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How to Improve your E-Commerce Conversion Rate: Optimize Your Homepage for Product Discovery

Posted on 5.01.2016

:: By Peter Messmer, AddShoppers ::

A retailer’s homepage is one of the most important pages on their site, and for this reason it has to shine. No one reaches for the white crayon in the box because it’s pretty much useless-- so make sure your homepage is a rainbow of relevance.

“But how can I do more? My homepage already looks awesome!”

That’s a great question, and while it’s nice to have an aesthetically pleasing homepage, we’re not talking looks right now, we’re talking personality...and conversions. To help you achieve a better personality (or from this point on, optimization) for your e-commerce site, we’ll cover five ways to optimize your homepage for conversions by focusing on product discovery.

What is Product Discovery and What Does it Have to do With Your Homepage?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of it all, let’s talk about product discovery. What that fancy phrase comes down to is simply the process of someone visiting your website and discovering a product they’re interested in buying.

This is really important because your homepage needs to be optimized for product discovery in order to convert well. You might think sales and specials help drive conversions on your homepage -- and they do, but only if your customers can find something they actually want to buy, hence product discovery.

This is the point where you might be thinking, “My customers can find products easy-peasy from my homepage.” Are you sure about that? Do you know how quickly can they find what they’re looking for? Do they have to click through endless navigation menus, or resort to using your site search?

Short and sweet: You’ve got to show me what I want, and I have to get to it quickly.

Let’s look at the numbers.

Clicktale recently conducted a study of Web analytics from thousands of e-commerce sites both large and small. Some of the data they published included some interesting numbers around average bounce rates and average time on site. Cutting out the fluff, the numbers boiled down to this:

1. On smaller sites, shoppers are spending more time attempting to find their desired product, then leaving because they can't find it.

2. On the other hand, larger retailers are making it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for, and as a result, more people are sticking around to make a purchase.

In the study, Clicktale concluded: “Short time on page can indicate that users leave the site too quickly; when combined with low bounce rate, however, it actually indicates that users find what they are looking for faster.” In other words, larger retailers are winning because they are able to give their visitors exactly what they’re looking for faster. Essentially, their product discovery experience is highly optimized.

As we mentioned earlier, your homepage is one of your most visited pages, which means it’s one of the most important ones to optimize for product discovery. Making things slightly more complicated is the fact that people can land on your homepage from any number of different sources or channels, so we’ll keep that in mind.

5 Effective Ways to Optimize Product Discovery

The best things you can include on your homepage to boost product discovery (and sales down the line) aren’t as complicated as you’d think. Keep in mind that your homepage should be a dynamic, personalized page versus a static page for everyone.

1. Showcase Current Promotions

These are your current sales, new items, and time sensitive offers and they work because of good old urgency. Have a popular or seasonal product, brand, or category on sale? Make sure to promote it on your homepage in order to maximize its visibility and sales - like Shutterfly's best-selling photo books.

2. Personalized Product Listings

These are your “Recently viewed” and “You might also like” product listings that are shown for logged in visitors (or visitors whose browsing history is saved via cookies). (Just look at Amazon and their liberal use of personalized product recommendations just about everywhere on their site!)

Note: You can personalize based on more than browsing history! For example, if you’re a fashion retailer and a customer is logged into their account, you could customize the homepage to show men’s or women’s products depending on their gender. (Tip: Social login solutions can help you gather this data without even making the visitor enter it manually!)

3. Trending/Popular Products

What should you show to brand new or unknown visitors that don’t have any browsing history yet? You can’t show them personalized products based on browsing history, but you can show best-selling or currently trending products instead. Think about it like making an educated guess as to what most new visitors would be interested in purchased based off what other customers are buying - like Banana Republic does with user-generated content.

4. New Arrivals

Everyone wants to check out the newest and coolest products, so let them. They might just see something they want to buy.

Plus, in some industries, new products are more appealing simply because of their freshness. For example, showcasing new arrivals is a must for fashion brands. Everyone wants to be the first of their friends setting the trend, so these product displays are super compelling in the apparel industry.

5. Educational Content

One area that most online stores are lacking in is offering educational content that pre-sells their products on their homepage. (Many retailers don’t invest in educational content at all). This content is a great way to engage potential customers that aren’t ready to buy yet, but they might be down the line or to provide them other ideas. Apple, for instance, promotes its iPad Pro while recognizing that many visitors won't be comfortable simply adding the item to their carts, they'll want to learn more so Apple provides them with a link to do so, as well as the option of watching a film or a keynote on the new product.

Bonus: Here’s a way to take this concept even further. You can take the same idea around personalization that we talked about above and apply it to educational content as well. For example, let’s say a visitor comes and looks at a bunch of different refrigerators. Now, when they go back to your homepage (maybe in a subsequent browsing session), you can show them your powerful “Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Refrigerator.”

Remember, it’s all about relevance & product discovery

As you’re optimizing your homepage to convert as high as possible, always keep in mind that the more personalized and relevant your homepage can be for each individual visitor, the higher it will convert.

Is there anything you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Peter Messmer is the director of growth at AddShoppers, which powers on-site influencer marketing for more than 10,000 brands worldwide including Hanes, Everlast and The Economist. AddShoppers integrates on¬-site marketing automation with personalization and data management.

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