InternetRetailer.com reports that the highest conversion rates among major online retailers during March were the following:
Office Depot – 20.9%
QVC – 19%
VistaPrint – 18.3%
Roamans – 18.1%
Lands’ End – 16.2%
eBay – 15.7%
1-800-Flowers.com – 15.5%
eBags.com – 15.3%
L.L. Bean – 14.6%
Pottery Barn Kids – 14.2%
These conversion rates are through the roof when compared with industry averages. In fact, they are not even believable unless you understand what the most important driver of conversion is.
Several years ago, a company I owned brokered online advertising. When working through the numbers with clients, it became obvious that some of them were completely in the dark about conversion. One client that comes to mind stockpiled an inventory equal to the number of impressions she was buying from us. In other words, she assumed a 100% clickthrough rate and 100% conversion! I don’t know how many times I have heard clients tell me that everyone buys that comes to their site. (After all, why wouldn’t they?)
The reality is that the average online retailer probably experiences around a 2.5% conversion rate. If you fall into that category but want to achieve the kind of conversion rates listed above, I can tell you how to do it.
First of all, site redesigns, improved shopping experiences, security policies, privacy policies, and similar factors that so-called conversion experts tout will not do it. That is not to say that you cannot see modest improvements from those kinds of improvements but they are not the difference between conversion rates of 2.5% and 15%. Adding a privacy page to an existing site is more likely to raise a conversion rate from 2.5% to 2.55% (which by the way, could be significant).
So how do you achieve astronomical conversion rates? The answer is simple–build your brand. Here is a little secret about online retail. The vast majority of customers are already sold to a product or store before they ever come to a site. The reason that Office Depot achieves more than a 20% conversion rate is because people do not go to that site to browse. They have already been sold on the Office Depot brand and they go there to buy.
A look at your stats will reinforce what I just said. For example, I know that people that search for “Vitabase” and come to our site are going to convert at 15% or better. On the other hand, people that are searching for a term like “health supplements” will convert at less than 2%. Why? People searching for “Vitabase” are already sold on us.
In the end of the day, in internet retail, all roads seem to lead to the same place. Concentrate on your brand and everything from SEO to customer loyalty falls neatly into place.