Demystifying Shopify Conversion Rate Optimization

Unlocking Shopify conversions: See how personalizing search results, A/B testing, a great UX, trusted reviews, and optimizing call-to-actions leads to growth.

Introduction

Shopify conversion rate optimization is top of mind as merchants aim to convince shoppers that their website is the best place to make a purchase. With average ecommerce conversion rates hovering between 2.5% and 3%, even small improvements can have a big impact. There are now over 4 million Shopify stores, so there’s sure to be competition, meaning merchants must do everything in their power to stand out from the crowd. By focusing on conversion rates, whether that be a successful purchase or adding products to a wishlist, merchants can take a data-driven approach to improve each aspect of online shopping experiences.

Most of the concepts and practices in this article require at least 20,000 monthly visitors to successfully test and measure results. If your ecommerce website doesn’t have enough user traffic for data-driven testing yet, you can still begin with qualitative research. Contrary to popular belief, this can actually be a major advantage. As a small store, you likely have a manageable customer base and can talk directly to your users one-on-one, which is something bigger brands can’t offer.

Effective conversion rate optimization efforts create the differences between good Shopify stores and great Shopify stores. Before your first optimization project, calculate your baseline conversion rate. This is likely available in your go-to analytics tool such as Google Analytics, but it’s really just a simple percentage: Conversion Rate = ( # of Conversions / # of Visitors ) * 100

As an example, if you made 100 sales from 7,500 site visitors, your conversion rate would be 1.3%. From there, you can pick a reasonable goal, such as increasing it to 1.5%. These numbers may look small, but this would be a 15% increase and lead to a dozen more orders! Once you have a baseline conversion rate, you can ensure your efforts are making a meaningful input on your business goals.

Summary of Key Concepts

This article will discuss the following conversion rate optimization concepts, specifically focusing on users who have already landed on your website, and provide recommendations for each:

Concept

Description

A/B Testing

The first step of effective conversion rate optimization projects is ensuring that you have robust testing mechanisms in place to measure your progress.

User Experience (UX)

User experience encompasses almost everything on your website, and continuing to improve upon each design choice keeps your online presence reputable over time.

Product Discovery

Product discovery is a wide term that represents product findability, usually in regards to search and recommendations presented on an online storefront.

Trusted Reviews

With an abundance of similar items that customers can choose from, one of the best buying signals to increase conversions are trusted reviews from other shoppers.

Optimizing Call-to-Actions (CTAs)

Testing calls-to-action on search, collection, and product pages, such as “Add to Cart” or “Buy it Now” should be tested to determine which performs best for your brand.

A/B Testing

This is the first concept covered in this article because it is the most important. While it is commonly said that A/B testing is critical, few go deep into the nuts and bolts of running a great Shopify A/B test. At a high level, your A/B tests for conversion rate optimization should focus on changing single elements of your website, then measuring the conversion rates of a control group (users who don’t see the change) and an experiment group (users who do see the change). To get started:

  • Pick One Platform: Select a single platform that contains 80% of the features you need, then spend time learning how to use each feature. Don’t fall into the trap of combining testing tools or else you’ll quickly find out how difficult it is to correctly attribute revenue. It’s common that tests end up competing or measuring data differently. For Shopify, we recommend Shoplift.ai for general testing needs.

  • Create Identical Site Behavior: You should only be testing one change at a time -  everything else should be identical across the test groups. This includes site speed, display formats, image sizing, fonts, or anything else you may be tempted to change before running a test. As a rule of thumb, a user should have no way of determining whether or not they are in an experiment group when they land on your website. 

  • Keep Users Segmented: Use testing tools that do their best to ensure that a user doesn’t cross between the control and experiment groups. If a user leaves your website, then returns, you should do everything possible to make sure they remain in the same group.

  • Collect a Large Sample: Each test should complete at least 100 conversions of each variation. Depending on the amount of site traffic you receive, this could take several weeks. Being patient and collecting adequate data eliminates false positives, creates statistical significance, and ensures that your test results are accurate. This typically requires at least 5,000 visitors per week.

Once you’re confident implementing the guidance above, you’re ready to begin A/B testing. Once again, it’s important to set realistic timelines and goals for data-driven conversion rate optimization. If each change on your website takes three weeks to measure success, it may take a full year to make 20 significant changes to your website. If you would like to test faster, focus on getting more traffic to your site first, such as paid ads. Unfortunately there’s no shortcut to accurate results, but the benefits are worth the time.

User Experience (UX)

Similar to A/B testing, most merchants are familiar with the concept of creating great user experiences. User experience design encompasses almost everything on your website, from font selection to checkout flows, but initial websites are usually designed by trend chasing, intuition, and best practices at a single point in time. When first drafts become final, there is a risk that your website will become stagnant after seeing initial success. Instead of settling for the status quo, targeting user experience improvements can continue to drive additional conversions out of each page.

A positive user experience is highly correlated with higher conversion rates, and even if you have a solid position or unique value proposition, your competitors may still take your hard-earned business by simply offering easier buying journeys. Ranked from most to least important, Nimstrata has defined these components as the most crucial to optimize:

  • Site Navigation: Clear and intuitive navigation helps users find what they're looking for quickly. It reduces frustration and encourages exploration, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.

  • Checkout Flow: A streamlined and user-friendly checkout process is essential for reducing cart abandonment. A smooth flow with minimal steps and clear instructions can increase conversion rates. Consider adding Shop Pay to your checkout to add efficiency. 

  • Home Page: This is often the first impression for a new user on your website. A well-designed homepage should be visually appealing, highlight your key products or value proposition, and guide users to go deeper into the site.

  • Usability and Accessibility: Ensuring that your Shopify store is accessible to users of all abilities is crucial. This involves designing for screen readers, keyboard navigation, and color contrasts for readability.

  • Product Photography: High-quality, clear, and consistent product images are vital for any ecommerce brand, especially in a crowded market. They provide users with a tangible sense of the product, increasing their confidence in what they are buying.

Above all else, be consistent. Consistency builds trust, and users value trust when shopping online above all else.

If you’re looking for immediate improvements, one of the best ways to increase conversions is to ensure that your store is fast. To do this, don’t overload your store with too many apps. Apps are not often designed to focus on performance and some don’t work well together. If you have conflicting apps or introduce slowness on your site because of an app, find a different solution. The negative effects of a single poor app can be highly detrimental to conversion rates and can reduce the value of all of your other user experience efforts.

User Experience (UX) A/B Test Ideas:

  • Compare navigation styles, including experimenting with images

  • Compare product image sizes and/or borders on product listing pages

  • Compare price formatting, such as decimals, rounding, and currency symbols

Product Discovery

Your users should be able to effectively find the products they are looking for when navigating your website. One of the most important factors to ensure product findability is having an excellent search and recommendations app powering your product merchandising.

With enough data, your product discovery should be able to personalize results for each user. Personalization factors may come from a variety of contextual inputs. Google’s search algorithms primarily leverage user context and user intent to suggest the best results:

  • User Context: Contextual factors include physical location, time of day, browsing device, search history, and demographics.

  • User Intent: Transactional queries, synonymous terms, keyword attributes.

This same technology that powers your search solution should be placed on collection pages, sometimes also referred to as product listing or category pages. This ensures that customers who switch between each page type are presented with products powered by the same underlying recommendation engine. Once again, consistency and trust builds conversions.

Recommendation types should be tested to determine which works best for your brand. Types of recommendations include “Recommended for You,” “Others You May Like,” “Similar Items,” “Frequently Bought Together,” and more. The placement of each recommendation should also be tested, such as showing “Recommended for You” items on the home page or on collection pages.

Product Discovery A/B Test Ideas:

  • Displaying AI-powered recommendations vs. manually curated product bundled

  • Showing personalized search results to each user vs. the same results for all visitors 

Trusted Reviews

Product reviews heavily influence consumer behavior and decision-making. We're human after all, and we like to validate our decisions by seeing what others have done. Genuine and trustworthy reviews not only help you build credibility as a brand, but also encourage other users to convert. They help users understand real-world use cases of a product more than a product description alone, especially if attributes include size, fit, durability, or performance. If you reply to reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, it helps customers see that you value their opinions and aim to foster a sense of community on your storefront. We recommend using Reviews.io on Shopify stores for this purpose.

The best Shopify search and discovery product discovery apps also take advantage of the product’s rating when returning search and recommendations to end users based on their likelihood to buy. Top-ranked, highly-reviewed products should be returned first on search and collection pages, as they’re most likely to keep selling well.

If you don’t have a lot of product reviews, consider grouping together similar products to increase review volume. For example, a saucepan that comes in three different sizes but is otherwise the same, could share reviews across all three product pages. Be careful not to overdo it by reaching for items across categories (or worse, your entire store) or it will be clear that the reviews are repeated and you will quickly lose trust. Similarly, Google’s SEO robots will see duplicated content on each product page and may rank them lower in search results. 

Reviews A/B Test Ideas:

Because reviews are user-generated content, it can be difficult to follow the critical A/B test principle of only testing a single thing at a time. Don’t worry, you can still control and test:

  • Size and placement of reviews on product pages

  • Displaying stars vs. numbers for rating values

  • Comparing user feedback, such as “Helpful” or “Unhelpful” on reviews vs. hiding feedback

  • Including user-generated photos in reviews vs. showing text only

Optimizing Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Calls-to-Action, or CTAs, encompass every button or interface that prompts a user action. The most straightforward example for a Shopify store is an “Add to Cart” button, but they may also include email signup links, live chat buttons, or shipping calculators. Optimizing CTAs includes testing different designs, placements on pages, and the language used to describe the action.

Like everything else in this article, effective CTAs lead to improved conversion rates. The best calls-to-action create a sense of trust and urgency without overwhelming the user, such as showing remaining inventory or a final sale countdown. These are the most important elements to focus on when designing a call-to-action:

  • Clarity: The message should be crystal clear. Use concise and action-oriented language that tells the visitor exactly what will happen when they click the button.

  • Visibility: Make sure the CTA stands out visually. Contrasting colors, bold fonts, or distinctive shapes can draw attention to the button.

  • Placement: Position the CTA where it’s easily noticeable and logical. Typically, it’s placed prominently on the page, often near relevant information or product descriptions.

  • Relevance: Tailor the CTA to match the visitor's stage in the buying journey. For example, someone browsing may respond better to "Learn More," while someone ready to buy might prefer "Add to Cart" or "Buy Now."

  • Consistency: Keep the CTA language consistent with the overall tone and message of your website. If your site is casual and friendly, maintain that tone in your CTAs.

Another less well known call-to-action button is “Compare.” This allows users to select items and see features side-by-side, but it is often neglected in favor of a revenue-generating button. Don’t miss the opportunity to create a top-tier product comparison experience. While it may be an extra click between a product and cart page, effective comparison shopping helps solidify a user’s decision and can raise downstream conversion rates.

Call-to-Action A/B Test Ideas:

  • “Add to Cart” vs. “Add to Basket” messaging

  • Showing paid shipping options earlier vs. later in a checkout flow

  • Prompting an email signup upon landing vs. after browsing several pages

  • Lightly animating CTAs vs. static CTAs

Conclusion

Conversion rate optimization is not a one-and-done process, but should instead be part of your ongoing ecommerce goals over time. A common trend in this article was the importance of consistency. Whether you’re designing a consistent buying experience, writing consistent product descriptions or taking consistent product photos, users prefer familiarity. When running A/B tests, consistency also helps ensure your results are data-driven and accurate.

Remember to begin each conversion rate optimization project with a baseline conversion rate so you can measure improvement, then set small goals that can generate outsized results. Follow best practices around A/B testing, particularly by only testing one change at a time. Once your test is ready, make sure you collect enough data, about 100 conversions per test group, to make a well-informed decision on which version to use moving forward. Apply your A/B testing strategies across different user experience elements, such as calls-to-action or apps that improve user reviews or product discovery.

If you’re looking to implement AI-powered merchandising that automatically optimizes your search results, collection pages, and product recommendations, consider Google Cloud Vertex AI for Search for Retail, formerly Discovery AI. This platform offers a best-in-class solution to drive data-driven results that increase conversions from search and discovery. Nimstrata Search and Discovery is a Shopify app that connects your store directly to Google Cloud so you can onboard quickly, and our team would be happy to help you begin.

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