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How to Optimize Conversion Rates in E-Commerce Sites

Written by:

Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How to Optimize Conversion Rates in E-Commerce Sites

How to Optimize Conversion Rates in E-Commerce Sites

With over two decades of experience in the digital marketing sphere, Tom Shivers has been at the helm of significant industry evolution. As the president of Capture Commerce, he brings his knowledge and insight into the changing dynamics of online marketing and its impact on e-commerce.

In this interview, Tom discusses key digital marketing trends, the integration of SEO with other marketing strategies, and the crucial role of content strategy in engaging customers. His perspectives offer a deep dive into how digital marketing influences the sales funnel, from awareness to purchase decision, and explores the complementary roles of social media and email marketing in driving sales and retaining customers. Join us as Tom shares his expert advice and experiences, shedding light on effective tactics for boosting website traffic, optimizing conversion rates, and adapting to the digital marketing landscape’s continuous shifts.

Digital Marketing Trends

MTS – In your 20+ years in the field, which digital marketing trends have you found most impactful for e-commerce, and how have you adapted to these changes?

Tom – Omnichannel marketing allows customers to research and purchase wherever they like with a seamless experience across all channels (that’s the goal anyway). Product information management systems (PIM) help with this goal by centralizing and distributing product information to all channels from one place.

Integrating SEO with Overall Digital Marketing

MTS – How do you effectively integrate SEO with other digital marketing strategies to maximize the impact on sales and traffic for e-commerce businesses?

Tom – Seek to understand the ideal prospect, which begins by understanding customers. What motivated them to buy? How did they decide to buy? What did they like/dislike about the buying experience? Knowing your ideal prospect well applies to every digital channel, and that’s the key that unlocks revenue generation.

Role of SEO in the Sales Funnel

MTS – Can you describe how SEO influences different stages of the sales funnel in e-commerce, from awareness to purchase decision?

Tom – Most people have one or more of these four aims when searching: informational intent, research intent, purchase intent, and navigational intent. The search terms that prospects use often tell you what type of intent they have and the content they want. I prioritize SEO efforts based on conversion rates, and the highest conversion rates tend to go in this order of searcher intent: navigational, purchase, research, and informational.

Content Strategy in Digital Marketing

MTS – How important is a content strategy in your overall digital marketing efforts?

Tom – Consumers go through several key decision moments that significantly influence their journey from initial interest to final purchase. Understanding these moments is critical for e-commerce businesses so they can craft content strategies that will enhance prospect engagement and customer experience. 

Social Media’s Impact on E-Commerce

MTS – How does social media marketing complement SEO in driving sales and traffic for e-commerce sites?

Tom – Social media is another touch point for getting in front of prospects for the first time or as part of a retargeting campaign. Depending on the sales cycle and the consumer, it makes sense to remind them of an item they are interested in. Do not attempt social media marketing because it may complement SEO; attempt it if your prospect uses social media, and you’ve discovered a way to engage them that also results in positive ROI.

Email Marketing and Customer Retention

MTS – Could you share your insights on how email marketing can be used effectively for customer retention in e-commerce?

Tom – As soon as a prospect becomes a customer, don’t simply satisfy your customer; “wow” them; make them want to reciprocate the positive experience with a favorable rating, review, and/or referral. This builds up your reputation and is a breeding ground for customer retention, one customer at a time. The best time to request a review or testimonial is when your customer is in their “satisfaction zone” with your product. Learn from your customer how their experience with your business went, both good and bad. Can you identify other customer problems you can solve (with a product or service)? Can you add value to your customer with additional services or training?

Conversion Optimization Strategies

MTS – Beyond SEO, what key digital marketing strategies do you employ to optimize conversion rates on e-commerce sites?

Tom – Cart abandonment averages are around 70%, which means only 30% of shoppers who add to a cart complete that purchase. If your cart abandonment rate is average, you must find out why customers are abandoning before purchasing. Many times, the reason is UX, and these UX issues are easily understood and fixed with an analysis.

Measuring ROI in Digital Marketing

MTS – What methods do you use to measure the return on investment (ROI) of your digital marketing campaigns?

Tom – Let’s say you want to hit $$$ this quarter! This goal might be broken down into a few key results like this: increase sales of product line A by 50%, increase sales of product B by 50%, and introduce new product line C.

Increase sales of product line A by 50% might look something like this: 

  • Increase qualified traffic to the product line A category page by 20% 
  • Boost the conversion rate for product line A products by 20% 
  • Raise the number of sales per customer of product line A by 10% 
  • Up the average order value of product line A by 10% 

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the facts that tell you how you are doing with each task that makes up your key result.

Adapting to Algorithm Changes

MTS – How do you adapt your digital marketing strategies in response to major search engine algorithm updates?

Tom – Understanding the reasons behind Google’s past algo updates has trained me to build SEO strategies that are sustainable. If the SEO strategy is a good one, it builds momentum over time until the business is competitive.

Over-optimizing your site for a competitive keyword will likely hold your site down, but the bigger problem is prospects have very sensitive BS detectors. A good rule of thumb is to focus more on building trust with your prospect than on trying to rank high for that competitive keyword.

Yes, it’s a delicate balance!

Local vs. Global Digital Marketing

MTS – How do strategies differ when marketing for local versus global e-commerce audiences?

Tom – I cannot speak to local e-commerce. Most global e-commerce audiences get turned off if they detect that you “aren’t from around here.” This type of content usually requires not only a translator but someone who is from that area and knows how to communicate well.

Emerging Technologies in Digital Marketing

MTS – Are there any emerging technologies or platforms that you believe will significantly impact digital marketing strategies for e-commerce in the near future?

Tom – If you have over 200 products to manage, then a PIM system might be useful. Digital marketers should already know how to utilize AI in their strategy.

Strategies for Boosting Website Traffic

MTS – In your extensive experience with digital marketing and SEO, what are some of the most effective tactics you’ve employed or seen to significantly increase website traffic for e-commerce businesses?

Tom – My answer above on measuring ROI is an example of a tactic I have used effectively for many e-commerce clients. What I’ve found is that small improvements across the main KPIs do result in a big increase in sales. The main KPIs: ideal prospect traffic, order conversion rate, number of sales per customer, and average order value and costs (fixed + variable).

Client Success Story in Digital Marketing

MTS – Can you share a case study where your integrated digital marketing approach significantly improved an e-commerce client’s business?

Tom – I turned around the SEO for an e-commerce trade show display company. E-commerce revenue went from $3M to $7.5M (up 140%) in under four years. After completing the SEO audit, my strategy involved cleaning up technical and usability errors in the site, reorganizing product and category pages around the ideal prospect, and interpreting the KPIs to generate more revenue.

My strategy reduced cart abandonment by 15%, the order conversion rate from organic search went from 1.14% to 1.75% (up 54%), and the average order value from organic search went from $920 to $1,228 (up 33%). 

Advice for Aspiring Digital Marketers

MTS – Finally, what advice would you offer to those starting their careers in digital marketing, especially in the e-commerce sector?

Tom – If you can, be picky about who you take as a client because your client’s success implies yours. Each client you take on should meet most of the criteria that will ensure your strategy will be implemented. For example, are they using digital tools to streamline and improve the customer experience? Has the leadership embraced digital marketing? Do they really understand or seek to understand their ideal customer? Are they investing in tools and processes to make data-driven decisions? If the answer to most of these is unclear, it’s likely that your strategy will not be implemented even if the clients pay well.

Thanks for the interview. Glad to answer your questions!