Good websites convert. On e–commerce websites conversion is a simple concept, it is the process of a web user becoming a customer by purchasing something online. However conversion is not the preserve of e–commerce websites; government, business to business, travel and corporate websites must define what conversion means to them, and constantly work to increase their conversion rate.
Good websites convert because they drive those who visit the site to action. The action can be one of any number of desired outcomes, but they all have something in common – they move the organisation and the customer (or potential customer) closer together.
The action may be buying a product online. It could be picking up the phone and calling. It may be completing a price comparison study. It may be reviewing a product specification. It could be checking the opening time of a local amenity in order to visit. It might be booking a flight, or comparing the quality of different hotels. Whatever the action is, before you build your website you must know what you want your customers to do as a result of visiting it.
Only when you are sure of the desired actions of your online visitors can you measure the performance of your website in real world metrics. You can now measure not just page impressions, hits, user sessions, and average length of time on your website, but you can measure performance in a way that is understood by senior management. That means in terms of online sales, improved efficiencies, sales leads, reduced costs and conversion rate (the ratio of total site visitors to site visitors who completed one of the identified actions).
It is unsurprising that mail order catalogues and direct mail companies boast some of the best conversion rates in the world. Nearly 30% (29.4%) of everyone who visits 1800flowers.com buys from it. Other high performing organisations are Proflowers.com – 25.9%, Roamans – 21.4%, QVC – 19.7%, Talbots – 17%, Lane Bryant Catalog – 16.7%, LL Bean – 16.6%, Ritzcamera.com – 16.2%, Office Depot – 16.2%, Lands End – 15.7%.
These organisations enjoy exceptional conversion rates because they have total clarity around what they want visitors to achieve when they visit their websites. Is your organisation equally clear? Conversion should be at the heart of the reason why you have a website and therefore you need to be able to succinctly summarise what it is. What do you actually want people to do when they arrive at your site? How does it fit into your communication, business processes, marketing or sales strategies?
Once you understand what you want your customers to do on your site, the conversion rate metric become fundamental to understanding its performance. If your conversion is low it sends a clear message. Your website is too hard to navigate. Or your services are too dear. Or your products aren’t competitive. Or your content is woolly and full of waffle. Or your competitors are getting all the relevant leads. Or your site is too slow. Whatever the reason for the low conversion rate you must identify it, and you must fix it.
It’s easy to think that internet traffic comes cheap and that it’s OK to have a low conversion rate. The key dynamic is that as the cost of publishing to the web gets lower all the time, the cost of getting relevant focused filtered traffic, in terms of money or resource, is rising steadily.
As this trend continues, organisations must come to terms with the realisation that it’s no longer OK to have a lazy website with lazy content. In future the cost of getting relevant eyeballs to the site will be such that organisations will correctly focus once more on serving their customers on their websites, and driving them towards positive action.