When it comes to creating a high converting ecommerce site, Canadian brands are doing a lot of great things. However, there are a number of issues they have yet to figure out and that's leaving them susceptible to losing customers to American sites. In fact, 67% of Canadian online shoppers purchased from a foreign e-retailer in 2015 and that number will only continue to grow. You see, the online market doesn’t see borders and if Canadian brands wish to compete online, they need to be better than their neighbours down south.

Below, I have listed some of the most common mistakes Canadian ecommerce sites are making today that are hurting their bottom line. If your site has a number of these issues, I highly recommend you start testing and making improvements before you are left behind.

Mistake #1: Not highlighting user product reviews

Many Canadian brands have yet to realise the power that peer reviews have on their sales. Many either don’t offer product reviews or place their reviews below the fold. The ones that do offer them don’t give them the importance and attention they deserve.

With upset users more likely to post reviews than satisfied customers, it’s no wonder executives prefer not to offer product reviews on their site. However, with users having so much information available at their fingertips, they are going to do their research before making a purchase anyways.

By not offering product reviews, websites are actually hurting their conversion. Many studies have shown that offering user reviews actually improves conversion. Looking at Amazon reviews, researchers have found that while negative reviews have a larger impact on conversion than positive reviews, what really matters to users is the number of reviews—regardless of what they are talking about. In fact, having too many positive reviews can actually hurt conversion as most shoppers are sceptical when it comes to overly positive information online (See a good example of this below).

Mistake #2: Poor Site Search function

Internal search is one of the best tools when it comes to converting users. However, the search feature on most Canadian sites is either poorly designed or buried in the corner somewhere.

When I work with a client, one of the first things I look to improve is both the functionality and placement of the internal search bar. It is known that on most sites, users that use the search feature are 6X more likely to convert than those who don’t. In fact, I recently had a client that was surprised to find out that while only about 10% of her traffic used the internal search, they actually accounted for 26.5% of total revenue on the site.

A great internal search feature will help users with intent to quickly find the item they wish to purchase before they are distracted or frustrated. Ensure that your Site Search feature follows these guidelines:

  • Easy to find and away from other elements and boxes
  • Make it a clear, input field instead of the search icon
  • Clearly labeled with pre-suggested copy examples that disappear once clicked
  • Make it accessible on all pages
  • Use auto complete

Mistake #3: Terrible navigation experience

Many sites not only have a poorly designed internal search feature, they have terrible site navigation. If your visitors aren’t able to locate a particular item quickly either through search or navigation, they will leave and convert somewhere else. This is why it is so important to keep testing and tinkering with your navigation to see what users are sensitive to.

A great way to understand the limitations of your navigation is to study heat map tools or watch videos of visitors on your site. People come up with the most creative ways to navigate websites and bypass a poorly designed navigation tool.

One of the most common issues on a navigation bar is the amount of listed items. Too many items distract and confuse users, making it harder for them to find the item they are looking for. Look to clean up and remove unnecessary items on the list.

Mistake #4: Over Complicated Checkout Process

Outside of shipping cost, one of the top reasons users abandon the shopping cart is an unnecessarily long checkout process. However, this issue hasn’t resonated with many large Canadian brands. Not only do many have many required fields, they also have a number of unrequired fields on the checkout page.

If you are going to ask users for any information, especially sensitive information such as a phone number, you need to clearly explain and sell them on the benefits of them sharing that information with you. The more fields you have, the more difficult this becomes.

Most sites can help increase conversion by improving the layout and reducing the number of fields they use during checkout. If reducing fields is not an option, making improvements to populate fields can also help improve conversion. For example, by simply asking for user's postal code first, you can now pre-populate a large number of the address fields.

Mistake #5: Have a hidden CTA

No matter how much it’s talked about, Canadian business still don’t value the power of the CTA. Some of the most common issues I have came across are:

  • It’s below the fold and hard to see.
  • The same colour scheme is used on the CTA and everywhere else on their site.
  • It’s hidden unless users hover over the product.

In spite of this, case study after case study has proven that a well-established CTA helps improve conversion and move users deeper down the funnel.

So, how do you make a strong CTA? Here are some tips:

  • Regardless of the colour you choose to use, ensure that it is not a colour that's being heavily used on the other parts of your site.
  • Make sure users know that they can engage with it.
  • Have clear copy that entices users.

Mistake #6: Not highlighting key benefits to customers

Offering free shipping and free returns is great, but the way you deliver the message and when you deliver it makes all the difference. Most Canadian sites will simply place a banner at the top of their site promoting free shipping on orders over a certain amount. While this is better than nothing, it is not as impactful as reminding users of free shipping when they are further down their conversion funnel.

Even worse, while many offer free returns on orders, users would only find that out if they spoke to a customer services rep. More and more Canadians are getting comfortable making purchases online, but one of the biggest causes of anxiety for them is the return process. Will they be stuck with a product? Or will they maybe have to pay to return it? If you have made the choice to offer your customers free shipping and returns, then you should promote it clearly on eligible product pages.

Mistake #7: Designed for aesthetic instead of conversion

Ecommerce sites love nothing more than building pretty sites. Sites that use carousel banners, play a background video or simply distract users one way or another. While internal creative teams enjoy focusing focus on aesthetics, they almost always forget about its impact on conversion.

Carousel banners have shown time and time again to hurt conversion and most CRO strategists will tell you to stay away from them. That's because they do the exact opposite of why marketing teams use them, and that's to convey a clear message to their visitors.

While background videos are diminishing on most sites, you can still find a number of large Canadian brands using them the second you land on their website. In addition to being distracting, these videos slow down the page load time. This is a very serious problem, because the longer it takes your page to load, the higher the bounce rate and lower the conversion rate.

Mistake #8:  Poor messaging on Homepage and key landing pages

Have you ever visited a website and been confused about the message the site is trying to convey to you? Of course, it happens to most of us a few times a week. That's because so many sites try to be clever and original with their messaging instead of being direct and clear.

Clarity is one of the pillars of conversion optimisation. Visitors decide to stay or bounce from a website in seconds if it isn’t clear to them what the site sells. A well-written value proposition quickly explains to your users what they need to know and why they should continue using the website.

Homepage banners should not be used to highlight sales and promotions that are being run by the marketing teams. Unless, however, you’re certain that your primary audience is mostly made up of returning visitors.

Look at the two examples below. The first example is from Glassdoor.com. Within seconds of landing on their site, I knew the service they provided. Now look at Aircanada.com. They are promoting a sale. A sale of what? North America?

Hopefully this post has got you thinking about all the ways you can better design your client’s ecommerce website, keeping conversion front of mind. There are so many more ways to remove roadblocks and increase user motivation. If you already don’t have someone, look to adding a CRO strategist on your team. They can review your site with a critical eye and make recommendations that will help more of your SEO traffic convert.

It's now up to you and your team to see if your website offers the following to your visitors:

  • Highlights a product review
  • Offers a strong internal search bar
  • Provides a great navigation experience
  • Has a sleek checkout process
  • Contains clear and visible CTAs
  • Highlights your free shipping and returns on product pages
  • Is clear of distractions, such as looping videos and carousel banners
  • Has a clear message on your homepage and landing pages

If you are looking at your website, seeing a number of these issues and don’t know where to start, get in touch

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