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Problem Solver: How can online retailers increase conversion rates for the holiday season…and beyond?

The issue on the mind of most retailers today is, “How can I grab hold of higher sales and consumer satisfaction during this holiday season?” The malls are becoming less crowded, disposable incomes are dwindling, and most frighteningly, people are losing their jobs at an alarming rate.

But even with a decrease in spending due to economic hardships, online retailers still have an advantage. After all, the consumer can save time and money by getting their shopping done with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Still, e-tailers still want to know how to maximize their presence online and provide their customers with a great shopping experience — ideally one that will keep them coming back for more. Here are three tactics that offer proven ROI that every online retailer should consider:


Provide the best level of customer service. This is absolutely key to the success of an online site, and e-tailers need to prepare for this by providing their customers with instant access to agents that can assist them with product queries in real time. We have found that by implementing services such as Click to Call, which allows consumers to directly connect with an agent on the phone via the computer, and Click to Chat, which provides shoppers instant interaction customer service agents using  text messages, conversion rates can increase dramatically. By strengthening the ties between potential customers and agents, online retailers can increase site conversion rates by as much as 50%; without this link of instant access to help, our research has shown that one out of every two shoppers said they would have  completely abandoned their shopping carts. That’s a lot of lost revenue—and a lot of unsatisfied customers.


Offer shoppers product recommendations. Automated recommendations tools allow online retailers to instinctively and routinely deliver more relevant content to each and every Web site visitor. By analyzing a site’s product catalog and current promotional offers and considering factors such as the purchasing history or the behavior of each visitor, these services automatically identify the most relevant product recommendations and offers for that visitor and suggest them right away, capturing consumers’ interest and dollars.  I think an interesting (and most timely) benefit of this service is that e-tailers can use automated recommendations tools to flag the frugal shopper based on their previous searches, and then use this information to provide suggestions for discounted items.  By providing more personalized product recommendations to online shoppers, we’ve found that Web sites can see a 10-20% increase in sales. 


Create one unified commerce service center. This involves a bit more of a longer term commitment, but also provides equally great results for increasing the user friendliness of your sites.  Online retailers should realize the benefits of having one Web based administration, sales support, and customer care center.  It enables your sales and service agents to more efficiently help customers over the telephone, on the Web site, or via e-mail.  By implementing such a service, it can further help e-tailers increase revenue by turning their service center into an encompassing sales center.  Furthermore, it helps increase customer satisfaction by providing a smoother customer experience when shoppers move across channels—certainly the way to go for online retailers.


We all need to demonstrate our value during this worldwide financial crisis. The ray of light in this gloomy economic outlook is that online retailers can still maximize their presence on the Web and provide their customers with an impressive shopping experience. Those who continue to invest in smart strategy throughout a recession won’t need to spend as much time climbing out of it when it ends. 


Bill Zujewski is the vice president of product marketing at ATG. He can be reached at [email protected]


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