August 7, 2013

What most online retailers can learn from

A while ago, I wrote about how you can use upselling techniques to increase your average order value and sales from your E-Commerce website.

This got me thinking about Amazon. There aren’t many online retailers who can compete with Amazon in terms of their ability to cross-sell and convert a high number of its visitors into paying customers.

So, I decided to take the Amazon website apart and examine a popular product page on their website selling iPods to see just what it is that they do and do so well to consistently deliver such high revenues and conversion stats.

Before, we begin however; here are some important numbers to give you some perspective:

  •’s revenues in 2010 were $34 billion
  • It’s estimated that Amazon converts approx.  10 % of its website visitors into paying customers. This is about 4 times that of the average E-Commerce website 1
  • A 2009 survey found that approx. 35% of Amazon’s sales can be attributed to cross-sales (selling additional items to a customer already purchasing the original item) 2

2.        Survey carried out by Internet Retailer -

Of course, it’s instantly recognizable brand name, ease of returns and unbeatable service are all intangible factors that help towards the above numbers. For the purpose of this post however, I will only be looking at their website and the tools they have deployed to make it the biggest online retailer in the world.

So, here are 7 tools and techniques I found on Amazon’s typical product page that ultimately helps it sell more to its user.

Cause: Customer reviews

Effect: Conversions

The first thing you'll notice below the product title is a star rating of the product based on the reviews of Amazon customers. You may find product reviews on many other E-Commerce websites. However, the incredible brand loyalty and high returning visitor percentages that Amazon enjoys, means that not only is there an abundance in the number of reviews you'll find for most products, especially popular ones, but the feedback itself is quite informative, helping users truly make an informed decision.

The additional “Was this review helpful to you” function wherein another user can grade the feedback itself provides impetus for users to leave useful and elaborate feedback.


Cause: Assurance and urgency via Guaranteed deliver

Effect: Conversions

Towards the end of the product description, is usually information on how quickly you can receive the product including a delivery date as well as time remaining to order if you want to receive the item by the stated date.

Unlike most other E-Commerce websites which usually have a “Click here for delivery info”, providing an actual date for possible delivery is a subtle way to encourage users to buy the item, as soon as possible.  Additionally, the time remaining to place order with the dynamic timer which countdowns even if you don’t refresh the page creates a sense of urgency and excitement and yet another way to entice users to place an order, sooner rather than later.

Cause: Frequently brought together

Effect: Cross-sell

This feature isn't very uncommon and you can find it many other modern online shops. What I have found interesting however, is the relevancy of items listed here. For example, product listings for ipods will usually have an ipod case and usually, just one (I imagine it lists the most popular case at the time). A product page for a book usually lists a couple of other books by the same author.  In most cases, the items listed within this section are those that a user may actually be interested to buy.

Cause: What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Effect: Not sure (!)

Admittedly, I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of this feature is exactly. It allows you to explore other similar items which makes sense if it weren’t for the part of the title “..After viewing this item?”.  If I was to take that literally, I should leave this page and look at the other similar items listed within the category. Also, I did a check of 5 random products in all 5 cases, the top item listed here was the same as the product page I was looking at.

Perhaps, someone has insights on this?

Cause: Related items

Effect: Cross-sell

Towards the middle of the page, you'll find a section listing related items. For the more popular products, this section is divided into various other categories of related items. For example, for an ipod, you'll find warranty plans, cases, accessories,  consoles and so on. I would imagine that this feature alone is responsible for the majority of the cross-sell revenues that Amazon generates since it allows you to browse through a large category of related items with maximum ease.

The related items widget isn't available for all products.

Cause: Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Effect: Cross-sell

And finally, towards the middle of the page and the end of the myriad of cross selling tools, we have one more way to cross-sell.  The “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” section is a combination of the items listed in the previous sections showing warranty plans, cases, docks and so, in our example for the iPod. In most cases, I found the suggested items to be relevant and of possible interest for a purchase, additionally.


As you can see, from the stats listed in the beginning of the post and the above analysis, Amazon uses a variety of tools and techniques to encourage conversions and cross-sell to its customers.  In spite of all this, what’s fascinating is that its able to do all of this without compromising the page load time and speed3.

I also don’t think that its any single technique that contributes to Amazon sky-high conversion and cross-sell rates. The average internet user will scan a webpage, looking for items that catch its interest. The abundance of items, pictures and features available on amazon’s websites ensures that most potential shoppers are sure to find something of interest, over and above the original purchase they had in mind.