Declining Conversion Rates

  |  November 20, 2007   |  Comments

Now that visitors have greater control and more choices online, how should marketers proceed?

A few weeks ago, I participated in a seminar series put on by the people at Tealeaf. If you haven't checked out Tealeaf, spend some time on the site. The company measures a visitor's experience on your site by tracking all interactions and transactions. It's a natural complement to your Web analytics tool, and the organization has partnered with a number of Web analytics companies.

The Tealeaf team shared some great case studies and tips with the people who attended the seminar. One thing that really caught my attention: a and Forrester survey that e-commerce conversion rates have been dropping for the past few years.

If this the case, it's surprising that as companies spend more money tuning their businesses and understanding their customers, they're converting fewer visitors on a percentage basis. Think of the millions of dollars spent over the past few years on Web analytics, surveys, user studies, site redesigns, optimization efforts, and the like. Does this mean these efforts aren't worth it? Again, at first blush, it might look like these efforts have been wasted, as conversions have been declining.

Obviously that isn't the case. So what's causing this decline? I think it comes back to one thing: visitors are in control. It's never been easier to find someone to buy something from. If you aren't getting what you need within one experience, it's easy to go onto the next.

Think about the following as it relates to e-commerce:

  • Shopping engines. It seems there are endless shopping bots on the Web that will help you find the best price for any given product. This makes it easier to shop once you've done your online product research. You may research on a ton of different sites (manufacturers, retailers, reviewers, etc.), then turn to a shopping bot.

  • Tabbed browsing. It's always been as easy as clicking to leave one retailer and go to the next. Tabbed browsing makes it even easier. How many times have you googled something and opened up five of what you thought were the most relevant search results in tabs within that browser? You check the first one to see if it's truly what you were looking for, knowing you have four more tabs with four more sites that may be able to satisfy your needs.

Other factors also contribute to declining conversion rates. What does this all mean? Declining conversion rates, visitors in control, more choices? It means you need to work even harder to create and offer easy, rewarding, and compelling reasons to buy at your site. You may say that if everyone uses shopping bots to find the best prices, then it's a price game. That isn't always the case. How many times have you chosen an option in the shopping bots results that wasn't the lowest? It happens all the time: who's easier to buy from, who do you trust, who in general are you most comfortable with. These factors, along with pricing, lead to a purchasing decision.

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, we're entering the prime shopping season and a key time for retailers, online and off-. What have you been doing to maximize your conversion rate the past few months?

Is it too late for this year? Not to make small incremental changes. Tackle a landing page, test a few versions of the page, and see if you can sneak a small improvement out. But all this doesn't need to revolve around the holidays, you should be doing this all year long.

You should look at Web analytics data. But you must also understand the customer experience data, attitudinal insight, and offsite factors that will impact your business.

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Jason Burby

As President of the Americas at POSSIBLE, Jason is responsible for leading the long-term stability and growth of the region. With more than 20 years experience in digital strategy, he is a long-time advocate of using data to inform digital strategies to help clients attract, convert, and retain customers. Jason supports POSSIBLE's clients and employees in driving new engagements and delivering great work that works. He is the co-author of Actionable Web Analytics: Using Data to Make Smart Business Decisions.

Follow him on Twitter @JasonBurby.

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