Top 5 e-commerce strategies for increasing sales based on 6,700 experiments

5 min read
updated Jun 28, 2017
Top 5 e-commerce strategies for increasing sales based on 6,700 experiments

How do you know which e-commerce strategies can lead to more sales in your store? Most often, the best way to find out what works is to learn through experimentation.

Want to see if urgency works? Try a well-placed countdown timer and you’ll soon know.

Curious if social proof will help increase sales? Try adding some best seller badges to your store and see if they help.

In e-commerce, it’s a good idea to be constantly testing to find out what works and doesn’t work for your particular store. What works today may not continue to work tomorrow.

In addition to running your own experiments, another thing you can do is learn based on what others are doing. So how do you go about finding out what works well for other e-commerce merchants?

Look no further, because the folks over at Qubit just published a research paper which discusses this very topic.

The paper is titled What works in e-commerce - a meta-analysis of 6700 online experiments.

From the abstract of the paper:

We conduct a meta-analysis on over 6700 large e-commerce experiments, mainly from the retail and travel sectors, grouping together common treatment types performed on websites.

In this post, we’ll discuss some highlights of this paper including:

  • How this research was collected
  • The top 5 e-commerce strategies which increased sales
  • Behavioral experiments win out over cosmetic experiments

How this research was collected

Qubit is in a unique position to be able to capture this much data on e-commerce experiments and results.

Why is this? You see, Qubit offers a range of products in the e-commerce space to help merchants. These products include things like A/B testing, personalization and cart abandonment.

As a result, Qubit was able to analyze the results of 6,700 experiments by looking at their customers’ data.

Qubit grouped these experiments into a number of categories based on the type of test being performed. This allowed them to determine which types of experiments performed best for increasing a store’s sales.

Also, Qubit had their research independently verified by PricewaterhouseCoopers UK LLP.

The top 5 e-commerce strategies which increased sales

Let’s take a look at the top 5 strategies that caused the highest increase to sales.

Keep in mind that these numbers are based on a variety of e-commerce stores and industries so these results may not apply within your particular niche.

1. Scarcity

Scarcity came in first with an increase to sales of 2.9%.

Scarcity is when you promote limited quantities of stock available for purchase.

One approach for applying scarcity in your store would be to display a message near your items that are almost out of stock such as “Hurry only 5 left!”.

2. Social proof

Social proof came in at number two with an increase to sales of 2.3%.

Social proof is when you promote other users behavior within your store.

You can add social proof to your store by displaying best selling badges, product reviews and recent sales notifications.

3. Urgency

Urgency came in third place with an increase to sales of 1.5%.

Urgency involves a limited time frame that an item or offer is available.

One way to add urgency to your store is to run offers with a limited timeframe, and then display a countdown timer.

4. Abandonment recovery

Abandonment recovery came in 4th place with a 1.1% increase in sales.

Abandonment recovery involves displaying messaging to the user to keep them from leaving (or abandoning) your site.

This is also known as exit intent and often includes the use of a modal window being displayed as the visitor starts to leave.

5. Product recommendations

Product recommendations came in 5th place with a 0.4% increase in sales.

Product recommendations involves suggesting products to shoppers throughout your store.

Product recommendation approaches can involve displaying best selling items or related items on the product pages within your store.

Behavioral experiments win out over cosmetic experiments

As you can see, many of the top 5 results are related to changing the behavior of customers based on the perceived value of a product: scarcity, social proof, urgency and abandonment recovery.

If a product won’t be available for long, that provides a powerful motivator to buy it right now.

Likewise, if lots of people likes a product, that makes it much easier for a shopper to follow the crowd and buy that product as well.

In addition, you’ll notice simple color changes or basic UI changes are absent from the top 5. The Qubit research paper even went so far as to state:

Most simple UI changes to websites are ineffective.

Given this, it probably makes sense for you to primarily focus your experiments more on changing the perceived value of your products over things like colors, buttons and calls to action.

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In this post we discussed Qubit’s research paper, which analyzed 7,600 experiments to determine which strategies are most effective for increasing sales.

Based on Qubit’s findings, the top 5 most successful experiment categories for increasing sales were:

  • Scarcity
  • Social proof
  • Urgency
  • Abandonment recovery
  • Product recommendations

Changes which increase the perceived value of a product are more likely to increase sales. On the other hand, cosmetic changes such as colors and buttons, are less likely to make a big difference to the bottom line.

You can view the full Qubit research paper by clicking here to view the PDF.

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