11 Product Page Testing Ideas for 2011

Get Elastic has been granted permission from our friends Khalid Saleh and Ayat Shukairy of Invesp Consulting and O’Reilly Publishing to share the product page testing ideas mentioned in their recent book Conversion Optimization:
The Art and Science of Converting Prospects to Customers
(these are 11 of 49 testing ideas in the book).

Product Pages

Micro and macro conversions

We like to test product pages twice with different conversion goals:

Micro conversion goal
When a visitor adds an item to the cart, we get a conversion.

Macro conversion goal
When a visitor completes an order, we get a conversion.

Product page images
The right format and presentation of product images can mean significant increases in conversion rates. However, these types of tests are expensive due to the investment required to produce different product images. Of course, the cost will also grow as you add more products. Here are some general guidelines to consider:

Showing the product in use
Test the page with an image that shows the product in use, and then again with an image that shows the product against a plain background. Although in many cases showing the product in use helps visitors envision themselves using the product, this is not the case for all products. For example, apparel websites seem to benefit from this feature, but electronics or book websites do not see large increases in conversions.

Choosing the right location
Where should you place the hero image? Common wisdom is to place product images on the right side of product pages. But common wisdom fails to predict how visitors will act on your website. So, test image placement on the left and right to see which converts better.

Zooming in on the product
If you have the software capability, allowing visitors to zoom in and examine a product closely is an excellent feature to test.

Using multiple product images
Consider including multiple images of the product. We usually recommend using three or four high-quality images per product to start. When given the option, we will go with a single high-quality image over multiple low-quality images.

Product descriptions

Most ecommerce stores use product descriptions provided by the manufacturer. As a result, you will find the same description on competing ecommerce stores. With your best-selling products:

• Test the impact of having standard manufacturer descriptions versus custom copy your team creates. What impact will that have on the micro conversion (visitors adding items to their cart)?

• Test different versions of the custom copy you create. Not all copy is created equal. You might want to test technical copy versus nontechnical copy. Consider the dif- ferent personas for your site and what words will have the most impact on them.

Product reviews

Reviews are great for increasing conversions. Many studies have shown that prod- uct reviews are responsible for up to 30% uplift in conversions. However, if you are just starting out, reviews are difficult to get. So, begin by allowing customers to add reviews to your site, but do not display them on the site immediately. When a product collects enough reviews, share the reviews with your visitors.

Add-to-cart buttons

You can test many scenarios with the “add-to-cart” button:

• The location of the button
• Different designs for the button
• The wording on the button

Cross-sells and upsells

Cross-sells and upsells can help you sell more to customers by providing them with items that complement the products they already selected. But cross-sells and upsells can also distract visitors. So, test the placement of cross-sells and upsells on your prod- uct pages as well as other pages of the site.

Pricing

Most website visitors will do some sort of comparison shopping. Testing different prices will determine their impact on conversion rates. In 2007, one of our clients reported a 135% increase in conversion rate by lowering product prices by 10%. Price testing is more complex compared to other forms of testing. Yet during a recession, when visi- tors are price-sensitive, price testing can produce the most impact on conversion rates.

Product availability

Customers do not like to add an item to their cart only to discover when they’re ready to pay that the item is out of stock. Linking ecommerce stores with an inventory system will help you avoid such hassles. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:

Bad
There is no mention of product availability on your site.

Good
You always display product availability on your site.

Excellent
You display messages to encourage customers to buy a product if you have limited stock available. Example: “Only 5 left in stock—order soon!”

Figure 9-13 shows the product page from Ecost.com. Although the page design is crowded with information and is not well designed, the site displays product availability information and shows a message to encourage visitors to place an order within a certain time frame.

Figure 9-13. ecost.com’s use of product availability information

When can I have it?

Tell visitors when the product will be in their hands. Being vague and telling them their order will arrive sometime in the next few weeks will simply kill your conversion rate, or at least irritate customers.

Bundled shipping costs

Consider bundling shipping costs with products so that visitors will not have to worry about paying for shipping. We highly recommend bundling shipping costs if they are too complicated to understand, or if they are expensive.

Navigation after clicking the add-to-cart button

Where do you direct visitors after they click on the add-to-cart button? Are you forcing them to view the cart page? If this is the case, you are polluting the cart page analytics with the number of visitors who are forced to be there. Test different locations to redirect visitors after they add an item to their cart:

• Direct visitors to the standard cart page.
• Direct visitors to a special upsell and cross-sell cart page. This is a custom cart page that will contain a summary of the items in the cart with a focus on upselling additional products to the visitor.
• Keep visitors on the same product page, but display a small pop up with a mini-cart.
• Keep visitors on the same product page, but display a small pop up indicating the item was added to the cart page.

Have you tested any of these ideas? Please share your experience in the comments

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15 Responses to “11 Product Page Testing Ideas for 2011”

  1. These are excellent examples of ideas to test for product pages. Many of these items were touched on earlier this week at Affiliate Summit West.

  2. I would really warn against having “micro conversion” goals. Someone adding a product to their basket is not a conversion. That’s just as bad a testing to reduce bounce rate – it doesn’t always directly correlate to completed orders.

    When testing, you should be absolutely focussed on the action you are testing on. I would say even that order completion isn’t enough – you should be testing on Revenue, especially if you’re fiddling about with pricing and shipping costs.

    • Karon says:

      “I would really warn against having “micro conversion” goals. ” Matt, rather than ditching all micro conversions, just clearly define what they are the their purpose. Some micro data can be enormously helpful.

      • @Matt

        Remember you can measure multiple goals at once, too. I do agree that you shouldn’t focus on micro-conversions at the expense of your main goals, which is probably what you meant :)

        • Hey Linda & Karon,

          I think the issue is that the article isn’t clear about the testing methodology – certainly recommending folks test pricing whilst having conversion rate, rather than revenue or net profit as the conversion metric is insane.

          It’s easy to forget that these are meant to be proper scientific tests.
          Problem is folks just skip over the hypothesis part, set a bunch of goals they’d like observing, cross their fingers and hope for the best. It’s not very precise, and throwing nonsense terms like microconversions (the ecommerce version of being a little bit pregnant) about doesn’t help.

          If for example, your “macro conversion” test fails, will you still keep the variation because it succeeded at some “micro conversion” level? No, of course not, because we’re interested on optimizing on the actual business goal, not some step on the way.

          Secondary metrics and measurements are fine, but if they’re not part of your test, don’t include them. Both GWO and Visual Website Optimizer plug into Google Analytics nowadays, as I’m sure lots of testing engines do, so just record anything else you’d like to know for each variant within your normal anaytics tool, rather than muddying a test with them.

          Set up your test, with a proper hypothesis and success criteria (i.e. doing this increases revenue by 10% within 95% confidence). The test either passes or fails, and you’re not left having to interpret results because the initial setup was dodgy.

          Matt

          • Karon says:

            “Microconversion” is rather like “landing page” in that every person on the ‘Net has his/her own definition. If I need to find out where a form is going wrong or whether or not a certain button color makes a difference in the purchase funnel I’ll suggest testing microconversions. (That is, the completion of a step within the final sale/end action process.)

            At any rate, “throwing nonsense terms like microconversions (the ecommerce version of being a little bit pregnant) about doesn’t help” to me isn’t an accurate statement based on my definition of a microconversion. They are viable steps within a final process that can offer highly useful information.

            I guess everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. Mine and yours seem to differ.

          • khalid says:

            Matt, you are only reading a small section of the chapter! There is a good chunk that covers hypothesis creation, validation as well creating follow up experiments.

            >If for example, your “macro conversion” test fails, will you still keep >the variation because it succeeded at some “micro conversion” level? No, >of course not, because we’re interested on optimizing on the actual >business goal, not some step on the way.

            You are taking a simplistic approach to testing. A much more interesting question and good point to truly start conversion optimization, is to ask why one combination would increase micro-conversion while another increases the overall macro-conversion. Answering that question would help you create new hypotheses for more tests.

  3. AiK says:

    Micro vs Macro testing is very good idea, because button clicking is not the same as order completion. Flashy button may decrease sales.

  4. Thanks for the article, there are some very good points in here. I’d just like to know what your opinion is on using manufacturer descriptions for product descriptions. In the SEO world, it’s generally advised against because it creates a duplicate content issue with others selling the same product. Additionally, product descriptions are the prime spot to put targeted keywords and keyphrases. So, other than that, if we were to test custom written product descriptions, what kind of variables would you suggest testing within the descriptions to try and convince customers to add to cart? Description length? Where the highest value prop sentence is located within the copy? Bolded words, phrases? What have you tested in the past?

    • Hi Robert,

      I would recommend using a custom product description rather than the manufacturer for the reason you stated above (SEO). A good idea for a test would be to take your existing description (whether it’s the mfr’s or your own – whatever is up there today) and write a new version considering the “4 Pillars of Ecommerce Copywriting”
      http://www.getelastic.com/4-pillars-ecommerce-copywriting/

      Try to incorporate as much as you can, it’s almost like a “radical redesign” for copy – and pay attention to the persuasive part. You want to consider the 4 personality types when you design your product page, make sure there’s a hook there for every type of customer.

      This article may help
      http://www.getelastic.com/optimizing-product-reviews-for-different-buyer-personalities/

      Regarding individual elements like length, bolding, tone, value props etc, these would all be a part of the “radical” change. Because you have to do descriptions one by one, it takes a long time to get a statistically valid test, so you want to pick a flagship product and not have too many variables. If you test one variable at a time rather than the radical test, you’ll never find your answer, or you’ll be leaving too many options on the table.

      User testing may be more efficient for copy tests than A/B, multivariate in my opinion. Also, you leave one version out of search engines which has an impact on traffic.

      Linda

  5. Karon says:

    Great post, Linda. Kudos to the authors for creating such a useful list. I am in full agreement with their ideas about testing for copy. Many of the things on the list hinder user experience and search engine optimization success as well as conversions. Might be a good idea for everyone to bookmark this page or print it out for future use. :)

  6. I’m very interested in the statement in the article concerning product image placement: “Where should you place the hero image? Common wisdom is to place product images on the right side of product pages.”

    Almost all online retailers place the hero image on the left side of the page so I’m wondering where this common wisdom came from? As far as I can tell from searching online, it doesn’t appear to have any basis in fact.

    I would love to learn otherwise.

    • Hi Christian,
      I believe what the authors were trying to say is the right hand side is a convention, rather than “common wisdom.” And in right side, they meant “left.” However, I have seen a test by Wider Funnel and Baby Age that converted better on the right side, for what it’s worth. It’s worth testing. *shrug*

  7. Tom says:

    Hi there,

    A much simpler question (hopefully!) – with regards to the comment “Consider bundling shipping costs with products so that visitors will not have to worry about paying for shipping. We highly recommend bundling shipping costs if they are too complicated to understand, or if they are expensive” – do you mean including shipping in the price of the product? (i.e. “free delivery” effectively) or do you mean something else?

    Thanks,
    Tom

    • khalid says:

      @Tom by bundling the shipping cost with the product cost, I do mean to effectively offer free shipping. It is just a question of how to make up for the shipping cost. Some of our customers increase their product prices to make up for the cost of shipping. Others keep the product prices at the same level and make up for the added cost via additional sales.

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