Are Retailers Pulling the Right Levers to Maximize Sales?

Here are the tactics that actually influence ecommerce sales, according to a new study

Author: Andria Cheng

June 21, 2017

As online sales growth slows and becomes a market share battle, retailers and brands have been employing different tactics, from personalizing content based on local weather to changing colors on the site. But a new study finds that of 29 popular tricks used by brands to drive incremental sales, most don't work.

Only eight tactics translated to revenue per visitor uplift of up to 2.9%, according to a study by Qubit, a marketing personalization tech startup that counts among its clients Ulta, Net-a-Porter and Topshop and investors including Goldman Sachs. The study, audited by PwC, looked at 2 billion website visits and 120 million actual purchases over a four-year period.

Here are some of the key tactics that Qubit found to actually drive sales:

  • “Scarcity” messages warning that items are low in stock
  • “Social proof” messages, which note that someone else recently purchased an item a consumer is looking at
  • Product recommendations
  • Abandonment messages reminding users not to leave items in a shopping cart

The study also found that changes involving welcome messages and redesign of certain elements made a difference.

Meanwhile, a variety of tactics were found to have zero or even negative impact. These included weather, mobile navigation and site button changes.

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The study, which also included surveys of retailers and consumers, found that what consumers say they want doesn't necessarily translate into sales. For instance, almost half of 1,000 consumers surveyed said they don’t find “social proof,” or influence from other consumers’ shopping habits (such as "10 other people have bought this product the past month”), as an important buying decision factor. But in reality, that technique was found to be second most effective trick brands can use to drive incremental sales per visitor. 

“There’s a lot of things marketers try to do online," said Jay McCarthy, VP of Qubit’s product marketing, in an interview.  "A lot of these things aren’t going to drive revenue. It’s important in this climate to engage in the best practices and prioritize on things that move the needle."

The study found that three-quarters of consumers said they do the majority of their shopping on up to only five sites. Only 16% said they would remain loyal to those sites if those brands should fall behind in quality and value of service.

The retailers surveyed expressed a clear desire to be able to better measure the success of their efforts.  Some 72% of the nearly 250 marketers surveyed said they would like their tech vendors to be “more transparent” about the “effectiveness and measurement” of what they offer.