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Aug 12, 2014

Ecommerce Research Chart: Industry benchmark conversion rates for 25 retail categories

SUMMARY: "I'd love to see this chart republished and segmented by industry."

In a recent MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week, we shared overall ecommerce conversion rates.

MarketingSherpa readers asked for more. So in this chart, we will explore ecommerce conversion rates broken down by product type based on responses from 2,885 marketers. Read on to see how your conversion rate compares.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study survey, we asked:

Q. What is your average conversion rate for ecommerce sales (%)?

We also asked:

Q. Which product categories does your organization sell through ecommerce? (Select all that apply)

Below is the chart of responses from 2,885 marketers to these questions. Keep reading for analysis of the data, and feel free to comment with your own analysis as well.

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

Companies selling more products tend to have higher conversion rates

What is the best way to compete with the mega retailers like Amazon and Walmart?

Some business strategists have suggested to go niche — focus very narrowly on a specific product type and better serve that audience.

While that may work in some instances, the above data suggests there could be flaws in that strategy. We found that the average conversion rate for companies selling only one product was 16.3%, while those selling multiple product categories had a higher conversion rate at 17.2%.

but not always

This wasn't the case for all product categories, so there could still be opportunities to have a successful niche-focused value proposition — if you choose the product category wisely.

These six product categories had average conversion rates exceeding the multiple category group:
  • Electronics — 24.1%

  • Business services — 22.8%

  • Publishing, media and entertainment — 22.4%

  • Computer software and video games — 19.5%

  • Financial services and insurance — 18.3%

  • Office supplies or stationery — 18.3%

It should be noted that three product categories had insufficient responses for analysis and were not included in the above chart.

How to interpret this data

You should not view the above conversion rate data in a vacuum. To see the data in context, it helps to download the free MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study, made possible by a research grant from Magento, an eBay company.

You must understand that the above data shows averages, which have been skewed up due to some responses that were much higher than average. You can gain an understanding of the distribution of conversion rate responses by reading previous MarketingSherpa Charts of the Week:

There are many ways to slice and dice conversion rates

The entire point of tracking conversion rates should be to identify opportunities for improvement.

While this Chart of the Week focuses on conversion rates by product type, you will get the most value from your conversion rate data if you segment it in a way that illuminates these opportunities.

This will vary by company, but here are a few examples to get you thinking on which view of conversion rates will help you improve performance.

By channel

Which channels overperform and underperform the investment your company makes in them?

By stage in the funnel

Where in the buyer's journey are customers dropping off and how can you increase conversion in that stage?

By customer segment

How can you better focus on the needs of specific customer segments to increase conversion? Which customer segments are you currently targeting aren't really ideal prospects?

Stop investing resources on these areas, and focus on the customers you can best serve.

As one Benchmark Study survey respondent replied:

"We segment our customer base on the basis of end use of the product. We have several product categories, and hence, market products specific to their end-use customers."

Related Resources

Subscribe to MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week

MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study — Made possible by a research grant from Magento, an eBay company

Ecommerce Research Chart: Acquisition cost per customer

Ecommerce Research Chart: Does customer responsiveness correlate with success?

Ecommerce Research Chart: How can companies increase conversion rates? [Video]

See Also:

Comments about this Chart

Aug 12, 2014 - Jennifer of Red Rocket says:
Where are these numbers coming from? Is this the conversion rate of lead to shopping cart? Or website to shopping cart? Or search to shopping cart? There are typically multiple conversions within a sale. These numbers seem really high if they are configured from lead to shopping cart. Just curious.

Aug 12, 2014 - Erin Hogg Copy Editor of MarketingSherpa says:
Hi Jennifer! Thanks for the question! In this research, conversion in this case refers to conversion to sale. The reasoning for the high numbers is a result of the averages being driven up by high conversion rate outliers. We address this further in Chart 1.7 in the Benchmark Study, where we compare means and medians for a deeper dive into the data. You can download your free copy here:

May 21, 2015 - Lakshman Hariharan of Iksula says:
Hello Daniel, I personally feel that such high numbers for conversion rates are difficult to achieve. Is this the actual conversion rates based on number of end conversions to the visit or is it calculated on the basis of some short term goals? I mean for a shopping industry is this conversion rate considered on the basis of number of transactions placed or some other short term objectives like cart addition, traversal to checkout page etc.

May 22, 2015 - Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa says:
Thanks for reading Lakshman, and good question. As you see in the above comment from Erin, conversion refers to conversion to sale and some outliers helped drive up the averages. You can see more in Chart 1.7 in the free Benchmark Study for a deeper dive into the data, where you can also see the medians --

Jun 03, 2015 - Rob Snell of Snell Bros says:
Some of these numbers seem very high! How did y'all collect this data? Was it a survey where you asked a marketer for their conversion rate? Were you able to verify the data with analytics? Is it number of visitors / number of orders per day? Or is it number of visits / number of orders? I don't see how someone gets a 90% "conversion rate." Thanks!

Jun 04, 2015 - Shelby Dorsey of MarketingSherpa says:
Thanks for the question Rob! As noted with earlier responses, the reason that the numbers are so high is a result of the averages being driven up by high conversion outliers. Conversion refers to conversion to sale and some outliers helped to drive up the averages. We address this further in Chart 1.7 in the Benchmark Study, where we compare means and medians for a deeper dive into the data. You can download your free copy here:

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