Here's a graph showing incoming website traffic for one of our e-marketing clients during a month in which we ran an email campaign (names and numbers redacted to protect the guilty):
You can spot the day on which the campaign went live!
From a marketing point of view the campaign was a huge success - beyond our best-case projection. Website-visitor numbers were up by a huge amount and clickthroughs straight to the client's online store were through the roof.
But the client wasn't entirely happy. "A big increase in traffic to the online store, yes, but lots of people left without buying anything."
This was a frustrating thing to hear because we had no control over the client's website itself. We were working hard on marketing (getting people to visit the client's online store) without any real ability to participate in the sales process (what happened once the visitor got there).
In the real world this would be like a marketing campaign successfully getting lots of people to walk to a store and go inside but then having those people walk out without buying anything.
Now if that happened in the real world one would ask if there was something wrong with the store experience. Getting more of those leads in the front door was a success for marketing but having those leads walk out without converting was a failure for sales. What was wrong with the sales process that prevented the store from converting those leads to sales? Maybe the price was too high; maybe the atmosphere inside wasn't welcoming; maybe the staff were rude.
Exactly the same question needs to be asked of the online experience. What was it that made people click away from the online store after all that hard work had been done to get them there? Was the purchase form too long? Was the design of the website too confusing? Was the text hard to read? Did the website just feel wrong to the visitor?
In the real world you can't follow store visitors down the street asking them questions about why they left the store without making a purchase. But online website reporting tools can give some idea of why leads weren't converted. Website reports can detail the pages from which people left the site, the time that users spent on different pages, and what pages the leads visited other than the online store.
For instance, if your website report shows a large numbers of visitors to your online store but a high bounce rate (that is, the visitors left your site quickly without visiting any other pages) and with a brief average time on site, that means something about the online store turned off their interest and did so quickly. There might be something instantly unappealing about your store. Pricing? Imagery? Browser compatibility?
A high average time on site might mean that visitors are trying to do something that takes time but are then giving up in frustration; something about the online store turned off their interest but did so slowly. Maybe the purchase form is too confusing; maybe it is asking for too much personal information, or isn't letting the visitor get to "submit order" quickly enough. Are you using code for your "submit order" button that doesn't work in anything other than a Microsoft web browser running under a Microsoft operating system? (Sounds crazy but I've seen exactly that thing happen - SG)
Analysis of visitor behaviour might indicate that unconverted leads are going straight from the online store to the About Us page. Maybe the visitor was interested in what was in the store but didn't know enough about you or your company to hand over their money. Are you taking these sorts of things into account?
Use the information in your reports - and if your web host isn't giving you those reports, get them! If leads are leaving your online store unconverted, the effort and money you spent to get them there is wasted. Your website reports can give you clues as to why those leads didn't convert - use those clues to improve your sales processes!