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Why conversion is not ecommerce’s ultimate goal

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It’s no wonder that conversion is an obsession in retail.

It’s literally where the money is. The top line is the bottom line for many retail professionals. Executives and managers are rewarded based on the ups and downs of the conversion rate. Retail enterprises spend millions looking to goose the number. It’s an easily calculated and understood performance metric for those keeping score — and everybody is keeping store.

But conversion is not enough, says Guy Yehiav, CEO and chairman of Pofitect, a company that uses machine learning to provide prescriptive analytics. I talked to him earlier this year about the connection between conversion and the back-end experience that retailers provide their customers. The brief video interview below summarizes some of his thoughts.

Of course, it’s not that retailers are oblivious to the need to serve customers after they click the buy button; it’s just that it’s difficult to do. Yehiav’s framework is a handy one for any retailer looking to dig into its own post-purchase procedures. There are three moments of truth, he says.

No. 1: conversion. We’ll leave that for another blog post. (Already an obsession, remember?) The second is getting the package to the consumer. Seems a little obvious, but it is extremely difficult and the pressure to get it to the consumer quickly is immense. The third is how a retailer reacts to the questions, complications, even additional conversion opportunities, that come up after the consumer has the delivered product in his or her hands.

In our longer conversation, Yehiav expounded on the point that for omnichannel retailers, these moments of truth involve both online and in-store. Again, it’s a situation where one can’t be neglected in the interest of promoting the other. In fact, in-store and online need to be thought of as equal and complementary parts of a bigger whole. They can’t be seen as — or designed as — siloed channels.

The good news is that steadily improving automation is making building a great experience after the buy button easier and more efficient. There is automated order management and fraud review, automated warehouses. There are automated bots to handle basic customer questions and concerns and to escalate more complicated problems to human beings. There is artificial intelligence that can help manage returns; and data-informed algorithms that can identify patterns in returns and show the way to strategies that will avoid them.

And there is data — improving in quality by the day — that smart machines can analyze to make all of the above run more smoothly. In fact, a significant part of Yehiav’s business involves translating all that data into insights that are understandable to the employees who can act on them.

There is not a magic machine that you turn on to solve all your ecommerce challenges — not yet. But by turning to existing technology, retailers can find a way to balance the need to keep conversions growing, while building a back-end experience that will keep customers coming back.

Photo by iStock

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at