Conversions are key to a successful business, but getting, tracking and measuring conversions aren't quite so simple.

It’s no coincidence that “conversion” and “confusion” don’t sound a lot different (no need to fact check us on that). The term “conversion” can mean a number of things, which can often result in misinterpretation. For example, a visitor clicking on a call-to-action link is a conversion, as is someone becoming a registered user. And clicking “buy now” is obviously the ultimate conversion. Getting down to definitions though, the Nielson Norman Group defines conversion rates as “the percentage of users who take a desired action.” Meaning that conversions are simply a way to record someone taking a desired action.

The conversion rate keeps track of what happens once users are on your site, in a specified period of time. For example, if 50,000 people visit an eCommerce site during April, and 2,000 of those visitors purchase product from the site, the conversion rate is 4% (2,000/50,000).

Smart Insights reports that the average global conversion rate for retail sites in 2017 was 2.48%. Interestingly, when looking at conversion rates by device, while smartphones are more popular for browsing, desktops are still preferred for transactions, with conversion rates from mobile devices sitting at around half of those on desktop (just something to keep in mind when designing your site).

When considering what measurement period to use to track your conversion rates, it’s important to align it with product development and launch cycles. It’s fairly standard practice for businesses to track their conversions over a month, but keep in mind seasonal fluctuations that affect the shopping behavior of consumers. December is a prime example, where the holiday season results in a 16.6% increase in eCommerce sales across the US (Invesp Trends).

When running a business, particularly an eCommerce business, most of us have a common goal: to boost sales. If your advertising campaigns are driving people to the site, and yet the majority of those visitors aren’t converting to sales, then it’s time to make some adjustments.

Your product copy and product images are vital in boosting conversion rates. This is one of those cases where more is more – through increasing the number of high-quality photos and making the copy more detailed, the customer is left with no unanswered questions. Giving customers confidence in both what you’re selling and the purchasing process is a surefire way to boost conversions.

The way you display is also pivotal to a successful customer experience. Something to consider here is the size of your product images. Research done by the CXL Institute revealed that by increasing the image size of spec-driven products, such as a hard drive, increased the visual attention of customers. In comparison, increasing image size on design-driven products like clothes decreased visual attention.

Cart abandonment is one of the biggest issues affecting conversion rates. Think back to how many times you personally have reached the checkout page on a site and pulled the plug. In fact, a Forrester Study revealed that a whopping 89% of consumers had abandoned a cart at least once. This can be for reasons outside of your control, such as mid-shopping distractions (you can’t be blamed for a coffee spill that causes your customer to forget everything they were just doing in their rush to clean up); but these reasons can also be completely within your control, say high shipping costs or slow site speed. A great way to counter this, even to recapture a small percentage of those abandoned carts, is to collect emails as part of your checkout process, and send a follow-up personalized email to the customer. That way you’re able to maintain contact, and keep the customer engaged. Once they’ve cleaned up their spill, they might be glad to see an email reminding them of what they were going to buy!

Tracking your conversion rates is one of the best measures for ROI (return on investment). The data from your conversions means you can look deeper in to your customer behavior and create a better experience going forward. And after all, customer experience is the biggest factor in improving conversions.