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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter


December 8, 2014

4+ Outstanding E-commerce Insights to Kick Off Your Week

December 8, 2014 | By | No Comments

Mobile payments and other e-commerce insightsWe’re in the thick of the holiday shopping season, so it’s unlikely you’re making many changes to your site. But the data you’re gathering now about customer behavior on your sites and in your stores will provide you excellent insights into how to improve those experiences once your development freeze ends. And continuing to improve your customers’ experience remains important.

Next year will undoubtedly be a huge year for e-commerce and mobile commerce as customers increasingly expect to accomplish their goals on any device, in any location, at any time. To help set you up for success in this rapidly changing space, I’ve rounded up the following 4+ outstanding e-commerce insights. Check ’em out and see how you can apply the lessons in your business.

  1. First off, there’s a really good post from our old friend Linda Bustos at GetElastic that lists 8 tactics of high converting e-commerce sites. The folks at GetElastic also break down the implications of omnichannel vs multichannel for the store of the future. What’s important to note — and something I’ll talk about further in just a minute — is how the introduction of mobile into e-commerce has created a hybrid shopping experience for your customers. You can’t just focus on improving their experience in any one channel to optimize conversions; you must also ensure that their experience works across channels as well. Happily, if you pay attention to where your customers actually need assistance, the specific optimizations aren’t as difficult as they may seem at first glance.
  2. Backing up that thought, Marketing Charts highlights marketers’ most valuable — and difficult — conversion rate optimization methods. Marketing Charts also discovers the types of data marketers are using for personalization along with its impact on ROI and says that 1 in 3 marketers report “major uplift” in SEM conversion rates from personalization. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. It makes it a lot easier to improve conversion when you know who you’re talking to.
  3. To help you personalize your customers’ experience, consider incorporating social data into the mix. Business Insider recaps data that shows social commerce drives conversions. Which really shouldn’t surprise long-time readers here since we’ve mentioned a few times that, at its core, all marketing is social.
  4. Finally, make sure you don’t ignore mobile. Mobile’s increasing share of e-commerce traffic and revenues (something we looked at in this past week’s e-commerce link digest), underscores why it’s probably not too soon to say that it’s all m-commerce. Want more signs that’s becoming true? eMarketer says that Amazon’s visual search app ‘turns the world into a hyperlink.’ Remember, it doesn’t matter whether Amazon wins or not. The trend remains clear: the growth of mobiles, wearables, usables, and invisibles will significantly shape e-commerce in the coming years. Google knows it and, rightfully, fears it. They’re making a number of changes to improve monetization of traffic — changes that may drive up your costs. And, bringing us full circle, those changes underscore why it’s so important for you to continue working to improve your conversion rate.

Want to learn more? Then check out these 9 Outstanding Marketing Posts to Warm Up Your Weekend: E-commerce Link Digest from our regular E-commerce Link Digest series, and these 10 Exceptional Marketing and E-commerce Essays: The Top Posts from November, too.

You might also want to check out some of our past coverage of the e-commerce, mobile commerce, and digital marketing overall, including:

Plus, don’t miss these slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

Finally, if you want to learn even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, be sure an register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Tim Peter


June 18, 2013

When More is More: Upselling as a Sales & Marketing Tactic (Travel Tuesday)

June 18, 2013 | By | No Comments

Incredible growth onine imageHere’s a staggering statistic about the hospitality industry: On average, roughly 30%-40% of all room inventory goes unsold most nights (obviously, the number varies depending on seasonality and the like).

The thing is, this isn’t news. According the AH&LA, hotel occupancy has ranged between 63% and 70% since the 1960’s. This, despite loads of new distribution models, shifting industry alliances, consolidation among suppliers and distributors, and on and on and on.

So, here’s a thought: Why bother? I’m serious (at least to a degree). Instead of working like crazy to drive increases in occupancy, why not look to improve revenues from existing customers?

That’s the premise behind a new whitepaper sponsored by Nor1 that I’ve written for HSMAI, “When More is More: Upselling as a Sales & Marketing Tactic.”

Upselling offers hotel marketers and revenue managers the opportunity to increase their share of wallet from existing guests by providing these guests valuable options following their reservation. It’s all about understanding what your guests value and anticipating their needs. And it’s a great example of offering your guests more value throughout their purchase path.

The paper examines best practices for making upselling work in your business, highlighting the importance of:

  • Process. This includes identifying all products available for upsell; reviewing amenities in the hotel, including room types and views, to offer your guests the greatest value; and determining the appropriate time and at what price to offer these amenities.
  • Data. Including tracking your guests’ preferences following their stays and using predictive analytics to suggest offers, timing and pricing based on guest behavior.
  • Technology. Making best use of the tools available to hotel marketing teams to help track your guests’ changing needs and offering the right value to guests at the right time to capture the sale.
  • Personnel. Getting every member of the hotel team to work together to provide your guests a great experience during the reservation process, and providing guests the best offer at the right time such as via pre-arrival email blasts, at check-in, during the stay and following the stay to ensure both repeat visits and increased satisfaction.

Of course, upselling isn’t a “silver bullet.” When seeking to initiate an upselling program, make sure you avoid the following mistakes:

  • Upselling before closing the initial sale. Don’t present an upsell offer too early in the process or you’ll risk the overall sale. You must first sell something to the guest before you can upsell them.
  • Worrying about guests ‘gaming’ the system. Properties avoid upselling in fear that the guest will request and receive free upgrades on subsequent stays after enjoying premium amenities. However, selling upgrades can enlighten the guest to what all the hotel has to offer, and once they experience a premium service, they are likely to request it again.
  • Improperly valuing the upgrade. Consumers focus on the relative value of one thing compared to another, and price upgrades should come accordingly. Guests are unlikely to pay for a service that costs twice as much as their hotel room but may be enticed by an upgrade to a suite for a diminutive cost.
  • Not investing in the appropriate tools. It’s difficult to anticipate a guest’s needs without having known his or her purchase history and preferences. The correct tools can lead to better guest experiences, retention and recommendation.

The paper covers these topics and a whole lot more in much greater detail. You can read HSMAI’s press release here or register with HSMAI and Nor1 to receive your copy here.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter


May 28, 2013

Kiss Your Current Conversion Rate Goodbye (Travel Tuesday)

May 28, 2013 | By | 2 Comments

I’ve been talking a fair bit over the last few weeks about how upcoming search enhancements will influence behavior among consumers, particularly due to mobile and voice-powered search.

Today, I’d like to look at one effect of these changes: What they’re likely to do to your conversion rates.

For starters, take a look at this screenshot:

Obviously, your customers see loads of information — or, in the conversational search scenario, will have it read to them — every time they search. In just this one example, you’ve got:

  • Paid search
  • Organic search
  • Maps
  • Ratings
  • Reviews
  • Social indicators
  • Prices
  • Promotions

That represents lots of detail for your guests to absorb, even if they’re only looking at a single property. Add in the multiple results possible, and the amount of information boggles.

Of course, the more options your customers have, the more difficult their choice becomes.

Now, it’s possible that improved targeting will help you reach only the most relevant customers and help you maintain your current conversion rate. But, when you consider the changes in both the “traditional” search engines (i.e., Google, Bing, etc.), and add in sites like TripAdvisor adding meta-search capabilities, it’s pretty clear you’re going to see a much larger proportion of shops relative to purchases.

This isn’t all terrible news.

For instance, a falling conversion rate isn’t always a bad thing. As long as both conversions and traffic increase, you’re still getting the benefit of that traffic (if at a lower rate — you can read much more about this phenomenon here).

But, there’s no doubt shift continues to illustrate why you want to build up your mailing list, engage your guests directly via social, and seek worthwhile distribution channels for finding, attracting, and converting new customers. Relying on search isn’t a losing game, not at all. It is changing though. And you need to change with it.

Interested in learning more? Register to receive a free copy of my new special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals. And, if that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web, including:

Tim Peter


February 12, 2013

How to Improve Your Site's Bounce Rate in 15 Minutes

February 12, 2013 | By | One Comment

E commerce tipsI’ve talked at length about bounce rate in the past (see the list below for more details) and how important it is to get your customers to come back to your site.

  1. Pick a goal you want your customers to complete on your site. (High bounce rates prevent people from reaching their goals. The following steps will highlight what prevents them from getting there).
  2. Get an account at or OpenHallway (I’m not an affiliate, they’re just good folks with cool products — and full disclosure: I’m a customer).
  3. Put together a quick testing script (you can download an example here).
  4. Wait for people to complete the test.
  5. Watch the videos your testers submit.
  6. Fix the problems your testers identified.

That’s it.


It’s no secret that I love analytics. But your analytics don’t always tell you the whole story. Watching your customers (or people who represent those customers), can help fill in the gaps.

Fixing your site doesn’t need to be hard. And it doesn’t need to take a lot of time. All it really takes is paying attention to your customers.

Interested in more? Sign up for our free newsletter and get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. And check out our past coverage of improving bounce rate here:

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Tim Peter


July 31, 2012

What is "conversion rate," anyway? (Math for Marketers)

July 31, 2012 | By | One Comment

Defining conversion rateA couple weeks ago, I got into a friendly debate about the whether it’s better to optimize conversion rate or the total number of conversion. I argued that conversion rate optimization is better. Twice.

But I got a couple emails from people asking a fundamental question: What is “conversion rate,” anyway?

Now, don’t worry if you’re among those people asking the question. There’s a relatively simple answer. However, “conversion rate” can mean different things to different people in different contexts.

The simplest possible answer is this:

Actions Taken ÷ Potential Customers = Conversion Rate

The challenge, of course, is in defining “Actions Taken” and “Potential Customers.” So let’s take a minute and do just that.

Calculating Conversion Rate

To have a conversion rate, first you need an action. That action is usually called a conversion. So, what’s an example of a conversion? Most typically when people talk about “conversions,” they’re talking about sales or orders. As we’ll see in a bit, if that’s all they’re looking at, they’re being a bit short-sighted, but we’ll come back to that in a minute or two. For the moment, let’s stick with convention and just look at sales.

Imagine you sell widgets. Every time a customer orders a widget, you’ve got yourself a conversion. Your conversion rate in this case is the number of orders (conversions) divided by your “Potential Customers.”

So, how do you know who your “Potential Customers” are?

Potential Customers

The easiest way to think of “Potential Customers” is to think about how many people you exposed to your message. And you’d think counting the number of people exposed to your message would be relatively easy. After all, online marketing lends itself to analytics, right? Well, yes.


There are at least 6 common ways of counting “people” that I know about:

  1. Unique visitors to your site.
  2. Visits to your site (sometimes called “sessions”).
  3. Unique visitors or visits that enter your shopping cart.
  4. Logged-in visitors to your site.
  5. Unique visitors or visits to a specific landing page.
  6. Unique visitors or visits from a specific marketing message (e.g., an ad or an email).

I’ve used all of these at one time or another. Hell, I’ve often used all of these at the same time depending on what I wanted to know about my customers’ behavior. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of each today (I’ve looked at how to measure traffic as part of my “Web Analytics Fundamentals” series and I’ve reviewed the pros and cons between unique visitors and visits before as well — drop me a line if you want to talk about what’s right for your business). But the basic idea is that each tells you about which customers you’re reaching.

For instance, I often work with hotel companies on their e-commerce and marketing. And they’re mostly interested in selling hotel reservations. In one company’s case, the vast majority of their customers only reserved a few times per year and booked their stay on the first or second visit to the site. So we calculated conversion rate by dividing unique visitors with a 30-day cookie into reservations sold (you can check out a glossary of web analytics terms if any of this is unfamiliar to you).

By contrast, another company I worked with sells inexpensive replacement parts for machinery. Because their customers can visit multiple times per month and may make multiple purchases per month, we calculated conversion by dividing visits into orders.

Which leads to a key point: There’s no one perfect way to measure conversion rate. What matters is how well your measures model your customers’ behavior. In the first case, unique visitors were a better indicator of how well the site performed at converting an individual prospect (each visitor typically only ever made one purchase), while in the second we measured how effectively the site converted prospects each time they visited.

What About Other Conversions

So, as I’d mentioned above, there are other types of conversion besides just sales. If you remember, I started my definition by saying it’s “Actions Taken.” Not sales. Not orders. Not leads generated. Actions.

In fact, it’s a best practice to measure any activity you want your customers to take. For instance, newsletter subscriptions, account registrations, loyalty program enrollment, whitepaper downloads, form submissions and so on all represent conversions. They just represent ones with highly divergent economic values.

Anything that helps you connect more deeply with your customers provides a conversion opportunity. Spend some time looking at all the calls-to-action on your site or in your marketing and include those in your overall conversion reporting.

Speaking of which…

Reporting Conversion Rate

One key point to note here: If you track conversions other than sales (and you should), make sure you’re clear on what actions you’re reporting when you talk about “conversion rate.”

For instance, let’s imagine a business that sells athletic shoes. It offers on its site a shopping cart for customers interested in purchasing its shoes, an email opt-in form offering weekly specials and a white paper on how to improve your running technique.

Now assume the company sells 30 pairs of its running shoes online, enrolls 50 people in its email list and gets 75 downloads of its white paper for every 1,000 visits to its site. What’s their conversion rate? Well, their site manager could report conversion rate as 15.5% [(30+50+75)/1,000 = 15.5%].

But is that the fairest representation of what’s happening?

I’d say “no.”

In fact, I’d report each conversion separately, noting it something like this:

Sales Conversion3%
Email Opt-in5%
White Paper Downloads7.5%

A solid online marketing dashboard makes it clear to your audience what your goals are and how well you’ve met them. Senior managers live for clear answers. Don’t try to baffle ’em with bullsh… um, stuff. Just show them what’s really going on.

A Final Conversion Rate Definition

Now we’re back to where we started. Conversion rate is:

Actions Taken ÷ Potential Customers = Conversion Rate

To calculate it for your business

  1. Define “Actions Taken” appropriately for your marketing and e-commerce activities.
  2. Determine the metric that best represents “Potential Customers” for your specific activities.
  3. Divide your “Actions Taken” by your “Potential Customers” for each action.
  4. Report Conversion Rate by Action.

Follow those four steps regularly and you’ll never have to wonder about what your conversion rate is again.

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