5 Popular eCommerce Trends That Might Be Costing You Conversions

5 Popular eCommerce Trends That Might Be Costing You Conversions

From image carousels to social media logins, trends spread like wildfire in the eCommerce industry.

But, have you ever stopped to question the business implications of following these trends?

‘Everyone has that thing on their website,’ you think, “So it must be working!”

But that logic is flawed. Chances are, the sites you’re copying from are as clueless about the effectiveness of such trends as you are. Break free from the herd mentality.

Next time you come across a new trend, stop and ask:

  • Does this make sense for ‘my’ target audience?
  • Could this improve visitor experience on my site? Why?
  • Are there case studies of competitors or people in a similar market who have A/B tested the technique on their website?

If you are still convinced that it would be a good add-on to your site, test it out on your website to validate your hypothesis.

Note: see a ton of ecommerce guidelines & testing ideas in our comprehensive ecommerce guidelines report (245+ guidelines specifically for ecommerce).

Let’s Talk About The Trends You May Have Adopted Already…

Okay, now hopefully you’ll not adopt any new eCommerce trend blindly in future — but what about the trends you may have thoughtlessly added to your site in the past? What if they were holding back your conversion rate?


To help you fix these leaks in your conversions, I’ve listed some eCommerce trends that might be a liability to your website.

1. Adding Icons to Make Navigation Easy


This trend is still catching on. You must have seen some online stores adding small icons to make their product categories more intuitive. I think it’s a great trend – when it’s executed well. But, it’s really annoying for people when industry jargon describes your product categories.

Take women’s shoes, for example. Wedges, gladiators, booties, boots — there’s so much to choose from. These sites often assume that their target audience is a fashionista and confuse them with such bizarre varieties that they do not clearly understand.

Wtf are these things?

Result? Bad user experience. And probably lost conversions too. Visitors end up clicking random categories before they actually find what they are looking for (if they ever find the right category, that is!). Adding icons thus make perfect sense here.

But guess what? Build.com added icons to their product categories and their conversions plummeted. Here are the two versions they tested:

Version A:


Version B:



The version without the icons saw 21% more conversions.

It seems that the product categories were too obvious in this case, so adding icons probably added clutter to the page that confused visitors.  

2. Going Social on Product Pages

Conversion 101: If an element isn’t adding any value to your page’s conversion goal, it has no business on your web page. Drop it. NOW.

With that being said, how would you justify the presence of social icons on product pages? It’s quite likely that they will only distract visitors from your page goal, which is to increase clickthroughs to the ‘Add to cart’ button.

What’s worse is, because of low social shares on most product pages, they act like negative social proof.

A recent VWO study showed an increase of 11.9% in click-throughs to the ‘Add to cart’ button when an eCommerce site removed social sharing buttons from their product pages.


3. Your “Cool” Merry-go-rounds

Carousels Brad Frost Web

image source

“Your website is so cool, man.” You love hearing that, don’t you? Stop designing for your ego.

I’ll give you 5 super solid reasons why your image sliders suck:

1. They do not let users control the browsing experience, as one participant in the NN Group’s study mentioned, I didn’t have time to read it. It keeps flashing too quickly.”



image source

2. In the same study, it was noticed that they also create banner blindness and are often ignored by people.

Auto Forwarding Carousels Accordions Annoy Users Reduce Visibility

3. They slow down your site, which is bad for SEO and conversions (every one second of delay in page load time can reduce conversions by 7%.)
4. They dilute the focus of the page if you have different promotional offers on each slide. If you know anything about conversions, you’d probably know that it’s best to have only one conversion goal per page.
5. In many cases, as little as 1% of people click them, and those who do often click the first slide only.


6. They push the content of the page below-the-fold. After the latest Google update about content layouts, it can hurt your SEO efforts if you do not have relevant content above-the-fold.

A great alternative to using carousels is to first show a standard static offer on the homepage, which will be common for all new visitors. But on repeat visit, you can give them a targeted experience based on their previous visit.

So if a visitor explored women’s footwear section on their first visit, this will be stored in their browser cookie. And you can show them a banner for women footwear directly on the homepage in their subsequent visits. Visual Website Optimizer’s behavioral targeting can help you implement this.

Or you can pull it off the way Ben Sherman does:


That’s right. Let your seasonal, popular category steal the thunder on your website.

Target offers based on your visitors’ geographical location, if possible. Ditch the sliders for good. Use a static image this time.

4. Reviews That Are Too Sweet to Digest


image source

Okay, maybe you’re not one of those sites that post ads on Craiglist to get fake reviews written about your site. Still, you might be among thousand others that display only positive reviews on their site.

Obviously! How can you reveal the drawback of your own product/service on your site? Fair argument.

But think about this — will your visitors believe that you never got any negative reviews? Probably not. If you do not want to be the source, suit yourself. But know that they will find it out elsewhere. And they will leave your site to Google and find out the truth. You wouldn’t want that. Right?

That’s why it’s important that you show them both sides of the coin. Let them have faith in your credibility. According to Reevoo’s 2013 research, consumers who seek negative reviews are more engaged visitors and convert 85% more than average visitors.



Take a cue from Amazon.

It shows both pros and cons of a product on their website. This sometimes make people flock to it only to check reviews as well. And many times, these people who had no intention to buy from Amazon in the first place, end up purchasing from it.


This PsyBlog article discusses how balanced arguments improve persuasion. The best way to display negative reviews on your site are, by being careful about the negative review(s) you choose to show on your site. When your other testimonials have solid counter-arguments for points raised in bad review(s), it actually increases your persuasion quotient.

Don’t go overboard with negative reviews though. Finding your ‘sweet spot’ between positive and negative reviews is the key. Roughly — 1-2 negative, 1 neutral, and 6-7 positive reviews for a product should give you a good balance.

A word of caution: this method is often more appropriate for sites that have many products. So if visitors are not convinced about buying one product, they can search for another alternative product to solve their need (usually on the same site).

5. Your Delightful Coupon Code Box at the Checkout


You’ve found what you were looking for. You are about to make the payment. And there’s a blank coupon code box staring at you with an opportunity to save some bucks. What would you think?

“Awesome! Here’s my coupon code….this is a great site. I saved so much. I will come back again”

Or, you might think…

“What? I can save some money on this? But I don’t have the damn coupon code…let me Google it”

(And there goes your conversion. Add another number to your cart abandonment data)

Things can go either way with your coupon box. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. You only have to implement it smartly to make sure that it favors your side.

Here’s how you can fix this:


A casual chat with Craig Sullivan, enlightened me about this excellent idea. It’s a brilliant fix to deal with the basket abandonment risk associated with coupon boxes.

Coupon codes increase buyer satisfaction, but if you’re thinking about offering coupon code to everyone, hold your horses. It might not be a great idea. For one, there’s indeed a huge sense of satisfaction associated with a discount. But when everyone is getting it — not so much.

Plus, let us not overlook the logistics behind this. Offering a promo code to everyone means that you will be cutting down on your profit margin immensely.


Don’t get me wrong — I don’t mean to say that all trends are bad or that just because they didn’t work for one website, it won’t work for you as well.

All I want you to understand is, it’s important that you test design trends before implementing it on your website. Get this right — data eludes intuition and reasoning many times. You won’t know what works until you test.

Have you been guilty of following any of these trends without questioning about their effectiveness? Which one did you implement and why? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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  1. The last one is a total conversion killer. We found on one of our websites that removing the promo code coupon box altogether reduced checkout bounces by over 10% – a huge lift on the “last step” of the checkout. If you have the programming ability (and a smaller bank of promo codes), then have your programmers only show the box if a code applies. Works well for smaller sites & can help conversions dramatically.

    1. That’s right, Conrad! I hope more people learn from your experience and test their coupon code boxes. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Smriti,
    Yeah I can get behind all the points you are making here and unfortunately some of these mistakes are voted into the design brief by committee. We, as designers who stay abreast of current “trends” often place ourselves at a bad vantage point if we don’t take some kind of informed control over project plans from the beginning.
    Hell, I’ve got a slider on my homepage and though I personally like it, I am finding myself more and more wanting to swap it out cause I think it probably is a conversion killer to some degree.
    It’s time for some testing again methinks. I’ve been looking into survey funnels and am in the process of creating one cuz I just want to know what my potentials really experience on my site.
    Thanks for the good read,

    1. You hit the nail on the head, Dale. I’d love to know how your slider test turns out.

  3. Hi Smriti,

    I had followed the similar post you wrote on VWO about image sliders and I totally agree about it.

    It is best to test the hypothesis of using image sliders on the homepage before we can assume and approve that idea.

    From my experience as a web copywriter, implementing image sliders often overshadowed the whole web writing structure. That’s because clients instruct web designers to create the site map with image sliders on the top prior to copywriting.

    I struggled to advise them (not all my clients) about the issue of image sliders and encouraged them to test the idea first, but they didn’t listen to me after all.

    1. I understand how frustrating it can be to convince people sometimes. Sending relevant links to several researches should help. With Google’s recent content layout algorithm update on your side, maybe they’ll change their mind this time.

      Good luck!

  4. That’s the reason I keep my landing pages simple. It’s easier to split test that way.

  5. Awesome article, I buffer’d!
    Smriti, could you please link me to the source of that coupon code trick? It’s genius and I’d like to link to it from my last post.

    1. Well, that trick is just the result of a short twitter discussion I had with Craig Sullivan, who is a known conversion expert. I just got our designer to portray it into an image. Maybe you should attribute it to Craig’s Twitter Handle for the credit: https://twitter.com/OptimiseOrDie

    2. Great! I’ll then link to this post and also mention Craig :) thanks a lot!

  6. What is the tool used for the Promo Code Generator in the 3 step image?

    1. Matt, that was just a hypothetical example I represented visually.

  7. I’m most surprised about the icon menus. I’m currently building out my site and am including the icons.

    My products are very niche and although the categories will be obvious, my initial hypothesis is that my target audience (women 40+) are visual, will want to see what they are clicking on.

    But I will have to test it without too.

  8. Great article, very inspiring.
    I’m also interested in the promo code generator. Had never seen that and it looks like a brilliant idea.

    1. Sorry, that’s just a hypothetical example I used.

  9. I’ve seen sites that put the website like button (as opposed to the product) near the check out, because it has 10K+ likes. It can drive good social proof, and I think prefacing it with something like “Our users continue to shop with us” won’t make it misleading

  10. Nice article Smriti. I especially like the discount code idea in the basket. This is something my clients always have concern with as I always hide it as much as possible (by the footer) and many customers end up having to call the sales line to find out how to apply a code. The simple tooltip idea will be used from here on in instead of the hidden form field

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5 Popular eCommerce Trends That Might Be Costing You Conversions