Managing a growing e-commerce business isn’t a walk in the park.
It may be tempting to sit back and relax once you start seeing a handful of sales being made.
You’ve got traction — that’s good. But if you want your growth to be sustainable, you need to double down on conversion rate optimization strategies that will allow you to make the most out of your traffic.
What is Conversion Rate Optimization?
In simple terms, conversion rate optimization or CRO pertains to practices that aim to improve a website’s ability to turn visitors into subscribers, social media followers, or paying customers.
If you think about it, a lot of the steps you took when building your e-commerce website can be considered as CRO — from choosing your storefront’s layout to writing product descriptions.
Technical aspects such as keyword research and buying optimized domains can also impact your website’s conversions.
The right keywords make sure your site is discoverable to the right people. That’s why you should go for long-tail keywords that are indicative of high purchase intent, such as phrases with the terms “buy,” “order,” “hire,” or “for sale.”
Long story short, a website’s conversion rate depends on a host of factors that each warrant their own blog post.
This time, however, we’ll focus on your e-commerce store’s performance, which is one of the pillars of a compelling online shopping experience.
Why Optimize Your Website’s Performance?
According to statistics, up to 40 percent of online shoppers will abandon a website that fails to load in three seconds or less. This trend is observably worse on mobile websites, with 53 percent of users leaving in the same amount of time.
Who knew you could lose half of your e-commerce store’s revenue just because your site isn’t fast enough?
What’s worse is that it not only affects your website’s conversions. Since loading speed is officially recognized as a ranking factor by search engines, neglecting your website’s performance may also cause your traffic to decline.
All these events create a ripple effect that would negatively affect your e-commerce brand’s image down the line.
1. Running a Performance Analysis with PageSpeed Insights
For those who never really prioritized their website’s performance, Google PageSpeed Insights is an excellent place to start your optimization efforts.
PageSpeed Insights is a free-to-use performance optimization tool that runs a thorough analysis of your website and detects issues that affect loading speed.
Remember, there’s a lot of things at play when it comes to a website’s performance.
To get the highest performance gains in the least amount of time, you need to narrow down your approach and focus on optimizations that make sense for your website.
You can use PageSpeed Insights by entering your website’s URL into the main field and clicking “Analyze.”
Within seconds, PageSpeed Insights will provide you with a brief analysis of your website’s page speed. It will also generate the complete list of performance-related issues along with how to fix them.
For the rest of this guide, you will encounter most, if not all, of the performance optimizations suggested by PageSpeed Insights.
It’s not rocket science.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to lower the quality of your images in order to reduce their file size and optimize your website’s bandwidth utilization.
With tools like TinyPNG and Compressor.io, you can easily apply lossless compression to your image assets.
Content management systems like WordPress also have a library of plugins you can use to automatically compress your media library as you upload them.
3. Minifying Your Code
While images have compression, website codes have minification.
For simple online stores that don’t utilize a lot of custom widgets or codes, minification probably won’t yield perceivable improvements in performance. This is usually the case if you built your online store using a generic theme from platforms like Shopify without plugging in a ton of extra functionalities or customizations.
Still, it’s always a good idea to minify any existing codes in your website’s infrastructure to make them download, parse, and execute faster.
Just like with image compression, there are built-in plugins you can use with your CMS or e-commerce platform to automate the code minification process.
You can also manually minify your codes individually with a tool like MinifyCode.com.
If you have no idea which codes to minify, you can refer to PageSpeed Insights and work your way from top to bottom.
4. Implement Browser Caching
Browser caching allows your website’s static assets to load near instantaneously.
It works by allowing a user’s web browser to remember or “cache” a website’s files — ready to be loaded on their next visit. This significantly improves the experience of users, especially shoppers who may be planning to return to a specific product page in the future.
The traditional way to implement browser caching is to modify your .htaccess file in your domain’s root folder.
You just need to add a bit of code similar to the one below:
Take note that the “ExpiresByType” lines can be replicated as many times as needed to enable caching to other asset types.
You can also change the “access plus” parameters to set how long data can be cached in a user’s web browser. This can be any value followed by day, week, month, or year.
To check if browser caching is properly enabled on your website, you can run a test with Browser Caching Checker.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of altering your website’s backend files, you can use browser caching apps or plugins designed for CMS and e-commerce platforms. They shouldn’t be hard to find if you know where to look.
5. Enable GZIP Compression
Just like browser caching, using GZIP compression on your website also requires you to edit your website’s .htaccess file.
Short for GNU zip, GZIP compression is an open-source file compression algorithm that is widely used in websites and online services that stream media. It’s developed for the GNU project specifically to save storage space as well as increase data transfer rates.
To enable GZIP compression on your e-commerce website, you need to add the following code to your .htaccess file:
After saving your .htaccess file, verify that it works with this GZIP compression testing tool.
If the code above didn’t work, remove it from your .htaccess file—with the exception of the “ifModule” tags—and replace it with the following:
6. Subscribe to a CDN Service
Sometimes, the problem with your website’s performance isn’t the lack of optimizations.
If your website is accessed by a user from the other side of the globe, chances are their experience won’t be as smooth as visitors nearby.
Keep in mind that the physical distance between your host’s servers and users contribute to latency, which is the delay in a data transfer through a network.
Of course, this shouldn’t be a problem if you market and ship to local customers. But for e-commerce businesses that plan to go international, a reliable solution is to leverage a content delivery network or CDN.
Rather than running on a single server, a CDN utilizes a network of proxy servers that share the load of saving, managing, and sending website data to users.
A reputable CDN company should be equipped with globally-distributed proxy servers to cut the latency for users around the world.
If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to contact a CDN company and inquire about the locations of their servers.
It’s also worth noting that come e-commerce platforms feature their own CDN service. However, that doesn’t mean you should rule out third-party CDN service providers as they often offer a wider range of benefits, like DDoS protection and priority customer support.
7. Upgrade Your Hosting Solution
For e-commerce businesses, learning when to upgrade from shared hosting to a VPS or dedicated hosting plan is part of the growing process.
You don’t have to wait for customer complaints to stack up before you replace your hosting solution with something more capable — if all of the performance optimization strategies above fail to deliver the performance your customers you expect, then perhaps a hosting upgrade is your way forward.
Here’s another tip: to make sure you chose the right hosting provider for your business, use a tool like Uptime Robot to check how stable your host really is.
Unless you’re already a luxury brand, the e-commerce industry abides by the law of reciprocity; the value you can get out of your customers is directly proportional to the experience they get.
The strategies above are guaranteed to help your customers get a smoother and more satisfying experience across the board.
If you have other performance optimization tips you’d like to share, don’t hesitate to tell us about it in the comments below. Cheers!