While I love details and the stories behind each business or website, I also like to see trends and the big picture.

Today’s article will be about trends in eCommerce.

Businesses always want to know the answer to the question:

What are successful eCommerce sites doing today to convert traffic into paying customers online?

To answer this question, every year Inflow analyzes 20 best-in-class eCommerce sites to figure out what they’re doing. They look at everything: design, messaging, site flow, UX, and even their technology stacks, and generate a 270-point matrix of mobile, desktop, and tech stack decisions of 20 Best In Class eCommerce sites.

It looks something like this:

The full matrix is very detailed and somewhat dry, but below you can see 12 key insights from this year’s study.

The 20 Best In Class Ecommerce Sites of 2018

Desktop sites analyzed:

Mobile sites analyzed:

12 Key Insights

1. Mobile: Homepage Hero Image Slider

Long despised by CROs everywhere, it looks like the rotating hero slider is finally going away. This year’s list sees only 2 sites still rotating the hero banner, down from 7 last year.

2. Mobile: Top Nav on Mobile

Having a top nav on mobile is something only a few innovative sites are doing. Currently only 2 out of 20 of the Best in Class sites has a mobile top nav. The Inflow conversion team has tested this all last year and it has yet to NOT work. One layer of additional innovation is to have a mega menu integrated with the top nav, which only 1 (Zappos above) out of the 20 are doing.

3. Mobile: In Navigation Promotion

Using promotional banners within navigation is an emerging trend for mobile. Last year only one site from they survey did this on mobile; this year usage hit 30%.

4. Mobile: Show Local Inventory

Showing local inventory doubled compared to last year as stores are finally figuring out that displaying local availability is key to thriving online. If you have brick and mortar stores, definitely test this.

5. Mobile: Take Online Order In-store for Completion

Last year, none of the sites in the survey had a mobile option to reserve an item for pickup or allow users to print their wish list to take into the store. This year, three stores are using this feature, and more will follow. In-store completion should be a major emerging trend—absolutely worth testing if you have brick and mortar stores.

6. Desktop: Take Online Order In-store for Completion

A dramatic growth for in-store pickup. Previously, only Walmart and REI, the 2 biggest retailers on the list, had this option. For companies with a broad brick and mortar presence, this is going to become imperative over the next few years.

7. Desktop: Promotions Within Mega Menu

Promotions within the mega menu has become a dominant trend and is still trending up with fully 75% of companies using it. With lots of basic product navigation, additional streams, and other features competing for space on the page, sometimes there just is not enough room to have visual promotions.

8. Desktop: Global Promotion Elements

Global promotion elements is now a dominant best practice among best-in-class desktop sites. Executed most commonly with a top ribbon—either on top of the pre-existing header or within a ribbon that is part of the header.

9. Desktop PDP: Bag or Pop-in Cart

Keeping the user on the page and notifying them with either a pop-in box or drop-down “bag” to represent the cart is now a dominant best practice. The rule of thumb is this: sites that average more than 1.6 products per order should not send users to a separate cart page each time they add an item to cart.

10. Desktop PDP: Provides Product Attributes in Cart

eCommerce companies should highlight product features such as color, fabric, fit, finish, size, etc. in the cart. With 19 best-in-class companies now doing so, this feature has finally become a dominant best practice. You should let the customer see the product attributes with the product name and picture in the cart—so they know they’re purchasing the correct item.

11. Free Returns (Return Shipping Paid)

Study after study shows the No. 2 objection that prevents customers from completing an order is the question: “What happens if I don’t like it?” Highlighting your free return policy (with return shipping paid) removes this objection. Half of best-in-class companies now highlight their free returns policy, and you should test the approach on your own site.

12. Checkout: One Page Checkout

One-page checkout actually decreased in usage from the survey last year. Be very clear about how many steps there are and how far along the user is in the process. If you’re going to use a single-page design, consider an accordion style checkout—which does this very cleanly.

Conclusion

There are very few “absolutely right ways” to do things. As you can see, even among the best, there are differences.

The important thing is to find out what works for you. Above, you have more than enough inspiration to start testing and to find out what works specifically for your business.

eCommerce Conversion Optimization Best in Class Research by Inflow

PS. Start with mobile. Usually, there are more opportunities there.