Are You Wrong About What it Takes to Get Conversions?

    April 19, 2010
    Chris Crum

SeeWhy has released an eBook with an interesting premise for online retailers. It looks at how the top 10 converting e-commerce sites drive their website conversions. The main takeaway, a representative for SeeWhy tells WebProNews is that "the top 10 converting e-commerce sites, on average, convert roughly 10 times as many visitors into customers as the typical site — 23 percent vs. 2-3 percent."

The strategies employed by these top-converting sites don’t necessarily reflect conventional wisdom of how to increase conversions according to the eBook’s author SeeWhy Founder Charles Nicholls. "When we set out to study the top ten converting websites, we expected to find short shopping cart processes, guest checkouts, and highly tuned websites focused around getting the sale. But we didn’t," he says. "Instead, we found companies focused on lifetime customer value, seeking to thrill shoppers with a superior experience and to make it incredibly easy to purchase again. Moreover, we found companies willing to sacrifice a small proportion of initial sales lost as a result of their desire to capture user data. Because once captured, they use details very effectively to remarket to website visitors, driving highly qualified buyers with intent to their sites."

"Conventional wisdom emphasizes SEO and streamlined conversion and shopping cart processes — reduce the number of steps, offer guest checkout, and the like — to optimize conversion rate," he says. "But the top 10 conversion leaders don’t care about one night stands; they want long term relationships. Still, they convert about 10 times as many visitors as the average ecommerce site. Their secret, quite simply, is their focus on long-term relationships with their customers, and that cardinal rule drives all of their activities."

What are the Top 10?

   1. Schwan’s (food) 41.7 percent
   2. ProFlowers (flowers) 26.5 percent
   3. (health and nutrition) 24.0 percent
   4. Woman Within (catalog/clothing) 22.4 percent
   5. (catalog/clothing) 20.5 percent
   6. Lands’ End (catalog/clothing) 19.5 percent
   7. (pet supplies) 18.6 percent
   8. Office Depot (office) 18.4 percent
   9. Roaman’s (catalog/clothing) 18.4 percent
  10. QVC (jewelry) 18.3 percent

For comparison, Amazon has a conversion rate of 16.5 percent, almost two percentage points below the lowest-ranking member of the top 10, SeeWhy says. Here are a couple tables from the eBook that present some interesting stats about the top 10:

SeeWhy Table - Min/Max ranges

Check Out Processes of Top Converting Sites

So is the lesson here to throw out conventional wisdom? I’d say a better strategy would be to build upon that conventional wisdom with strategies that are successful for these other sites. In e-commerce it’s ok to have long-term commitment and one-night stands. The top 10 sites, according to the eBook are optimized for repeat purchases, not for the first purchase, and make it easy for returning visitors to purchase. They make their sites easy to browse and "pleasurable to shop — especially for unplanned purchases."

They each use remarketing vs. 25 percent of companies in the e-commerce sector, Nicholls says, and as a result, recommendations, suggestions and relevant content delivered through email, get very high open – and very low unsubscribe — rates.

The top ten converting sites were determined using Nielsen data for six months, ending in November. Sites achieved a minimum of 5 million unique visitors per month, and conversions were measured based on the ratio of site visitors to purchasers in a given session. SeeWhy is taking requests for a free copy of the eBook in case you’re interested at a more in depth look.

For those looking to optimize their conversions from search, Google recently started making data available to help with this. Search professionals are calling it a reason to use Google’s Webmaster Tools.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.