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It Takes More than Just Conversion to Understand Customers

When building a successful digital presence, every business needs to know two things:

  • First, what audience action they are trying to elicit,
  • And second, what proportion of their target customers have actually completed that action.

Given these two questions, it’s very easy for marketers to fall into this trap:  treating conversion rates as the cornerstone of measuring their digital strategy’s success. While this may seem logical, it misses a fundamental point — not every shopper has an intention to buy.

According to the latest research, 83% of consumers browse online with zero intention of making a purchase. Think about that for a moment. The vast majority of individuals ‘shopping’ online aren’t actually in a buying frame of mind — they’re just enjoying the experience of browsing.

Experience vs Conversion

For brands that obsess over conversion rates, every one of these digital window shoppers represents a missed opportunity or a potential sale that was lost. But what if it’s not? What if this obsession with conversion is blinding us to the fact that all these prospects are actually enjoying interacting with our brands? Is that not a positive statement in its own right, even if they don’t buy in that very moment?

This is the difference between a sales-oriented digital experience and a habit-forming digital experience. Rather than seeing every visitor as a ‘sale-in-waiting’, habit-forming brands are where people feel free to browse, leave and ultimately return — because they enjoy the experience.

Unlike those that push for conversion at every turn, these are the brands that prove so successful in building customer loyalty and generating positive associations in the long term. They are the brands that get bookmarked and saved, where people build wish lists, and where they return when they need a little retail therapy. In the short term they don’t convert every prospect, but in long term — they are the brands that win.

For marketers looking to build long-term loyalty, creating a ‘habit-forming’ site or app is the ultimate digital experience goal. In fact, marketing experts Les Binet and Peter Field have gone as far as to argue that brands should spend only 40% of their energy (and budgets) on short-term sales, and 60% on building brand experiences. Their key lesson: stop trying so hard to convert; focus on building positive associations, and the conversions will come.

But just how exactly do you build these associations, and how do you ensure that your digital presence encourages the formation of repeat-buying habits?

Understand Your Customers’ Behavior

Customer behavior is where you see these return habits forming. It’s where you can witness customer loyalty being built. And a growing number of brands are investing in ways to visualize and understand these behaviors, with Clicktale’s research suggesting that a fifth (21%) of brands will adopt a behavioral analytics platform in the next two years.

Using these tools, marketing teams and CX professionals can actually watch as consumer habits are formed. Through heat maps, mouse-tracking technology, and increasingly advanced session capture tools, brands can see when visitors are heading for a sale and when they are simply enjoying window shopping. They can also witness firsthand those elements of their app or site that are enjoyable to explore and those that are counterintuitive to the habit-forming mentality.

When thinking purely in terms of conversion, it’s easy to see these behavioral insights as little more than a ‘find-and-fix’ exercise — using them to see where apps and sites can be tweaked to maximize conversion rates. By stepping back from this mindset, however, behavioral insights can provide brands with so much more. Instead of always asking why some people aren’t converting, we can start to ask why others are converting. In the long-term, repeated, positive experiences become just as important as the negative ones.

These are the behavioral and experience-driven insights that are so often missed when too much of our thinking is framed around conversion rates alone. They are also the insights that can ultimately define whether your company’s digital strategy will result in short-term sales or long-term success.


A digital experience is integral to attract new customers but to keep the ones you already have happy and loyal. Do you know “How to Build a Digital Experience Capability?” Find out the proper way as to keep up with the competition and drive success.

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