Published: 24 October 2014

In a real life store, the conversion rate to customers that enter to customers that buy is usually stated as being around 40-50%. If we compare that to the online retail environment the accepted average is a lot lower, around 2-3%. Retailing and customer service we experience in the high street today is the product of centuries of refinement. Shop design and layouts are meticulously considered and staff are well trained in order to engage with customers and maximise sales revenues. So when it comes to online retailing one could argue there is considerable room for improvement to close the gap…but is this possible and how?

Just a minute….
‘‘The average page visit lasts a little less than a minute’’ (, so customers must be able to find what they’re after super quickly. Amazon is a great example; the search bar is dominant on the home page, the dropdowns of products generated by typing in a search are comprehensive and intuitive and you can add to basket with one click. Registered users can therefore purchase an item within a minute or so. There are multiple benefits of registering for both Amazon and their customers. Payment details are stored, information about previous orders is stored -giving Amazon great information on what offers to target customers with – keeping it relevant – and regular customers can buy almost instantly – on impulse, just like in a real time shop.

On the move…
Google reports that 67% of customers are more apt to make purchases when a site is mobile-friendly. With the increase in mobile browsing and the rise of 4g more and more people are buying on the go which means your website needs to cater to that audience. If a customer is drawn by an advert (say on a tube poster) whilst out, they will in all likelihood browse for the product on their phone then and there. There are still too many brands that neglect their mobile presence and miss out regularly on custom. Consider all your touch points… Every step of the customer’s journey from start to finish must be carefully mapped out in order to give the best possible experience. ‘’You might always deliver a great product, on time, with a smile, but a wayward touch point like off-target advertising, billing mistakes, or an unwieldy website can scare customers off.’’( Consider this list as a reference tool to check the various touch points relevant to your brand.

Remember all the channels you use are playing a part in the eventual online sale. In the DIY field, Screwfix have an official You-Tube channel where there are 724 videos uploaded with over 1,600 subscribers. There are product 'how to' demo's, installation videos, buyer product feature videos and many more. These videos all have links to the Screwfix website and other social media channels which drives traffic and increases their online sales. By demonstrating that their products work and by featuring customer reviews, customer trust is increased and sales follow.

Keep them talking…

Social media is an essential part of the sales armoury. You should have a strategy and a plan for both promoting your brand and also for how your brand approaches social as a customer service tool. JD Power’s recent survey showed that 67% of consumers turn to social for customer service queries. The accepted best practice is for a brand to have a separate twitter feed for example for customer service versus marketing to ensure queries are expedited most efficiently. Of course you customers advocating you online positively. But never forget that even a negative comment or complaint is an opportunity. An opportunity for you to engage and show your brand is willing to stand up and be counted and deals efficiently with inevitable mistakes and problems. The conversation will happen around your brand regardless. If you want to improve conversions you need to be part of it in a positive way.  

The personal touch…
A vital ingredient in the conversion rate of the high street shopping experience is the staff that deal with you in store. You can easily go off your favourite brand if your local store has staff that don’t care about you. As a frequent and loyal customer to a particular store you would expect the sales assistants to recognise you and treat you differently too. Equally you’d rather a sales assistant was not over friendly on your first visit but you’re likely to appreciate their help when you can’t find the size you need. So consider how the ‘human touch’ is still very much missing from most online experiences and what you can do to add personality to their buying experience.

Joining the dots…
A web presence is one thing, but in the modern online environment brands have to join all the dots, offline, web, mobile and social to ensure the customer experience is both seamless and positive. That’s what sells!  

Websites Referenced


Paul Stephen

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