By Marius Smyth, Managing Director, EMEA, AdRoll

Traditionally, the primary challenge for any business with a website has been to generate traffic from potential buyers. As a result, the last few years have seen an explosion of new online marketing methods focused on driving new customers, from search engine optimisation and video advertising through to social media and affiliate marketing.

However, this constant fight for traffic is becoming harder. As online business becomes ever more competitive the cost of securing additional site visitors is increasing and the return on investment of web marketing is declining.

The conversion challenge
This has led to a shift in attention amongst site owners. Rather than focusing all of their investment at the top of the sales funnel – in the acquisition of new customers – investment is now being put into maximising a site’s performance lower down the funnel – after the point at which customers have first visited a site.

This focus on the lower funnel has been driven by simple mathematics. Overall conversion rates (the ratio of site visitors to actual customers) are pitifully low, floating around 2% for most etailers and, even when customers have put something in their online shopping basket, 98% subsequently fail to purchase.

Given that site owners have already invested to acquire the customers that have arrived on their site, and that a visit would imply some level of interest in purchasing, the potential value in activity to increase on-site conversion rates is clear.

Improving conversions
With this in mind, what are the top tips for a website owner looking to increase conversion rates amongst existing visitors on their website?

Analytics – Most website owners already have some sort of analytics package on their site but many only use it to look at top line figures like overall site visitors. A closer focus on the numbers can quickly identify roadblocks to conversion. For example, if lots of users are leaving the site on one page it would indicate a usability issue in that area. If lots of users are putting items in their basket but then abandoning it at the shipping costs section, it might indicate that shipping prices are too high.

Personalisation – Whilst looking at analytics can show potential site-wide changes that can be made, the next step is to investigate how a site can be adapted for specific users. At a very basic level this might be adapting landing pages for particular traffic sources. For example, if a user has searched for a specific product the landing page they arrive at should show that product prominently. At a more advanced level this can be more granular – if a user has previously looked at lots of blue products, items in that colour should be brought to the front.

Retargeting – Whilst analytics and personalisation can help optimise conversion rates from on-site activity, retargeting helps to access users after they’ve left, bringing them back to the site after their initial visit in an attempt to persuade them to buy second time round. Retargeting works by identifying users when they visit a site and by then serving them with ads after they’ve left encouraging them to return. This actively targets the 98% of people who haven’t bought from a site and can significantly increase overall conversion rates by targeting online advertising spend at a receptive audience.

Marketing mix
As with all areas of website marketing, there are thousands of options for the site owner looking to increase sales, the choice is simply a matter of the time available and the potential for meaningful ROI that they can deliver. What is clear, however, is that within the marketing mix as a whole budgets should be focused not just on getting the customer through the door, but on helping them to complete their purchase once they’re in.