Website Conversion: 6 Ways to Force the Issue
There are two things that almost every marketer doing business online is obsessed with these days: social media and conversion. And that's not in reference to social media's conversion/return on investment, because really, why be obsessed with something that's typically negative or flat in terms of contribution?
So in reality, the obsession should be all about website conversion, compensation and measuring what matters. Here are six surefire tips to help you measure site conversion:
1. Know who you are. A home delivery food service is going to have a very different ability to convert than, say, a B-to-B distributor of cranes. A company that specializes in diabetic medical supplies is going to have a much different ability to convert than one that sells clothing for pregnant women. A business that sells perennials is going to have a much different sales (and thus conversion) cycle than one that sells Christmas ornaments.
Determine how much, how often and when consumers need your products or services. To compare your business to others, benchmark yourself to someone similar in your category. When you get a good handle on who you are and how often customers need your product, you can develop appropriate conversion benchmarks.
2. Look at your conversion by source; then set reasonable expectations. Find out where your traffic is coming from. Companies that have all direct/no-referrer traffic will have very different conversion rates than companies with none.
Companies with big brand names (L.L.Bean or Lands' End, for example) are going to have very different conversion rates than a company like Bliss Living. Bliss Living does a lot of things right on its site, but this is a relatively new company that doesn't have a bunch of offline advertising (e.g., direct mail catalogs, solo mailers, TV and radio spots, space ads, etc.) to fuel sales.
3. Prioritize where you'll get your biggest scores once you determine your conversion sources. It's not ideal to look at overall conversion rates because they're very misleading. What's more, they don't tell you what to fix.
Say, for instance, your overall conversion rate is 4 percent and you have a catalog business. Is that good or bad? How many customers are ordering from your catalog pages? How many are finishing and converting? If you're sending a lot of offline consumers online to place orders, they should be converting a heck of a lot better than someone who doesn't know you from Adam.
4. Ask for the order. If you want the order, you need to ask for it — gorillas don't get into cages on their own. Don't think that just because you have a site users will know how to navigate or buy from it. Users have neither the time nor inclination to learn anything about you or your site and its intricacies. Just because you have the best product, best service or biggest line of widgets, that doesn't mean a thing when it comes to conversion.
If you want conversions, fight for them. Add a perpetual cart/lead form; employ more buy now/add-to-cart buttons. There should be at least one in every page view. Strengthen your action bar, flesh out your navigation and so on. If you ask for the order and aren't getting it, figure out why this is happening and where you're losing people.
5. Know where people are stopping in your pipeline. Many times companies do all the right things until the checkout (including the view cart page); then all hell breaks loose. You need to develop a funnel. The top of the funnel is the traffic coming to your site; the bottom (the small part) is the orders, quotes or leads you're getting.
These days, many marketers have enough traffic coming in at the top, but then nothing or very little coming out the bottom. (Picture a big lump in the middle of the body of a snake that's just devoured a rat.) If you fit into that category, your conversion rate probably is poor. The good news is that scenario is one of the easiest to improve, as long as you can determine what's broken before you fix it.
6. Look at the metrics that can help you improve conversion. First, look at your bounce rate and exit pages. Determine how many people abandon your site immediately after they get there. Figure out where your users are leaving.
A high bounce rate is often indicative of a weak entry page or bad traffic (meaning the traffic isn't right for your site or offer). Consultants who tell you it doesn't matter usually don't know how to measure it or are clearly biased.
As for your exit pages, the only really acceptable exit page is a confirmation page. If your exits aren't pages where you thank the user for taking an action, what are they? The most successful sites get at least one thing — an order, a lead or an email address — from users. If you don't get at least one of these, you have more work ahead of you.
Amy Africa is CEO of South Burlington, Vt.-based e-commerce consulting firm Eight by Eight (firstname.lastname@example.org).