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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: 12/2007

By Bryan Eisenberg
January 29th, 2008

Some very interesting results for the top converting websites from the holiday season. Last month, I wondered who you thought would be the top 10 converting online retailers in December. One of our readers guessed Amazon would make an appearance on this list, and sure enough, here they are:

The Popcorn Factory – 29.50%
L.L. Bean – 23.60%
Abebooks – 20.60%
Amazon – 17.60%
Hollister Co. – 17.60%
Lands End – 17.20%
QVC – 17.10%
Coldwater Creek – 17.10%
Cabela’s – 16.80%
Gymboree – 16.00%

[Source: Nielsen Online / Marketing Charts]

From a quick review of this list, I sure hope the clothes were ordered one size larger with all that popcorn people have been eating. ;)

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Comments (22)

  1. Any insight into how The Popcorn Factory ends up on this list? Their design does not even seem to factor in some basic conversion optimization techniques (such as add to cart button being below the fold, for products with only one choice it is not defaulted and throws error when attempting to add to cart if none selected). Results like this that make me question its validity – at first I thought I was looking at the wrong website! I know it’s not your data, but maybe I’m missing something here.

  2. Kevin,

    This is a great question and one that I am surprised hasn’t been brought up the previous months when we saw the flower shops at the top of the list. People’s motivations trump any great or poor design. If people have made up their mind (persuaded themselves), that they want to buy flowers or popcorn from the particular retailer then they’ll work through almost any poor shopping process especially if they are comfortable with the brand.


  3. Just to add a bit to Bryan’s comment, they’ve also hired a decent copywriter. The product descriptions don’t sound generic. And although their checkout process needs optimization, it seems they’ve got a fair handle on the (persuasion-related) basics.

    But you’re right, Kevin, it definitely seems there are some uncooked conversion kernels in the popper.

  4. Interesting List – I think Amazon is number 1 in Germany. By the way – I don’t get it – in most countries popcorn is salty – how does it effect the size of cloth :)

  5. How is this conversion rate being calculated? Since it is nielsen data would that make it a visitor based conversion rate?

  6. Is the Amazon figure just Amazon the seller or Amazon the site? If it’s the entire site, that’s pretty impressive given the ease of browsing on Amazon.

  7. [...] Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: 12/2007 – Study these retailers and try to understand why they have excellent conversion rates; Implement your findings as soon as possible. [...]

  8. Bryan Eisenberg is my Hero .hail to the conversion king

  9. Does the fact that the number one converting site doesn’t follow conventional conversion wisdom mean that if you want to do well, you should focus more on making people comfortable with your brand than on optimizing your site?

    Or maybe as Robert pointed out, they have done certain things right and therefore that is all you really need to worry about. In which case, has anyone identified any patterns in the top 10? Are there things they are all doing right?

    Maybe I should stop asking questions and do my own analysis!

  10. I analyse customer satisfaction surveys from ‘thank you’ pages on some sites. The free-text comments on some of them contain jaw-dropping gems along the lines of “I tried to place this order 5 times last night, but couldn’t. It took 3 attempts today.” (Site technical problems…)

    I suspect this is further evidence of how once someone has made the emotional commitment to buy they may go to extraordinary lengths to do so. Customer loyalty, off-line marketing and indeed on-line persuasion can create a level of commitment which will even overcome a broken checkout.

  11. I can tell you why The Popcorn Factory is on the list. CHRISTMAS TIME!

    It will probably be big in February as well.

  12. Yess…on the Amazon prediction. Booo…on my other predictions. I did say it was somewhat scientific. :)

  13. [...] four of these companies were on the list in December: Amazon – 17.60% Lands End – 17.20% QVC – 17.10% Coldwater Creek – [...]

  14. Re Kevin’s point on how did The Popcorn Factory do it?

    Maybe it was before Xmas and popcorn and chocolate are must have’s for the festive season.

    I did a brief analysis of what might be going on in my own blog, which I’ll summarize here.

    1: They have great pictures, I just want to bite into those chocolate pigs.

    2: They have great copy. When you have “Lovable, luscious and chocolate” all in in the same breath, how can you go wrong?

    3: Good Navigation, based around special occasions, seasonal events and other elements of Americana such as NASCAR and Baseball. In other words, it’s based around what matters to the customer. The “meat” or is it chocolate in this case?

    4: Fast loading because it uses Akamai, a Content Distribution Network. The faster a site is, the more sales you’ll make.

    5: The Checkout process is simple, although Kevin’s right in that it does have too many steps, but at least it guides the customer through every step of the process.

    6: Design. I thought the design was ok. A bit too Americana and apple pie for me, but I’m told you guys go crazy for that sort of thing, No?

    I’m still trying to figure out the “hog wild for Valentine’s Day” thing. Some of the things you guys do just don’t translate at all down under.

    Anyway, as I said, those were just my initial thoughts.

  15. As a former e-commerce marketer at two different large brand name websites, I learned a great detail about online conversion rates when I moved from a catalog-oriented retailer to a store-based retailer. At a catalog based business, I was accustomed to double digit conversion rates. When I moved to a store based retail business, I was shocked by the differences in conversion. What became very apparent to me was that the strong conversion rates I enjoyed were driven by the established brand strength built over years and years of catalog circulation and actual catalogs being sent out OFFLINE. When catalogs dropped, conversion shot through the roof. You can optimize your site for every possible design issue and feature and still not get the conversion rates above. A good cataloger captures the customer offline and then when they are ready, they go online to buy. By my count, 6 out of 10 of the top converting sites above have a strong catalog presence and thus explain their presence on such a prestigious list.

  16. I think Kurt’s right about the strength of the catalog-oriented retailers. In the UK, Pindar Graphics, who supply e-commerce systems to many different retailers of both ‘catalog’ and ‘non-catalog’ types, offer a benchmarking service which could provide insight.

    I’m hoping that at some point they’re able to make at least some of the figures from that public, as it could well provide some specific information confirming Kurt’s experience.

  17. Kurt and Tim,

    Before you conclude that catalogers have higher conversion rates than non-catalogers please be sure to read my analysis of the top converting websites from January. You may have confused correlation with causation.

    Best wishes,

  18. Thanks for the pointer, Bryan. I don’t think I’m disagreeing. If there is causation in the sample I’m talking about, I think the cause is that the established cataloguers tend to have more experience in selling using words and images. It’s a dangerous sweeping statement, and there are some exceptions, but the content of their sites (built on a common platform with similar structure, checkout etc) tends to be better at the ‘selling’ process.

    The cataloguers also have decades of experience in mining, segmenting and working mailing lists. It’s interesting to note that here there is variation between those who mail frequently (the cataloguers are broadly better at this) and those who mail frequently and ‘well’. By which I mean those within the sample who mail often but also pre-test their emails and pay more attention to the content. More specifically: pay more attention to the language.

    The more I look at the benchmarks, the more I come back to the principles you advocate here. It’s the persuasive content and structure. And in the group in question, the cataloguers have started from a position of having slightly more advanced expertise in this area.

  19. [...] new sites made the list that we didn't see in December, November, or [...]

  20. [...] This is the first time we are seeing Snapfish and Vistaprint. I wonder if they are being tracked for the first time ever or did they do something to move the needle. LL Bean dropped from a 23.6% conversion rate that they had in January and December. [...]

  21. thank a lot. I will promote this company

  22. This is a bit of surprise to see Amazon on fourth position. I always thought it must be the no.1.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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