It’s a sad fact of online commerce that a large number of users are going to come to your site, then immediately turn around and never come back. You can’t catch everybody, but there are techniques you can employ to help reduce bounce, and make sure your new users stick around.
Optimize Your Load Times
I feel like a broken record sometimes, but it bears repeating that one of the most important factors in website success is load speed. You can have the most beautiful and perfect website in the world and if it takes twelve seconds to load, nobody is ever going to see it. In 2020, if it takes more than two seconds to load, you’re cutting off a solid half of your potential users—Google data in 2017 showed 47% of users leaving a site that wasn’t loaded above the fold in three seconds or less, and that trend has continued to march on.
We’ve gone into more detail about how to fix this before, so you know where to look:
Optimize for Mobile
Mobile overtook desktop as the primary eCommerce venue in 2017, and the gap has widened every year since; if you’re not making a site that doesn’t look good on mobile, then you’re not making a site that looks good. This means responsive design, highly-optimized load times (mobile hardware often has issues loading pages that work fine on desktop), and interfaces designed for touchscreen use. Most analytics suites will show you which devices users are accessing your site from, and you can use this information to figure out whether mobile users are the ones bouncing; if so, you can course-correct and start catering better to their needs.
Authority and Legitimacy
If a site doesn’t look and feel the part, users aren’t going to want anything to do with it. Scammers are everywhere these days, and internet users have developed hair-trigger responses to content that doesn’t feel legitimate. There are some simple ways to clean this up:
- Make sure you’ve got an SSL certificate installed. How this works will depend on which server you’re using—we’ve done guides for Ubuntu 14.04 and CentOS 7. If you don’t have a certificate set up, many browsers and antivirus suites won’t even let users access your site.
- Be GDPR compliant, even if you’re not operating in the EU. Users have come to expect things like cookie popups, and their absence might ring alarm bells.
- Have-up-to date graphic design and website layout. You don’t need to roll out a new site every six months, but if you look like you last had your site updated in 1999, users will assume nobody’s home or nobody cares and they’ll bounce immediately.
- Everything needs to work. Nothing sends a user away faster than a 404 on a main page: it gives off a vibe that you’re not in control of your site. One way to handle this is with a custom 404 page—it’s not a perfect solution, but it will come off as more professional and might be the thing that keeps a user onsite even when something has gone wrong.
How many Americans do you think have some form of arthritis? One in fifty? One in twenty? The answer is a staggering one in four. That’s fifty four million people who could have difficulty operating a phone interface, and arthritis is far from the only accessibility issue you need to account for. If somebody can’t use your interface, they bounce. Things to keep in mind when designing for accessibility:
- For those with colour blindness and other vision impairments, you want to ensure your colour scheme is high-contrast and that text legibility is high.
- Alt text on images is crucial for users with impaired vision, and can also give you a nice little SEO boost to boot.
- While more and more sites are being designed with mobile use in mind rather than desktop, touchscreen interfaces aren’t an option for many users, and clicking a mouse is also difficult—make sure your UI can be navigated using only a keyboard.
- Breadcrumbs and other navigation indicators are useful for all users, but especially for those with memory issues or other cognitive impairments.
There’s one reliable way to figure out what’s going wrong, and that’s testing. The ever-popular A/B Testing should probably be your go-to. That’s a whole article on its own so I’m just going to point you at the Hubspot blog and move on, but I think it’s still very important to note down and have on your checklist.
Quick: load up your store’s front page, look at it for no more than five seconds, then close it and try to picture it in your head. I know that’s not a lot of time, but it’s about as much as the average internet user will give you, and it’s important to have already made an impression.
“Now hold on, you said this was about storytelling, and you can’t tell a story in five seconds.”
Think of your site like a movie for a minute, and ask yourself what story the first five seconds tell. That snap judgement of who you are is going to be based on limited visual details, and you want to construct those details to make sure they tell the story you want to tell. Is your site austere and professional, projecting stability and authority? Is it fun and colourful? A site specialising in high-end jewellery is going to project a different brand story than one that sells coffee beans, and different coffee brands can still tell totally different stories.
That doesn’t mean you can neglect your copy, though: after you’ve told a visual story, you need to deliver on it with, well … words. Users respond to narratives, and—before you try to sell anything—you want to get them hooked by spinning the story of you. A story starts with a hook, has conflict in the middle, then ends in catharsis (and hopefully a sale!). If you want a simple storytelling framework, try this:
- There was a person (like, say, you)
- They wanted something, but couldn’t have it (stronger coffee, affordable car insurance, a nice anniversary gift)
- They did something to change the world (started a company to fill the gap!)
Transitioning from that to a sale is a lot smoother than just dumping a price tag at somebody’s feet. The initial visual story prevents five-second bounces, and the prose story keeps them there until conversion.
Well done on making it to the end, once you’re done implementing the above tips to reduce your bounce rate, the next step is stop customers from abandoning at checkout. Luckily we’ve covered this topic thoroughly, read our ten tips to beating eCommerce cart abandonment.