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Companies in the dark over converting web traffic into sales

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 | By Michelle Hammond

Sixty per cent of companies with an online presence have no idea how to convert website visitors into customers, according to new research.



More than 300 Australian marketers were surveyed through independent research house Pure Profile for Experian Hitwise, with the report also revealing 89% of companies don’t use tools to assess how people use their sites.


According to Experian general manager Michael Walmsley, half the companies surveyed spend 40% of their budget attracting traffic to their website.


“Some 30% of marketers either do not evaluate the success of their website or only evaluate on an annual basis,” Walmsley says.


“A further 25% assess their website biennially. This lack of engagement and measurement of their websites means most marketers have no idea what small simple changes could be made to their websites to increase sales.”


With the strength of the Australian dollar tempting more online shoppers to visit overseas retailers with more advanced websites, Walmsley says there is an urgent need for companies to react.


Forrester research predicts the Australian online retail market will grow from $26.86 billion this year to $36.8 billion in 2013.


Walmsley says online retailers need to become more attuned to how people use their websites and to capitalise on triggers that result in a sale, or they will continue to lose business to overseas competitors.


“Without the commitment and ongoing investment into what I call conversion optimisation, marketers are missing a massive opportunity to maximise the return on their traditional and online investments,” he says.


Chris Thomas, managing director of SEO and SEM company Reseo, says people who search sites internally have a higher conversion rate than people who don’t.

He identifies the following as top internal site search optimisation tips for improving conversion rates:

  1. Have a search box on every page of your site, especially the home page. Ideally, the search box should be in the same location across all of your pages so people know where it is when they need it.
  2. Consider adding Autocomplete to your search box, which suggests possible terms when visitors start typing the first letters of a keyword.
  3. Have clear and specific product and content titles in the search results. If titles are not accurate, visitors may not click on a result that is otherwise relevant, or they may click on it only to find that it doesn’t contain what they were looking for, which could lead them to abandon their search.
  4. Incorporate images into search results. Showing images in results helps visitors find what they’re looking for faster and with fewer clicks.
  5. Offer “add to cart/buy now” options directly from the site search results page. By allowing visitors to add products to shopping carts or to go to checkout directly from search results, they’re more likely to complete the purchase.
  6. Show ratings and reviews in search results, and allow visitors to further refine or reorder their search results based on ratings.
  7. Rely on user behaviour to improve the relevance of search results. Based on the data, you can move more popular products to the top of search results, making the results more relevant.