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Jul 28, 2014

Ecommerce Research Chart: Overall conversion rates

SUMMARY: "My conversion rate is 'X%.' Is that good or bad? What is the conversion rate at other companies? What is the industry standard?"

These are common questions many marketers ask and for good reason. We all want to benchmark performance.

So in this MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week, we'll take a look at overall rates with a few caveats about how you should think about conversion rates.
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 (%)?

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

When we evaluated the 2,912 responses, we saw that overall conversion rates were most frequently less than 5%, with many responses below 1% (and even a few, incredulously, approaching 100%).

This is not to say that your company's conversion rate should be any of those numbers, but it gives you a general idea of how other companies are performing.

Beyond focusing on specific conversion rates of competitors, here are a few important principles to keep in mind about conversion.

Don't just focus on your current conversion rate; focus on how you can improve it

Yes, understanding the competition's conversion rate can be insightful.

But, the more important question is: How can you improve your company's conversion rate?

It may come from reducing steps in the funnel and improving messaging, which worked for this Benchmark Study survey respondent: "We have seen improvements in the conversion rates by reducing clicks and improving calls-to-action (CTAs). Instead of 'View,' we used 'Buy' and that proved to be a stronger CTA for conversions."

Or, you might increase trust and credibility in your overall company's value proposition: "Small companies have very low conversion rates so creating a strong, recognized brand, that can be trusted, from scratch, is a must."

Or (and these should be used sparingly, with a bigger focus on improving your product's value proposition and the messaging of the value prop), by using incentives, as this Benchmark Study survey respondent indicated, "It is difficult to increase conversion rate without using incentives like discounts and offers."

Understand what steps in the funnel help (and hurt) conversion

How many steps do you absolutely need in your checkout process? Do customers have to register for an account to purchase?

There may be bigger strategic reasons to take some of these steps that hurt conversion, but understanding their impact is helpful.

Even if there are business reasons for using them, it doesn't necessarily sound the death knell for conversion, as indicated by this Benchmark Study survey respondent, "Our conversion rate is surprisingly good for a website that requires users to register before checking out."

Understand which channels impact conversion

This gets to the basics of channel selection — you do not want to invest in "hot" or buzzworthy channels; you should invest in the channels that help impact your specific customer's decision-making process.

Once you gain an understanding of these channels, you may decide to make investments many steps up the customer's buying journey from purchase to help increase final conversion, as indicated by this Benchmark Study survey respondent:
We have three key items we check almost daily:
  • Number of visitors

  • Conversion rate

  • Average order value (AOV)

We see that number of visitors is increasing; conversion rate and AOV is more or less stable. By far the most successful marketing instrument is our weekly newsletter with some special offers. That boosts sales dramatically. So we are also quite keen on having customers sign up for the newsletter.

Your company does not have a conversion rate

It has several conversion rates. The more granularly you understand those conversion rates, the better you can improve them. There are conversion rates for individual products, of course, but also for different customer segments and channels as well.

As this Benchmark Study survey respondent remarked, they experience different conversion rates for different devices: "With a classic design, conversion rate is 3.2% on PC, 1.4% on tablet, 1.05% on smartphone."

Related Resources

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

Jul 29, 2014 - Bill of PhotoArt People says:
Overall conversion rate data is not very useful as a reference for an internet based business. A business with a lifetime customer value of $2000/customer could operate with a low conversion rate or high customer acquisition cost, couldn't they? The opposite would be true for a low lifetime customer value business. I don't see how this data helps me as an internet business

Jul 29, 2014 - Joe of Modea says:
While appreciative of the chart, I've never found the aggregation of eCommerce performance data helpful as rates can vary widely by industry and individual verticals within each industry. I'd love to see this chart republished and segmented by industry. Performance metrics for a client selling a 2-year wireless phone plan w/ smartphone will vary greatly compared to one selling a bottle of shampoo vs. another selling an MP3 song for $0.99.

Jul 29, 2014 - nancy of says:
Nice report. Really great insight about E commerce conversion rate. Can you please also throw some light on what advertising channels are effective for better conversion rate and what type of websites have better conversion rate?

Jul 29, 2014 - Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa says:
Bill, I agree with you to a great extent that all conversion rates are not the same, and you must understand the factors that lead to conversion. That was to a great extent my point in the article, and if I was not able to communicate that as eloquently and directly as I envisioned, I hope your comments helps to drive home the point for readers as well. However, where this type of overall conversion rate information can be helpful is to get a sense of the overall benchmark for ecommerce conversion as a whole (information we are constantly asked for from marketers). Then understand, if your rate is wildly off, why is this so? Because, for example, if you do have a fairly inexpensive, easy product sales and still have much lower rates than average, it could be an indication of future problems. It is also a great jumping point to discuss and consider the levers you can pull to influence conversion, a topic we cover in this webinar excerpt about this chart...

Jul 29, 2014 - Daniel Burstein of MarketingSherpa says:
Joe, We have further segmentation by industry in the complimentary MarketingSherpa Ecommerce Benchmark Study. Specifically, I would recommend Chart 1.6 to you. If you have any ideas and analysis about it, please let me know, as, per your suggestion, I may cover it in a future MarketingSherpa Chart of the Week and would value your insights. You can download the complimentary Benchmark Study at...

Jul 29, 2014 - Erin Hogg Copy Editor of MarketingSherpa says:
Hi Nancy, so glad you enjoyed the research! We have tons of information on channels that are effective for conversion in ecommerce (see chart 1.19 in the study) and other tactics that successful companies and websites utilize (on page 10) in the Ecommerce Benchmark Study. You can download your free copy of the 95-chart study at:

Jun 02, 2015 - Jen of n/a says:
What is the definition of conversion rate? Orders / sessions? Users with a purchase / users who visit the web store?

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