Successful online businesses recognise that in order to optimise conversion they need to have a holistic view of website visitor behaviour. They need much more than the sales centric view provided by their e-commerce platform. They need to fully understand the activities and preferences of those that don’t buy and compare this with those that do. Only by doing this can a business optimise the path from preference to purchase.
Instinctively, many e-commerce businesses rely on commerce reporting provided by the backend order processing systems. These systems are however hampered by their inability to deliver a marketing orientated view. They focus on the end result rather than the elements that delivered this result. So while “product” and “sales” information is a-plenty, many other important aspects are completely ignored.
Most businesses achieve a browse-to-buy conversion rate of between 1% and 4%. This means that over 96% of all site visitors browse but buy nothing. I have long argued that a business should focus its optimisation efforts on the activities of those that do not buy and aim to reduce this, rather than concentrating on the activities of those that do. Website visitors arrive at the site for a reason and only leave without converting if they do not get what they wanted or expected. If the reason they don’t convert can be fully understood then it is possible for a business to do something about this and hence drive up sales. A business that is serious about conversion optimisation needs to fully understand the behaviour of their site visitors and take action based upon this.
Visitor behaviour can be most readily broken down into 2 distinct but nevertheless related elements. Visitors respond to your marketing messages in different ways and then interact with the site itself in different ways. You need to understand both and their inter-relationship in order to get a complete picture and be able to drive positive change.
You need to understand which marketing activities, campaigns and in some instances keywords drive the best (by value not volume) traffic. If visitors come back to the site regularly you need to understand which marketing campaigns provide immediate conversions and which assist in the process by building brand and creating the repeat visits that subsequently convert. Different groups of visitors will respond differently to your marketing activities so you need to identify the groups that are worth targeting with specific messages and then monitor the results and adjust the messages accordingly.
Once on your site, visitors exhibit preferences by the pages they view and the on-site searches and forms they complete. The number of times they visit and the frequency of these visits gives you an indication of their loyalty to your brand even if they fail to become online customers. There will be critical paths through the site that deserve your special attention. By reviewing the types of visitor that exit these “funnels” at different points you can build an understanding of why they do so. You can then take action to optimise the funnels (or your marketing message if it is this that is causing the drop-out) and significantly improve your conversion ratios and hence sales.
A holistic view draws together all aspects of a customer’s interaction from marketing campaign through to sale, allowing you to group visitors into Browser, Prospect and Customer segments. This allows you to focus on the potential and achieve significant growth rather than simply engaging in the assessment of what has already been achieved.