The ultimate guide for Shopify stores with high traffic but low sales
A common struggle for recently established Shopify stores is suffering low sales despite having high traffic volume to their site. Addressing this problem requires two steps. Firstly, you need to identify the cause. This could range from poor quality traffic, to a badly designed store to a lack of trust in you as a retailer. Once you’ve identified the cause, it’s time to put in place some strategies to fix your problem. Successful approaches include working on your SEO, optimizing user experience on your site, or nurturing your customers through remarketing campaigns.
In this blog we aim to give you a clear, practical guide to what might be causing your “high traffic, low sales” problem. And for each possible cause, we’ll suggest some practical strategies that you can start implementing straightaway.
Here’s a summary of what’s coming up:
The headache of high traffic but low sales
After all the effort of organising your inventory, selecting just the right theme, writing the product descriptions with SEO in mind, and running ads to bring people your store, it would be nice if the sales took care of themselves.
Unfortunately, for many Shopify store owners, this isn’t what happens. Despite their best efforts, the traffic they bring to their store just doesn’t translate into sales. And it can be really demoralising.
In a Shopify community forum recently, a store owner outlined in detail the time, effort, and resources they had invested into setting up and marketing their site. And the result?
Source: Shopify Community Forum
If this looks familiar, then we feel for you. But it’s really important not to panic, and to understand this is a surprisingly common situation, especially when you’re getting started. Everything you’ve invested will be worthwhile, there just might be a little bit further to go before you see the fruits of your work.
The good news is, there are a couple of simple steps you can follow, and loads of tools and strategies available, that will enable you to turn this situation round.
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A 2-step solution - diagnose then fix
If you find yourself in the situation where your sales are not where you want them to be, despite the good traffic you have, it’s really important to take a deep breath and analyse the situation before you jump into any new solutions or fixes. You might end up pouring more investment in without any result - or even making the situation worse.
It’s important to understand what type of problem you’re facing, and to set realistic targets for improvement.
“High traffic, low sales” is another way of saying you have a conversion problem. If traffic equals the number of people arriving on your site, then conversion equals the number of these who go on to make a purchase.
In 2020, ecommerce stores are averaging a conversion rate of 2.86%. To put this another way, for every 100 visitors to a site there are 2.86 orders placed. The store we mentioned earlier that is getting 3,000 visitors but 5 sales has a conversion rate of just 0.16%. Clearly, it should be higher.
But how much higher is very much up for debate. The 2.86% figure is an average across all ecommerce stores, and in your particular niche the average rate may be different. Plus, you need to factor in how much you actually need to sell to make a profit. If you’re selling expensive items with high margins, it may be OK for you to have lower conversion rates. Even your market and geographical location can impact conversion rates, as this research by monetate shows:
Image source: invespcro
And by far the most important consideration is what sector of ecommerce you’re in. As 2020 research by Adobe shows clearly, conversion rates vary widely in different product areas,
If you’re selling health products or footwear, conversions should be on the higher side - for consumer electronics and home furnishings, expect a lower rate.
So think carefully about what’s a realistic target for your conversions before you even start this process - you may discover that you’re doing better than you think.
Once you’ve set your target, there are 2 stages you’ll need to go through:
- Stage 1: Diagnosis. There are multiple causes of low conversion rates, so you’ll need to do some analysis to understand what it is that’s causing your low sales. Take time and be thorough at this stage - misdiagnosing could set you off in the wrong direction and cost you precious time and resources.
- Stage 2: Action. Once you have correctly identified the problem, be focused and start implementing concrete strategies to tackle your conversion problem. If possible, implement one at a time, so you can assess the impact they have (although with strategies like SEO it will be difficult to directly test its impact).
We’ve outlined an effective general strategy for you to follow, but now it’s time to dive into some specifics. We’ve identified some of the most common causes of low conversion rates. For each one, we’ll talk you through how to diagnose whether your store has this problem, and what actions you should put in place if it does.
Let’s get into it.
Possible cause 1: Poor quality traffic
What does poor quality traffic mean?
One of the key ideas to get your head around if you're facing a high traffic, low sales scenario is that high traffic isn’t by definition a good thing. It all depends on what that traffic is. Unless you are a gossip news portal living off ad revenue alone, you should value quality over quantity when it comes to traffic.
There is no law of the universe that says traffic must equal sales. Seeing huge numbers on a graph of all the people visiting your site might make you feel good, or give you a little shot of excitement. But there’s only one number that matters - and that’s the number of orders you actually receive. So it’s time to start thinking critically about your traffic, and asking yourself the question:
Is the quality of my traffic really good enough?
How can I tell if poor quality traffic is the cause of my low sales?
The key indicator of low-quality traffic is a high bounce rate. “Bounce” refers to a user arriving on your website, and then leaving again without doing anything - no clicks, no scrolling, nothing. In other words, they take one look at what you’re offering and decide it’s not for them.
And bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who do this. Data provided by CXL Institute shows the average bounce rate for e-commerce websites to be 45.68%. So you should be aiming to be in the “normal” range for bounce of between 20% to 45%. You can use analytics tools such as Google Analytics to easily evaluate the bounce rate of your site.
Image Source: Neil Patel
Average session duration is also a good metric to use to judge the quality of your traffic. This simply measures how much time, on average, a visitor spends browsing your site. It is fair to assume that the longer someone is on your site, the more interested they are in your products. In other words, they are high quality traffic.
It’s pretty difficult to come up with a concrete target for your average session duration, because this will depend a lot on what is on your site, how users navigate through it, how many products you offer, and which pages you are landing visitors on. But what you can do is look for movement. If your average session duration is going up, it’s a good indicator that the quality of your traffic is improving. And if it’s going down … bad news.
You’ll probably notice that your bounce rate and average session duration metrics are correlated - if one goes up, the other will probably go down, as this graph shows.
Image Source: Optimizesmart.com
Here is a handy (and very detailed) guide to measuring average session duration using google analytics.
How do I fix my poor quality traffic?
So, you’ve analysed your traffic and discovered you have a high bounce rate and low average sessions duration. Uh oh. Time for some fixes.
Step 1: Refine your ad strategy
Your bounce rate is likely to be higher if you mostly rely on display ads (considered the least trusted form of advertising) and other means of attracting new visitors.
Also, beware of running “clickbaity” type ads aimed simply at getting people to click. For example, ads that over promise or make crazy offers. When users click these, then land on your site and see that the promise of the ad isn’t going to be met, they’ll simply leave. This is really bad. You’ve wasted ad money, failed to secure a sale, and probably damaged your SEO score as well.
Step 2: Focus on other sources of traffic, especially organic
It’s a smart idea to start focusing more of your time and resources into SEO. This is going to be crucial for getting more organic traffic. You can do this by focusing on specific and relevant keywords (just remember to avoid keyword cannibalisation, when several of your pages are competing for the same keywords). If you think about it, focusing on keywords relevant to your store makes perfect sense as a way to improve traffic quality. A shopper is looking for a specific product, they search for it on google, and your store comes up, so they click. There is a much higher chance that this shopper will make a purchase than someone who clicked a random display ad.
Another smart tactic is guest blogs with backlinks. Here you write a blog with links to a couple of your product pages, but it is posted on someone else’s site. You need to make sure the site your blog is posted on has a relevant audience for your products. For example, if you sell outdoor equipment, aim to get a guest blog on a site about camping, hiking or fishing. The number of people who click the links in this blog and end up on your store may be small, but they will be really high quality traffic - you can pretty much guarantee they are interested in what you have to offer.
These tactics may take time to bear fruit, but they will have a lasting impact on your store’s sales performance. This blog gives a detailed explanation of how to implement guest blogs, backlinks and other tactics. Best of all, you can do all this without having to make a big financial outlay.
Step 3: Remarketing
Even with higher quality traffic, there’s still a good chance that the majority of new arrivals won’t make a purchase. Industry insights show that only 2% of users convert on their first visit.
This means that a focused approach on remarketing existing clients and past visitors can help you increase the overall quality of traffic you attract. Compared to new visitors, returning visitors bounce less, spend more time on your site, view more pages - and most importantly, they are much more likely to make a purchase.
Here’s an example of google analytics data on new and return site visitors. As is almost always the case, return visitors make more purchases than new visitors. Although they make up just 28% of all visitors, they account for nearly 60% of sales. The conversion rate with return visitors is over 3X higher.
Image source: analyticsedge.com
Measuring the proportion of new to return visitors on your store is easy - this guide takes you through how to do it using Google analytics.
Then the next step is to increase the number of return visitors you have. You can do this through remarketing - which just means engaging with people who have already visited your store or made a purchase.
Given you’re in a high traffic, low sales situation, keeping your marketing spend down is going to be critical. So that rules out retargeting ads.
Instead, you should be aiming for an omnichannel remarketing strategy. That means engaging with existing site visitors and customers using a range of different channels, such as email, SMS and push notification. You should be running a range of campaigns, from welcome flows through to promotions and deals, plus automated messages like abandoned cart messages. And using a range of channels will boost the effectiveness of these campaigns, increasing their visibility and helping you engage with customers on the devices and channels they actually use.
That said, implementing a full omnichannel remarketing strategy takes time and some investment. So it probably makes sense to begin with the most affordable channels for remarketing, which are push notifications and email. You can then add SMS and other channels at a later date.
Push notifications require very little time and effort to set up, so they’re probably your best option to start with. Firepush offers a free package of 1,000 push notifications, so you can set this up for your store straightaway at no cost. Then it would make sense to set up a Welcome message with a discount offer. These messages will be sent out via web browser to the desktop or mobile of anyone who opts in to pushes on your store, and will encourage them to return to your store and make a purchase.
Marketer’s tip: remarket your paid ads traffic with abandoned cart messages
Many stores that find themselves in a high traffic, low sales scenario are spending big on paid ads. These ads, which cost a lot, are effective at bringing traffic to a site, but then all too often this traffic does not convert.
A smart tactic is to actually reuse this traffic to see if you can get more sales from it. After all, having paid so much to get them to your store, a small additional investment to get them over the line makes sense.
You can do this by remarketing your paid ad traffic with welcome greetings, promo campaigns and, most effectively of all, automated abandoned cart messages.
These messages are triggered when a customer adds an item to their shopping cart but then doesn’t complete the purchase - the customer receives 3 reminder messages encouraging them to return to the checkout and buy the item. As with all remarketing, an omnichannel approach is going to be most effective. But to get started, try using push notifications (you can then add email and SMS to the mix as things progress). Push notifications have a few big advantages:
- They’re the most affordable channel to use.
- They’re highly visible, as they are sent through web browsers and can be received on desktop or mobile.
- The opt-in is easier (a single click rather than leaving an email or phone number).
- They are triggered even if the shopper hasn’t proceeded to checkout (just added items to their cart), which means they capture a larger number of abandoned carts.
So how would a strategy of remarketing your paid ads traffic with abandoned cart push notifications work in practice?
A customer clicks on one of your paid ads. They land on your site, and are prompted to sign up for web push notifications, which they do. They then browse your store and add a couple of items to their cart. For whatever reason, they decide to leave your site. About 30 minutes later (the timing can be altered depending on your strategy) they receive a web browser push notification to their phone or desktop. This message reminds them of the items they left in their cart, and perhaps incentivises them to complete the purchase with a time-limited discount code. They click the message, are sent right back to their cart, and complete the purchases.
Congratulations, your traffic just became a sale.
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Possible cause 2: Poor site design and UX
What does poor site design and UX mean?
So you’ve improved the quality of the traffic coming into your site. Now it’s time to focus on the site itself.
Imagine a huge mansion, where every door leads somewhere. Ideally, the front door opens up to the lobby, each room connects to a corridor, and the sets of stairs connect different floors. Arrange it any other way and people would get lost.
Well, your website is just like this mansion. And the last thing you want is for your visitors to get lost, or for it to be hard to find the right door for what they want - your site visitors will simply give up and leave.
Yet this might be exactly what’s happening if your store is hard to navigate, unclear, or blocked at crucial points. So you need to do some analysis to understand if you’re making it as easy as possible for your site visitors to find the product they want and make a purchase.
How can I tell if poor design and UX is the cause of my low sales?
You can‘t survey each user who left your store due to navigation problems. So how do you know what to fix?
First up, you’re going to need the helicopter view: what is the overall state of play in terms of your site’s usability? To get this, the simplest and quickest tool approach is what’s called a funnel analysis. Analytics tools like Hotjar breakdown your website into different stages, and then measures how many of your site visitors progress from one stage to the next, and how many dropoff. A typical funnel analysis looks like this.
Image source: Hotjar
This isn’t going to give you much detail about user experience on your site, but it will help you decide where to start. If you see that there is a huge dropoff from your homepage to your product page, for example, that means visitors are getting stuck on your homepage and not moving on to look at specific products. So that would be the place to start.
If you see there is a problem of traffic dropping off dramatically at certain points in your website, it’s a good indicator that there is a UX problem. So now it’s time for the fix.
How do I fix my poor design and UX?
There‘s a range of analytics suites that provide you with heatmaps. These are visualised insights on your user behaviour. Tools like Hotjar and Crazy Egg will help you see where users click more often, when they stop scrolling, and what best captures their attention.
Image Source: Hotjar
Using this data, you can then rearrange buttons and other elements to make the shopping experience more pleasant.
When overhauling your website, don‘t feel pressured to implement all the latest UX/UI trends like asymmetrical layouts or animated illustration. Adding bells and whistles can slow your page down, especially on mobile. And, as a study run by Google shows, as page load time goes from 1 to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%. If a graphic element increases load time or distracts the user, it is best left out.
Whatever your design choices may be, your motto in all cases should be:
“provide the shortest pathway to your user“
Adding an item to their cart – a single click. Checking-out – as few pages and sign ups as possible. A study by Baymard shows that complicated check-out processes cause 21% of abandoned cart instances.
You can also think about user experience with regards to your remarketing campaigns too. If your SMS or web push notification campaign promises a discount on a particular category of items, landing the user on your homepage would be confusing, and add extra steps to the customer journey. Landing customers on pages that directly correspond with your marketing messages will help you increase conversion rates.
Possible cause 3: Lack of trust or confidence
What does lack of trust or confidence mean?
Online shoppers are accustomed to purchasing from places like Amazon, a seller they trust. When it comes to buying from a website they had never visited, people need additional assurance. This can be especially true for newly established stores.
And the positive experience of previous customers is where this confidence will come from.
So your low sales may be caused by a simple lack of trust. After fixing your traffic and improving user experience, this is where you should put your focus.
How can I tell if lack of trust is the cause of my low sales?
Again, a high bounce rate may be an indicator of this problem. But most likely, it will be shown by a dropoff from product pages to checkout. Users are interested in your products, but when it comes to giving your their card details and making a purchase, they don’t feel confident.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to judge exactly to what extent a lack of trust is the problem, but if you’re a new store you can safely assume it is definitely playing a part.
How do I fix my lack of trust problem?
Research from Nielsen shows that 73% of online respondents base their purchase decisions on reviews left by other users. Moreover, industry insights show that more than a third of users would be less likely to buy from a website that lacks reviews. So, integrating the option for shoppers to rate their experience is the first logical step. Unfortunately, simply having this option is not enough, and you will need to implement a series of measures pushing your users to actually leave reviews. Luckily, it is not that difficult.
Email is the classical channel to ask for reviews, but web push notifications and SMS work just as fine. No matter what channel you choose, with your first efforts to gather reviews using email, push notification or SMS you must consider two key factors.
- Personalisation – mention the name of the product and use its picture, if possible.
- Timing – asking to review the product before the user receives it is useless, so is waiting for several months. The best time to ask for a review also depends on what you are selling. It‘s reasonable to ask for a review of a T-shirt several days after it is received, but you might want to wait a week or two before asking the customer to rate the smartwatch he purchased from you. Having spent some time using the product, your customer will be more likely to leave an informed review.
As a picture tells a story better than a thousand words, you might consider encouraging users to leave photo reviews. These work wonders for apparel and jewellery stores, as people like to see how a certain item looks worn by another customer and not a model. To make the best of it, you can check out the Shopify app Loox. Loox integrates with Firepush and enables users to add photo reviews to your Shopify store. Reviews aside, you should signal trust in other ways as well:
- Make sure your SSL certificates, payment provider logos and other trust badges are visible. This is needed to show your customers that their payment information will be handled securely. Forgoing this simple hygienic factor can lead to shoppers dropping out at check-out, as 1 in 5 carts are abandoned due to customers not trusting the vendor with their payment information.
- Provide flexible returns. Knowing that they can easily return an item if it doesn’t suit them will help many customers to make up their minds. This is especially relevant for clothing and apparel stores, and also pertinent for stores targeting younger age groups who expect to return more the items they purchase online. Yes, returns are a hassle and a cost. But flexible returns will help you convert more sales overall, and build stronger long-term relationships with your clients.
- Offer delivery updates. Something as simple as a push notification to show their package is on its way can make a big difference in helping customers feel confident.
Fixing your high traffic, low sales issues - the main takeaways
We’ve jumped deep into 3 key areas that will help you solve your high traffic, low sales problem for your Shopify store. Here’s a quick summary of the key points to remember.
- First, set yourself a realistic target for conversion for your store. Peg your target to average conversion rates for your specific area of ecommerce. Then calculate where your conversion rate is currently at, so you have a clear idea of where you need to get to.
- Second, aim to accurately diagnose the problem. Start with your traffic, and check the bounce rate and average session duration to see if the quality of your traffic is good enough. Next, evaluate user experience through a funnel analysis.
- Third, having accurately diagnosed the problem, implement some of the recommended solutions for that specific area. In terms of priorities, its probably best to focus first on improving your traffic, then improving user experience, and finally boosting trust and confidence.
Remember that everything you have invested into your store will bear fruit eventually. Staying focused and calm, and being methodical in tackling your high traffic, low sales problem, will soon see you turn the problem around.
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