Browsers, Buyers & Conversion Rates

Allison Howen
by Allison Howen 12 Sep, 2011

Although ecommerce sales have risen over the past five years, conversion rates have continued to drop, this is partially due to a rise of the new type of ecommerce shopper, the "browser."

According to the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), conversion rates in the UK have dropped by 55 percent over the past five years. In 2006, the average online conversion rate for IMRG Capgemini ecommerce retailers was at 8.4 percent, which has since declined to 3.8 percent. 

However, it is not all bad news for ecommerce retailers. Aside from lower conversion rates, online sales have continued to grow, from £30.2 billion ($47.95) in 2006 to £58.8 billion ($93.36) in 2010. The contrast makes sense due to the fact that there are many more shoppers visiting retailer sites, which means that the percentage of people browsing without buying has risen.

Reasons for the dropped conversion rates come from consumers that are more interested in browsing, researching and comparing products online, instead of going to a site with the intent to purchase. Other reasons for lower conversions include mobile usage, which makes comparing products in-store possible, social media sites, which give consumers an outlet for discussing products, and tablets, which have given consumers an easy way to browse stores and compare products.

"The steady decline in online conversion rates in recent years is evidence that consumers' purchasing behaviour has changed," says Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at IMRG. "The average online shopper today is making more considered purchases, often visiting several websites in order to compare products before deciding to buy."

Although ecommerce retailers may be experiencing more browsers than purchasers on their site, here are a few options that e-retailers can consider when trying to increase their conversion rates:

Customer Service

Offering live chat, phone or email support is very beneficial for consumers. After all, not having the ability to ask a sales clerk questions is one disadvantage for consumers that are shopping online. Providing customer service for online shoppers can also assist customers in finding exactly what they are looking for on your site. And remember, fewer clicks equal more conversions.


Having a productive search box is very important on ecommerce sites. If a customer is searching for something specific and the search directs them to a wrong product, the retailer can assume that they have lost a conversion. Additionally, retailers should monitor what items are being searched for the most. With this information, retailers can feature popular products on their ecommerce site's landing page, promote the products within social media and feature the products in e-newsletters.

Product Views

Incorporating different product views into your site can prove to be very beneficial. It gives consumers the ability to view a product at all angles. This is especially valuable for clothing retailers, especially if they provide the consumer with different body types, so that the consumer can view a similar body type to their own or to whomever they are buying the product for. Retailers can also think about taking this a step further by implementing the new technology of augmented reality into their ecommerce site. With augmented reality a consumer can virtually try products on, such as clothing, jewelry or other accessories through the ecommerce site and a web cam. This provides a solution to one of the biggest disadvantages for consumers that shop online - a fitting room.

Customer Reviews

Since online shoppers are more into browsing and comparing products nowadays, why not provide them with consumer reviews for the products on your website? This is valuable because consumers won't have to leave your site in order to search for product reviews, and good reviews may persuade consumers to make an instant purchasing decision.

Get Feedback

By implementing a feedback option on your ecommerce site, retailers have the ability to take into consideration how consumers view their site. Feedback can provide retailers with an outsider's opinion about how informative the site is, if the site is easy to navigate and whether the site's content and features are easy to understand. With this information, an ecommerce retailer can continuously improve their site and analyze recurring complaints or requests from consumers.