Ultimate Guide to Scalable eCommerce – PART 4


This really showed us how important individual product pages actually are. They have become the new landing pages of your website and work much harder than they used to. This means your product pages, if developed properly, have much more power than previously.

Category pages may not be as important when it comes to Google Shopping clicks, but they should not be ignored either. On average, we found that category pages should not be bouncing more than 55 per cent. With these pages, there are several different methods that can be used to quickly pull a customer in and help him or her click on a product. Ease of navigation is another big booster for the add-to-basket rate.

Some methods include:

Placing bestsellers at the top.

Using the Image Attribute System.

Spontaneous offers at the top.

User reviews.


Have you heard of the psychological effect of anchoring? This bias affects us all.

Inside our heads, we think we are rational human beings making sane judgements based on sensible thinking.

However, we are swayed by everything we see and hear, especially the most recent.

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman ran an experiment with his partner Amos where they had a Wheel of Fortune pre-set to only stop at 10 and 65. After spinning the wheel people were asked, ‘What is your best guess of the percentage of African nations in the UN?’

Those people who saw 10 and 65 had average estimates of 25 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.

Other experiments have gone on to show that even when we know we are being shown a high anchor, we still are affected by it. This is why:

Those market stall pitches start with a high number. ‘I would normally charge you £560 for this set of plastic vegetable chopping gizmos, but I am not going to even charge you £250; instead . . .’

Stores mark up to mark down. So they can show a was high anchoring price.

Jewellery is expensive—even though diamonds are practically worthless second hand, a high retail price triggers the ‘expensive is good.’

The last experience of someone’s holiday has a huge impact on the review they give. So savvy hoteliers make the checkout and last night an amazing experience.

Even though we know this is going on, we are not immune.

So we e-commerce owners must be careful what we show the visitor before they reach the website. Therefore, bidding on brand on Google AdWords is important—as we can control the message they see before they visit the site. The organic listing often lacks punch and anchoring.

The first image they see on landing is also critical to their subsequent experience. That image will anchor their whole experience on the site. Split testing landing page images is one of the most rewarding activities you can do.

The first review they see on a Google Search for ‘Brand Name Review’ will anchor the following reviews.

The products on the top line of the category will anchor the experience of the other products. Try putting one expensive product in the top line of each category to see what happens to your average order value.

If you do offer coupons, try making the before price bigger and the after price smaller in font sizes. How does this affect conversion?


You may be aware of the famous experiment by Daniel Simons where he asks people to watch a video and count how many times a ball is thrown.

After watching the video, people are asked if they ‘saw the gorilla.’

In the video, a person in a gorilla suits walks onto the screen and beats their chest and then exits. It’s obvious, but 50 per cent of people taking the experiment missed it. Daniel Simons calls this attentional blindness.

This blindness comes from the way our eyes are built and minds wired. The high-resolution parts of the eye are small and use a lot of energy to use, thus we can only focus on a small amount of an image at any one time. We believe we are seeing the whole picture as the subconscious fills in the rest of the image with what ‘it expects to be there.’

This is so powerful that, in conversion rate optimization, perceived ease of use is pretty much aligned with actual ease of use.

That’s quite a powerful statement, if you think about it.

It means that if your website looks easy to use, then people will find it easy to use. But if it looks hard to use, then people will find it hard to use, even if it isn’t. People focus on what they believe is the truth and look for corroboration that aligns with that. It’s too hard for the brain to constantly change its opinion, especially for something like buying from an e-commerce site where they are in ‘leisure mode.’

Looking at attention blindness first in relation to an e-commerce site, people only focus on a small part of the screen, and optimising the parts they focus on will have a huge impact on revenue per visitor.

Optimising the parts of the site they don’t focus on is a waste of time.

We can find out which parts of the home page, product page, category pages, basket pages and checkout pages people look at using a heat map tool. The hot spots are the places where you want to focus your split test work. They are the small parts of the site that are focused on and will disproportionately affect the user’s impression of the store.

Also, take a step back and ask if your website looks easy to use? Are the Add to Basket buttons clear in a different colour and big and obvious? Ditto with the Proceed to Checkout buttons. Are there elements you can remove to clear clutter to allow more white space to highlight what the user should do?

Remember, if they think the site is easy to use, it will be easy to use. A five-year-old should be able to figure out what to do.

When its our e-commerce site, we look at it with different eyes as our e-commerce site is our livelihood—it’s a major focus in our lives. Thus, we can see a lot more on the site than the normal person because our focus is much higher. This extra focus makes us think we can add more elements, multiple home page offers, and still get more revenue. But the customer has other things in their life that they must focus more on; hence they can only give our site a narrow focus.

We must treat that narrow focus with care and understand that if we ask for too much focus energy from a visitor, they will bounce.


Most e-commerce platforms offer automated image attributes and plugins that let you arrange your products according to algorithms that will be most conducive to making a sale. You definitely don’t have to do the work yourself, manually adding the tags to new items or best sellers. Site extensions will do this for you, so take advantage of that.


Recently, we read Ask by Ryan Levesque. It’s one of those books that we need to pick back up and have another look at. In a nutshell, he gets in front of a large river of buying traffic and asks them what they want.

He then splits the majority of this into (up to five) buckets.

Then he creates a landing page that asks people which bucket they are in and sends them to a sales page crafted exactly for that bucket.

He knows that 80 per cent of the traffic will fall into one of these five buckets and thus will get their own carefully crafted sales letter or offer.

Super simple and super effective. Yet very few people do it.

Let’s look at an example of how this might work on your homepage.

Take someone selling golfing equipment. Surveying the traffic in the golfing niche might lead you to the following buckets:

First-time golfers looking for their first golf clubs.

Parents looking to buy clubs for their children.

Intermediate golfers looking to move to the next level.

Advanced golfers looking for the latest hot product.

Everyone else.

Once we have the buckets, we can craft a simple home page survey to understand which person we are dealing with, i.e. ‘Get Started With Our Five- Second Survey.’

Then we can lead, for example, the parents to a landing page talking about how to choose the right set of golf clubs for their child, covering what size to buy based on the child’s height, etc. This will convert that buyer much more than a generic home page trying to convert all five buckets.

This approach makes so much sense. But hardly anyone uses it.


Because we think we know the buyer. We think that we know exactly what should go on the homepage and that we can’t afford to miss anyone.

It’s the fear of not appealing to all traffic that stops us doing this approach. You hear it across all small businesses when you ask, ‘Who is your customer?’

And they answer, ‘Well, men and women 18 years to 65.’

Basically, their target market is human beings who have a bit of money.

We need to stop selling to everyone and do a good job of selling to the 20 per cent of buyer categories that make up 80 per cent of the traffic.

It’s a good book; have a read, and then use your homepage to shift people into the five main buckets that your buyers represent.


Reviews are going to build trust in your potential customer. Many shoppers actually won’t buy from websites that don’t post reviews because they rely heavily on the opinions and referral of others. Also, make sure your reviews are from a third party like Feefo or Trustpilot so that they are more believable and you get the review stars on your Google AdWords adverts.

And remember, you are supposed to be thinking of your e-commerce site just like a regular shop that someone could walk into. You wouldn’t have just one item in the display window, would you? That would be ineffective. So, it’s important to merchandise your product pages just the same way you’d move items around in a physical store, bringing bestsellers to the front, displaying accessories with the items they match and placing new merchandise in a prominent place.


If your products sell themselves via great imagery but then when the buyers dig into the detail the product copy looks like it was written by the accounts team, then you are going to lose the sale.

With product copy, we are trying to influence the visitor into buying the product. In terms of influence, you can find no better than Professor Robert Cialdini who literally wrote the book on influence.

We have been studying Cialdini for years, and here is our top checklist on how to bring some Cialdini magic to your product copy and store. We use this list when we are trying to increase the conversion rate of an e-commerce store by focusing on the buyer journey.

  1. Are we using the law of reciprocity? What small item can we use to trigger this law? Can we use free samples or give something unexpected away with the first order?
  2. The reason why. Are we giving them a reason why they should do what we want? Even because and repeating the obvious is better than nothing. Don’t just have an offer, have a reason why there is an offer.
  3. Law of comparison. If you show something hot first, the next thing will be considered much colder than it is; for example, show expensive items first to make items appear better value. Estate agents show crappy houses first. For example, can you have one expensive item in the category? How does this affect average order value (AOV)?
  4. Can we trigger the ‘expensive equals good’ rule and then discount to make them want a bargain? (Does not work with commoditised products, only own brand.)
  5. If we offer something much more expensive and they reject it, then we offer what we want them to accept, they will more likely accept. For example, offer three-year support plan then one-year support plan.
  6. Consistency. Can we get the person to make a small step in the area we want? Later, changing direction will be harder for them: for example, getting them to fill out a survey telling us what they like about our brand. Mental commitment subconsciously.
  7. Like previous point. During the sales process, we can ask them questions like, ‘Why are you considering purchasing from us?’ They will create a rational answer and want to be consistent with it. Or even if the sale takes a while to close, ask, ‘Can you tell me why you have chosen to do business with us?’
  8. Can we get them to write down their consistency statement and get them to share it publicly? Once public, they will change their image of themselves to be consistent with the statement even more. Could be part of a competition.
  9. Low ball offer. Make an offer that’s likely to be accepted to make the person convince themselves that they are now a customer of the store. Once they have bought something, even something tiny, they will be much more likely to make a bigger purchase.
  10. Social proof. If we can show that others are doing what we desire the visitor to do, then they will follow suit. People look to others to see what to do.
  11. Social proof heightened. People will much more likely copy behaviour of people like themselves. Even similar names, living in similar addresses, doing the same jobs, etc.
  12. When the buyer is in a moment of uncertainty, we can employ opera claqueurs, i.e. the first people that get the crowd going. We have all seen those market stall people use fake buyers to start a buying frenzy at the end of their pitch.
  13. Can we show that we dress like the target audience and share similar values to them? Political views. Hobbies.
  14. Can we associate ourselves even loosely with something cool going on? For example, during the moon landings, everything sold featured the space race. Or in Olympic years, everything focuses on this.
  15. Click-whirr effect of authority figures. Uniform. Titles. Name badges. Backstage passes. Can we add elements of this to increase the sale?
  16. If we offer them something that is against our interest that builds trust early on, for example, don’t buy this, buy our cheaper one if xyz. Or show them some bad reviews on our site for some products so that they believe the good reviews.
  17. Double scarcity. People who were told beef is going to be in short supply doubled their orders. But people told beef supply is going to be in short supply and told this information comes from an exclusive source bought a huge amount more. So how can we create scarcity on our stores and make customers believe that they are getting inside information about the scarcity—premium buyers’ clubs etc.?
  18. Can we trigger the scarcity trigger by getting all potential buyers to show up at once onto one product and show how many people are looking at that item? Or even get them to reserve a buying spot, where they get 10 minutes to decide on the product before the chance is offered to someone else.


A few years ago, we began to look at the product pages and category pages that had the highest bounce rates in more detail because we wanted to work on our worst performers to bring their sales up. To do this, we tagged them properly and used Google Analytics, so we could see, in detail, the worst product pages and worst category pages.

Why would we work from the poorest performers?

Attempting to analyse hundreds or even thousands of your products to see what’s working and what isn’t would be impossible. For this reason, we always say, ‘Manage by exception.’ By using the correct tags, you can receive a Google Analytics alert that tells you what your worst performing product and category pages are on your website for any given time period.

We don’t like to do this alone however. We encourage each of our clients to take ownership of their merchandise and take a look at these statistics each week.


This is your website, after all, and if these products are meaningful to you and you’re passionate about your business, sometimes you might be the only one who knows exactly why certain products or pages are failing so badly. Maybe the images don’t bring the item to life or the price point may be too high or the most important feature isn’t mentioned. Focus on the top ten worst pages, because that’s where you’re losing the most potential sales.

We like to pretend my worst performing page is the only impression a potential customer has of my website. What would they think of my business and my product if they only landed on this one page? By asking yourself this question and treating each page like a ‘first impression’ opportunity, you’ll be able to take your website to a new level.

By working on the poor performing pages, you’ll invest your time and money in the right area and make a difference in your add-to-basket KPI. And, worst-case scenario, you’ll be able to decide whether a product doesn’t really fit with your website and if you should pull it for good.

Remember the bricks and mortar analogy we talked about earlier? How would you feel if someone walked into your High Street shop, saw your products on the shelves and immediately walked out? You’d want to know why!


What if you cannot figure out how to improve your value proposition?

Another hidden gem that we track are middle-user reviews. Each Monday, we ask our clients to look at all the reviews they are getting and categorise them into different sections based on what they are about, like:




Website ease of use.

Customer service.

Depending on the week and the client, there may be ten or more categories being addressed. Once this is done, we tell our clients to look for the middle reviews, or the ones that have a two or three out of five rating.

These middle-of-the-road reviews offer the most constructive and useful feedback, in our experience. Four- and five-star reviews often say everything   is brilliant, which can be good for the ego but not so good when it comes to figuring out what changes you can make to improve your website, products   or user experience. Extremely low ratings (one star) are often derogatory comments towards your website or staff. The middle reviews are what you want to look at. These offer the most useful information, both the good and the bad.

By Ian & Mark Hammersley, SmarteBusiness 

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