The larger the store, the more is at stake when something goes wrong. A few years ago one of our customers was a large regional youth fashion store that now boasts more than 20,000 orders a week.
For a long time, the store enjoyed a positive dynamic: good conversions (~4% on average), a high number of orders (~10,000-15,000 a week), awesome customer feedback, and booming sales left everyone on the team happy.
But after 3 years of growth, the situation gradually turned pretty grim for the aspiring online store brand. Despite a lot of effort to move the business forward, the company visibly struggled to turn a profit. Month after month they were losing customers and nothing seemed to work.
Losing control over your sales numbers is extremely discouraging and scary. The realization that you are not in control of where you are going can hurt really hard. When you try one thing after another with zero results, you eventually come to the conclusion you need expert help.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, the company decided to hire a digital marketing agency to analyze the current challenges and discover vectors for new growth. After the new team started working, a few issues became clear.
First of all, the biggest issue was not the traffic. The traffic was actually pretty good with numbers peaking at 1,700,000+ visitors per month: in addition to the existing user flow, the digital marketing agency quickly managed to boost both organic and paid traffic with social media influencers and Instagram Ads.
The real challenge came from the customer journey. Analyzing the sales funnel, the agency saw two pain points that needed close attention:
- a lot of customers abandoned their Shopping Carts,
- on the Checkout page, even more users abandoned the store.
As a result, the entire sales funnel had an extremely narrow tip, with only 1.59% of all customers closing the deal. So even though the foot traffic was great at Homepage, Product View, and Product Lists, in the end only a tiny fraction of all potential shoppers made a purchase.
This was a catastrophic result. The company was losing a lot of money. Fast.
Back to Black
The digital agency decided they needed a team with technical expertise here. Onilab got involved in the project after the agency analyzed the issue in-depth and came to the conclusion that the main issue with low conversions was poor Magento performance.
The additional challenge for the store lied in what their target audience looked like. See, the vast majority of their customers were one-time impulse buyers, the kind of people that would see a good looking dress or a pair of shoes and instantly crave them.
This crowd needs instant action. They want the item right there, right now. From the moment they see a cool Instagram post to the moment they buy from the store, we need to maintain a consistent state of flow. And that flow broke on the Shopping Cart and Checkout pretty hard. And if the store fails to deliver this kind of instant action, the impulse craving is gone and that sale is lost.
The Two-Fold Challenge
After an intense investigation of the store timeline in Google Analytics, we found out the drops in conversions correlated perfectly with new third-party extensions and other improvements the store installed. Major changes happened when the store added new Checkout and Shopping Cart features: price rules for promotions, shipping carriers, shipping address validations, new payment options, and custom feature expansions.
The Shopping Cart experience was extremely slow. When the customer added new items to the cart, it took anything between 5 to 10 seconds to complete one action.
Working with cart items was also slow: when the user had to change item quantity, they had to wait for 5-8 seconds.
In addition to that, Checkout load took 14 seconds. Shipping carrier communication back-and-forth was another 20 seconds.
Shipping address validation took on average from 7 to 15 seconds.
We already know that any response time longer than 10 seconds is the breaking point for a decent user experience. 20 seconds is a catastrophe. It distracts the user from the shopping experience and explains why the conversions were so low.
Creating High-Quality Checkout Experience
After we got the cause of poor conversion rate right, our task was to put things back on track. Working on Checkout and Shopping Cart performance, we did a number of critical optimizations.
We cleaned up Shopping Price Rules, Shipping Carriers, Active Countries, etc. A big chunk of Magento performance issues can be fixed from Magento Admin Panel – provided you know what to look for. Magento relies a lot on user expertise here. It offers extremely useful features that can boost your sales – or slow you down if you are not careful with them.
Over time, if you don’t do any homekeeping, you inevitably accumulate outdated price rules, unused payment methods, active countries you never ship to, and shipping carriers you don’t actually want to work with. And even though you don’t use these bits and pieces, Magento still has to load and fetch responses from these entities before your Shopping Cart or Checkout becomes interactive.
We rewrote Cart and Checkout to improve usability. Besides the speed factor, users also had to deal with an counter-intuitive Shopping Cart and Checkout process which involved multiple stages, unnecessary validations, and critical choke points in the code. Combining both the Cart and Checkout together allowed us to speed up the customer journey. At the same time, making Checkout simpler created a better user experience for customers who were ready to finish their purchase.
We got rid of all unnecessary bulk. We removed any third-party extensions and integrations that were either outdated, unused, or too taxing on system resources. Keeping your Checkout lean directly affects both your conversions and your sales numbers. Customers prefer a faster page to a slower one, even if the faster page has fewer features inside.
We optimized static content to speed up loading times. Checkout and Shopping Cart are one of the most code-saturated pages in the store. In order to optimize JS and CSS on them, we had to manually profile the code on these pages, deferring non-critical pieces to load later, bundling and minifying the rest to deliver them more efficiently.
We moved Magento to a more capable hosting and fine-tuned server configuration. Sometimes the growth process is not 100% obvious for people who use the store every day. They see gradual changes to daily user flow but don’t necessarily link foot traffic growth with the inevitable rise in system requirements.
Our customer had a decent hosting solution but it was a generic setup more suitable for a smaller store than a popular regional brand. We decided to move the store to a Magento-focused hosting provider to improve immediate store performance and eliminate possible future reliability issues.
What We Got in the End – Magento One Step Checkout
After all our improvements, we achieved a fast, simple, Magento one-step Checkout that drives sales instead of hindering them.
Before the optimization, the store performed visibly worse than its competitors, showing conversion rates 2x as low as the average in its niche.
After the optimization was complete, we saw a healthy spike in sales and conversions.
The store climbed from 1.59% to 4.3% total conversion rate, almost triple the former amount.
The number of orders grew accordingly, from 7,000 to 20,000 orders per week.
We managed to fully capitalize on the impulsive nature of the store’s customer base. A quick store with a fast and intuitive Checkout became key to rapid sales growth. With this newfound freedom to grow and discover new market opportunities, the store began to expand into the neighboring product niches and locations.
Building a Foundation for Strong Sales
Online, customers are visiting more places than ever before they buy. They go to more stores but buy less stuff. The choice and competition is good for the industry, but at the same time online stores need to be faster, more attractive, and user-friendly to win customers over.
Slow Checkout irritates people, distracting them from the actual shopping experience and breaks the magical thing marketers call the flow – this special state of mind where the customer is so focused on the shopping experience and the act of choosing and buying a new thing that they effectively enter tunnel vision mode where the flow takes them freely from browsing to order to checkout in a single wholesome sweep.
When this flow breaks for whatever reason we have a disruption on our hands. And instead of a happy customer, we get an annoyed one who will not buy anything because their shopping cart is too slow. Or their checkout experience is frustrating. Or they have to wait around too much in general. And thus, the magic is gone, their attention is lost to something else, your store’s tab gets closed and they move on to another line in Google search. Lost profits, lost opportunities, bad company image.
Making your Magento store faster works wonders for user conversions, real sales numbers, and general customer satisfaction.
Checkout and Shopping Cart play a pivotal role here since they are the pages where shoppers take the most important decision – whether to buy from you or move on.
Our team helped more than 50 stores become faster and sell more – so if you want to maximize sales make sure you sign up for Magento performance optimization services. Let’s audit your site and see if you can double your weekly orders too!