Practical Ecommerce

In Social Media Era, Nine Techniques to Improve Conversion Rates

With the ever-growing popularity of social media, online sweepstakes and contests, just how important is the actual conversion rate of an online store going to be in the future?

In simple terms, the conversion rate is a measure of the number of unique visitors (potential customers) that actually make a purchase. The result is in percentage format – thus, if five of 100 unique visitors actually complete an order, the conversion rate of the store is 5 percent.

Social Media and Conversion Rates

Conversion rates have played a major role in all things ecommerce for many years. Every aspect of store promotion, such as search engine optimization, pay-per-click ad campaigns, and even print advertising, ultimately contribute to a store’s overall conversion rate. While many experts have said averages of 1 percent to 2 percent are decent, less-conventional consultants (like myself) have always believed that conversion rates could always be better, but shouldn’t be used as the sole factor in determining success.

With a social presence increasing incoming traffic, many online stores are seeing conversion rates drop. This isn’t really surprising since a single post on Twitter (a tweet) can potentially direct thousands of people to a specific product page. If the visitor realizes the information isn’t for him, he simply leaves. This action also increases a page’s bounce rate (a measurement that tells us how many visitors loaded a single page then left the site without visiting any other page).

Contests, Traffic and Conversion Rates

If you’re running social media campaigns (i.e. you’re active on Twitter, Facebook and other networks), or contests, you can almost always expect a decrease in your conversion rate and an increase in bounce rates. After all, what you’re primarily seeking is an increase in overall sales.

A large online retailer hosted a sweepstakes, offering up a grand prize equivalent to $20,000. Immediately, traffic increased by the hundreds of thousands. The bounce rate of the sweepstakes page itself was very low because visitors had to click through to the entry form. What dropped significantly was the conversion rate (by more than 5 percent), but overall sales more than doubled. So, the campaign was a success, despite a drastic reduction in the percentage of visitors who actually placed an order.

Statistical data from a cosmetics company, comparing pre-campaign conversion and during-campaign data. Used with permission.

Statistical data from a cosmetics company, comparing pre-campaign conversion and during-campaign data. Used with permission.

Nine Techniques to Increase Conversion Rates

Many websites concentrate solely on increasing the number of visitors, when often they have fairly simple problems with their sites that, if solved, would have a huge effect on their conversion rates and improve their sites’ bottom lines with minimal expense.
Improving a website conversion rate can be relatively simple even when hosting social media traffic campaigns and other events. Here are nine techniques for doing just that.

  1. Use compelling yet accurate “headlines.” When posting product links via Twitter, Google Buzz, and Facebook, and when sending emails, be sure the headline is explanatory. People hate to have their time wasted, so target your audience.
  2. Make sure the “landing page” is appealing. Any page on a site is a potential landing page, so if you’re linking to a product, a category, or any supporting store page, be sure to analyze it before promoting links. Make sure it is attractive and contains all necessary information.
  3. Give away products instead of gift certificates. The problem with hosting contests featuring store gift certificates is entrants that may be considering buying something are more apt to wait to see if they win. By the time the winners are announced, they may have already forgotten about you.

    Another option is to offer up a prize product you don’t even sell (iPads seem to do very well these days). This follows the same rule as above – people may put off purchases to see if they’ll be a lucky winner.

  4. Offer an instant coupon. When hosting contests, sweepstakes or even retweeting events, offer up instant coupons. For example, after visitors submit their entries, they receive auto-generated discount coupons good for a week to 10 days. This prompts them to look around the store. With a short deadline, they’re more apt to act quickly.
  5. Incorporate your brand in everything. You always want visitors to remember who you are. After all, not everyone shops impulsively. By reminding shoppers often–but not intrusively–who you are and what you sell, you increase the chance of their return. So, avoid standalone landing pages that do little to promote actual shopping.
  6. Offer post-order discounts, now or later. By sending auto-generated coupons good toward another purchase, you increase the chance of now-customers returning to buy more. This action tends to work better when printed on the packing slip or sent after the customer has received his shipment.
  7. Display related products or accessories. Accessories serve as a reminder of what one might need to get the most out of the product, while related items help shoppers find other items they may like better than the featured product. Don’t go overboard – the goal is to offer a handful of options so you can reach the broadest possible audience.
  8. Be transparent about shipping rates. They’re the number one reason for cart abandonment; so don’t hide those charges. Sites that require shoppers begin the checkout process to see what ship costs will be tend to have a lower conversion rate.
  9. Be clear about value and customer service. Chances are your business has many competitors. Tell visitors why they should shop with you, such as better pricing, no-hassle returns, and stellar customer service.

Summary

A store’s conversion rate does play a major role in determining how well that business is doing. But, unlike the past, where it was used as a primary measure, today it is used at various stages to gauge the success of several types of marketing campaigns and social media events. The biggest indicator of success, though, is the revenue of an online store. Storeowners will fare better by focusing on the return on investment to determine if the actions they’re taking are actually profitable.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

Bio   •   RSS Feed


email-news-env

Sign up for our email newsletter

Comment ( 1 )

  1. Paul Chaney June 21, 2010 Reply

    Great points all Pamela. I had not thought through the issue of how social media affects that conversion rate, only that we’re moving from a ‘social media as conversation’ mindset to one of ‘social media as conversion’. Your post provides additional insight that was valuable to me…so thanks!