Your proposition should make it clear in just one or two sentences why you do what you do better than your competition.
It should be the very first thing your audience sees so that within just a few seconds of landing on your homepage they know exactly how they’ll benefit from spending money with you.
This doesn’t just help your customers. It also helps you to stop wasting time and precious homepage real estate on trying to convert the wrong customers with the wrong message.
Instead, it allows you to demonstrate right from the word go that you understand the problem they have, and why you're the best option for overcoming that problem.
Check out our guide on how to optimize your value proposition
Value Proposition Testing Works
In 2019, Visitor management firm Envoy found that optimizing the location and clarity of their value propositions resulted in a 16.53% increase in conversions.
Meanwhile, online learning platform Smart Insights found that the lack of specific value proposition was producing a poor engagement rate. The brand revamped their landing pages with clear propositions as part of a wider Conversion Rate Optimization strategy which also included writing new on-page copy.
The result? Higher conversions and a 27% increase in revenue.
2: Saying Goodbye to Sliders and Rotating Banners
Homepage sliders, rotating banners and image carousels may look cool at first, but most Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) Specialists have a name for them, and it isn’t exactly flattering.
They call them conversion killers because of the overwhelmingly negative impact they have on conversion rates.
Don’t just take our word for it. It only takes five minutes of research to discover the truth:
The majority of experts will advise you to avoid sliders and banners at all costs.
Peep Laja of ConversionXL points out that too many messages equals no message and Chris Goward of Wider Funnel goes as far as to call rotating offers 'the scourge of home page design.’ Elsewhere, both Fahad Muhammad of Instapage and The Good's Jon MacDonald agree that image carousels are ineffective at converting visitors into buyers.
Scores of tests have been done on the effectiveness of rotating banners and the results are rarely -if ever- positive. If you only take one thing away from this then, it’s that testing the removal of your banner should be top priority.
3: Including a Clear Call to Action
Your homepage should focus on convincing your visitor to take one single action.
Think about it:
If you're simultaneously trying to push a brand new product, promote a discount offer and get users to sign-up, that can lead to a serious case of Overchoice - the psychological process in which buyers presented with too many options will have a tough time making a decision.
Often, they'll be so overwhelmed by the choice overload that they won't take any action at all.
So test out focussing purely on the single most important thing you want your visitors to do.
If you have one key product or the most popular category, drive visitors to that.
If you're selling a premium product, consider an email address capture or free-trial sign-up as your primary goal, as high ticket items usually require more lead nurturing.
Make it Personal to Make it Count
In early 2020, Hubspot's Jeffrey Vocell looked at over 330,000 CTAs and determined that 'Smart CTAs' that were personalized to the individual visitor performed 202% better than those that were the same for every single visitor.
An example of a Smart CTA is one that changes, based for example, on a visitor's location, whether or not they're already a customer, as well as several other factors. Vocell goes on to say that Hubspot themselves use Smart CTAs, typically basing theirs on visitor’s previous interactions with their brand.
Use Buttons to Increase Conversions
In another interesting note, Vocell also discovered that button-based CTAs produced more conversions than other types, which is no doubt why almost all of the brand's own CTAs are in button form.
They make it immediately obvious where they want you to click and what the benefit of doing so will be.
Notice the language, too? Using the word ‘free’ reduces any purchase anxiety as the user knows they won’t have to make any kind of financial commitment when they click to the next page.
Personally, I’d test changing the color pallete of that part of their homepage to something that isn’t green on green, but otherwise, this is a great example to follow.
4: Keep it Simple
It isn’t just your Call to Action that should be kept simple. Every aspect of your homepage should be designed to make the decision-making process as simple as possible for your visitors.
In some cases, that means simply reducing the number of navigation options, or it could mean completely redesigning the sign-up experience, as EA Sports did. The brand found that they had great success in driving visitors to a website for a new online game, but didn't do so well at converting those visitors into paying game-players.
EA realized that the problem lay in their sign-up funnel, which was more complex than it needed to be and left some users feeling confused.
By streamlining and simplifying the registration process, the company achieved a 12.8% increase in sign-ups.
5: Focus on Mobile-First Design
That your website should be optimized for mobile shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who regularly uses the web. For years, designers and UX experts have been espousing the virtues of mobile design, but there has been a shift.
Once upon a time, it was enough to create standard websites and ensure they were responsive and adaptive to mobile. Now, with 62% of smartphone owners using their devices to make purchases, eCommerce owners are being encouraged to focus on mobile-first design.
"You can’t be “Best-in-Class” if you have major discrepancies between your desktop and mobile site," says Michael Kuehn.
Kuehn points out that since Google uses mobile as its top priority when ranking your website, the mobile experience matters more than ever.
With that in mind, he praises Zappos.com for their excellent mobile navigation and Thirdlove.com for taking previously desktop-only features and moving them to mobile, recommending that more eCommerce brands should be following suit.
6: Speed Matters
The longer your website takes to load, the more likely your visitors are to leave.
Every second counts, with 47% of web users saying they expect a page to load in two seconds or less and 40% abandoning a site altogether if it takes more than three seconds to load.
Naturally, the more visitors that leave your website, the bigger hit you take to your revenues.
With that in mind, optimizing your website’s performance is critical.
This can include:
- Browser caching
- Content delivery network
- CSS compression
- HTML compression
- Image compression
- Server response time.
Useful tools to measure page loading:
If you're going to optimize your website's speed, you first need to understand how well it's currently performing and which areas need the most improvement.
To do that, you can use a tool site like Pingdom to run a site speed test and get up-to-date optimization scores on your whole site.
Pingdom's dynamic nature makes it our preferred choice for websites that are frequently updated as it consistently monitors performance and points out which changes are having a negative impact.
If you've been tweaking and fine-tuning your homepage after following our advice, Pingdom may be the best tool to use to see how those tweaks impact your performance.
Google PageSpeed Insights looks at page speed from an SEO perspective and gives you a separate score for both mobile and desktop.
We like that it tells you what you're doing right and details exactly what you need to improve, though we do tend to find that the technical language used is tailored towards seasoned developers and can be off-putting to newcomers.
If it's been a while since you last thought about optimizing your eCommerce homepage, some of the best practices may come as a bit of surprise.
For example, there was once a time when rotating banners and homepage sliders were the hottest trends in web design, with just about every website in existence jumping on that particular bandwagon. So there's a good chance that you added one to your site too, confident that if that was what everyone was doing, there must be a reason for it.
Yet that was before we really knew what kind of impact those banners had. Now, we know that they're probably doing our sites more harm than good.
As such, if you're still taking up prime homepage real estate with a rotating banner, now might be the time to at least experiment with ditching it altogether and focussing your attention on what we now know really works:
Demonstrating your value, keeping things simple, and ensuring your site loads fast enough to deliver the kind of quality experience your customers deserve and expect.
Need more help to optimize your eCommerce homepage? Check out our Ecommerce tools box, to see what other successful founders are using to help build and grow their businesses.