The Most Important Metric for E-commerce Sites - And How To Improve It

If you run an e-commerce business there is one number that is absolutely crucial to your success.  That number is your site conversion rate.

In speaking to many e-commerce business owners over the past several years it’s been eye opening just how many of them have no idea what their conversion rate is - or even why it’s important.  

Let’s start with a quick explanation of what your conversion rate is.

Put plainly, the conversion rate of an e-commerce site is the percentage of site visitors who made a purchase. 



 So, if your site has 100 visitors and 10 people purchase something, your site conversion rate is 10%.  Your site is also a unicorn if you have a 10% conversion rate.  

A typical e-commerce site conversion rate is somewhere between 1-3%.  If your site falls in to this range congratulations, you are officially average.  You can see why a 10% conversion rate would be magical.


If your site is below 1% you have a problem, and it needs to be fixed.  Frankly, if your conversion rate is under 2%, it can and should be improved.

Think about this for a second - moving your site conversion rate from 1% to 2% may not sound like a lot - but it means you’ve just doubled your sales.  If you have 100,000 visitors a month and your average order value is $75, your monthly revenue just went from $75,000 to $150,000.   How does that sound?

You can see how powerful a number this is - a 1% shift can mean tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Improving your site conversion rate

What do you do if your site conversion rate is lower than you’d like?  Well, the first step is identifying your bottleneck.  Generally your bottleneck will be one of two places - not enough people are adding items to their cart, or too many people who add items to their cart not following through and buying.


bottleneck 1.png

Bottleneck 1: Identifying if enough people are adding items to their cart

addtocart rate.png

To figure this out, we’ll need to look at another number – your add to cart rate. 

Your add to cart rate, as you might expect at this point, is the percentage of people who visit your site and add something to their cart.  So, going back to our first example, if you have 100 visitors and 10 people add something to their cart your add to cart rate is 10%.  

Unlike conversion rates, a 10% add to cart rate is healthy, but not unicorn healthy.

It needs to be healthy because the average abandoned cart rate - that is, the percentage of people who add something to their cart and then *don’t* buy it - is 68%.  This catches many people off guard, but it is true - less than 3 of every 10 people who add something to their cart end up buying it.  In other words, 32% of shoppers who add something to their cart actually buy it.  We’ll come back to abandoned cart rate below.

Assuming this average 68% abandoned cart rate is standard, an add to cart rate below 6.3% is going to have problems achieving a good site conversion rate.  If it’s between 6.2% - 9.4% you are likely on the upper end of average.  And if it’s over 9.4% you are looking good.  


carts and conversions.png

If your add to cart rate is too low, Try these steps:

1. Look at where the AddtoCart button is, especially on mobile.  Mobile has surpassed desktop as the top way people will shop on and experience your e-commerce site.   Make sure it’s an easy process for users to add something to their cart on mobile.  This is the most common issue I see with sites that have low add to cart rates.  

A few common mistakes I see:

a. The AddtoCart button is too low on the page and requires a lot of scrolling to get to.   Remember, people are browsing on their phone. The less you make them scroll, the more likely they will perform a desired action.  Go look at a product on sometime and see how little scrolling is required to get to the Add to Cart button.  Amazon knows a thing or two about seamless shopping experiences - they are the gold standard here, it’s never a bad idea to copy what they are doing.

b.  The AddtoCart button doesn’t stand out.  It’s not brightly colored, it’s too small, or it blends in to the page background.   I can’t stress this enough - the easier you make it for users to perform a desired action, the more they will do so.  Don’t make them squint and hunt for the button, or get embarrassed their thumbs are too thick to use it.

2.  Image quality isn’t good enough.  Especially with fashion, people want to see before they buy.  Make sure you provide clear, high quality images so people feel comfortable they are choosing something they will like.  But, be careful that your high quality images aren’t too tall, as that will push the add to cart button too far down the page.  When a user hits a product page on mobile they should get an image, but not just an image.  There should be prompts that there are other things to do on the page, such as pick size, color and oh, I don’t know, maybe ADD TO CART?

social proof.png

3. Lack of social proof.  If someone is going to buy something online they want assurances the product is going to be good.  They can’t touch it, feel the fabric, or try it on.  In lieu of this having reviews and testimonials on the product page can really help.  If the product has a bunch of 5 star reviews and people talking about how much they love it that certainly builds trust that this will be a purchase they won’t regret.

out of stock.png

4. Lack of inventory - you work hard to get people to come visit your site.  They see an item they love and go to add it to their cart - and you are out of their size!  You’ve just squandered all that hard work.  This is one I look at particularly in cases where the add to cart rate used to be fine but has suddenly declined, and no site UX changes have been made that could be responsible.

What if your add to cart rate is well within the range and your site still isn’t converting well?  Then it’s time to look at…

Bottleneck 2: Identifying if too many people are abandoning their cart

sad cart.png

This one is pretty straightforward - we know the industry standard is a 68% cart abandonment.  If your abandoned cart rate is over 68% something is wrong.

OK, so what can you do about it?  Here are a few things to look for:

1. Shipping fees - let’s face it, Amazon has spoiled all of us.  3 little words changed everything - Free Prime Shipping.  You would be surprised how much getting charged for shipping puts off potential buyers - particularly for lower ticket items where the shipping cost can end up being not too far off from the cost of the product itself.  I always advise clients to go with free shipping and bundle the additional cost in to the price of the products.  It ends up being the same dollar figure, but the psychological difference to the user is significant.

free shipping.png

For those that are hesitant to do this - I encourage you to run a 2 week test of free shipping.  Just 2 weeks.  See if your abandoned cart rate changes.  If it does you know shipping costs were the problem.  Paying for 2 weeks of shipping is a small price to pay to figure out where you bottleneck is.

slow shipping.png

2. Shipping times - Have I mentioned that Amazon has spoiled us?  See item 1 above.  Add the words “2 day” to make “Free 2 Day Prime Shipping” 

We live in a culture of instant gratification.  Before long Amazon will crack *same day* delivery.  The discovery that someone has to wait for days or even weeks to receive their items is a sure way to get that person to abandon those items in their carts.  

3. Return policy - We already talked about the importance of social proof/trust in getting people to add items to their cart.  Well, no matter how much social proof or trust you build, it’s still nice to know if that light blue dress turns out to be substantially darker than expected you can always easily return it.  Having a clear, easy return policy can push that sale over the line.  

members only.png

4. Forced login - Please, please, please - do not make your users sign up to your site to buy something.  They don’t want to be a member, they just want to make a purchase.  Yes it’s great to have as much data on them as possible - optional signups, especially if there’s an incentive, are fine.  But don’t make people do it.  

5. Too many required fields.- Remember, most of your buyers will be tapping away on their phones.  There are certain pieces of information you are going to need - such as their name and an address to ship to.   You are going to need a credit card number.  But anything you don’t need, make optional.  Do you really need their phone number?  Why?  Are you going to call them?  This not only creates extra work for the user but can be a bit creepy as well.   We’ve said this a few times - make it as easy as possible for your users to buy from you.  Any piece of information you don’t absolutely need either don’t ask for, or at the very least make optional.

site conversion.png

OK, we’ve looked at how important your site conversion rate is, what it can mean for your business, and how to identify where your conversion bottleneck is and how to fix it.

There’s nothing more satisfying to an e-commerce business owner than seeing those sales roll in, day after day, week after week.  

If you think you should be feeling that satisfaction more often take a look at your site conversion rate, and follow these steps to ensure you are getting the most out of your business.  



Are you an established e-commerce or lead generation business that needs help with your Facebook ads?  Learn more about our services and results today!