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How to improve conversion rates and increase online sales

14 October, 2011

“The web is not just another medium, another sales channel. More than anything, it is another culture, another way of living and thinking.” – Gerry McGovern, 2011

A new sales channel has emerged
Between 2009 and 2010, web traffic, conversions and revenue increased. As of June 2011, the numbers continue to increase. This has made Hurtigruten take note of the web and change the strategic direction and put the web first.

Online spending continues to increase
It’s no stroke of luck that these figures continue to rise. Sure, E-Commerce continues to grow year on year with expected sales to reach 133.6 billion EUR by 2015, but it’s also down to hard work, continuous improvement and implementing like hell, but not just the online booking process, the entire customer interaction line.

E-commerce is not a separate activity
E-Commerce no longer only affects online sales, but customer service and operations. We have gone from a control oriented marketing, website only, top down business approach to a more multi-channel, customer centric approach that begins when the customer finds out about to Hurtigruten to booking via the phones, email or web.

Once they reach the web, our goal is to convert as many visitors as possible to complete their goal. This is not a “sales” type way of thinking, but if a visitor wants to book, we should make that as easy as possible for them.

The top 10 converting websites in E-Commerce
The best converting website in the world has a conversion rate of 40% (Schwan’s). Hurtigruten’s conversion rate is currently 0.04%., QVC, Proflowers and Office Depot have been included in the top 10 converting websites for the past 3 years, with QVC and proflowers appearing in the top 10 list since 2005!

But not everyone will book online. A Forrester Research study in 2010 found that most web visitors abandon the shopping cart due to hidden charges at the checkout and requires registration before purchase. Yet, 9 out of the top 10 converting websites require login and hide shipping costs. includes 3 of the top 10 reasons for not completing a booking online:
* Hidden charges at checkout (Shipping)
* Having to register before buying (Create Account)
* Few payment options offered (Only accept Credit Card)

So if the world’s leading E-Commerce websites are not following the “rules”, why do they have such a high conversion rate?

Key to their success
* Deliver excellent Customer Service
* Large selection of products
* Make it easy for people to buy
* Remarketing

Through analysis and research, I have created an approach for Hurtigruten that can increase the online conversion rate, but the same can be applied for any website as it addresses all the conversion needs and ways you can optimize for the web visitor. If the below is applied to your site, I am convinced that the conversion rate will increase by at least 25% within the first year.

10 ways for Hurtigruten to increase the conversion rate
* Prioritize home page content to increase cross-sell opportunities
* Capture e-mail early and remarket
* Make it easy to browse catalog offline and purchase with catalog ID online
* Accurate images and product descriptions
* Adding manufacturer content and customer reviews
* Tweak the location and appearance of key buttons to boost click-through rates
* Eliminate unused content to improve user experience and save money
* Prevent “No results” site keyword searches to help users find products
* Focus on the end of the funnel to boost conversion rates
* Use Clicktale analytics to remarket in real time

While analyzing the top 10 converting websites, the 10 suggestions were all clearly implemented. Many of the points do not require big budgets to implement and could be done within the space of a month. Clicktale’s silver package costs $300 per month. Adding accurate product descriptions and images just take time and improving the end of the funnel could be completed with simple A/B testing using Unbounce or Optimizely

Now all that’s left to do is to start implementing!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 October, 2011 12:27

    When you try to book a trip within 3-4 days to departure, it’s not possible to do this on the Hurtigruten’s website. You have to phone the ship. When do you think it will be possible to book this on the internet? And why is this not possible today?

    (Interesting following your work, on this blog!)


  2. 14 October, 2011 12:36

    Hi Richard,

    The answer is simple, albeit an unfortunate one…

    Due to the (old) systems we have on board the ships, we cannot book in real time online. We have a system integrated with our reservation center but not with our booking solution. As we continue to upgrade our systems, the prospect is getting closer and we understand there is a huge demand for this – In fact, one solution we are looking into now is the use of a mobile app that could connect directly to the ship.

    We’ll be sure to keep you posted.


  3. 19 October, 2011 16:05

    That’s probably the trickiest question: how to increase conversion? I tried thousands of times, I modified all seo and internet marketing techniques but so far I’m not doing well. Is there a proper guide that I can use?

  4. slmacdonald permalink*
    19 October, 2011 16:48

    Hi Sabrina,
    There is no one way or one guide to follow as all sites differ but have you tried to implement software such as Clicktale or SeeWhy?

    Do you have the URL to your site so I can take a look and offer some advice?


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