Conversion: How it is used in retail vs. Online

For three years, I was an assistant manager of a young girl’s retail store at a mall in Southeast Michigan. We were one of the top stores in our district, making over $2 Million a year. Everyday, we would look at our sales from the day before, including different peak times and selling percentages. One of the biggest aspects we focused on was our conversion.

Now, conversion is defined as the point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action, such as a purchase.

Conversion in Retail.

While I cannot speak for all stores, I am going to focus on the store I worked at for this blog. At my store, our conversion goal was 30%. We wanted 30% of every person who walked in the store (yes, they had a detector that counted every time a person over four feet tall walked in the store) to make a purchase. Some people may say, why only 30%? Well, you have to consider the fact that most people do not come into the store alone. Couples come in, families, groups of people, while only one or two may actually make a purchase. Some people may say, isn’t 30% pretty high? First of all, yes, I agree with you. 30% was very hard to reach. However, it pushed every one of us salespeople to work to try to convert every person who walked through the door, even if we knew they were not looking to buy. This challenged us, and I think we did our best selling when we tried to make our conversion goal.

Conversion online.

Conversion online can be considered successful if a customer makes a purchase on a website (really the ultimate conversion), clicks an advertisement, opening an email, clicking a link in an email, and so on. There are many different ways conversion can be measured digitally, and it is up to the company as to how they want to measure conversion.

How isĀ conversion online and in retail similar?

Really, the only way conversion online and in store is similar is the fact that it is measuring how often a customer performs a desired action. While this desired action may vary, the fact that an action is being performed is what is counted towards conversion.

How does conversion online and in retail differ?

Well, the ability to measure conversion in person can be a bit more inaccurate in stores than it is online. For my store, we would have a person walk in, walk out five minutes later, then enter again ten minutes after that. Every time that person walks through our entrance (including both times they left) is counted towards our conversion, even though they are one person. Online, each conversion can be instantly counted and recorded. In store, you can have many different situations that can blur or alter the accuracy of your numbers, which can make your conversion inaccurate. While websites may experience something similar with the same person visiting a site multiple times, online still has every capability to be more accurate than in store/retail.

Also, the actual measurement of conversion is different for stores and online. In stores, it is much harder to count how many people are brought in by your window advertisements, how many purchases your one sign leads to, etc. Really the only measure of conversion you have is how many purchases are made vs. how many people have entered the store. Online, you are able to measure conversion in numerous ways, including how many people fill out a form on the landing page of your site or how many people click the call-to-action link in your advertisement. Companies have a lot more ability to customize how they want their conversion measure, which can lead to extremely useful numbers.

Lastly, the usefulness of the information is different online vs. in retail stores. In stores, your conversion tends to tell you how well your employees are selling and how well your store advertisements are doing. Online, you can get a conversion rate to show the success rate of all your different advertisements with links, different emails sent out, different site pages, etc. The information gained from online conversion is a lot more specific and relevant to different advertisements, which can be useful when planning future ads, while the conversion rate in stores can help companies when training employees to sell and doing in store ads.


Marketing 101: What is conversion?

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