Hardly a day goes by when we don’t have multiple conversations with store owners about increasing their Shopify conversion rate. 

Conversion rates are one of the most important gauges of the health of an Ecommerce business, and they affect almost every aspect of designing, building, running and marketing an online store.

In the design and development process we focus heavily on creating a store which is engaging, easy to navigate and makes the transaction as straightforward and enjoyable as possible for the customer. After all, retail therapy loses some of its allure when it’s stressful trying to find and purchase the items that you want. We often win business from new clients who are so disappointed with their conversion rates that they’re prepared to spend thousands of pounds on the development of a brand new store, quite simply because they know how important conversion rates are and how difficult it can be to get this right.

Inevitably we’re also asked by a lot of clients to improve the conversion rates of their existing stores. There are numerous ways in which this can be achieved, and we’ll be exploring these in more detail in this article. Again, our clients understand that whilst it takes time, effort and money to diagnose and fix these kinds of problems, getting it right can dramatically increase your Shopify conversion rates. This will always lead to big improvements in your bottom line, which ultimately is what Ecommerce is all about.

We’ve already written several articles which aim to give store owners actionable ways to increase their sales and improve their conversion rates. These include posts with more general guidance and ideas such as 14 Easy Ways to Sell More Products Online and How to Get More Customers to Trust Your Store. You might like to bookmark those posts to read later.

In this article we’ll be working through a case study from a site that we worked on about 18 months ago. We’ve carefully chosen this particular example because it’s the kind of situation that we encounter regularly amongst smaller ecommerce stores – and because so often this kind of case study focusses on the huge stores which already have big revenues. We hope that this will be encouraging and helpful to every Shopify store owner, even if you’re only just getting started or your store is still at the smaller end of the spectrum.

Shopify Conversion Rate Case Study

We were approached by the owner of a small fashion store who felt that their growth had plateaued. In fact, the client was concerned that their conversion rate had started to fall. They had been working hard on their business for a few years but were struggling to get their sales above £1,000/month.

They wanted us to help them achieve two goals:

  1. Build a new Shopify store using their existing branding; and
  2. Analyse and improve their Shopify conversion rate.

We put together a very simple, straightforward report compiling our findings. We looked at the data, but we also took a step back and considered the nature of the business behind the Shopify store. There is nothing inherently complex in our report – in fact, it’s all incredibly simple – but in our experience store owners often benefit from external input which identifies things that they cannot see themselves.

We’ve set out our findings below. Note that this report was undertaken just after we’d built a new store for the client in mid-2015.

Observation #1: Sales Had Fallen

The client sold a lot of seasonal products. They were very concerned about large windows where they weren’t getting any sales, particularly in the autumn, but we quickly identified that this was a recurring year-on-year trend.

autumn 2015 shopify sales data

Autumn 2015 Sales

autumn 2014 shopify sales data

Autumn 2014 Sales

autumn 2013 shopify sales data

Autumn 2013 Sales

autumn 2012 shopify sales data

Autumn 2012 Sales

We pulled a simple sales chart showing September-November sales for 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012. You will see that the business was incredibly consistent over this three year period – but it wasn’t growing. The client was frustrated – and blamed the lack of progress on their conversion rate.

However, by digging deeper it soon became apparent that their Shopify conversion rate wasn’t really the problem. The table below shows sales, conversion rate and visitors for each of the 4 quarters shown above. The results are quite remarkable.

year on year shopify store results

Looking first at the Total Sales Value, there are obviously a huge number of unknown factors: promotions, marketing campaigns, social media engagement, magazine articles etc which contribute to differing sales figures. Speaking to the client it became apparent that there were some very significant magazine articles and PR opportunities at the start of the business that helped to generate some healthy early traffic.

However, the story the numbers tell is of a 3 year consecutive fall averaging £700 fewer sales per year-on-year quarter for the period of 2012 to 2014, while the old site was active. The introduction of the new site in 2015 had slowed this fall, but the overall trend is both obvious and disheartening.

Observation #2: The Conversion Rate Was Healthy

Sites with hundreds of thousands of visitors enjoy an extremely large sample size. This means that extraordinarily complex and unpredictable behaviours (like whether customers make it all the way to checkout) are averaged out to a reliable figure.

At the sales volume our client was generating, however, having just 7 ‘undecided’ customers elect to check out instead of not would produce a swing of c.0.4%. In this context it’s remarkable that the client had only seen a variance of 1% between the figures over this 3 year window.

What constitutes a ‘good’ Shopify conversion rate will depend on many factors – primarily the sector that the store operates in. Generally speaking, however, a conversion rate in the region of 3-4% is not inherently unhealthy.

Crucially, however, the conversion rate hadn’t fallen. Remember that the store owner was primarily blaming their stagnant growth on the conversion rate of the store. In fact, they had commissioned us to redevelop the store because they wanted to increase their conversion rate.

The problem here wasn’t actually their conversion rate: it was their traffic.

Observation #3: Traffic Was Plummeting

When the store launched in 2012 they generated traffic of 3,000 during the September-November window. Clearly a big store with a marketing budget wouldn’t be too impressed with these figures, but for a small, fledgling store launch traffic of 1,000 hits/month is pretty healthy.

The problem is that this was as good as it got.

The client was concerned that they had been hit with falling Google rankings. However, looking at Analytics and keyword rankings this was clearly not the case. The painful reality was that the store had been well marketed on launch, but not subsequently. If you’re going to rely on organic traffic to grow an online store – which can be an excellent tactic – you have to be very active, not passive. Unfortunately the client had assumed growth rather than created it.

It was also unfair to blame traffic on the site. You will notice that the development on the new site in mid-2015 had arrested the fall in traffic, but the reality is that the client’s expectations of significant year-on-year traffic growth – without putting a strategy into action – was unrealistic.

Conclusion: More Than a Conversion Rate Issue

Our report set out a list of about 20 practical steps that the store owner needed to take to address the issues they were experiencing. We’ve set out some of the ways in which they could address their conversion rate in the list below.

The truth, however, was that the client had a much bigger problem. Even if we had helped them increase their conversion rate dramatically (which we did) they were still not generating enough traffic to generate the sales volumes that they wanted/needed.

There was also the fundamental problem that they were trying to sell seasonal products out of season. A key part of our findings was that the client had a business problem, not a conversion rate problem. Unfortunately this is something we have seen countless times, particularly in the early days of establishing our design agency.

“The problem with so many store owners is that they are worrying so much about conversion rates before they’ve actually managed to build a business. Until you reach a certain level it’s very difficult to establish – based on data- exactly what’s going on.” – Dan McIvor, SwankyApple (Shopify Plus Experts)

If you speak to any Shopify Expert, they will tell you that running an online store is not a one-dimensional process. In fact, our role tends to be part Web Designer/Developer, part Marketer and the rest is a curious blend of Business/Change Management Consultant. This is part of the privilege of working with businesses in the way that we do, but can also be a source of some concern. Sometimes the solution to what looks like a website problem is actually an underlying business issue.

In the case of our client, there were some very significant issues that they needed to address. They needed to appreciate the seasonal nature of their store. Yes, it was important to address out-of-season sales plateaus, but the client needed put all their efforts into finding a sweet spot that would enable them to maximise their sales in their primary window. They also needed to appreciate that a conversion rate is only one piece of the jigsaw – we need to pull in a much broader range of data to understand what’s happening to a store. Here, it was clear that marketing had to be a priority.

8 Months Later: Where are they now?

store conversion rates and visits for september 2016

September 2016

After our consultation, analysis and reporting for this client they’ve had a chance to form and execute a strong strategic response which deals with the actual issues they were facing.

So where are they now? We’re pleased to say that the sad situation described above, which at first seemed mystifying and desperate -conversion rates seemed to be falling even after launching a beautiful new Shopify store- has been turned around and the business is back into healthy, accelerating, growth. By identifying the true cause of the businesses decline, the store owner has been able to refocus their efforts and investment in areas which truly impact the bottom line.

  • The fall in organic search visits has been arrested and reversed by investing in a very modest search optimisation campaign.
  • Sales for the period are on target to grow for the first time in 4 years (by ~15%). Strongly reversing the ~20% year on year decline.
  • And yes, the conversion rate is currently sitting at a very healthy 4.15%.

12 Ways to Increase Your Shopify Conversion Rate 

Here are 12 steps that store owners can take to identify and resolve issues with their conversion rate. As the study above has indicated, conversion rates aren’t always the problem – and if you’re still getting low volumes of traffic then you should probably address this first.

1. Get the Data You Need

Fortunately you don’t need PhD in Maths to work out how well your Shopify store is converting. Google Analytics and the Shopify Dashboard will do that for you.

It’s important to gather as much data as possible. Obviously this won’t be easy if you’ve just launched your store, but ideally you want to be looking at months or even years worth of data. If your business is seasonal, for example, then you might expect your conversion rate to fluctuate throughout the year – which should’t necessarily be a cause for concern.

Don’t just concentrate on your conversion rate. Consider your traffic (and where it’s come from) and sales too and think about the overall picture that the data is painting.

It’s also vital to consider the conversion rates for different products/pages on your site. This will give you valuable information about what’s working and what you could do to improve less successful lines.

2. SEO – Change Your Strategy?

Sometimes we see stores which are generating good traffic but have a painfully low conversion rate. However, even in these situations the solution might not be trying to focus on conversion rate increases. The problem might be with the SEO strategy.

In a nutshell, if you are attracting the wrong traffic for your store then you won’t sell much. Running a keyword audit and trying to find out where your traffic is coming from will help you see if this is a problem. If you’re attracting traffic from another country – or to a couple of blog posts that aren’t really relevant to your products – then you’ll find it hard to increase your conversion rate because your visitors simply won’t be interested in buying.

3. Review your PPC and Paid Traffic Campaigns

If you’re paying for traffic then it has to convert. It’s as simple as that. Configuring your campaigns well should result in good conversion rates, but it doesn’t always happen.

In addition to running PPC campaigns it’s important to retarget visitors through Facebook, Google etc to try and encourage them back to your store.

4. Start Testing Different Options

If you’re running a larger store then it might worth running some Alpha/Beta tests. This involves presenting customers with different store layouts to see what is more effective. You will need a significant body of data to make informed decisions, but sometimes putting different products on your homepage or changing the configuration of your product pages can generate more sales.

It would be worth speaking to a Shopify expert who can help you with this facet of your marketing.

5. Start Collecting Emails to Drive Repeat Traffic

It’s generally easier to increase your conversion rate when you have an established body of customers and fans. Collecting email addresses and connecting your customers in to your social media profiles should help you to increase your conversions because we know from experience that historic customers are more likely to purchase again in the future.

6. Review Your On-Page Content – Is it Attractive?

In many ways conversion is all about attraction. If you’ve created something desirable and presented it well, visitors are more likely to purchase your products. At the very least you should consider the following

  • Product Descriptions – are they clear, informative and helpful?
  • Photography – is it compelling, persuasive and appropriate for your target audience?
  • Navigation – is your site easy to use? Can buyers quickly hone in on the products that they want, or do they get lost in the ether of your menus/filters?
  • Calls to Action – are they clear? Is your typography consistent? Are your buttons the right colour and in the right place?

If you’ve not considered the above then there are some potential easy wins that will help you quickly increase your Shopify conversion rate.

7. Understand Sales Funnels

There is a good overview of the mechanics of this at point 3 here. The notion that it might take 7 meaningful interactions with customers before they will purchase from you is very provocative. Is your website going to make this possible?

8. Create More Content

In our case study above a core reason for stagnating sales was a lack of traffic, and a core reason for the lack of traffic was a lack of content.

Writing blogs and creating video and other resources will help you in various ways. Done well, it will increase the volume of organic search traffic visiting your site. It will keep visitors on your site and inform/educate/entertain them. This is also part of the sales funnel process mentioned above.

9. Look at Your Checkout Process

Losing customers at the checkout process is perhaps the most painful part of a mediocre conversion rate. If they leave because you’re making it too difficult to purchase then you should address this.

Are you using Shopify responsive checkout? Are your delivery options working for customers?

10. Add a Review Function

This is a great way to build trust with potential customers. Without it, it can be very hard to persuade people to buy from you.

How should you go about this? Ideally you should start by encouraging previous customers to complete a review. You can do this by offering vouchers, competition prizes or future discounts as an incentive.

“There’s no doubt that consumer reviews are extremely influential in helping people make purchase decisions. In fact, according to a study by Zendesk, 88 percent of respondents said their buying decisions were influenced by positive and negative reviews.” http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/242388

11. Assess Your Products – Drop Those That Aren’t Converting?

If you’ve got some products with a much lower conversion rate it’s worth seriously considering their value to your business. Are they inconsistent or badly priced? Do you need to rethink your product photography or descriptions? Maybe you need a separate site to sell these products.

12. Tell Better Stories About Your Business

Sometimes you simply need to share a more compelling vision of who you are. Working on your core content and ‘about us’ type pages, telling stories and sharing more of yourself is key to building trust with potential customers.

Always remember that in Ecommerce you are selling your story, not just your product. 

Can Apps Help You Improve Your Shopify Conversion Rate?

Yes! If you’ve implemented all of the processes above then it might be time to try and take your conversion rate optimisation to the next level.

Here are 4 Shopify Apps to help you improve your conversion rate:

Shopify have also put together a brilliant article – 13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails (And What You Can Learn From Them).

We hope that this has given you plenty of inspiration to go away and work on your Shopify conversion rate. Good luck! 

Written by EcommerceRVW
EcommerceRVW is a dedicated Ecommerce Blog bringing you regular ecommerce articles, reviews, case studies and guides. We're passionate about helping ambitious store owners take their business to the next level.