Practical Ecommerce

There’s More to Conversion Than a Sale

Consider the long and short of e-retailing. As competition rises and tracking becomes more sophisticated, ecommerce merchants are looking for more ways to improve their sales performance. The answer may lie in how they define success. There’s more to a conversion than a sale. Here’s what we mean:

Several steps in conversion process

The contact process between seller and buyer has a number of distinct steps. But while the process starts with a click, every proceeding step can be measured and treated as a conversion. Conversions are actions taken by a visitor to your website that express interest in your products or services. It’s up to you to define which actions constitute a conversion on your website. Choose broadly and assign each conversion point a dollar value.

Why? Because without those values, you may be misdirecting your efforts toward immediate dollar gains at the expense of long-term growth and prosperity.

What kind of actions should you consider as a conversion? It will vary by your industry, product offering and even promotion. Some worth considering are: filling out an information form, a call to the toll-free number listed on your website, a first-time sale and a return sale. Each has value, and that value is unique to you and your goals.

Here’s an example: Someone searches for a product that you provide. On the first page of their search they find an ad you’ve purchased directing them to a landing page on your website. They click to the page, browse through some different colors or options, find what they want and place it in a shopping cart. After proceeding to checkout, they inexplicably abandon their cart.

No sale. No conversion? Not necessarily

If you’re keeping score as you should, treat this as: no sale, several conversions and considerable value. Here’s why. You may have a loyal customer waiting in the wings. They now know where to find you, they’ve done a bit of navigating on your website and they have shown a preference for some of your products. Who knows why they left ? the dog may have wanted to go out, their dial-up connection quit or they may be one of those shoppers who uses the shopping cart as their “wish list.” They may be back. Any way you look at it, you have a prospect, and that has value.

Start assigning some numbers. Your first conversion might be when someone clicks on your ad. If 10 percent of the people who hit that landing page actually buy, and your average sale for a landing page is $50, then you might want to assign a value of $5 to the visit. In similar fashion, you could put a dollar value to each step during your involvement ? the landing page, browsing other pages, the trip to checkout ? with your potential customer. You may not have rung the register, but nonetheless you have something of considerable value: a prospect, not only for one sale, but many future sales.

But why bother assigning dollar amounts to “no-sale” conversions? The alternative is to allocate your resources based strictly on sales or on no empirical data whatsoever. Either way, you could be risking future sales.

Data has value

What real value is this “no-sale?” First, thanks to the cookies set for your unique visitor, a return visit can be tracked. Data collected can help you identify loyal customers and devise future-product offerings that can be promoted on-site and in customer emails. With this identified audience, your cost per acquisition is lower, and the return on your marketing investment is higher. In other words, qualified leads with their preselected choice of products in front of them are more likely to buy…every time they visit.

On their return visit, you may want to create an opportunity to ask your prospects how you can improve their shopping experience. They can tell you if your order form is overly long or intrusive, if the checkout process is working as intended and if shipping costs and terms are a major issue. That, too, has value.

Finally, when you consider each escalating step in your involvement with a sales prospect as a conversion, you will create customer loyalty systematically. A “contact me” form leads to a proactive sales approach where new catalogs, offerings, special discounts and preferred-customer offers are presented to a prequalified audience. In doing so, you make a smart investment into the lifetime value of a customer, all by taking the long approach to conversions.

Lisa Wehr

Lisa Wehr

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