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Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008

Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: An Analysis

By Bryan Eisenberg
February 3rd, 2008

conversion optimization takes work

[Erratum: The following report on the top-converting sites for January 2007 has been corrected, as it mistakenly references a previous year's data. It seems a fellow blogger cited outdated numbers and we overlooked the error during fact check. Bryan stands by his analysis, however, as it was not intended to be time sensitive per se.]

Here it is, the list of January’s top 10 converting retail sites:

1. Proflowers.com – 14.1%
2. Coldwater Creek – 13.3%
3. FTD.com – 13.0%
4. QVC – 12.8%
5. Office Depot – 12.4%
6. eBay – 11.5%
7. Lands’ End – 11.5%
8. Tickets.com – 11.2%
9. 1800flowers.com – 10.0%
10. Amazon – 9.6%

[Source: Nielsen Online / Marketing Charts]

Only four of these companies were on December’s list:

(4) Amazon – 17.60%
(6) Lands End – 17.20%
(7) QVC – 17.10%
(8) Coldwater Creek – 17.10%

A big retail SIGH! If only people’s buying habits stayed consistent all year long, to be like they are in December.

My friend Craig provides an interesting analysis of this month’s numbers. He’s right on the money when he says:

There are many things most sites can do to dramatically improve conversion rates. There are also much smarter ways to measure and consider conversion rates than the overall site average. While that may be an interesting for conference-room conversation, it’s a lot more important to break down conversion rates by method-of-contact (email vs organic vs display vs PPC), based on the place in their buying cycle where visitors engage with you, or based on user intent as evidenced in their actions/expressions.

But then he tries to explain, then excuse, why small retailers supposedly can’t have a 10% conversion rate:

The message it seems is that if you need to deliver an overall conversion rate of 10% or greater, you need 30M registered users who buy from you 3-5 times per year, a 24-hour television channel, a pattern of inflicting back pain on innocent mailmen 3-4 times each year, or to sell products which are purchased as a result of some ages-old game of emotional blackmail.

Craig’s as smart as they come, but while offering an insightful analysis, he doesn’t nail the primary reasons. Then again, he hasn’t been focused exclusively on conversion for almost a decade, so allow me to shed some light: The number one reason the “average” small retailer hasn’t achieved a conversion over 10% is because they haven’t worked hard enough to deserve it.

Have you? If you’ve been working at it, and still can’t seem to figure out what to do to make a difference in your bottom line, see how an OnTarget subscription can help you improve your website, impact your conversion rate, and generate more sales.

Oops! Have I tossed a turd in the punch bowl? (Don’t be offended, please continue reading.)

Several of the websites on this month’s list have been clients of ours and most of the others have staffs that I’ve known professionally for many years. What most of them have in common is they work harder consistently, year after year, at continuously improving their websites for customers than you (the average) do. Their results demonstrate it.

Let’s examine more carefully at some of the points Craig makes since, in one form or another, they are often repeated excuses that pass for the conventional wisdom about conversion rate optimization.

Catalogs Alone Are Responsible For High Converting Websites

It isn’t just having a catalog that gives you a high converting website. If it did, L.L. Bean that was on the list in December with a healthy 23.60% would show up the rest of the year. Lands End, however, has been on it in December, November, and September. Where are all the other thousands of catalogers? Why aren’t they making the list? A strong catalog brand can be a factor, but it isn’t always the primary driver of website conversion.

Television Home Shoppers Aren’t Auto Converting

I love it when Craig says, “QVC. What’s their conversion rate for TV viewers? Their website is functionally a cart, so it could be argued that they’ve got 86.2% cart abandonment.” Absolutely.

However, why doesn’t HSN (Home Shopping Network) or the other large DRTV advertisers show up consistently on the top converting list? While it’s true that many of these shoppers come pre-sold from watching the show hosts sell them the product, they aren’t arriving to the website in a hypnotic trance with credit cards in hand ready to click on that final order confirmation button.

Just Because People Replenish Staples Frequently, Doesn’t Mean…

Craig refers to OfficeDepot.com as having “many no-point-in-comparing products and I assume lots of business orders from people who have accounts and replenish online frequently.” So do Staples, OfficeMax, Quill, FreshDirect and many others. Why don’t they show up on the list? Again, while this might contribute to conversions it doesn’t guarantee a top converting website.

But You’re No Amazon

Craig’s right. Comparing eBay and Amazon to almost anyone today isn’t fair. Part of what helped these companies to become who they are is their commitment to the customer experience. They each had significant competitors but Amazon and eBay just kept pushing the bar higher. In the offline world, there are very few companies that could touch the retail influence of WalMart. Why doesn’t WalMart.com make the the top converting website list regularly?

Wal-Mart’s absence is simple enough to explain. Until recently, Wal-Mart hasn’t worked as hard online as they should have. Wal-Mart has been successful but, like other online retailers, sales volume online often covers up for all those customers that would have converted but didn’t.

Eliminate The Excuses

Do you have a road map to improve your conversion rate from where you are at today, then one to exceed that tomorrow, and then again after that?

FutureNow can help. I invite you to email or call us: 877-643-7244.

Add Your Comments

Comments (25)

  1. [...] Posted by DunCAN on February 4, 2008 As I am about to start my working week I was reading thru my RSS reader and checking out the latest updates from the numerous blogs I like. I couldn’t help but to laugh at this classic line from Bryan Eisenbergs blog – Marketing Optimisation Blog post on the top 10 online retailers by conversion rate. [...]

  2. Hi Bryan,

    Interesting “debate”. What are the CR for new visitors (i.e. excluding current clients)? Several of the sites you mention have an important client support aspect I would say.

  3. [...] Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: January 2008 Analysis [...]

  4. Bryan,
    I agree with you 100%. If you’re not consistently striving to make your site the best it can be, you’ll never reach the acclaimed “10% benchmark”.

    It takes lots of hard work, research and most importantly PERSISTENCE to create a successful website and brand online. There’s really no such thing as “overnight success” and this article proves it.

    Best wishes,
    LM

  5. Bryan – good post
    It’s always work, work, work
    Does your website attract prospects with $
    (better to have 100 paying customers than 10,000 vistitors)
    Does your organic search and PPC bring prospects with $ to you?
    Do you have a consistent value message on your website that converts prospects to customers?
    Do you use email to acquire prospects and build strong customer relationships?

  6. “Have I tossed a turd in the punchbowl?” That’s a good’un, Junior! I thought I was the only one who wrote humor into marketing articles. Seriously, Bryan – this one can come back to haunt you in 20 years if you run for office.

  7. [...] Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: 1/2008 (+Analysis) Posted in Links to Good Stuff | Subscribe to the RSS feed or get email updates [...]

  8. Good point, Bryan.

    The only good conversion rate is an increasing conversion rate…

  9. I may be a smart ass (I’m sure you could tell that my ‘why not’ paragraph was slightly tongue-in-cheek), but I’m not really going to argue conversion with Bryan Eisenberg! UNCLE!

  10. [...] Bryan Eisenberg fisked my conversion rate post (which itself was spawned by a column of his) and points out what I missed – and agree with – that your conversion rate is primarily determined by how hard you work at [...]

  11. Hey there!

    Anyone have an idea where I can locate PPC conversion rates for CSE’s? (Comparison shopping engines)

    Thanks! =)

  12. Great to see what the leaders can achieve.

    In my own sector (footwear) the market leader is Zappos. I wonder what their conversion rate looks like ?

  13. “I’m surprised it’s so LOW!…”

    When people visit a site like Amazon.com, they’re usually “pre-sold”… they’re perhaps already looking for something. Actually, I’m surprised it’s as LOW as 9.6% for Amazon!

    Speaking with my customer hat on, I’ve often been frustrated with Amazon’s whole buying process. Having to try and remember my Amazon account password has often left me looking for another retailer.

    Speaking with my marketing hat back on, I guess they’ve tested it and it gets the highest conversion. (Pity!)

  14. Another great article.

  15. [...] you haven’t noticed, there’s been some buzz going around the blogosphere (and Commerce360) about improving your conversion rate. Nielsen/Netratings released a list of the [...]

  16. [...] of incremental website optimization. It's this foundation that's made them one of the top-converting websites, month after [...]

  17. Great Article!

    Would anyone be able to provide me with or point me in the right direction for a top 10 list of online retailers who do not have bricks & mortar storefronts and also dont have a catalog, i.e. like Amazon.

    Thanks,
    Michael Davis

  18. [...] blogger cited outdated numbers and we overlooked the error during fact check. Bryan stands by his analysis, however, as it was not intended to be time sensitive or bound to any particular retailers' [...]

  19. Would anyone have the conversion rates for online book retailers, specifically used/second hand books?

    Thanks, Mark

  20. Does these websites really have a good conversion rate or is it just so popular that does not matter how the sites look the conversion will always be good

  21. [...] built a culture of website optimization. It’s this foundation that’s made them one of the top-converting websites, month after [...]

  22. [...] to Grok the top ten best converting sites online [...]

  23. So did you ever answer the question about which method Amazon uses for their cart? I’m guessing #4 but going to check it out now…

  24. Or I could have arrived at a different article without remembering ;)
    No wonder I got the wrong answer…

  25. Does these websites really have a good conversion rate or is it just so popular that does not matter how the sites look the conversion will always be good

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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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