Is Your E-Commerce Site Up to Snuff?
In my column last week, I discussed how catalog/multichannel merchants can reduce their dependency on the USPS in the face of ever rising postal rates and the threat of a five-day delivery week. One of my suggestions was to improve your e-commerce site.
I'm currently the president of a company that builds new e-commerce selling systems for catalog companies. One of the things we do with new or prospective clients is review their current sites and assess where there are opportunities to increase sales.
I'm always amazed at how lacking many of the sites are, and wanted to share some statistics to consider as you ponder the effectiveness of your own site.
Over a period of six months, we reviewed 56 e-commerce sites for catalog companies. Sites were scored in eight best practice areas: “indexability,” homepage best practices, organic ranking, title and meta description tags, internal site search, linking, site stickiness, and cart functionality. Here's what we learned:
- Overall, site search is poor. Only two of the 56 sites reviewed provided suggested search terms as users typed keywords into the search box. Sixty-eight percent did a poor or very poor job of addressing common synonyms, misspellings and plural/singular variations. Only 28 percent had strong zero-results pages (the page returned when no results are found).
- The online shopping cart was another area that lagged behind best practices. Forty-one percent of the sites didn't have a perpetual shopping cart and emptied their shoppers’ carts as soon as they left the site. Just 36 percent offered a guest checkout option, while 64 percent required shoppers to create an account before checking out. Checkout options were limited to credit card-only on 70 percent of the reviewed sites.
- Strong search engine optimization (SEO) was lacking on many sites. Twenty-seven percent had poor or nonexistent title tags, 70 percent had poor or nonexistent meta description tags, and 39 percent either didn't use or poorly used alt attributes. Less than 45 percent of the sites had strongly optimized keywords in their top or left navigation.
- Seventy-three percent of the sites didn't offer customer product reviews or ratings. With all the recent studies emphasizing the importance of customer reviews to increasing conversions, we were surprised at how few sites offered them.
- Nearly all of the sites reviewed placed an illogical emphasis on what the site looked like and not on how it functioned. The reality is that sites today must drive SEO (acquisition), excel on user experience (conversion) and be the reason shoppers return (retention). Site mediocrity these days can be deadly.
Based on our knowledge and experience moving similar companies to more productive e-commerce systems, of the 56 sites we reviewed over the six-month period, we estimated that the average site could increase its online sales by at least 45 percent and online customer acquisition by at least 30 percent. No small prize.