Last updated: E-commerce optimization checklist: 6 quick wins

E-commerce optimization checklist: 6 quick wins

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This year’s extreme pivot to e-commerce has forced B2C retailers to focus on their digital channels to survive. Here’s an e-commerce optimization checklist with steps you can take every quarter to boost your web store’s performance and improve customer experience.

E-commerce optimization checklist for peak performance

A feature-over-function approach can make a website run poorly and send shoppers elsewhere.

While many retailers have added features like specialty payment and delivery methods or AI chatbots, their sites load too slowly, are hard to use, or hide important product information from shoppers. When customers can’t find what they’re looking for or have to wait too long for a store to load, they move on.

The solution is easier than you might expect.

Just like a car needs regular maintenance to perform at its peak, so does your website. And just like oil changes are cheaper than fancy new sound systems, site maintenance can be inexpensive, with a great ROI.

  1. Speed test your site
  2. Optimize for mobile
  3. Include all customer options
  4. Make URLs SEO-friendly
  5. Decide what to optimize first
  6. Repeat steps on a regular basis

Take these site optimization steps every quarter to boost your web store’s performance. Some of these steps you can do on your own, for others, you’ll need to work with your IT team.

Step 1: Speed test your site

When it comes to page load times, faster is always better. Running a speed test every few months shows you where a site is performing properly and where it needs to improve. Perform not just one but three tests, all of which are free:

  1. Google PageSpeed Insights will give you lots of useful information on site speed, what to fix, and how to fix it.
  2. GTMetrix goes beyond total page load time to Time to First Byte (TTFB), which shows how quickly the page starts loading after a request.
  3. WebpageTest scans for some of the same performance factors as the first two tests, but also provides a site security score with detailed explanations and suggestions for improvement.

Here are two common issues on retail websites that are likely to hinder speed and overall customer experience:

Image files load twice, are too big, or load when they’re not needed

The No. 1 speed killer for websites is images that load twice. When a customer goes to your product listing page on their desktop, they see images optimized for a big screen. If they go to the same page on a phone, they (ideally) see smaller, mobile-optimized images.

What’s impossible to see is that on many websites, both versions of the image load, regardless of which kind of device the visitor’s using. There’s no customer-facing reason to load both versions—their smartphone isn’t going to suddenly turn into a laptop while they browse—but many retail sites were built this way to developer time.

Getting rid of double loads can cut anywhere from half a second to several seconds off your page load times.

You may be able to speed up your site with other image optimizations, too.

  1. Compress image files to reduce their size without reducing quality, so they load faster
  2. Use newer image formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR and WebP to make compression more efficient.
  3. Load only the images that need to appear as the user scrolls to give them the information they need, and don’t waste their time while the site loads off-screen images

Use digital asset manager (DAM) software to optimize and maintain the images on your site, so it consistently loads fast.

CSS and JavaScript issues slowing down page loads

Your page speed report might mention CSS and JavaScript issues: Cascading style sheets loading everything on the page when visitors arrive instead of just the above-the-fold content, old-style sheet rules that no longer apply, or clean JavaScript. Fixing these problems can dramatically improve site speed.

Step 2: E-commerce optimization extends to mobile 

Mobile retail sites that don’t make it easy for customers to shop on their phones drive customers away. There are two quick ways to see if your store’s mobile experience needs improvement.

Test your site on a few different mobile devices

Ideally, the design will look nice and clean, search tools will be easy to use, and the format will allow users to tap large spots on the screen to navigate. Problem areas can include headers and product titles that crowd out product images, menus that are hard to use, and cluttered screens that are hard to navigate.

If the conversion rate and average order value (AOV) are lower for mobile than for your desktop site, fix it. The old explanation that customers don’t buy as much on mobile no longer holds up. Now, if your customers can’t buy from you on mobile, you might lose them forever.

Step 3: Show customers all their options

When customers browse your site, can they see all the color options for each product easily, or do they have to click or tap to individual product pages to see all their options?

If all the color options don’t appear in product menus, you can lose shoppers who aren’t looking for the color that shows up in the menu, because not everyone will click through to see if it’s available in other colors. Talk to your IT team about updating the menu images to show all the options.

Step 4: Make product page URLs SEO-friendly

Another way to boost your site’s performance is to make your product pages easier to find in search results.

Check your page URLs to see if they contain SEO-friendly keywords, like “womens-packable-down-coat.” If product page URLs have strings of random characters or irrelevant information like the name of your e-commerce platform, you’re losing out on search visibility—and that means customers can’t find your products.

Correct page titles, and while you’re at it, update the pages’ meta descriptions for better SEO. These changes don’t require any coding; you can update a page in just a few minutes, and the improvements can help pages move up in Google search results.

Step 5: What should you optimize first?

Quarterly e-commerce optimization should start with speed tests. Next, work with IT to decide which changes to work on first. For example, if you’ve got an image compression problem, start there.

Next, if you’re not showing up at the top of results, work to improve SEO right away. Then, if mobile conversion rate and AOV are problematic, work on them.

If you have multiple tasks to tackle, set priorities by calculating optimization ROI, based on time required and speed gains. If one improvement will take 30 minutes and speed up page load by 1.5 seconds, you should do that before an improvement that will take longer and speed up your page load less.

Step 6: Making e-commerce optimization a habit

When you first run through this e-commerce optimization checklist, you may find a few items to fix or you may find a lot. If it’s the latter, don’t worry. With clear priorities and quarterly checkups, the process will get easier over time.

As you optimize your site’s performance and SEO, KPIs such as conversion rate, average order value, revenue and customer experience should improve. All it takes is some regular maintenance.

Shifting retail landscapes.
Varying buying behavior.
What makes people click “buy”?
We’ve got the answers HERE.
 

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