Ecommerce conversions are specific actions taken by visitors on ecommerce websites that are tracked and monitored in order to measure success. By monitoring such data, businesses can cultivate customer behavior in a way that increases sales, subscriptions and other specified goals in a targeted way.
What Is A Conversion?
Ecommerce conversions, like all conversions, are simply specific desired actions taken by a visitor to a website. These actions can be defined as a purchase, a subscription or even any interaction with the website itself. If this action is in any way valuable and has been defined as such before, this is considered a conversion.
In order to measure these conversions, websites can log these defined interactions as data, which can then be monitored and acted upon in order to optimize the number of conversions themselves. These are defined as conversion rates.
Conversion rates are a percentage of visitors that engage in the defined valued action. So, for example, if 12 out of 200 visitors made a purchase, the conversion rate for this action would be 6% (12 divided by 200). What is considered a good conversion rate will depend on a number of factors, such as the value of products sold, which metric is being measured and how much might have been spent on advertising.
Which Type Of Conversions Should I Be Interested In?
As previously touched upon, there are many different types of broad metrics and within those categories, several specific actions that can be measured. Some websites may only wish to track one specific metric as this is central to their enterprise, such as subscriptions for an online magazine. For others, often within the retail sector, multiple actions might need to be measured, such as bounce rate, the value of sales and average sales. Not only do these differ from sector to sector, but also business to business within that sector.
The main types of conversions measured are:
Ecommerce conversions tend to be the most complex types of conversions to measure. This is due to the fact that one type of ecommerce conversion will only paint a small part of the picture. For example, a total conversion rate of 5% is fine, but the total income might be low if the majority of items purchased are of low value. Average order value adds a whole other data set that provides further insight if the value of items is high. This is why what is a low conversion rate for purchases can be highly misleading and should be calculated with the specific business in mind.
Another popular metric that can be measured by conversion rate is the add to cart option on ecommerce websites. Many visitors might be adding items to the shopping cart only to abandon the purchase. This can be highly significant data as it might point towards an inefficient buying process. Add to cart metrics can also measure items that are consistently removed after adding, which might suggest a perceived lack of value compared to another product.
Engagement conversions track visitor behavior from a number of points and can provide enormously insightful data relating to how the website is performing. It is one of the mainstays of website analysis and well served by Google Analytics, which is also easy to understand for non-tech people.
Bounce rate is an important metric that can provide actionable information on whether a website is either relevant to the traffic it is pulling in or how interesting the content itself is. Bounce rate measures those that arrive at a site and leave before performing any other action, such as purchasing, clicking on links or viewing other pages. Bounce rates that are high also have an effect on the website’s Google search ranking, making it a highly relevant metric for all sectors.
Page views can measure two separate metrics, the total number of views of a page and the total number of visitors visiting that page. The difference being one visitor can view a page several times. If views are high and bounce rate is low, this likely means the page is performing well for engagement metrics and can be copied across the site if possible.
Visit length measures the amount of time spent on the website in total. If engagement and relevant content is the goal, then this metric should be a high priority as a long amount of time spent on site suggests that visitors are satisfied with what they are presented with. This will depend on the type of website they are viewing, however. Image heavy websites will tend to provide short-lived engagement, while those with long videos might seek longer sessions from their visitors.
The success of a website can be measured in several ways. Ecommerce sites selling products will typically focus on sales in various ways, for others, subscriptions are the goal. Subscriptions measure actions that require some kind of sign up process or a specific group within it. These can be subscriptions to a website, Email sign up and new members.
While this may seem on the face of it to be a less important metric than something more tangible, such as sales, it is in fact highly important and far from unrelated. Email campaigns that can be personalized offer some of the highest conversion rates for sales. It is fast becoming the number one method for marketers as personalization becomes more and more prevalent.
Another reason subscriptions have become more relevant is they engender customer loyalty, satisfaction and allow businesses to cater to the needs of the individual, who has already shown an interest in their products, services or content. For this reason, measuring new subscriber conversions is vital for some.
The Difference Between Micro And Macro Conversions
There are two different types of conversion, in the broadest sense. These are micro and macro conversions. While one is more important than the other, both can provide valuable insight and actionable data that can lead to successful outcomes.
What Are Micro Conversions?
Micro conversions are those that lead to end goal desired actions, rather than the end goal itself. These are important because they are the stepping stones to the desired outcome, which are often not achievable without them.
Micro conversions are actions such as a subscription or the creation of an account, clicking on a specific page and clicking on a call to action (CTA) or social link. Micro conversions might seem like an easier metric to convert, but with so many grabs for people’s attention, they can, in fact, be extremely difficult, especially as people become more and more aware of privacy issues. It is important, therefore, to present a trustworthy platform that provides something of worth to the subscriber or visitor.
Macro conversions are the opposite of micro conversions as they measure end goal metrics that are central to a business. These may also be subscriptions but are typically related to transactions, such as total sales or average sales. A good rule of thumb is to view macro conversions as those that relate directly to revenue, although this does depend on the purpose of the website.
While they are not so easy to obtain, macro conversions tend to be easier and more tangible things to track. Having said that, there are several metrics within macro conversions that can get more complex and some businesses will inherently have a more multifaceted business model.
Should I Optimize For Micro Or Macro Conversions?
The short answer to that question is ‘do both’. Both micro and macro conversions are important parts of conversion tracking. Essentially, conversions for both micro and macro can be generally summed up in three ways. These are page views, submissions, and clicks. While there are always exceptions to the rule, these tend to be the case for the majority of websites.
Essentially, conversions for both micro and macro can be generally summed up in three ways. These are page views, submissions, and clicks.
A good practice in the field is to choose one macro conversion, let’s say total sales, and a variety of micro conversions that can make further sense of the data, such as clicks on a call to action. It is important to make sure that whichever metrics are being tracked are directly related to the end goal. Metrics, like conversions, are only as good as the clearly defined goals they relate to. Without the ability to properly differentiate between what is relevant and what is not, the entire practice becomes a mess of numbers that will only lead a business down blind alleys.
Ecommerce Conversion Benchmarks – What To Aim For
Conversion rates are the tool by which Ecommerce conversions are typically measured and these are highly industry related. Even within each industry, there is great variance in what is considered a good conversion rate. Therefore, while these rates are a good place to start, it is vital to go beyond these figures to ascertain what might be a more accurate measurement for each business and their individual goals.
The industry breakdown of conversion rates is:
- Over 20% – Business services, electronics, and entertainment
- Just over 15% – Software and video games, home and garden, office supplies and those selling multiple products
- Just below 15% – Arts and collectibles, auto parts, local services and books
- Just over 10% – Footwear and accessories, digital goods, education, foodstuff, gifts, health and beauty, jewelry, medical supplies, sports, toys, and pet products
- Between 5% and 10% – Industry equipment
Again, it is important not to take these figures too literally. Conversion rates should be seen within the context of other conversion data and also the specific goals that are being measured.
How To Track Conversions And Measure Conversion Rate For Your Shopping Website
Ecommerce conversion rates are defined by a very simple calculation. If you have 3,000 visitors within a given period, and 30 interact in the way that you are tracking (making a purchase or subscribing for example), then the conversion rate will be 1%. 30 conversion, divided by 3,000 visitors equals 0.01, or 1%.
However, these are not the only conversion rates that need to be measured in order to get the correct picture of a website’s success. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) can be implemented for metrics that include:
- Items added to the shopping cart
- Items added to a wishlist
- Sign-ups (including via Email)
- Sharing on social media
Then there is the question of which pages’ conversion rates should be tracked. Within this topic, some pages will need to have their own specific rate defined according to its purpose. Some pages will have an overt call to action, others will be designed to engage in the site’s content for a positive user experience.
Top Ecommerce Conversion Killers
Ecommerce killers are those things that inhibit a website from turning visits into conversions with poor practice, design or content. These can be obvious faults, such as a poorly functioning shopping cart, or less tangible, such as website design. While there are hundreds of ways in which a website could be being held back in its conversions rate, there are some standard mistakes that are easily avoided from the outset. Beyond this, testing and retesting is the best way in which to gauge the underperformance of a website relating to conversion.
Testing and retesting is the best way in which to gauge the underperformance of a website relating to conversion.
The most common mistakes include:
- Poor product images
- Poor product descriptions
- Badly designed structure and navigation
- A lack of user reviews
- A lack of visibility for important features
- An inefficient check out process
- Hidden upfront shipping costs
Poor Product Images
All too often, websites treat their product images as an afterthought. An advertisement would never present poor representations of a product or grainy, low pixilated images to draw in customers, so why would a website? The images on an ecommerce site are the last, and most important, pictures that the customer will see, so it pays to make sure that the product appears at its best.
Poor Product Descriptions
As important as images are, without an informative description to go with it, they amount to little more than pretty pictures. Online shopping is still mistrusted by many, and a well-described product can go a long way to allay the potential fears of customers. What’s more, many customers will need accurate measurements before they will even consider buying a product. If such important information is missing, then there is nothing stopping a visitor from going elsewhere. Descriptions also directly relate to customer experience, one of the most important considerations for all websites.
Badly Designed Structure And Navigation
Talking of user experience, there is little more important than the design, structure, and navigation of a website. No matter how well presented, no matter the quality and value of the products, no matter how engaging the content, if this aspect of the website goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart. Frustrating blind alleys, hard-to-find links, and time-consuming processes will always act as a barrier for optimizing conversion rates and need to be ironed out as soon as possible. Sometimes, these will require testing in order to weed out, but basic analytics can also provide important data on the poorly functioning pages and links for a website.
Frustrating blind alleys, hard-to-find links, and time-consuming processes will always act as a barrier for optimizing conversion rates
A Lack Of User Reviews
As touched upon before, trust can be an issue regarding ecommerce, particularly for new websites. This can be of particular frustration for user reviews of products. Not only can the visitor not ascertain the quality of individual products, it can appear as if the website itself is unpopular. A highly visible feedback system, Email reminders to leave reviews and basic five-star systems are simple but effective methods of growing the number of reviews quickly, and there need not be hundreds per product for these to be useful.
A Lack Of Visibility For Important Features
At all times, a website should present its most important features to its visitors in order to make the experience more engaging, easy to use and productive. This should always be a balance, however, as it can be enormously off-putting having pop-ups and flashing banners and links constantly in one’s periphery. Making sure shopping carts, checkout buttons and easily navigated related products and features are visible is essential for maximizing conversion potential and customer experience alike.
An Inefficient Checkout Process
The checkout process itself can be off-putting for many, certainly, it is one of the least enjoyable parts of shopping online, with filling in personal information and bank details being time-consuming and even stressful. Certainly, abandoned carts are one of the biggest reasons for the lowering of conversion rates in ecommerce. For this reason, it is essential to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Keeping it simple, remembering personal data and frequent testing to ensure the website is functioning as it should are all helpful practices to safeguard maximum efficiency.
Hidden Up Front Shipping Costs
Nothing frustrates a customer more than agreeing to a price for something, only to find there are hidden costs that are added at the very end of the shopping process. Not only might it prohibit the purchase in the first place as costs go beyond what the customer wanted to pay, it also feels inherently underhand. It is therefore far better practice to make sure the customer is aware from the outset exactly what shipping costs might be. In some cases, offering an option to calculate costs by entering a zip code might also be a helpful feature.
Proven Methods To Improve Your Ecommerce Conversion Rate
Improving conversion rates can be a highly complex process, depending on the stated goals of the website and its general purpose. Much like conversion rate pitfalls, however, there are some tried and tested methods to ensure that a website reaches its full potential regarding conversion rates. These include:
- Seductive sales
- Abandoned shopping cart recovery
- Support and live chat
- Better search features
- Multiple payment options
Offer Seductive Sales
In many ways, ecommerce follows the same rules as any retail platform. This is no better represented than in how sales are offered and designed. One good practice is to always have a sales option present and to have an entire sales section available that is visible at all times. These can be designed with specifics in mind, such as seasonal or holiday-related products, so as to draw the customer in further.
Abandoned Shopping Cart Recovery
Shopping cart abandonment is a major factor in depressed conversion rates, and so frustrating for ecommerce platforms. It is estimated that two-thirds of shopping carts are abandoned before completion, so even a small percentage of increase in conversions here would make a huge difference. One way of combatting abandonments is Email recovery. This is where a reminder is sent via Email with the shopping cart saved at the point of abandonment, making it easy for the customer to return and complete the transaction.
Support And Live Chat
One of the inherent disadvantages to shopping online is a lack of interaction with the product itself. Added to this is a lack of real-time customer support unless a website is able to add a live chat feature, whereby they can get instant information as simply as possible. Technical questions, concerns about suitability and functional aspects (for example, delivery) can all be dealt with quickly, and increase the likelihood of a conversion occurring.
Better Search Features
A major part of user experience for ecommerce sites is the ability to search and filter products and features efficiently. This is particularly important when the customer has a specific product, or type of product, in mind. A sure-fire way to keep conversion rates low is to consistently present irrelevant information and products that get in the way of a specific goal the visitor has. Getting this right for most websites is important, for ecommerce it is vital.
Multiple Payment Options
Ecommerce has always been at the cutting edge of payment technology and as such, it is expected that websites offer a wide range of payment options to suit the customer’s needs. This can be a make or break deal for many, and conversion rates can be affected enormously as a result. From a range of card payments to PayPal and cash on delivery, ensuring that as many options as possible are provided undoubtedly pay dividends in the long run.
For some, upselling is a dirty word, but in truth, it is at the heart of all successful ecommerce platforms and need not involve pushy sales pitches or underhand tactics. One of the most useful upselling techniques is the use of recommendations for related products, for example, adding an option to buy batteries if the product requires them. Typically, customers find these focused recommendations helpful and it can enhance user experience as well as shopping cart values.