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For years now, working in the web optimisation space, I’ve always been frustrated by one simple fact: businesses spend millions of pounds every year driving customers to a website, but spend almost nothing helping those customers convert. For me, it’s a wholly misguided strategy, but is one that doesn’t seem set to change any time soon.

It’s easy to come up with reasons for this remaining the status quo and many myths exist. My favourite is perhaps the case that marketing is relatively expensive whereas popping up a website is a drop in the ocean. But with declines in the effectiveness of traditional marketing combined with increased web sophistication and multiple digital channels now available, it’s surely getting to the stage where the opposite is becoming true.

Knowledge about the top of the sales funnel – where visitors come from and their value to the business – is high. But, as customers move through the funnel through product consideration and to purchase, understanding their behaviour is not so easy.

Areas of need and ability to execute aren't synced

The vast majority (83%) of companies surveyed in our research Reducing Customer Struggle consider the reasons why customers abandon the shopping cart or leave the site without converting as ‘very valuable’ information. Yet, this is one of the areas where companies are most likely to have ‘limited understanding’ or ‘no understanding’.

Despite widespread recognition of the importance of understanding customer behaviour in the pursuit of conversion rate optimisation, the majority of businesses surveyed (61%) are simply not able to quantify how much online revenue is lost through site abandonment due to poor online user experience.

The most glaring knowledge gap for companies is the behavior of different visitor types. Just over two-thirds of respondents reported limited (57%) or no understanding (20%) in this area.

Of course, it is a self-defeating prophecy. Only invest at one end of the funnel and you’ll get traffic but no sales. However invest at the bottom and you’ll get more money from the same amount of traffic: win-win.

So what is the answer for businesses looking to change the status quo? Well there is good news and there is bad news.

Put analysis first

The good news is that many of the tools you need you probably already have. Companies have vast amounts of data but finding the right data or the data that will make a difference is a whole other ball game. Finding the needle in the haystack requires you to be able to grasp all the data your have at your disposal and find the trends that really matter.

The size of the market research industry is testament to the amount of money that is spent on measuring the success of marketing campaigns that aim to drive traffic to websites. But can the same be said of analysis of conversion rates on digital channels?

Of course, sweeping statements are easy to make and I know a great number of companies that entirely buck this trend. But the research doesn’t lie.

So next time you start to plan a marketing campaign to drive website traffic – no matter how small – make sure you factor in budget for conversion rate optimisation and analysis. At the end of the day it will result in higher return on investment and, let’s face it, that’s all any of us marketers really care about anyway.

Geoff Galat

Published 9 November, 2012 by Geoff Galat

Geoff Galat is Worldwide VP of Marketing at IBM Tealeaf and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

25 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Nigel Parkes

Nigel Parkes, Content Strategist at None

Man says - gotta be done.

almost 4 years ago

Andrew Lloyd Gordon

Andrew Lloyd Gordon, Digital Marketing Expert, Speaker and Trainer at New Terrain Limited

I share your frustrations Geoff. Conversions is what it SHOULD be all about.

However, I disagree with your final statement - that a higher ROI is what we marketers care about.

Why do I disagree? Because, if that WERE the case, then conversions would be front and central in our strategies and marketing efforts. It plainly isn't.

I suspect that many of us actually care about all of the 'wrong' things. Or, the nice-to-have, rather than the must-have things e.g. a nice looking homepage, the latest social media channel (Pinterest anyone?), branding this, branding the other and so on.

Whilst these are part of the wider marketing mix, too much energy is placed on these and too little on what really matters - generating leads and enquiries and converting them into sales and loyal customers and so on.

almost 4 years ago


Tom Waterfall, Director of Optimisation Solutions at Webtrends

Nice post.
I've always backed the idea that a healthy mix of testing at the top and bottom are essential for a site optimisation program! You're more likely to see a sustained lift the closer you test to the end of the funnel. Payment pages from which visitors convert 90% of the time still present an opportunity - why might a company be losing 10% of visitors at that stage? While some of it may not be in the company's control, at that committed stage, you can still drive lift and show a return from testing that low down in the journey.

almost 4 years ago

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