5 Secrets to Improve Conversion Rates for Online Sales

Edwin Choi, CellularOutfitter.com

Those in digital retail are familiar with an ever-present problem: How can we get more sales and revenue without sacrificing efficiency? The first answer to pop up might be "generate more traffic." The thinking goes that opening up new traffic channels should lead to additional incremental visitors and greater revenue. There are inherent risks in relying purely on more traffic as the solution.

For one, new traffic sources could be costly and thus skew return on investment (ROI) metrics. Early on, cost per click and cost per conversion numbers will fluctuate before settling down, potentially blowing a hole in the budget. Second, the competition may be fierce in this particular channel. Time may be required to gain traction against established incumbents who have fully optimized their ad buys and creative. Third, the channel might simply deliver junk traffic. Emerging platforms such as native advertising networks hold great promise, but often the results fall short.

If simply growing traffic isn't the answer, what else can an online marketer do? Thankfully, most companies have a treasure trove of the most relevant data available for optimization: first-party website and analytics data. Here are five simple but powerful techniques that can unlock hidden revenue potential from any ecommerce website without having to spend an additional dime on advertising.

Internal search optimization.

An ecommerce website's internal search engine is one of the best windows into user behavior. Some careful scrutiny can uncover golden nuggets that collectively can improve conversion rates. Take a close look at high volume internal search queries that are generating below average conversion rates. Identify the source of the problem and rectify it. As a related task, look at high volume internal search queries for products that aren't in stock or aren't carried as part of the regular inventory. Communicate these to the purchasing team so they can fill in the product mix gaps. On the flip side, consider selecting high converting products for certain search queries to be promoted and pushed above the fold for a bigger boost in performance.

Recommendation engine optimization.

One of the key factors in Amazon's early success was its ability to cross-sell at a high rate for each shopping cart. Any ecommerce site can similarly drive incremental revenue by taking advantage of every purchase to suggest products or services that complement the sale. Work with the analytics team to gather data and generate possibilities for effective product affinity bundles. Certain products will naturally sell well when combined with other SKUs. Once effective combinations are arrived at, the rules can be pushed through the recommendation engine to generate more impressions.

Share first-party marketing data with other channels.

Work to break down silos between marketing channels and share data and best practices. For instance, if certain segments and promotions are returning above average click-through rates and conversion rates through email marketing, consider replicating the same creative to target the same constituency in the Google Display Network. Similarly, high converting segments in Facebook ads can also be tested for targeting in Twitter Ads. Remember that beyond Google AdWords and social media lie many other third-party ad exchange networks such as SiteScout which also provide segmentation abilities.

Change your channel marketing approach based on testing wins.

As data from internal search optimization, recommendation engine optimization and online advertising start to paint a picture of what works, spread the same creative and messaging across all outbound marketing campaigns. Recommended products with strong uptake can be promoted as a bundle on email campaigns. If customers respond positively to tested insights such as "free shipping banners increase conversion rates by 9.7 percent," roll it out across all other channels. The cumulative effect of every incremental improvement in conversion rates can then be scaled up to drive significant topline growth.

Take retargeting to the next level.

Virtually every ecommerce business understands the power of retargeting to drive purchases, but retargeting pixels and current user behavior data points can also be utilized for maximum advantage in other ways. A site visitor tagged as a browser of a certain category alludes to a strong probability that the visitor is interested in that category. This type of data can be aggregated and shared with other lists such as promotional email or e-newsletter marketing campaigns, display networks and others to provide a truly holistic cross-channel experience.

The above five points demonstrate that there is another way to drive online revenue beyond simply priming the pump to pay for more impressions. Better yet, these five tactics do not require spending more money, just paying more attention to the existing data that almost every online retailer has access to.

Edwin Choi is Director of Marketing for CellularOutfitter.com, a leading vertically integrated online retailer.