An overarching site overhaul is often a marketer's go-to solution when online sales and conversion rates are sinking. After all, if bounce rates are high, average order values aren’t up to snuff, and one-time-buyers are the norm, it must be the website's fault ... right? 

Right, but … when solving issues that are isolated to specific points of interaction or achieving certain tangible outcomes, it's usually not the whole website that needs attention. More often than not, all that’s needed is some strategic testing and targeting, followed by a few powerful modifications based on the results.

If you’re seriously considering making global site changes in the name of improving sales and conversions -- or already took the plunge and need to regain lost ground -- consider the following minimal changes to make a big impact on key website pages:

1. Homepage: First Impressions Count

The homepage is usually the first page visitors see and the first one marketers want to modify. Before making big changes, consider the top objectives of an e-commerce homepage: to display products/services, to encourage navigation to other parts of the site, and to allow visitors to search directly and easily for what they’re looking for.

Testing results of hundreds of retail sites consistently reveal that keeping the visual display clean and compelling attracts more engagement. A cluttered, busy collage of products, on the other hand, is likely to overwhelm visitors and drive them away.

Is your navigation bar also clear and intuitive? Make sure that category and product navigation options are especially prominent, well positioned and easy to identify. does a good job of using icons with rollover text to engage visitors and direct them to the desired product or category.

Finally, if you’re trying to attract attention to a new product, consider using a contrasting color for the section of the navigation bar that links to that product, so that it stands out from the other categories.

2. Category Pages: Sorting Things Out

Because category pages revolve around visitors’ need to search for and sort through products or service types, any updates to this section should enhance the visitor’s ability to filter and find. It’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring category pages or writing them off as a vehicle that simply exists to transport visitors to the pages that really count, but testing shows otherwise.

For instance, multivariate testing results for Harry and David's product page revealed that presenting the product name above the product image, presenting a bolder black price color (as compared to the default black) and placing the call-to-action above the product rating, resulted in dramatic lifts in conversion and overall revenue generation.

Clear calls-to-action for featured or sales items also assist in transforming browsers into buyers. And quick view functionality allows for visual inspection and comparison with other products, without forcing a visitor to commit to a click-through before they’re ready. Finally, allowing customers to save searches for later provides visitors convenience and therefore creates loyalty.’s “Save This Search” function allows visitors to save a particular category search with a relevant name, so they can return at a later time, choose their products and complete the purchase. After all, you can’t always control whether a customer leaves, but you can certainly make it easier for them to find their way back.

3. Product Pages: The Big Display

Since product pages are all about encouraging visitors to make the purchase, a retailer’s job here is to inform, make customers comfortable with the product and simplify buying.

In order to get as close as possible to offering a “try before you buy” option, allow visitors to view items from multiple angles. This gives them a more comprehensive experience with the item, and makes them feel as though they’re making an informed decision. Also, provide product reviews and recommendations alongside the product so that visitors don’t feel the need to leave your site to get 3rd party feedback.

Finally, make sure you’ve got the obvious bases covered: the shopping cart button should always be highly noticeable and above the fold (across web browsers), pricing should be prominent, and product variations such as color options and sizes should be provided on the page.

4. Shopping Cart: The Moment of Truth

Although the average industry shopping cart abandonment rate is a staggering 65 percent, incomplete purchases are largely credited to controllable issues: high shipping prices presented too late in the game, a long or confusing checkout process, not enough payment options, too many requests for customer information, etc. Sealing the deal, or the sale, comes down to being able to provide a great deal of information in as few clicks as possible.

To do this, test things like the addition of price calculators, auto-fill forms for return customers, free or inexpensive delivery options, and/or a progress bar that allows customers to gauge where they are in the checkout process.

When Fragrance Direct tested various aspects of their checkout page, for instance, they discovered that updates as simple as increasing the white spacing around each page module, shifting from columns to rows, and taking out ancillary information that didn’t directly contribute to purchase completion resulted in a 20 percent uplift in total sales.

5. One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Finally, one of the smartest things marketers can do is to test prospective changes based on the various audience types the site attracts. Take note of test result variations between new and existing customers, diverse age groups, gender, number of items purchased, time of year, geographical location and other variables -- and consider personalizing the site according to audience type and preferences.

Bottom line, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to revamping e-commerce websites. Small-scale changes based on accurate, objective test results are more likely to aid marketers in making crucial site modifications and improving online performance, all while better serving the needs of their customers.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading Mark Simpson's other articles:

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