Clarity in Hindsight - 2016 Traffic & Sales Data Hold Helpful Clues

March 8, 2017

At the end of each year we like to review the performance of the 200+ eCommerce websites on the BevSites platform and share some highlighted insights.  This has become increasingly challenging for the past 4 years as the average traffic, sales, and cancellation rates have hardly increased or decreased.  Yet while the standby metrics suggest little shifted, we can point to a number of major changes in selling wine online between 2013 and 2016 (such as in interstate shipping regulations, new marketing partners, and the evolution of consumer’s perceptions of mobile eCommerce).  The numbers may add up similarly, but the underlying experience is not the same.  For some genuine insight we must dig a bit deeper.

 

The starkest and most easily measured difference in eCommerce retail between 2016 and 2013 is the role of mobile devices.  In 2013, the average website would find about 25% of their overall traffic came from mobile devices; in 2016, the figure has doubled.  Consumers today access the eCommerce websites on the BevSites network on mobile as much as they do on desktop computers.  This is pretty significant because mobile users have a greater tendency to conduct research online and either later purchase the item in a brick-and-mortar business (“webrooming”) or switch to a desktop computer to make the purchase itself.  The expectation is that if the overall traffic volume doesn’t change (like in our 2016 average store metrics), and if the overall percentage of mobile traffic increases, overall conversion rates and sales should actually decrease.  Yet despite the percent of mobile traffic growing from year to year, the average conversion rates and overall sales of our stores hasn’t budged in 4 years.  There’s another compensating force.

 

Key Rate Change

After testing a number of hypotheses, we landed on a particular assessment that yielded a key to the puzzle.  We decided to look exclusively at Google Organic traffic (a traffic segment that tends to be stable and predictable), and identify the distinct changes in conversion rates for desktop and mobile users from 2013 to 2016 for our stores.  Here we discovered, that the conversion rates of mobile users skyrocketed and increased between 2013 and 2016 on average from 0.37% to 0.66%--an increase of 80%.  Desktop users too had an increase (albeit more modestly) from 2.69% to 2.96%--an increase of 10%.  The lower overall rate of the mobile conversions, and the increased percent of the mobile traffic essentially hide these increases.  

 

The main takeaway is that the websites are quietly better converting traffic.  Mobile users, in particular, perhaps due to improvements in mobile browsers or simply increased consumer confidence in mobile eCommerce, are more frequently making purchases from their devices.  It goes without saying that optimizing for mobile users is a necessity today.  Furthermore, the quiet gains made with desktop users’ willingness to make purchases suggests promising possibilities.  The growth may be somewhat dependent on users researching items on mobile, maybe even building a shopping cart on their phone and then finalizing the order on desktop.  However, as pointed out in ShipCompliant’s annual surveys, where they found a 66% increase in wine sales between 2010 and 2015, the business of selling wine online has prospered.  And though competition online certainly has blossomed and softened gains, the 2017 wine consumer is more likely to buy wine online than ever before.

 

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