The findings of the Econsultancy and RedEye Conversion Report have intensified my belief that those working in the world of e-commerce will remember 2009 as the year when many companies finally got to grips with measuring website activity and optimising. 

Various factors have played their part in throwing the spotlight on conversion. The most significant must be the recession which has forced companies to re-evaluate where they are investing money and levels of efficiency, with the result that there has been more emphasis on fine-tuning rather than increased acquisition budgets.

For many companies, the continued growth of online sales and digital marketing success have helped to mask many examples of bad practice and inefficiency. 

Technology has also played its part in improving conversion rates, with a variety of e-commerce related tools used by companies actually helping them achieve their goals rather than obstructing them.

According to the survey of more than 700 internet professionals carried out for the Conversion Report, the majority of digital marketers say their web analytics, email, paid search and multivariate testing (MVT) platforms have had a positive impact on their attempts to improve conversion rates. 

Even Content Management Systems, much maligned in the past because of their failure to actually help with digital marketing, are more likely to have a positive rather than negative effect.

But more important than technology is the improved understanding of the human input and processes required for optimising websites. Ownership of conversion rates is crucial. According to the research, if an organisation has someone directly responsible for conversion then they are more than twice as likely to have experienced improved conversion rates in the last 12 months. 

The research shows that a clear strategy and systematic processes involving testing and segmentation will pay dividends for companies in their quest to improve conversion rates. 

When we asked respondents to elaborate on what had been the biggest factor in helping to improve conversion, the words that were oft-repeated were ‘strategy’, ‘ownership’, ‘testing’ and ‘measurement’ rather than specific types or brands of technology. 

The research also found that the following four areas of best practice were particularly highly correlated with conversion success. 

  • Removing bottlenecks and blockages
  • Identifying key performance indicators
  • Using compelling and effective calls to action (CTAs)
  • Aligning keywords, CTAs and landing pages

Because ownership of conversion and systematic processes are undoubtedly important, an obvious question is whether companies should incentivise staff based on conversion. Just over a fifth (22%) of companies said they did this. There was some interesting discussion around this topic at the RedEye launch of this research earlier this month and whether bonuses for conversion can work at a practical level. 

Companies need to look at the bigger picture because those who are rewarded around conversion could be in conflict, for example, with those who are judged by traffic levels. 

But what is clear is that companies need some kind of framework for helping to optimise their websites and email marketing efforts. Hopefully this research will help to build understanding in this area.