For the last decade, online marketers have focused on a single metric — conversion. They’ve implemented costly Web analytics systems, spent hours optimizing the conversion funnel to get more people to their shopping carts and, above all, have focused on getting as many people to complete purchases as possible. But conversion rates still hover around 2 percent to 3 percent.
It’s time to ditch the idea that conversion is the be-all and end-all of online marketing success. Recent research shows that 84 percent of Web site visitors aren't there to make purchases. Instead, they’re looking to obtain information, compare prices, browse products, find store locations or store hours, get product support, or simply look at pictures and watch videos.
That’s why the real measure of marketing success isn't conversion but tasks completion. If your site visitors can’t complete the task they set out to do, they’re going to be unhappy, and you're going to lose potential customers.
To operate at maximum efficiency, e-commerce sites must gather feedback from actual visitors and get answers to the following four questions:
- How satisfied are my visitors?
- What do visitors to my site want to accomplish?
- Are they completing what they set out to do?
- If not, why?
Find out what your visitors want, and give it to them: information, price comparisons, ratings and reviews, store information, blogs and videos, etc. And then when they come back to your site a second, third, fourth or fifth time, continue to give them what they want — until they're finally ready to make purchases.
Task completion: a key metric
Another reason online conversion is a poor measure of marketing success is that it doesn’t take into account customer satisfaction as a driver of in-store or future purchases. But if you measure task completion, you can learn with certainty if your customers are satisfied — even those who never planned to buy something on your site.
Satisfied customers buy more. That’s a fact gleaned from the responses of 10,000 online customers we recently surveyed. Visitors who completed their primary purposes were twice as likely to make repeat visits, while 67 percent reported enhanced brand opinion, versus 18 percent for those who didn’t complete their tasks. Additionally, 60 percent of task completers reported a higher future likelihood to purchase either online or offline versus 14 percent for those who didn't complete their tasks.
Measuring task completion also lets you find out if those who are at your site to buy actually end up buying something. We recently surveyed 50,000 online consumers and found only one in two consumers who come to sites intending to buy products complete that task.
If you aren’t focusing on finding what tasks your visitors want to accomplish, and then delivering the tools and information they need to complete those tasks, you’re missing out on countless sales opportunities. Give conversion a break for a bit, and focus on getting your task completion rates above the e-commerce industry average of 68 percent. With tons of satisfied site visitors, I bet those conversion rates spike after all.