Is Everything We Know about Website Conversion Wrong?


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It’s not often that you get totally surprised in business. The majority of ecommerce marketers don’t understand what it takes to drive website conversion.

We’ve just completed a piece of research on the top ten converting websites. Using Nielsen data as a starting point, we set out to understand what makes these sites different.

While most websites convert two or three percent of their visitors to a purchase in the same session, some sites are able to achieve much higher levels. In this study, the top ten converting websites averaged twenty-three percent, with a range between eighteen and forty-two percent.

So what makes the difference between a site that converts two percent and one that converts forty-two percent? What do they do differently, and what can the ecommerce sector learn as a result?

It’s not what we expected to find when we set out to study these websites. We expected conventional wisdom to apply.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that these websites would be tuned to make purchases intuitive and simple, to speed the buyer through the process.

But this is not so.

Some of the websites are far from intuitive, lack clear calls to action, and have lengthy shopping cart processes that would deter all but the most determined. So, how widely held is conventional wisdom on website conversion?

In parallel with doing this research, we conducted a poll in February 2010 asking ecommerce marketers what they thought the top ten converting websites would do to optimize their conversion rate. In total, we asked 663 marketers, and sixty percent said that they expected the top ten sites to offer free shipping. However, only one of the top ten converting websites offers free shipping, and they do so for only a couple of categories.

Fifty-two percent expected the top ten converting websites to offer a guest checkout. In fact, four out of the top five, and six out of the top ten force a full account creation before you can make a first purchase. Forty-six percent and forty percent, respectively, expected the top ten sites to have a streamlined checkout and short checkout process. But most sites had lengthy checkout processes that were far from optimal.

What’s so surprising here is that conventional wisdom about what it takes to build a high converting ecommerce website can be so wrong.

The report itself, titled “Lessons Learned from the Top Ten Converting Websites,” will be published on April 11. You can register in advance for your copy here, and we’ll make sure you are one of the first to get your copy.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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