AddThis Academy

An ever-growing library of resources to help you become a better online marketer.

5 Tips We Can Learn from Successful Online Stores to Increase Ecommerce Conversion Rates


Guest blog by Adam Enfroy

What if I told you that marketers designed the physical shopping cart to encourage you to purchase products when you’re at the grocery store?

Would you call me crazy?

Well, one study revealed that “The bigger the cart, the more we buy. In fact, if the cart is double the size of our regular one, we buy an astounding 40% more than we usually do.”

But it’s not just the physical shopping cart that influences the way we buy. The same is true for the digital shopping cart.

And you don’t have to take my word for it.

The length of the checkout process, the website’s navigation, and shipping details all land on the list of top reasons that customers abandon their online shopping cart.

customer-abandon-rates (Image Source)

And the data doesn’t lie.

Here are five things we can learn from successful online stores about increasing conversion rates at checkout.

1. Ditch the Three-Step Checkout Model

BestSelf Co is an ecommerce store that sells everything from letterpress manifestos to self journals and wall roadmaps.


The owners of the store have received personal advice and mentorship from powerhouses like Tony Robbins, Tim Ferris, and Daymond John.

Additionally, they’ve rung the much-desired bell on the NYSE. Needless to say, they’re a bit of an expert in the world of online retail.

But their success didn’t just come about because of expert advice and distinguished awards.

It came about with copious testing, iterating, and development of their conversion optimization.

One of the most popular products they sell is the self journal shown below.


(Image Source)

But what’s so amazing about their online shopping cart and checkout process? How are they generating such big sales for a notebook?

For starters, the entire checkout process happens on a single page.

With most e-commerce stores, you have to click through at least three different pages to reach the end of checkout.

Shipping, payment, and, eventually, confirmation.


Unfortunately, some merchants use that fact to conceal hidden shipping costs, shipping times, and tax amount.

That means the buyer reaches the end of the process feeling like they’ve been nickel and dimed. They then lose motivation and wander off to some other website. Obviously, that’s not a recipe for increasing revenue.

With a one-page checkout process, users see everything all at once. They can tell you’re not trying to hide anything, which builds trust and increases conversion rates.

Here’s what BestSelf Co’s checkout page looks like.


The results? A 68% increase in conversions.

As you can tell, that’s a wildly simple checkout page compared to most ecommerce stores. Just consider the difference between that and Amazon.


(Image Source)

Amazon has a three-step checkout process. Shipping, payment, and confirmation. This is similar to many e-commerce stores.

The problem is that each button click adds time for the customer to think. And customers are quite practiced at talking themselves out of purchasing products.

Which is why the average cart abandonment rate hovers around 60% to 80%.


(Image Source)

That’s the last thing you want your customers to do.

Of course, you’re probably thinking, “But Amazon definitely isn’t suffering the repercussions of a long checkout process? Plenty of people buy from them.”

And you’d be right.

But ask yourself this. Why doesn’t this long checkout process hurt Amazon’s conversion rate when it does hurt other online merchants?

Part of that question can be answered by the fact that Amazon is so large they aren’t wildly concerned with losing a few conversions.

But, more importantly, Amazon is already a massively trusted retailer. They don’t need to build more trust. Everyone knows who they are and that, if they order something, they are going to get exactly what they expect.

Your store, on the other hand, doesn’t have such automatic trust.

And that means you need to build trust with visitors as quickly a possible, and the checkout process needs to do that as well.

2. Support a Cause and Get Your Customers Involved

The last few years have marked a fundamental shift in consumer behavior.

The days are gone where businesses can just sell products for massive profits.

While there are plenty still doing this, there are even more that aren’t.

What am I getting at here? Cause-driven marketing.

Companies like Pura Vida Bracelets and Toms are shining examples of support causes with their commerce and getting customers involved:


With every TOMS purchase, you stand with us on issues that matter.

This type of marketing is brand building at its core. And, it works when it comes to generating more sales and increasing conversion rates.

According to a 2018 study, 64% of consumers in all age brackets choose to “switch, avoid, or boycott” a brand based on what causes they do and don’t support.

Belief-driven buying is now commonplace:


(Image Source)

This shouldn’t come as a shock to you. Companies like Nike and Dicks were recently outspoken about their causal marketing.

Consumers love standing behind a brand that supports the same issues as them.

But simply doing so is not enough if you want to increase conversions online.

You have to truly communicate it at every step of the buying journey.

For example, TOMS lays it out clearly on their homepage:


It’s then reinforced as you browse products:


And it’s hammered home in the checkout:


Now that’s impactful, effective ecommerce marketing that isn’t just a blanket for sales.

It’s directly mentioned at every step of the buying process on their website to reinforce the message and ensure consistency for consumers.

Want to increase your ecommerce conversion rates? Start supporting a cause that you and your team believes in.

Make it a prominent part of your brand image and ethos. Start a blog and write about your cause consistently.

Then, drive it home on your website and align it with customer behavior to reduce cart abandonment.

3. Sell More to Existing Customers

As I already mentioned, things like social proof and brand awareness can make a big impact on conversion rates.

But social proof and ditching the three-step checkout model aren’t all the tricks to the trade.

When it comes to online sales, most retailers get caught up in the allure of more.

More traffic.  More visitors to their site. More buyers. More customers. More more more.

But the truth is: you don’t need more customers. Customers are expensive to acquire and unless you are selling high priced goods, simply acquiring customers everyday isn’t sustainable for your bottom line.

What most tend to ignore is their existing customer base.

After all, it’s no secret that existing customers are far more valuable than new customers.

For instance, returning customers account for 33.3% of all money spent.


(Image Source)

And repeat customers spend an average of 33% more than new customers.


(Image Source)

Which means that there’s a goldmine of buying potential right in front of your face. Namely, the people who already buy your products.

Upselling to them is far easier and cheaper than trying to sell new products to new customers. For example, product recommendations are responsible for up to 30% of e-commerce revenue.

Existing customers are already familiar with your brand, like your store, and trust you, meaning that selling to them takes a whole lot less time. You don’t have to rely on cold email outreach or a sales team to get them to purchase more products from you.

Think about it this way. The initial sale is only the beginning. Everything that comes after is where the real magic happens.


(Image Source)

BestSelf co didn’t stop at ditching the traditional checkout model. They also recognized that existing customers weren’t buying enough product. To combat it, they created upsell funnels.

After buyers purchased, they would offer another product to the buyer and automatically tack that purchase onto the previous order with a single click if the customer so chose.


Once they implemented the upsell funnel, BestSelf Co saw a 5% increase in average order value over 30 days.

Now that might not sound like a lot.

However, a 5% increase in AOV means a 5% increase in your overall business revenue. Which is massive.

But you can only leverage that fact if you encourage existing customers to buy more products.

And when BestSelf Co started using the upsell strategy, they saw $10,000 in extra revenue each month without hiring any sales reps or marketing professionals.

Additionally, as BestSelf Co’s overall conversion rate sat at 68%, their upsell rate rose to 7% after 30 days.

Another key step in the process they took was developing an email list. By offering small discounts and incentives, they could capture emails and turn them into repeat customers.

Using a list building banner, you can quick turn traffic into buyers and email lists that you can leverage for upselling.


As you can see, they discovered a goldmine of revenue potential in their online checkout process.

Baymard Institute, for instance, says the average retailer has an abandoned cart rate of 69.23% so for every 100 potential customers, 69 of them will leave without purchasing. That’s a potential $2,207.31 loss in revenue that BestSelf Co may have lost without  it.

Most ecommerce stores ignore this part of their business. But with online revenue projected to be $4.06 trillion by 2020, it’s one of the vital puzzle pieces that determine whether you succeed or not.

There’s no reason that leveraging the same strategy can’t help your own store’s online income as well.

4. Product Videos Dominate Over Descriptions

Ecommerce product descriptions have been long touted as the bread and butter of ecommerce SEO.

And while they do help with ecommerce SEO, simply writing out long descriptions isn’t a winning strategy.

Depending on what product you sell, most people just want a snappy description.

But therein lies the problem: short and thin descriptions don’t do much for SEO.

So, what can you do?

Include video content as the eye-catching content consumption format and leave the boring, SEO descriptions for the select few who want to read it.

This strategy propelled ecommerce company Snowboard Addiction to $1 million in sales.


Their product pages feature a comprehensive video as the first option to understand the product.

Simply click on the product picture and embedded is a video showcasing its specs, features, and action shots:


Just below the video is a detailed and thorough product description too:


Video is set to capture 82% of internet traffic worldwide by 2021.

It’s the most enjoyable way to consume content and learn about new products.

Invest into good video production for your products to help your customers better understand them.

5. Invest in Better Customer Support

Customer service is the lifeblood of good ecommerce.

70% of consumers will spend more money and do more business with your brand is you deliver better customer service.

33% will leave your brand (for good) after a single bad customer service experience.

With so many competitors in almost every space, you can’t afford (literally) to provide bad service.

One of the best examples of ecommerce customer support is Zappos:


Using a help desk software, they can provide multiple channels for immediate support:

  • Live chat
  • FAQs
  • Phone support
  • Email
  • Ticketing

On live chat, you can either engage with powerful chatbots for quick answers or a representative for human communication.

The options are nearly endless and provide users with easy access to fixing potentially conversion destroying problems on site.

So make sure that when starting a website, invest in customer support channels early on. You won’t regret it.


Physical shopping carts elicit certain feelings, most of them unintentional. I’m sure they weren’t made to intentionally feel grimy, and the bars near your shins aren’t actually for standing on. But those things don’t matter when you’re shopping at the grocery store.

The online shopping cart tells a different story.

Here’s the reality. The way people feel when buying your product — whether they trust you or not — contributes to your conversion rate just as much as the product itself. And upselling customers who already trust you can increase your conversion rate as well.

Forget the typical checkout process and design one that is simple, transparent, and provides every bit of information to help customers make a purchase decision.

Inch them forward in the buying process with social proof. Try utilizing video to showcase your products in action, too.

And lastly, stop neglecting existing customers. Upselling to them can increase your profits dramatically without increasing acquisition costs. Be sure to take advantage of the free ecommerce tools from AddThis to help you grow your online store!


 Adam Enfroy is a writer, content marketing consultant, and strategic partnerships manager for BigCommerce. With 10+ years of digital marketing experience, he’s passionate about leveraging the right strategic partnerships and software to scale digital growth. Adam lives in Austin, TX and writes about affiliate marketing programs and scaling your online influence on his blog,

Last modified:  April 9th, 2019