Strategies to boost conversion rates can take numerous forms—such as marketing, website personalization and creating a simple checkout process that does not frustrate shoppers just as they are about to hit the 'buy' button.

Conversion rates—the percentage of website visitors who make a purchase on the site during a given visit—depend on a lot of factors, such as the type of retailer and the retailer’s merchandise category. So, while every retailer should do what it can to raise conversion rates, experts say they should not obsess over getting to a particular level.

“For as long as I can remember, conversion rates have hovered in the 2% range. Retailers always would ask, ‘What should my conversion rate be?’ And my answer was always the same: There’s no magic number, but just set a goal to have it be higher,” says Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst with Digital Commerce 360. “Conversion remains one of the most important key performance indicators, as it serves as the direct link to revenue.”

Boosting conversion rates takes continuous investment in the customer experience, Freedman says. “Retailers must always be on the hunt for new products, services and business models that differentiate them from the competition. Otherwise, they can find themselves in an online price and logistics war, which is a recipe for disaster,” she says.

Strategies to boost conversion rates can take numerous forms—such as marketing, website personalization and creating a simple checkout process that does not frustrate shoppers just as they are about to hit the “buy” button.

The state of online retail conversion rates

Among the retailers in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000, the average conversion rate in 2018 (the most recent data available) was 3.21%, while the median conversion rate was 2.54%. But that’s just one slice of the story. Conversion rates vary significantly by merchandise category and merchant type.

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In 2018 (the most recent data available), the flowers/gifts category had the highest average (5.83%) and median (4.20%) conversion rates among the 14 merchandise categories Digital Commerce 360 tracks. That’s because consumers shopping for flowers and gifts frequently have an occasion in mind, likely one coming up soon. Meanwhile, the 99 housewares/home furnishings retailers in the Top 1000 had the lowest conversion rates, with an average of 2.04% and a median rate of 1.50%. That’s because items in that category are high-consideration items and often relatively high-priced.

Looked at by merchant type, the 118 Top 1000 retailers in the catalog/call center category had the highest (4.22%) and median (3.13%) conversion rates. The 278 consumer brand manufacturers in the Top 1000 had the lowest average (2.81%) and median (2.35%) conversion rates in 2018.

This discrepancy by merchant type makes sense. Consumers often go to the websites of retailers in the catalog/call center category after thumbing through a paper catalog they saw in the mail or viewing a TV home shopping show. They’re motivated to buy. But consumers often use the websites of manufacturers to gather information about products before visiting other retailers’ websites to find the best price. That results in a lower percentage of visits to manufacturer ecommerce sites ending in purchases.

Typical conversion rates in the low single digits reflect the fact that consumers routinely research online, often at several websites, before making a purchase.

It’s challenging to increase one’s conversion rate as competitors, notably Amazon.com Inc., are merely a click away, Freedman says. “Search allows shoppers to find the lowest prices more quickly than ever. Additionally, as products being in-stock and offering fast or near same-delivery becomes even more important for shoppers, they often abandon sites for other retailers who better meet their needs,” she says.

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Website visitors are to e-retailers what foot traffic is to store-based retailers. Not everyone who comes in will buy something. But the goal is to sell to as many as possible. And, in every category, it’s in an e-retailer’s interest to boost their conversion rates as much as they can. Helping online retailers turn shoppers into buyers is the goal of Digital Commerce 360’s  2020 How to Boost Conversion Rates Report.

The report includes:

  • 5 tips in each of the 11 areas covered in conversion: mobile, checkout and payments, live chat and customer service, marketing, marketplace conversion. tips, merchandising and promotions, site search, user-generated content, website design, website performance and website personalization.
  • Data insights into several consumer reports with over 20,000 online shoppers.
  • Case studies on retailer success in each topic area.
  • Average and median conversion rates for U.S. Top 1000 and Next 1000 retailers broken down by merchant type and category.

This article is based on analysis from the Digital Commerce 360’s 2020 How to Boost Conversion Rates Report. This first-ever, 112-page report offers tips on boosting conversion rates using strategies across 11 broad topics: Mobile; checkout and payments; live chat and customer service; marketing; marketplace selling; merchandising and promotions; site search; user-generated content; website design; website performance; and website personalization. You can learn how to purchase the 2020 How to Boost Conversion Rates Report here.

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