11 eCommerce Marketing Automation Systems Compared

Adding a marketing automation system to your eCommerce marketing arsenal is typically a worthwhile high ROI effort and is a mandatory part of Inbound Marketing for eCommerce. But given the fast growing plethora of marketing automation systems available, which is best for your business? [2014 Marketing Technology Landscape Image by Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com] [2018 Marketing Technology

Adding a marketing automation system to your eCommerce marketing arsenal is typically a worthwhile high ROI effort and is a mandatory part of Inbound Marketing for eCommerce. But given the fast growing plethora of marketing automation systems available, which is best for your business?

Marketing Technology Landscape_Image by Scott Brinker

[2014 Marketing Technology Landscape Image by Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com]

Marketing Technology Landscape (2018) - Image by Scott Brinker

[2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Image by Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com]

To answer that question, there are three key areas of eCommerce marketing automation systems to evaluate: features, integrations and pricing.

1. Features

Marketo defines marketing automation as “technology that allows companies to streamline, automate, and measure marketing tasks and workflows so they can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster.” Within this definition, the types of marketing tasks and complexities of workflows can vary broadly among various tools. When evaluating the features of marketing automation systems, we focus on three areas: publishing, emailing and reporting. Here are some of the features we evaluate as part of each area:

Publishing

  • Social media monitoring and management
  • Landing page creation and management
  • Website management and personalization

Emailing

  • Email list segmentation
  • Automated workflows (replenishment campaigns, cart abandonment campaigns, etc.)
  • Testing – ability to test

Reporting

  • Website tracking (ability to tie web activity with specific users)
  • Detailed Analytics
  • Omni-channel marketing reports

2. Integrations

If and how the eCommerce marketing automation system you are considering integrates with your eCommerce platform is critical. Be sure to understand any development tasks or limitations that may occur as a result of choosing a particular system. If you are considering migrating eCommerce or marketing automation platforms, be sure to consider the available integrations. We’ve found Magento, Shopify and Bigcommerce to have the most solid integrations with eCommerce marketing automation systems.

3. Pricing

As with anything in business, the price is a definite consideration when choosing a marketing automation system. Pricing can be based on a variety of factors, including “list size,” number of customers, the number of emails sent monthly, integration options and more. Prices for a solid eCommerce marketing automation system vary from a few hundred dollars to several thousands or more per month.

When considering the cost of your system, don’t forget to think about the additional ROI that is possible from the use of a marketing automation system, which should more than cover your costs. Also, if a system is more expensive due to more extensive features, how much more efficient will your work be (saving time and training) with more features in one place? Lastly, the training and support provided by the vendor is an important feature, and some higher priced systems can be more attractive in this area. After all, if you don’t know how to use your system or can’t fix important issues, it isn’t going to contribute nearly the ROI of a fully utilized eCommerce marketing automation system.

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Comparing eCommerce Marketing Automation Systems

We’ve analyzed eleven of the top marketing automation systems for eCommerce and are happy to share our findings with you. (Click below to quickly jump to a specific system).

 

Klaviyo

Klaviyo logo

Klaviyo bills itself as email software vs. a full marketing automation solution, which makes sense when you examine the features available in the tool currently. They’ve definitely done email right in this awesome tool. A variety of deep integrations with not just eCommerce platforms, but also other marketing tools like Unbounce, SumoMe, JustUno and more, make up for some of the marketing automation features missing from the platform.

Key or Notable Features

Klaviyo was built to be an eCommerce automated email tool. As such, setting up automated campaigns like replenishment, cross-sell, win-back and cart abandonment is a breeze. You can easily build custom templates, and importing your lists is a snap with their wide variety of integration options. The “Ideas” supplied are sometimes useful to help continue building out automation campaigns in your account. Lastly, the tracking pixel/snippet lets you segment on content viewed by a user – not just products purchased.

Integrations

Klaviyo integrates with the most common and popular eCommerce platforms, as well as a few others. The custom integration option via JavaScript is a fantastic option for a custom eCommerce platform. The JS integration solution is similar to Google Analytics eCommerce tracking where you “fill in the blanks” with order details to send to Klaviyo.

Klaviyo Integrates With:

  • Magento
  • Shopify
  • WooCommerce
  • Bigcommerce
  • Volusion
  • Spree
  • Custom integrations are possible via JavaScript code snippet

In addition to integrating with several eCommerce platforms, Klaviyo also integrates with many other tools, which allow for good options when taking the “Frankenstein” approach to putting together a complete eCommerce marketing automation system made of many pieces.

Notable integrations include:

Pricing

Pricing for Klaviyo is based on the number of contacts you are storing in the system. Contacts are not only customers, but also subscribers and lists from other systems like MailChimp, Unbounce, JustUno and more. You can use Klaviyo for free up to 250 contacts and 500 email sends but as your number of contacts increases, so will your costs. Klaviyo does aim to be affordable at just $25/month for up to 500 contacts; $50/month for up to 1,000; $75/month for up to 1,500, and so forth.

Klaviyo Pricing Slider

Disappointments

Our sales call/demo of Klaviyo was disappointing and short. We’ve also heard from customers on custom platforms that the custom integration option isn’t as easy as it appears. Lastly, for the price of $1,000 per month for 80,000 contacts, it would be nice if Klaviyo had a few more non-email specific features to beef up the offering.

Windsor Circle

Windsor Circle Logo

Windsor Circle is a well-funded, fast-growing and talented startup (founded 2011) in the eCommerce marketing automation space. The company bills its solution as a “Customer Retention & Predictive Marketing Automation Platform.” A large number of integrations with eCommerce platforms, a detailed analytics and reporting tool, dedicated customer service and more make Windsor Circle a great choice (plus they’ll send you green pants if you ask).

Key or Notable Features

Windsor Circle is unique in how the solution is architected. For example, even though at least half of Windsor’s features involve email, no emails are actually sent from the tool itself. Instead, the system integrates with many popular email tools that you may already be using, such as MailChimp, iContact, Emma, Constant Contact, What Counts, etc.

Another unique feature Windsor Circle offers is the insightful analytics platform, which lets you examine and segment your eCommerce purchase data for magical insights. For example, you can figure out which products lead to the highest customer lifetime values. Or, you could figure out how long the average customer waits to make their second purchase from your store. Armed with this information, you can develop and execute tactics to improve ROI for your eCommerce store. Recently, Windsor added on-site behavioral tracking, including the ability to segment and target based on behaviors.

Integrations

Windsor is the leader when it comes to integrations. They claim to be able to integrate with ANY eCommerce platform. Any platform not already supported as “pre-built” is integrated through data feeds and comes with a one-time charge of $2,500. Pre-built platforms come with a five-day integration-to-activation timeframe guarantee.

Pre-built eCommerce Integrations Include:

  • 3dCart
  • AspDotNetStorefront
  • Bigcommerce
  • Channel Advisor
  • CommerceV3
  • CoreSense
  • DemandWare
  • Magento
  • OrderMotion
  • Neto
  • NetSuite
  • Shopify
  • Aptos/ShopVisible
  • Volusion
  • Yahoo Stores
  • Custom Integrations available via data feeds for $2,500

Out-of-the-box Email System Integrations:

  • Act-on
  • Bronto
  • Constant Contact
  • dotmailer
  • Emma
  • EmailDirect
  • Experian CCMP
  • iContact
  • MailChimp
  • Maropost
  • Lyris
  • Oracle Marketing Cloud
  • Salesforce Marketing Cloud formerly ExactTarget
  • VerticalResponse
  • WhatCounts (Publicaster and Professional).

Pricing

Pricing for Windsor Circle is based on the number of customers in your eCommerce platform going back three years (you can’t ask to just go back two years, but of course if you have less than three years of data in your system, it will use what is there). There is also a $1,000 on-boarding fee that covers the set-up and design of email templates in the platform of your choice.

Based on our sales conversations with Windsor Circle, you can expect pricing to look something like (note this pricing was accurate at the time of our initial publication on September 2016, but may no longer be accurate now that Klaviyo focuses only on larger enterprise clients):

pricing table for Widsor Circle

Additional service packages are also available for purchase if you or your agency lacks the time or needs to bring in extra expertise.

To get the most accurate pricing from Windsor Circle, you can always reach out to them via their pricing form.

Disappointments

Because Windsor doesn’t actually send any emails itself, there are now two systems to worry about instead of one, as is the case with almost every other marketing automation solution. This is somewhat convenient if you are already using a supported email platform, but otherwise could just be more parts to break.

 

Hubspot

HubSpot Logo

King of marketing automation for small/medium B2B companies, HubSpot is still interested in becoming a major eCommerce player. While not exactly common in eCommerce, HubSpot is climbing in market share and adoption – especially with brands focused on content marketing and Inbound Marketing for higher consideration eCommerce purchases. Out of the systems we discuss in this post, HubSpot is the most complete eCommerce marketing automation system with features that include publishing, emailing and reporting.

Key or Notable Features

HubSpot is truly a one-stop shop when it comes to eCommerce marketing automation. Features include building and publishing landing pages and forms, publishing a blog, managing social media, running an automated email marketing campaign and even lead scoring (yes, there is a place for lead scoring in eCommerce).

Integrations

With HubSpot still breaking into the eCommerce marketing automation space, there are only three pre-built integrations with eCommerce platforms. Each integration was developed by a third-party and comes with a nominal fee of $50-$100 per month approximately. Integration options include:

Pricing

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and with HubSpot you are getting a lot (and paying for it). Deals can usually be negotiated with their eager sales team. However, be prepared to commit to a 12-month contract. The basic package is fairly useless, so expect to pay at least $800 per month or more.

Hubspot Pricing

 

Disappointments

Our main disappointment with HubSpot is the lack of available eCommerce platform integrations. While the most popular platforms are covered, anything beyond those mentioned above are not available without custom programming. In addition, HubSpot’s pricing model is based on their legacy as a B2B tool. Many eCommerce sites tend to be higher in traffic with larger lists than your typical B2B company. Since price is based on list size (contacts), expect to pony up more and more as your list grows.

One way around this is to keep separate lists (leads vs customers) and only use Hubspot to nurture leads into customers. However, this limits your ability to provide a seamless experience and requires additional maintenance. At the very least, when using Hubspot you should be scrubbing your list at every few months.

Kevy

KEVY logo

Kevy is another newer, but fast growing player in the eCommerce marketing automation tool space. One of Founder/CEO Brooke Beach’s goals is to create less fragmentation for eCommerce store owners and managers when it comes to the apps they use to run their business. Another huge focus for Kevy is personalization (of everything).

 

Features

Kevy starts with all the “standard” features you’d expect out of a marketing automation built from scratch for eCommerce. This includes advanced segmentation capabilities, cart recovery campaign capabilities, email design editor, and reporting. Kevy’s email designer is one of the best in the industry (it even changes an image’s size, not just its dimensions). Reporting is enhanced with a deep Google Analytics integration. In addition, the single-use coupon capability is a nice bonus that helps Kevy take personalization even further. Lastly, the included pop-up capabilities are super strong and convenient with the ability to personalize and target pop-ups as well.

 

Pricing

Kevy pricing is based on contacts in your email list. You may send an unlimited amount of emails to the contacts in the system

Full KEVY Pricing Chart

 

Integrations

Because Kevy is a Javascript based tool, it can work/integrate with any eCommerce platform. That being said, it does have solid connectors for Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce and Volusion for even more convenient and speedy integrations.

Intergration logos from eCommerce platforms

 

Disappointments

There wasn’t too much to be disappointed in with Kevy! Their team is small but growing, which could impact new feature releases and potentially customer service.

Omnisend

Omnisend is an ecommerce marketing automation platform designed to help marketers improve their sales by using greater personalization and connecting with their customers on more touch points. Its aim is to help ecommerce marketers get the functionality they need to dramatically increase their sales without having to use many different apps.

Key or Notable Features

Omnisend has quite a lot of features – just what you’d expect for a marketing automation platform designed for ecommerce marketers. It has all the usual bells and whistles—such as a drag-and-drop newsletter builder, popups, and A/B testing. But possibly the best features are related to segmentation and automation. With these features, you can slice and dice your customers any way you like and send them automated emails based on a large number of triggers. Their reports are pretty comprehensive too, allowing you to see not just opens and clicks, but also sales generated by your campaigns or workflows. They’ve recently introduced SMS messages, and will soon roll out the ability to create Facebook Custom Audiences from your lists.

Integrations

Omnisend has integrations with all of the major ecommerce platforms, including any custom platforms through their API. It also integrates easily with ecommerce apps such as Privy, JustUno, Optimonk and more.

 

Omnisend eCommerce Integrations

Pricing

Omnisend’s pricing depends on how many subscribers you have in your list. You can use their pricing calculator to see just how much you’d be paying per month.

Omnisend Pricing Calculator

They also have a free plan that allows you to send 15,000 emails per month, with a limit of 2,000 emails per day.

Disappointments

Omnisend doesn’t have a lot to be disappointed about. We’re waiting to see what their new omnichannel features will bring to the table and how it can help ecommerce stores reach their sales goals.

Drip

Drip is an email automation tool that bills itself as an “E-CRM,” or Ecommerce CRM. Drip integrates out of the box with Shopify, WooCommerce, Stripe, and dozens of other payment processors, and has a visual email workflow builder that lets you build complex automations based on what products people have purchased.

Drip is definitely one of the more powerful email automation tools we’ve looked at. And the fact that they’re focused 100% on B2C ecommerce makes them an intriguing player in the market.

Key or Notable Features

Drip’s visual workflow tool lets you go beyond pre- and post-purchase sequences, and really build entire lifecycle marketing funnels – all mapped out visually.

One of the cooler features that sets Drip apart is Shareable Workflows. Drip users can share and import pre-built automations in 1 click. So if you have a Shopify store, for example, you’re able to install a proven post-purchase email sequence, without having to build everything from scratch.

(Click here for an example.)

Another key Drip feature is purchase intent scoring. Similar to lead scoring in B2B, this feature lets you see a “score” that each subscriber has, based on their engagement with your marketing (e.g. opening an email = +1 point, visiting a product page = +3 points, not opening an email for a week = -1 point.)

This lets you segment subscribers by engagement – which is difficult or impossible to pull off with many other ESPs.

Integrations

Drip integrates out of the box with the following eCommerce platforms and payment processors:

  • Shopify
  • Shopify Plus
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce
  • Stripe
  • Gumroad
  • Authorize.net
  • Paypal
  • DPD
  • ClickBank
  • 1ShoppingCart
  • 3dcart
  • Thrivecart
  • SamCart

In addition to eCommerce platforms, Drip integrates with dozens of popular marketing tools, including:

  • Facebook Lead Ads
  • Facebook Custom Audiences
  • Sumo
  • Privy
  • Leadpages
  • Instapage
  • Unbounce
  • Fomo

Pricing
Like most email platforms, Drip charges based on the number of subscribers you have.

With a forever-free plan (under 100 contacts) and a basic plan at $49/mo, Drip is very affordable relative to other marketing automation tools – especially given the features you get.

Here’s how Drip’s pricing breaks down.

Disappointments

If you’re coming from a basic email platform like MailChimp, Drip definitely will take some time to learn. There’s a lot of power in the visual workflow builder, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities if you’ve never mapped out pre- and post-purchase sequences before.

Another disappointment is that Drip doesn’t seem to offer live 1-on-1 demos if you have fewer than 10K subscribers. If you have a decent sized email list, though, Drip will give you a 1-on-1 demo, as well as free migration services to help you bring your list over from another provider.

ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign Logo

ActiveCampaign is a good option for small to mid-sized businesses but carries enough features that it can easily grow with you. The service provides CRM, email marketing, and marketing automation all in one place so there’s little need to try and “Frankenstein” a marketing stack that works for you.

Key or Notable Features

One of the most notable features of ActiveCampaign is the inclusion of a variety of pre-built “automation recipes” created just for eCommerce businesses to address a variety of user behaviors, including: cart abandonment, average order size or frequency, multiple visits to specific products, and much more.

ActiveCampaign Features

Integrations

ActiveCampaign supports API based integrations with Shopify and BigCommerce but for other platforms such as BigCartel, StoreEnvy or Magento – users would need to use Zapier or Revenue Conduit to pull eCommerce data.

Deep Integrations:

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce

Zapier Supported Integrations:

  • WooCommerce
  • Gumroad
  • Shipstation
  • StoreEnvy
  • Shipwire
  • Lemonstand
  • BigCatel
  • Tapfilliate

Integrations via Revenue Conduit:

  • BigCommerce
  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce

Pricing

All of ActiveCampaign’s pricing is based on the number of contacts you have. There is a Lite tier that carries their lowest prices, but be aware that it doesn’t include the CRM or any of their deep data integrations for Shopify for BigCommerce. The Plus and Professional levels are relatively affordable up to 25,000 contacts, but beyond that, you’ll have to contact ActiveCampaign directly to determine pricing. There’s also an Enterprise pricing level that provides users with a dedicated account rep, in-depth onboarding, phone support, and free social data.

ActiveCampaign Pricing

Disappointments

The lack of direct integrations with more eCommerce platforms and services could be a dealbreaker for any eCommerce businesses that prefer not to go through (and pay an additional fee for) a third-party app like Zapier. Lastly, the two most common complaints from ActiveCampaign users seems to be regarding the lack of landing pages and the system’s overall learning curve.

 

Bronto

Oracle Bronto Logo

A top Email Marketing Provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1000, the Bronto marketing automation platform helps high-growth retailers produce content that is designed to generate engagement. The platform is essentially made up of a handful of services including: email, personalization, automation, and analytics. And with software giant, Oracle’s backing, you know that Bronto’s underlying technology is going to be powerful.

Key or Notable Features

Although Bronto offers a variety of helpful features for eCommerce marketers, one that stood out the most was the cart recovery solution which works seamlessly to deliver relevant, personalized messages that re-engage and ultimately convert. All it takes is the installation of a few lines of Javascript on your site and Bronto will register cart activity every 30 seconds and upon recognizing that a cart has been abandoned, will trigger a customized workflow with messages that can include dynamically inserted order and cart info.

Integrations

eCommerce Platforms:

  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • Mozu
  • Kibo
  • Netsuite
  • Amongst others

Partner Integrations:

  • BigCommerce
  • JustUno
  • SocialConnect
  • Privy
  • Swell
  • SignUpAnywhere
  • And others

Pricing

Unfortunately, Bronto doesn’t list pricing information on their site as it ultimately depends on which services are ordered as well as how often you send emails. You can reach out to Bronto in order to get in touch with a member of their sales team and get a quote.

Disappointments

Despite Bronto’s many capabilities, the interface can sometimes be a bit confusing and difficult to use, more effort on Bronto’s part to improve user experience wouldn’t go amiss. Even though Bronto has attempted to make everything simple with drag-and-drop functionality, it does result in limiting the level of customization that can be applied in emails and in workflows.

Additionally, users have said that Bronto can be a bit pricey and if you aren’t well-versed in and utilizing all of Bronto’s features, it can occasionally feel like you’re paying for a handful of things you don’t really need.

MailChimp

 

MailChimp Logo

A notable favorite amongst smaller to mid-size businesses, MailChimp is a popular email automation platform that offers a little more than your typical ESPs. Including landing pages, display advertising tools, and an easy to use WYSIWYG email builder that produces well-designed emails in less time.

Key or Notable Features

Good reporting is invaluable when it comes to gauging the ROI from your email marketing efforts and that’s one of the areas where MailChimp shines. On top of your typical email reporting elements like click maps and subscriber activity, MailChimp also uses their Analytics360 module to pull data from your web traffic tools so you can see which campaigns resulted in sales and gauge your ROI. You can also review your reporting to see trends in your industry overall so you can see how effective your efforts are compare to your competitors.

Integrations

Between MailChimp’s popularity amongst users and its robust API, MailChimp carries with it a large library of available integrations. Here are just a few eCommerce integrations available:

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • BigCartel
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce
  • Salesforce
  • XCart
  • OpenCart
  • Windsor Circle

If you’re using an existing tool, software, or app and you’re concerned that MailChimp might not play nice – be sure to check out the integration directory. You just might be surprised.

Pricing

MailChimp’s pricing depends on your list size and the features you’re looking for. The Forever Free option is fantastic if you’re just starting to build your list or testing out MailChimp for the first time but you can quickly find yourself somewhat limited. Once you move into the Growing Business and Pro tiers, you’ll be able to really leverage MailChimp’s best features and increase your ROI. Be sure to use the pricing calculator to get a clearer idea of what pricing will be like for your particular list.

MailChimp Pricing

Disappointments

There are a handful of things that can make MailChimp a little annoying to use at times. For example, segmentation is lacking and you can’t send a campaign to multiple email lists. It also doesn’t flag duplicate emails so it’s easy to wind up with a list that is bigger than it actually is (and potentially have to pay more as a result), so you have to make sure that you’re manually scrubbing your lists on a regular basis.

Lastly, even though MailChimp offers some nice templates, when it comes to customization, you can often find yourself fighting with the editor to get changes to stick or preview correctly.

Drift

Drift Logo

 

Although Drift sells itself as a conversational marketing tool primarily for B2B, it can be just as beneficial to eCommerce businesses looking for ways to engage customers just when they’re looking at your products. With well-timed pop-up chats, you can offer your customers opportunities to ask questions, prevent cart abandonment by providing coupon codes, and help customers make decisions about what to purchase.

Key or Notable Features

Conversational marketing is still so new that Drift’s primary function, in and of itself, feels pretty notable. Being able to “talk” to customers virtually, 24/7 is a potential game changer. Other key features that strike us as being particularly interesting are the conversation reports and the ability to see a live view of customers as they engage with your site’s chat bot. This allows you to get a clearer idea of the questions your customers are asking as they make purchasing decisions.

Integrations

  • Slack
  • Drip
  • Hubspot
  • Marketo
  • Shopify
  • Stripe (via Zapier)
  • ZenDesk (via Zapier)
  • Google Analytics
  • Knowledgebase
  • And many others

Pricing

If you sell products that include customizations, Drift can be an affordable way to help your customers through the purchase process.

There’s a free, basic version available but if you want to utilize any of the additional integrations, save replies, see a live view of visitors on your site, or reach out to 1,000 or more contacts; then you’ll want to consider going with the Standard or Pro offerings.

Drift Pricing

Disappointments

While the tool is very useful overall, it often feels as if some of the features available at higher subscription levels should really be standard elements of the tool, just in the interest of good UX. For example, custom branding is only available at the $500/month Pro level, which is why you’ll often notice that sites using Drift have a small notice at the bottom of their chat boxes that says “We’re ⚡ by Drift.”

Bluecore

Bluecore Logo

Bluecore is a retail marketing platform that allows eCommerce marketers create and distribute personalized, triggered emails. The platform is popular among a variety of retail brands such as Steve Madden, Starbucks, and Crocs. It’s site isn’t quite as informative as it could be so to really get a feel for it, we recommend reaching out to Bluecore for a free demo!

Key or Notable Features

Bluecore offers the typical email marketing tools that you would expect from a full email marketing platform, however, there’s definitely a strong vein of data-reliance that results in a few other features designed to really drive sales and increase revenue. For example, Bluecore allows users to setup predictive audiences based on pre-built, retail specific predictive models that utilize your data to create segments based on product affinity, likelihood to take actions, lifecycle stage and lifetime value.

Bluecore also allows users to build out personalized marketing campaigns with multiple, cross-channel touches – all within a single campaign workflow so you can guide your customers towards purchase across various channels.

Integrations

  • Google Adwords
  • Oracle Commerce Cloud
  • Optimizely
  • JustUno
  • Salesforce
  • Bronto

Pricing

Unfortunately, Bluecore’s pricing isn’t listed on their website, however you can contact them to get a quote.
We will note that some customers have mentioned that prices can run a little high.

Disappointments

We weren’t terribly impressed by the small list of integrations available with Bluecore and customers sometimes reported having issues with the email reporting feature (however, the dashboard is useful for providing accurate data at a glance). Others have also said that they weren’t as impressed by the limited amount of features available for such a pricey platform.

So Which System is Right For You?

Of course, every eCommerce business has different wants and needs when it comes to selecting an eCommerce marketing automation system. Of the eleven systems we reviewed, each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses and were built to help solve different problems for different businesses. When it comes to making your selection, think carefully about what features you’ll most likely use and what will do the most to increase your business’ overall efficiency and, ultimately, your revenue.

If you need help or have questions about selecting an eCommerce marketing automation system for your business, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch via phone or email. We’d love to help.

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Why Your eCommerce Conversion Rate Is Probably Better Than You Think

Did you know the most common way to calculate your eCommerce conversion rate isn’t very useful? In this article, we introduce a new way to calculate this rate—and why it matters.

Are you curious how your eCommerce site is performing compared to your competitors?

You might be tracking your eCommerce conversion rate.

But what you probably don’t know is that the most common way to calculate this rate isn’t very useful.

Google Analytics (and many other analytics tools) by default shows a sessions-based rate, which is calculated based on the number of site visits that turn into sales.

And site visits are not the best way to calculate the conversion rate of a site.

Users are.

Note: Want insights to other metrics that impact your conversion rate? We can help. Contact us here.

Ecommerce Overview

Why a User-Based eCommerce Conversion Rate is Better

Sure, it can be nice to know how many site visits turn into a sale, but what does that really tell you?

The number of people that visited your site without buying anything.

It doesn’t tell you if those same people came back later and made a purchase.

A conversion rate based on site visits (“sessions” in Google Analytics) does not take into account longer sale cycles.

Because of this, your website might actually have a higher conversion rate than you think.

This is especially true if a high percentage of your customers visit more than once before making a purchase.

For instance, if a consumer is comparing a product across competitors, they might visit your site, then visit other sites, then come back later and make a purchase, totaling two sessions with one purchase.

In that scenario:

  • The sessions-based conversion rate would be 50%.
  • The user-based conversion rate would be 100%.

To give you a more concrete example, here are the rates for one of our clients in the travel industry:

  • Sessions-based conversion rate: 1.96%
  • User-based conversion rate: 2.24%

The user-based conversion rate is still not a perfect number.

Customers may visit your site then return from a different device, they may clear their cache between visits, they may a different browser to make their purchase, or they might take dozens of other actions that cause Google Analytics to miss that the person is a repeat visitor.

Even so, user-based conversion rate is a better reflection of your true conversion rate than the default sessions-based conversion rate shown in Google Analytics.

Here’s how the conversion rates break out by device type. As you can see, in every case, the user-based conversion rate is higher.

Customers may visit your site then return from a different device, they may clear their cache between visits

Why So Many Tools Default to Sessions-Based Conversion Rate

You may be wondering why so many tools use a sessions-based rate if a user-based conversion rate is generally considered the better option. The answer is that it’s much easier to calculate a conversion rate based on sessions.

An analytics tool doesn’t need to store as much data to calculate whether a session turns into a sale. Calculating a user-based conversion rate means going back in time to track all sessions from a single user.

This requires both more computing power and user tracking.

Note: Want help translating the numbers in Google Analytics into action steps to improve your results? We can help. Contact us here.

How to Track a User-Based Conversion Rate

Google Analytics now has a default metric called ‘Transactions per User’ that equates to a user conversion rate; however, it’s not a default metric.

You can find this metric by going to Reports > Audience > Lifetime Value > User Conversion Rate.

You can find this metric by going to Reports > Audience > Lifetime Value > User Conversion Rate

There are two problems with the metric:

  • You can’t easily control its significant digits.
  • It does not show as a percent for easy visual comparison with eCommerce (session) based conversion rate. In fact, the percentage-based conversion rate that’s shown in the bottom right corner is still based on sessions, not users.

To get the user-based conversion rate, we pull the data from the “Users” and “Transactions” rows to calculate the conversion rate. Using the example above, the numbers are:

  • Desktop: 2,592 (transactions) / 97,487 (users) = 2.66%
  • Tablet: 430 (transactions) / 19,938 (users) = 2.16%
  • Mobile: 1,991 (transactions) / 108,735 (users) = 1.83%

The Other Common Mistake: Looking at Conversion Rate Too Often

Here’s one other suggestion about tracking your conversion rate.

It’s common for people to follow their conversion rate on a regular basis—monthly, maybe even weekly or daily. But doing so can skew your perspective of how your site is really doing.

The reason: you’re probably looking at your rate in a vacuum.

Think about all the ways people get to your site, such as organic traffic, Google shopping campaigns, social media channels:

  • Each channel has its own conversion rate.
  • They are all constantly in flux.
  • They all add up to your overarching conversion rate.

If you make considerable changes to one of these channels, it will—for better or worse —dramatically impact your traffic and conversions.

You can imagine why your conversion rate would peak and then tank after a major ad campaign, and the temporary decrease in your conversion rate isn’t something to worry about.

If you see an overall increase in revenue after the campaign, it’s a win. And your conversion rate should level out (or rise) over time.

Instead of worrying over week-to-week or month-to-month changes to your rate, we recommend watching your conversion rate in these three situations:

  • Looking at your year-over-year rate to see how your site is doing in the long-term.
  • Watching your rate closely during major shopping times, such as the holidays, when quick changes are vital.
  • Watching your rate after major site changes. And of course we recommend thorough A/B testing of any major change.

Increasing Your Conversion Rate is a Long-Term Strategy

Your site’s conversion rate should increase year-over-year through consistent product, promotion, and site strategy. Tracking a user-based conversion rate is just one way to see whether you’re building long-term customers.

(Note: If you’re interested in developing a full conversion rate optimization strategy, we can help. Contact us here.)

How We Created an eCommerce Buying Guide That Led to Six-Figure Sales

We often recommend creating customer buyer’s guides to our eCommerce clients — especially those who sell big purchase items or items with a more intense research process.

We often recommend creating customer buyer’s guides to our eCommerce clients — especially those who sell big purchase items or items with a more intense research process.

When there are a lot of options available or if your customers typically have a lot of questions around a product, this product type could be a good candidate for a buyer’s guide — which can answer commonly asked questions and offer product recommendations.

They’re just as beneficial for the companies that make them:

  • increasing your organic search rankings, and
  • aiding in conversions.

We’ve helped one client in the home improvement industry create and promote several guides. One of the guides alone has led to over $100,000 worth in sales.

In this article, we’ll share the process of how we create and promote a successful guide for our client.

Note: If you’re interested in creating a buyer’s guide for some of your big purchase items, we can help. Contact us here.

1. We set the topic based on search volume

We rely heavily on organic search to promote our client’s buyer’s guides, so we don’t want to create a guide for a product that no one is searching for.

Even if you happen to sell a lot of a specific product, it doesn’t guarantee that lots of people are searching for it online.

For instance, let’s use a company that sells insulation for houses. Even if they sold more spray foam insulation than any other option, they may still want to create a more generic “home insulation buyer’s guide” because the generic term has a much higher search volume than a specific kind of insulation.

Insulation has a higher search volume than specific types of insulation (68k vs 45k)

With higher search volumes, your guide is more likely to be found, and with the more general topic, it will appeal to a wider audience. And you can always strongly recommend your top-selling product in the guide itself.

On the other hand, creating a category-wide guide isn’t always the best practice.

Sometimes a specific product will have high search volume, in which case it makes sense to create a buyer’s guide around it. This is especially true if the product is complicated and has a longer research process.

For instance, fiber cement siding has six times the search volume of exterior siding. It would be worthwhile to write that specific guide.

A photo showing that "fiber cement siding" has six times the search volume of "exterior siding". It would be worthwhile to write that specific guide.

2. We link to the buyer’s guide at the bottom of category pages

After we’ve produced the guide, we link to it in places where site visitors would be most likely to want additional product information, such as at the bottom of related category pages.

An example of the resources found on bottom of insulation category page (includes buying guides).

If a potential customer reaches the end of a category page and hasn’t found what they were looking for, a buyer’s guide can help keep them on the site as well as provide useful information to unsure consumers.

Keeping with our example, perhaps a consumer got to the end of the insulation category page because they were overwhelmed with options. The guide is a good opportunity to explain the advantages and disadvantages of blow-in versus roll insulation.

3. We add internal links where relevant

We write related blog posts that link to the buyer’s guide, and link to the posts in the guide itself. It’s important that each piece of content offers unique information — it can’t just be a repeat of what you find in the guide, or vice versa.

If you explain the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of insulation in the guide, some blog posts that could easily compliment the guide would be:

  • All about blow-in insulation — a much deeper look into blow-in insulation than is given in the guide
  • What you need to know about your energy bill
  • Is it a good idea to insulate your floors?

Having multiple pieces of unique but related content helps with your SEO reach, as well as providing an ecosystem of value to your customers.

Note: Interested in a comprehensive SEO strategy that is catered to your brand and products? Contact us here.

4. We present all options in the guide

You want the guide to be as inclusive as you can, even including products you may not sell. This will help build trust in your brand and increase your reputation as an authority in your market.

If a consumer is trying to decide between two types of insulation, and one of them isn’t included in the guide, it can stick out. That consumer will be less inclined trust the guide (and your brand) when they’re ready to make a purchase.

If you don’t carry what they were looking for, a guide can potentially explain why another product may be better. But it’s still important to provide all options within the guide so the user knows that you are giving them the full story.

5. We (sometimes) gate buyer’s guides with longer research periods

The decision to publish a guide directly on a site or gate it behind a form depends on the goals of the client and the potential for that specific topic.

Most often, we recommend publishing the guide directly on the site. A thorough buyer’s guide is a great linkable asset and can be a great option to help with link building efforts.

However, there are still some cases where it may make sense to put a guide behind a form.

There are certain instances where it may be better to put your guide behind a form. This is an example of a Buyers Guide form.

For products with much longer research processes, being able to send follow-up emails can be greatly beneficial. When we’ve chosen to gate a guide, we’ve seen both the buyer’s guide and follow up emails lead to sales.

If you choose to offer your guide as a download, your landing page is crucial.

People are also much more likely to offer their email address to get help making bigger purchases, but they need to be assured that this guide is worthwhile. A landing page should offer an overview of the guide, the benefits to reading it, and highlights about what they’ll find.

And since the majority of the guide isn’t found on your site, the landing page also needs to be optimized for SEO, including relevant keywords that people would search for to find the guide.

6. In follow-up emails, we focus on helpful buying advice first, and then focus on the products

For gated guides that we send via email, we commonly send 3-6 follow-up emails, depending on the product. Here’s an example of an outline follow-up email flow:

  1. The first email offers a link to the PDF version of the buyer’s guide as well as offering help the user needs. This email tends to not lead to as many conversions, but it has high open rates and shows users that this company cares about being helpful.
  2. The second email links to blog posts about the topic for further help.
  3. The third offers top systems the company recommends.
  4. The fourth email includes coupon codes.
  5. The fifth is a reminder that their coupons will expire after so many days.
  6. Lastly, depending on the typical buying cycle, we send one final email asking if they still need help or if they bought a product somewhere else.

Overall, the point of emails that follow a buyer’s guide should be geared toward helping consumers make a complicated buying decision. These emails can lead to sales. They also help grow a long-term relationship with those consumers.

Buyer’s guides can grow long-term relationships with customers

Buyer’s guides aren’t just about making a sale on one particular product. Along with the follow-up emails and other educational information on your site, your company becomes a trusted resource for making purchase decisions.

If you’re interested in this type of content marketing — or anything related — but unsure where to start, we can help. Contact us here.

How to Manage Out of Stock Products for SEO

Every eCommerce business will need to remove a product from its inventory at some point. Many businesses make the mistake of either deleting the product page, redirecting the page to their homepage or leaving hundreds or even thousands of out-of-stock pages online without actually looking into how this could benefit or hurt their website. This post and the

Every eCommerce business will need to remove a product from its inventory at some point. Many businesses make the mistake of either deleting the product page, redirecting the page to their homepage or leaving hundreds or even thousands of out-of-stock pages online without actually looking into how this could benefit or hurt their website.

This post and the accompanying flow chart should help provide a general best practice framework for eCommerce teams on how to treat out of stock products in various situations.

 

products out of stock

We’re all out of Twinkies! Sign up for email alerts when they are back in stock.

 

It’s not as simple as just deleting the page. It’s not as simple as just leaving it up either.

Deleting a page with links could cost you hard-to-get link equity.

Redirecting a page to the homepage will preserve some link equity, but that equity might have benefited a more relevant page of your site. Also, sending visitors to your homepage can be a jarring and frustrating experience, which may have lost you a sale.

And lastly, leaving out of stock pages up on your site might cause index bloat. Google gives your site only so much crawl budget. If they spend your crawl budget on pages that don’t matter, it’s very likely they will skip some of the most important pages of your site.

With some of these things in mind, you have three basic options.

  1. Leave the page online
  2. Redirect the page
  3. Delete the page and show a 404 or 410 status code

The option you choose depends on several different factors, which we’ll talk about below.


For Out of Stock Pages That Will Not Be Coming Back

If the page has links:

The first thing you should check is to see if the page has any external links. External links are one of the strongest ranking factors used by the search engines, and it is difficult to build links into product pages. You don’t want to lose that value by deleting a page without redirecting it. Use a tool like Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs or Majestic. If there are links, redirect the page to a related product. If there is no related product, redirect the page to a related category.

Keep in mind that product-to-product redirects can result in a lot of housekeeping down the line. If, for example, the new product eventually gets removed from the site as well, any previous redirects may go to a 404 page or may result in a series of redirects. Large websites might consider redirecting to category pages instead, as they tend to come and go much less often.

Alternatively, you could reuse the old URL for the new product, rather than redirecting it. If the old URL makes sense for the new product, this is the best option and saves a lot of hassle.

If the page has traffic, but no links:

You have four options:

First, check to see if the page is converting (driving revenue).

You might be wondering how an out of stock product page is driving revenue. This is through assisted conversions. Google Analytics (GA) tracks assisted conversions when someone lands on any page, browses the site and then buys another product.

 

ecommerce-sorting-ga

To check for conversions in GA, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Then set the “Conversions” dropdown to eCommerce.

 

 

landing-pages-ga

Set your segment to “Organic Traffic” and set the date range to a time period after the product went out of stock.

 

 

ga-single-page-check

If you only have a few products to check, you can simply type the page URL into the search box.

 

If you have a lot of pages to check, export the data instead. GA will only export as many rows as are showing on the page. Showing more rows allows you to export the maximum amount of data.

 

show-5000-rows-ga

Show as many rows as possible.

 

 

export-data-ga

Export the data for analysis in Excel or Google Sheets.

 

Compare the data from the exported spreadsheet to your list of URLs for out of stock products and see if any have driven revenue.

vlookup-excel-check-revenue-google-analytics

You can use a vlookup in Excel to compare both lists more quickly. Check out this great guide on how to use VLOOKUP from Mikkel Sciegienny.

If the page is not converting but has traffic:

  • Redirect the page to a relevant product (a post-redirect message will aid user experience).

If the page is converting, either:

  • Leave the page up and point customers to other relevant products.
  • Redirect the page to a relevant product (a post-redirect message will aid user experience).

 

Choosing whether to leave the page up or to redirect it is a judgment call you’ll need to make. A conservative approach would be to leave it up and point customers to other relevant products. If it doesn’t convert well, you could then choose to redirect it and see if conversions are affected. On the other hand, redirecting immediately may convert just as well, and it would require much less hassle in the long run since you won’t have to try to remember all the pages you need to come back to later.

If you choose to leave the page up, check to see if it’s converting after a period of 1-3 months. If it’s not converting, delete the page. Leaving old pages up will cause index bloat and could negatively affect your overall rankings.

If the page doesn’t have any links or traffic:

Let it 404 and submit to Google Search Console for removal.

Out of Stock SEO Flowchart - Preview


For Out of Stock Products That Will Be Coming Back

Avoid a poor user experience for those who find the product page in search engines. Too many users clicking back to search results, and providing other negative engagement metrics to Google’s algorithms, could harm sitewide rankings and end up costing the business even more than just deleting the page. Here are some general best practices on how to provide a good user experience while products are temporarily out of stock.

  • Keep the page live. Return a 200(ok) status code in the HTTP header.
  • Clearly label the product as temporarily out of stock.
  • Use structured markup to indicate to search engines that the product is not in stock
  • Provide an expected back in stock date, if available.
  • Inform the visitor of back order or in stock notification options, if available.
  • Suggest and link to products that are closely related.

Alternatively, for very large sites where it’s difficult to manage many pages at once, you can set the date the page will expire using the unavailable_after meta tag when the page is created. This can be based on an auction date or go stale date. Google has stated it would remove the page approximately a day after the expiration date. This should be used when selling second-hand or one-of-a-kind products, and for auctions. Most websites with multiple units of each item in stock should not use the unavailable_after meta tag.


Make an Informed Decision

If you don’t do your research before making a decision on what to do with out-of-stock pages, you could end up costing your business rankings and revenue. Preserve your link equity, convert more customers and prevent indexing issues by making an educated decision about how to handle old product pages. Download the flowchart below for a quick reference guide when making these decisions.


Access Our Out of Stock SEO Flowchart

Out of stock flowchart CTA

Fill out our form below to get access to Inflow’s Out of Stock SEO Flowchart. This flowchart is a great reference while planning your product management strategy.

eCommerce on Facebook and Instagram: What Leading Companies Are Doing in 2018 (Adidas, Crate and Barrel & Nixon)

We take a critical look at three best-in-class brands—Adidas, Crate and Barrel, and Nixon—are their Facebook eCommerce strategies. Read to learn more!

Each year, we analyze the websites of leading eCommerce sites across dozens of categories to see which features best-in-class brands are using.

In this piece, we take a critical look at how three best-in-class brands —Adidas, Crate and Barrel, and Nixon—are promoting their brands and products while retargeting customers using Facebook’s extensive marketing platform, including Pages, Messenger, and Instagram.

Note: Curious how your social media presence and advertising strategy compares to your competitors? We can help. Contact us here.

Example #1: Adidas

33.8 Million Likes on Facebook | 19.9 Million Followers on Instagram

Adidas is seeing low ROI on Facebook video posts

For a company like Adidas that targets active people, it makes sense that video would be a central part of their brand strategy.

However, Adidas’ videos are currently not working on Facebook.

Once a success story for video advertisement on Facebook, this year, Adidas has stopped buying video ads while they review the return on investment. In fact, they’ve stopped posting at all.

The last post on the official Adidas U.S. page is from March.

Adidas last Facebook post was over 2 months ago.

What happened? Changes in the way Facebook shows brand content to its users.

Since 2014, Facebook has been slowly decreasing organic reach for Pages, requiring organizations to pay to reach their fans. Companies had grown used to this.

But, throughout the first half of 2018, we’ve seen even more dramatic changes to Facebook’s business platform.

In January, Facebook reinforced its priority to rank the posts from friends and family in the news feed over posts from organizations and other pages. While Facebook still offers boosted posts (sponsored posts that show in a users news feed), they won’t reach everyone.

Some Facebook users no longer see any posts from brands and organizations they follow, not even sponsored posts.

So Adidas has turned to Instagram

Currently, users are more likely to see organic content from businesses in their Instagram feed than their Facebook news feed, and Adidas is taking advantage. Their videos are crushing it on Instagram, consistently pulling in between 150,000 and 350,000 views.

Adidas has turned to Instagram and the reach has been very successful.

Marketing takeaway: If your brand, like Adidas, is well-suited for video content, consider promoting that content on Instagram over Facebook.

Of course, you might not want to abandon Facebook altogether. A better way to get videos shared on Facebook is through your fans. Create video content worth sharing, and your fans will spread the love for you.

Over 49.6 million views on YouTube

Facebook eCommerce: If you share great content, your posts will get a better reach through sharing

Retargeting Ads on Instagram

Here’s an example of a retargeting ad from Adidas. Users browsing Instagram on their phone will see the ad in their feed among regular posts from other friends, family, and brands that they follow.

Retargeting ad inside of a feed in Instagram

In the desktop version of Facebook, retargeting ads appear outside of the feed.

Facebook eCommerce: Retargeting ad appears outside of feed in right column

Another strong retargeting option is Facebook Messenger ads, which allows users to flip through multiple product images with ad copy.

Facebook eCommerce: Retargeting ad inside of Facebook messenger

Marketing Takeaway: It appears that a low ROI on organic and sponsored posts (including video posts) is impacting many brands—not just Adidas. But we found other brands that continue to have a strong daily active fan-base on Facebook, such as Crate and Barrel.

Note: Want to know where to place retargeting ads to see the best ROI? We can help. Contact us here.

Example #2: Crate and Barrel

815,914 Likes on Facebook | 1.1 Million Followers on Instagram

The Wall Street Journal explains that only three years ago Crate and Barrel had a tiny social media presence and relied, instead, on print media.

Today, Crate and Barrel has a flourishing social media presence, especially on Instagram and YouTube.

The retailer spends more than 50% of its ad budget on digital media and, as of March 2018, 47% of its revenue comes from online sales.

Crate and Barrel posts daily to maintain an engaged Facebook fanbase

While many other brands have seen a decrease in engaged users on their Facebook content, Crate and Barrel posts daily with high levels of engagement.

We don’t know how much of this engagement is sponsored and how much is organic; however, for brands like Crate and Barrel, daily engagement with users can have positive results in the algorithm responsible for how many users see your content.

Crate and Barrel posts that have the highest level of engagement (shares, likes, and comments) are often about discounts or humor.

Facebook eCommerce: Utilize your own hashtag to make your company stand out

They also use branded hashtags that, when clicked, show related posts.

Facebook eCommerce with custom hashtags

They double up on their Facebook/Instagram presence

Many of Crate and Barrel’s posts were originally posted on Instagram and reshared on Facebook.

Facebook eCommerce: Share your content from Instagram to Facebook

Their branded content performs better on Instagram

In October of 2017, Crate and Barrel announced a partnership with Reese Witherspoon, including selling the celebrity’s lifestyle and fashion brand Draper James. As part of this partnership, Witherspoon creates paid ads for the brand.

Starting in March of 2017, Facebook simplified its policy guidelines to allow companies to publish branded content more easily. These posts and videos are tagged with the word “Paid.”

Facebook eCommerce paid ads must be labeled as so

Similar to Adidas, Crate and Barrel’s videos perform better on Instagram.

This could be that they simply have three times the followers on Instagram. Plus, as we saw with Adidas, due to Facebook’s viewing algorithm, more of those followers are likely to see the video organically on Instagram over Facebook.

25,278 views on Instagram and 3,400 on Facebook

Marketing Takeaway: With all the changes to Facebook’s platform, some brands continue to have an active fanbase.

If you’re a new brand coming to Facebook, we suggest running small tests on sponsored posts to see what your fans and potential fans will respond to best. Use Facebook’s helpful tools, such as Dynamic creative and Split Test, to make sure you’re working with the best copy, images, and overall ads.

Example #3: Nixon

1.2 Million Likes on Facebook | 629,000 Followers on Instagram

Nixon makes good use of the Facebook Shop feature

Nixon is one of the few best-in-class brands we investigated that consistently tag products on Facebook using the Facebook Shop feature. By tagging products, consumers can easily click through to Nixon’s site to make a purchase.

Click-through to specific product on their site makes the user more likely to purchase

While it’s common for eCommerce sites to have a “Shop” tab on their Facebook page, few users will frequently visit a brand’s homepage. By including product information in Facebook posts, more fans will see the information.

Instagram offers a similar tagging feature.

By tagging the product, you make the user more likely to purchase your product.

Facebook also allows companies to share a product directly from a Facebook store; however, we’ve seen little evidence of this creating strong engagement.

Tagging and linking to specific products is a smart move.

Marketing Takeaway: Sharing products may not lead to the same level of engagement as using the “products shown” tool, which gives you a chance to show your products in a more meaningful way—while still making it easy for consumers to enter a sales funnel.

Most engagement on posts featuring multiple products

Nixon receives the most engagement on posts that feature entire collections of products—or their watches alongside other products.

Nixon gets more engagement on posts that display multiple products

Uses Instagram Stories to promote products, branded sponsorships, and events

Instagram Stories are one of the hottest new ways to connect with fans. They can be a mix of videos and interactive still images offering brands up to 15 seconds of viewers’ full-screen attention. Nixon uses these stories to connect in several ways with followers.

Instagram stories are a clever way to brand and market yourself

More and more brands are consistently using Instagram stories to promote products, new lines, content such as blogs, and events, and other brand strategies.

Utilize Instagram Stories to keep up with demand

Marketing Takeaway: There are many ways to use Facebook and Instagram to connect with fans and new potential customers, promote products, and foster brand awareness. However, the platforms should be just a part of how you connect with new and existing customers.

Note: Need full analysis of your paid advertising strategy? We can help. Contact us here.

These 10 Examples Show What Top Sites Are Doing with eCommerce Cart and Checkout Design

eCommerce cart and checkout design can make or break a sale. In this post, we share our research about cart and checkout trends with examples from top eCommerce sites.

You’ve attracted a consumer to your site and won them over on a particular product, but most eCommerce marketers know that doesn’t guarantee a sale. Shopping cart and checkout functionality can make or break a sale. It can also make a big difference to your average order value (AOV).

Each year we analyze leading eCommerce sites across dozens of categories to identify what features and technology they’re using: which features are trending and becoming the norm. In this post, we detail our research about shopping cart and checkout trends, complete with examples from many of the websites we studied.

Based on our research on leading eCommerce sites in 2018, here are:

  1. Popular Shopping Cart and Checkout Features
  2. Shopping Cart and Checkout Features that are Trending Down

Note: Want to talk to our CRO team (who performed this study) about how your site compares to the best-in-class? Reach out here or schedule a call above.

Part One: Popular Shopping Cart and Checkout Features

Across the leading eCommerce sites we studied, these six features were extremely common:

Feature #1: Site Keeps a User on the Page When They Add an Item to the Cart

In use on 17 of 20 best-in-class websites

Keeping the user on the product page instead of taking them to a separate cart page is now a dominant trend in 2018.

Our rule-of-thumb is that sites that average more than 1.6 products per order should not send users to the cart each time they add a new product.

There are two standard styles you’ll see for sites that do this: a drop-down “bag” and a lightbox-style pop-in layer.

13 best-in-class sites use a drop-down “bag”.

ecommerce cart examples

9 best-in-class sites use a pop-in. We this option trending up and believe it’s because pop-ins allow for easier cross-selling options.

eCommerce cart: Pop-ins allow for easier cross-selling options.

Feature #2: Cart Provides Product Attributes

In use on 18 of 19 best-in-class websites  (1 site not applicable)

This year, we saw dramatic growth in the number of best-in-class sites that include product attributes (such as fabric, finish or size) in their cart details.

The cart provides details in the product title and product description.

When you have similar products that may differ on one or more attribute, you need to show the attributes with the product name and picture to assure users that the right item is in their cart.

Feature #3: Cart Contains a “Candy Rack”

In use on 10 of 19 best-in-class websites (1 site not applicable)

The “candy rack,” or upsell area is growing in popularity. You’ll currently find this in half of the best-in-class sites, and most of the sites that aren’t employing a candy rack simply haven’t found a good way of doing so.

For instance, due to the amount of products they sell, REI or Walmart need a higher level of intelligence to get the right product in front of you, and Nixon or GlassesUSA are unlikely to sell you another watch or frame. Whenever you can get relevant products in front of users, however, this has a high likelihood of increasing AOV.

The "Candy Rack" is a great way to upsell and give recommendations of other products the consumer may enjoy.

Feature #4: Final Pricing Available in the Cart

In use on 17 of 19 best-in-class websites  (1 site not applicable)

With this feature, the user is able to obtain the final cost in the cart — or at least an estimate.

In our past surveys, most sites still didn’t allow the user to see final pricing in the cart, despite users wanting it.

Offer the Final Pricing Available in the Cart to make it simple for the customer.

Feature #5: Order Summary Persists Throughout Checkout

In use on 16 of 20 best-in-class websites

It is becoming a standard practice to show the order summary throughout the checkout process.

Users want to be sure they are buying the right items. By having this ability throughout checkout, you prevent users from getting sidetracked and leaving the checkout process to find out. Additionally, doing this allows you to bypass a review page.

Removing that step has a large impact on conversion rate through the checkout flow.

Display the Order Summary Persists Throughout Checkout

On additional benefit of this practice is that it allows customers to maintain an emotional connection to the item throughout the checkout.

Feature #6: Shipping and Billing Address are Auto Filled In

In use on 13 of 19 best-in-class websites (1 site not applicable)

In the past, most sites auto-selected the shipping and billing addresses to be the same, but this year, we saw several sites get rid of this feature. As we’ve seen verified with our own testing, auto-populating or auto-selecting the second address field is a best practice — since it makes things easier for users.

Shipping and Billing Address are Auto Filled In

Part Two: Shopping Cart and Checkout Features Trending Down

The following are four features we saw fewer best-in-class sites using than last year. It’s important to note, however, that a downward trend doesn’t mean the features are necessarily bad practices.

In many case, sites have simply not figured out how to best implement them.

Feature #1: Estimated Arrival or Ship Date

In use on 3 of 18 best-in-class websites  (2 sites not applicable)

Showing the estimated shipping time in the cart has decreased considerably this year. This is an example of a downward trend we see as a loss for user experience.

Displaying the estimated arrival or ship date is a good practice to implement whenever possible because it’s information people always want.

Display the Estimated Arrival or Ship Date

Feature #2: Save Products for Later

In use on 8 of 19 best-in-class websites  (1 site not applicable)

Fewer sites are offering the ability to save the product in a wishlist for later. This is a feature that users respond well to, but it has not yet taken hold in the industry.

We believe best-in-class sites haven’t figured out how to do this well yet. Once they do, we expect it will become dominant.

Give customers the option to save products for later

Feature #3: One-Page Checkout

In use on 6 of 20 best-in-class websites

We saw a pretty dramatic decrease in one-page checkouts (where all fields were open to edit and view on one page), and they are now the minority. Previously best-in-class sites were split between this option and multi-page checkouts.

Consider the accordion-style checkout

Our advice is to be very clear on how many steps there are and how far along the user is in the process. If you choose to do this on a single page, consider the accordion-style checkout — which does this very cleanly.

Feature #4: Review Page

In use on 11 of 20 best-in-class websites

While having a review page during the checkout process is still a dominant trend, a couple years ago the majority of the list would likely have used one. Now we see the number is down to just about half.

Have the details of the order available throughout the checkout process.

In general, unless there are important details to confirm (such as prescription information for glasses orders) you can skip the review page.

As mentioned earlier, a better practice is to have the details of the order available throughout the checkout process.

Note: Want help improving cart and checkout design on your eCommerce site to improve your results? Contact us to discuss how to optimize your site for conversions.