39% of Ecommerce Sites Report Reduced Conversion Rate After Redesign39% of ecommerce sites report a reduction in their site’s conversion rate after redesigning and/or replatforming their site (Source: Forrester Research, Inc. 2012). Did that statistic stop you in your tracks? For many B2B organizations, the number one reason to replatform and redesign a site in the first place is to increase the number of conversions that it gets. So, when the key performance indicator (KPI) you are looking to improve on goes DOWN for 39% of all new sites, that should make you stop and think.

I’m guessing there are a number of questions running through your head right now:

  • Why does redesigning/replatforming cause conversions to decrease?
  • What can I do about it?
  • How do I make sure that it doesn’t happen to my site?

I’m going to answer those questions for you in hopes that you can avoid the post go-live conversion rate drop off.

A whole new look or re-brand

Sometimes when you redesign a site, the overall look and feel changes so dramatically that your customers log in and don’t recognize the site as yours. Unsure of where they are and how to proceed, they back out and pick up the phone to place their order instead. What You Can Do About It: Avoid drastic site changes like complete color scheme changes at the same time as launching a new logo. If you can’t avoid such strong changes, be sure to walk each of your customers through the site change and be prepared for questions.

People don’t like change

Redesigning and replatforming result in changes to your ecommerce site. While those changes might be nothing but improvements, unfortunately, they are still changes. Human beings as a whole don’t like change–even the good ones–if it means they must alter their behavior. A new site layout and increased functionality means your customers need to relearn how to navigate through your site to place an order. They must forget what they think they know and start fresh. Quite simply, they have to actively engage with your new site rather than going through the motions on your old site. What You Can Do About It: A personalized on-boarding plan is the best way to get your customers over the bump of having to relearn how to use your site. Walking customers through how to place an order one-on-one or via a hosted webinar will help them feel comfortable with your new technology–and it gives you the perfect opportunity to solicit customer feedback on your new site. Need help creating an on-boarding plan? Check out the article, Improving Ecommerce Adoption. (By the way, on-boarding plays a critical role in getting your customers to transition to placing orders online if this is your first ecommerce site too!)

It’s more complicated than you think

When a company sets out to revamp its ecommerce site, confusing the customer or making the process complicated is rarely a goal, but sometimes that is exactly what happens. Good intentions go awry and while the process makes sense to your organization, it’s not intuitive or easy for the end user. What You Can Do About It: Ask your ecommerce vendor partner to evaluate how you intend to change your site. They are in the thick of ecommerce best practices and should be able to provide you with some guidance. Ask people in your organization who aren’t familiar with what you are trying to do in the new design to walk through the steps for searching for a product and completing an order. If they can’t complete the task at hand, your customers won’t be able to either. And if there is anything on the site that’s confusing, ask them to flag it for you so that you can take a closer look.

Don’t forget about search engines during a redesign

A redesign or replatform is sure to create new web pages with new URL structure. What about those old web pages? All too often those old website pages are forgotten and ignored. This is a tragic mistake during a website redesign for a number of reasons. 1) Old bookmarked pages – Customers have been coming to your site for years to place their orders with their favorite pages bookmarked only to find a “404 error” page after the redesign because that page no longer exists. 2) Ignoring those old pages creates 404 error pages for search engines as well. Google counts these error pages against your site and it could hurt your search engine ranking. What You Can Do About It: Implement 301 redirects for all your old page URLs. This is a process but it is a MUST.

It doesn’t have to happen to you

Nearly 40% of companies that launch a new site report a decline in their site’s conversion rates, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. Through careful planning, testing, and a comprehensive on-boarding strategy, you can see your conversion rates–and subsequently, sales–increase after your new site goes live.