Web Analytics Red (and Green) Alert

It’s two days before Thanksgiving, which means it’s three days before the holiday shopping season officially kicks off. What have you done to maximize your online conversions and reduce shopping cart abandonment in the coming weeks?

If you’re an online retailer, you’re likely poised to make or break the year based on this holiday season. You set up ad campaigns for the coming weeks, stocked up on inventory, determined the last possible order time when you can guarantee delivery by the special day. Now, you must ensure customers complete their transactions.

In a recent study, NetIQ, the company behind WebTrends, predicts $63 billion in sales will be lost in the U.S. alone in 2004 due to shopping cart abandonment. What if you could convert just three more visitors into buyers out of every thousand who visit your site?

If your conversion rate is 3.0 percent, those additional three visitors would increase conversion to 3.3 percent. That may not sound like much, but it’s a 10 percent increase in revenue. Plus or minus 10 percent could make or break many e-tailers’ holiday season.

Abandonment Issues

Where’s that estimated $63 billion going? More important, why do those people abandon a site? According to the NetIQ study, the four most common contributing factors leading to abandonment are:

  • Additional costs, such as shipping and handling, or lengthy delivery times (35 percent)

  • Too much consumer information required to make the purchase (30 percent)
  • Lack of product information (17 percent)
  • Decision to purchase from a brick-and-mortar store rather than online (14 percent)

There’s Still Time to Redeem Your Site

How well does your site combat these issues? Looking at the calendar, is it too late to reduce abandonment this shopping season? Many of our clients have locked down their sites and don’t anticipate making changes during the holiday season. Most have already fine-tuned their sites through A/B testing in preparation for the holidays.

Others will use the next few weeks to test a few minor site adjustments to capture the extra three or four out of every 1,000 visitors. You can, too. Done correctly, you’ll reap rewards in the coming weeks.

I’m not talking about wholesale site changes, but small adjustments that help people complete the purchase process. Where do you start? Here are a few quick tactics to consider:

  • Create a conversion funnel. Look at visitors from the time they enter the site and view a product all the way through purchase. Where do they drop off? The further down in the process, the lower the drop-off rate should be at each step, as visitors are more invested in the process.

  • Focus improvements on a selected area.
  • Determine what causes the drop off. At this time of year, a survey or usability study may not be reasonable, though it’s strongly recommended for the long term. Consider a targeted expert review by a usability specialist to generate ideas. Or, after reviewing the data and seeing where people go, what’s causing the problem may be obvious.
  • Set up a simple A/B test. Explore different solutions against an existing page. As it’s the prime shopping season, you may only want to filter off a portion of site traffic.
  • Roll out the best-performing solution to all visitors based on your conversion goals.

Depending on your organization and willingness to work to maximize online revenue over the coming weeks, these ideas may or may not be feasible. Many of you are reading this and thinking, “I should have done this in September or October. It just isn’t possible to react this quickly to make these types of changes.”

You’re right. Ideally, this would have occurred a few months ago! If you can’t fine-tune your site over the coming week or two, make it your New Year’s resolution.

When you get back to the office on Monday, January 3, what steps will you take to maximize conversion, revenue, and profits for 2005? You invested in that powerful analytics tool; this is how you should use the data. Begin January 3 and continue to use it throughout the year, so next year at this time you’re not saying, “I wish I’d tested this or that before the site freeze. Now I’m out in the cold, waiting to see the numbers.”

Remember, even small, quick changes can make all the difference in a good holiday sales season for your commerce site.

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