Avinash Answers My Conversion Questions: Part 4 Of 4

August 29, 2007

When I was in Hawaii (I bet you didn’t expect me to start that way), I cut my foot on the coral reef, my first day there. This was because Justin Cutroni insisted that I go visit the North Shore of Oahu. So instead of running around, I spent a week sitting under the palm trees and read Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. But I had all these questions, and the author, Avinash Kaushik, answered them for me! Here is the fourth part of this incredibly detailed set of answers to my questions.  There are only three more questions here, but instead of just providing clarification, there are some big new thoughts and resources. You can read my thoughts in boldface and the author’s in quiet type.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Why do you care so much about the customer experience and discount conversion rate so much? (We can say, p. 340, but you address this elsewhere too) The way that I look at it, there are either other conversions (like applying for a job or getting help on the website), and the analyst is just forgetting to include those conversions. Or, it's important that the customer have a good experience so that when he is ready to buy, he will (and it is a long-term problem, but it is still about conversion rate.) Or, he will tell other people or write about what a good experience he had, and *they* will come and convert, eventually. So it is still a conversion rate problem. Ultimately, it is always about conversion rate. (Go ahead. Tell me that I'm wrong.)

I had written the above answer before I read this question!

Let me first say that I think you and I are defining conversion differently.

No matter what kind of site you have it is extremely likely that people come to your website for a very diverse set of reasons. Even on an eCommerce website, people are there to buy, research, read the company's bio, check order status/inventory, submit a review, bitch about something, look for support, find your address, whatever else is possible on earth.

If you accept that fundamental premise (and if you don't just do a one question survey on your website and ask the visitors: why are you visiting our website today, then you'll agree that if you want to make everyone on your website happy then focusing just on improving conversion is solving for just a minority of the site traffic. It also means that perhaps you are telling all other visitors to take a hike.

You do want to make money on your ecommerce website, you do want to figure out how to improve the conversion rate (orders/unique visitors). But that can't possibly be your life's mission, not even on a ecommerce website.

You need to figure out how to carry all other types of visitors with you and help them complete their tasks.

Ok here is the controversial part: You are a consultant and LunaMetrics is a very good consulting company. You have conversion rate as your middle name. If you get hired then you are probably supposed to simply improve the conversion rate. If you want to get paid, and rehired, then you have to solve that problem, and not care about any other type of visitor. I suspect even if you were of a very generous heart you can't afford to care about any other type of visitor, you are being paid to sell more. That's ok for you.

But I hope that companies realize that sell, sell and figure out how to sell more is not a long term strategic choice. They need to identify all the reasons visitors come to their site (Primary Purpose) and help them all (improve Task Completion Rate).

p. 312. IMO, there is no way to get competitive conversion data outside of panel data. Am I wrong? (Go ahead, you don’t have to be nice.)

You can get it from ComScore (in case you did not mean that by panel data).

As I mention above you can also use the FireClick Index, they even break it out for new and returning visitors! And for the last 12 months! And for six different industry verticals!? Compare trends over time with the index and it will give you a great feel for how things are going for you.

You can also sign up for the delightful shop.org eCommerce/conversion report, many people think of that as the bible.

Finally, yesterday I got an email from Stephane Lagrange and I noticed on his blog, http://blog.webtarget.ca, he has referenced the Top 500 Guide published by InternetRetailer.com which also publishes conversion rates for top ecommerce websites. Here are some of the numbers, directly copied from Stephane's blog:

#1 Amazon.com: 3.52%
#2 Staples.com: 9.62%
#3 Office Depot: 7.10%
#498 Broadspan Commerce LLC: 0.35%
#499 Musicnotes Inc: 3.25%
#500 KneeDraggers.com: 0.99%

Thank you for helping, and of course, for writing your great book. I loved every piece of it, except for the Six Sigma part. (That was way too dry for me, which is a shame, since that’s an area I know almost nothing about.) On page 286, you wrote, “It is amazing what people won’t tell you even in the most open and honest company environments, because they are just trying to be nice.” You clearly didn’t have me in mind when you wrote that line….

You are underestimating the value of what you bring to the table. Under any circumstance, I know exactly where you stand and what your opinion is. Sometimes it might hurt to hear the truth, but it is always better to hear the truth. You are honest, direct and willing. It makes for a refreshing change in a world where one is always trying to parse nuances and syllables to understand where the other person stands. I am glad that you have the courage to share your real opinion and you don't have a hidden agenda (and if you have one then you are doing very well hiding it!).

Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview, you had great questions and it was fun to answer them.