Despite the fact that converting existing customers is less expensive than attracting new ones, many online marketing budgets are still disproportionately allocated to traffic-driving strategies. 

Things like SEO, PPC, affiliate marketing and so on are given more weight than strategies dedicated to increasing shopping cart sizes, decreasing abandonment, upselling and cross selling. 

No marketer in their right mind would dare launch an e-commerce site without a well-thought traffic acquisition program, but they often overlook an equally important component: the conversion optimization program. Failing to include this must-have in yearly initiatives can cost brands both dollars and some of that new traffic they worked so hard to attain.

Just as analytics, SEO and advertising are staples to understanding and boosting web traffic, testing and personalization are essential to making the most of it. It’s time to realize that turning analytics into actions, traffic into sales and clicks into conversions take a far greater precedence than a pure focus on doubling your visitor numbers. And here’s why:

1. You’ll gain visitor behavioral insights, not just raw numbers

No matter how you slice and dice your site traffic analytics, at the end of the day, they are still just numbers. Numbers that may reveal problem areas or traffic funnels that need improvement -- but not an actionable solution to solving them.

The first step is to employ an internal test-and-learn methodology to understand what visitors to your site are engaging with, where they’re dropping off, where their gravitating towards. (Hint: this may even differ by traffic source!)

But only through continuous A/B and multivariate testing, can you actually begin to understand your visitors and place content decisions in their hands. In doing so, you can fundamentally shift how your organization learns about its online traffic. In other words, nobody should be increasing traffic or making a site without a focus on improving conversions.

2. You’ll make a case (a.k.a. ROI) for your traffic acquisition spend

Imagine this -- you go to your boss and tell him that you doubled site traffic in the last quarter… a great accomplishment! But when asked how those numbers contributed to sales, do you really know?

The cold hard truth is that if you aren't tracking conversion rates, or attempting to optimize the site in any way, you have no business boasting your traffic increases. Why? Because it simply doesn't matter.


Once visitors land on your site, your goal is to get them to buy (and hopefully become a repeat customer). This is where testing and personalization are essential to turning traffic spend into sales.

Optimizing your site for content, design, offers, copy, etc. is the only way to ensure your site traffics’ needs are being met once they actually get to the site. If the experience is irrelevant, frustrating or cumbersome, you might as well have not ever invited them to your site in the first place.

3. You’ll actually provide users with a better online experience

Today’s consumers have become highly skilled at comparison-shopping, researching and signing up for more flash deals than their inbox can handle. Which is why you may still have the urge to focus on boosting your traffic as much as possible. But the reality is, if you provide a really stellar online experience, they will want to come back, again and again. Making your job a lot easier.

Thanks in part to testing solutions, listening to what your visitors want (and need) has become a lot easier, and our customers have become a lot more vocal even if they don’t know it. Through their clicks, page views, bounces, reviews and purchases, our online customers are offering us helpful feedback about their online experiences, in real-time. So pay attention to them. Make website changes and marketing decisions based on your customers, not on what your gut -- or marketing budget -- is telling you to.

4. You’ll be better positioned to provide a personalized site

As more and more brands seek to gain loyal customers and beat the pants off their competition, getting into a traffic war is a sure-fire way to miss the personalization boat altogether. But using testing and conversion optimization is going to give you the data and visitor profiles you need to really step up your e-commerce game. Actually, you may even find that segmenting by traffic source becomes a necessity to converting them into customers.

When it comes to their websites, major e-commerce players need to realize that only through a customized combination of multivariate testing, optimization and personalization best practices can they truly begin to reach consumers with personalization that is effective and full of impact. It’s an ever-evolving sophisticated practice that reaches far, far beyond SEO, ad targeting and landing page optimization. But the rewards of it means a lot more return traffic, and a lot more improved conversions.

5. You’ll make more money

No matter how you define a conversion, at the end of the day, e-commerce marketers are all here for the same thing: to increase site sales. And the dollars are in the details, not just the volume. Focusing on conversion rates is where you’ll see not only site engagement improve, but revenue as well. Your traffic drivers might bring you more people, but conversion strategies bring you more money. No contest.

When it comes to site optimization and traffic acquisition, the best brands aren't just surviving -- they’re thriving. By focusing on the deep analytics and insights gained from testing with online customers, not just boosting traffic, not only improves the efficiency and effectiveness of their e-commerce site, but several other aspects of their businesses as well. They have a better grasp on who their customers are, how they buy, when they buy and what they buy.

In short, they can offer experiences more suited to customer needs and wants -- and that is the true goal of any e-commerce business.

Image courtesy of woaiss (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Want more from Ashley? Read her The Five Types of Online Shoppers Ruling Holiday Retail