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More traffic - fewer orders - disturbing new pattern
Can any of you experts suggest a reason?

 8:25 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Over the eight or so years that I have operated my small web site the pattern of ordering has always been similar - as traffic has increased so have orders, when traffic drops so do the orders.

Around July 1st that pattern changed. Traffic increased slightly, and that increase has been maintained. However the pattern of ordering has become strangely erratic in a manner that I have not experienced before. Overall orders have dropped away rather than following the trend of higher visitor numbers. But the odd thing is that now I may go for many hours or even a whole day with only the odd order, and then they start to come in a more even flow again for a day or two.

To use an analogy - my previous experience over these last eight years has been like a tap flowing steadily, sometimes increasing or decreasing somewhat, but always a steady flow. Now it is as if someone is almost turning the tap off, just allowing a dribble through for long periods, then turning it up again for a while, then down, then up ... you get the picture.

I should say that nothing about the site has been changed. It is a UK-based site, hosted in the USA and aimed at the American market. I use Mal's shopping cart (UK servers), and WorldPay or PayPal for payment.

As I see things this situation is either due to a change in visitor behaviour, or is down to something technical. As I can see no reason why visitor behaviour should suddenly alter so dramatically I am assuming it may be a technical problem somewhere down the line. Visitor stats show no change in patterns, and there have been no issues with server down time.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!



 8:39 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

Traffic increased slightly

What source has increased? Do you use an analytics tool? Has avg time on site changed? has your top referrer dropped at all? Where do you advertise? Could be junk traffic.

How much research have you done on your competitors? Pricing issues?

It is very difficult to determine what is causing this since we don't really know what you sell, what your site looks like, and also what your competitors may be doing.

Whenever I see a sudden drop in sales, the first thing I do is look at the competition for price reductions and that sort of thing. Look at their ad copy if they use PPC. Check with manufacturers for any additional information for a drop in sales (if applicable).

What sort of market are you in? Anything else you can share?


 8:48 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would put the site up for review NigelT and lets see if there is something you can't see from your end.

May be nothing more than a hurting ecomony and more lookers but less buyers.


 9:44 pm on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have seen great increases in traffic that did not result in great increases in sales when the clicks were coming from social networking sites. I no longer consider that traffic to be "real."

I have also had times when it was slow, sometimes worryingly so--like I have had days with one sale. But at such time I lecture myself that I must not worry about it, that it is just one of the mysteries of retail. That doesn't mean I don't check around and see how everything is going in terms of my site and the search engines and what not, but it means I have to force myself not to clench. I believe clenching can result in bad business decisions. Fear does not make for sound judgment.

Have you compared your per-ticket sales? I have seen my number of orders go down but the amount of each order go up over the years. For me this has been part of a change of clientele. My customers now are fewer but they have more money than the customer base I started out with. It's a whole different bunch of folks. Something to consider for you.

If you have fewer visitors, one tactic I have found to be very effective is selling widget "collections." Another etailer told me about this, and it has really helped my per-ticket amount go up.


 3:43 pm on Jul 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

highly targetted traffic > traffic

There may be an issue with your website (the checkout process specifically?) Have you cross tested sample orders across different browsers? If not, I would give that a try. I would also view the website on browsershots.org just to make sure that there are no formatting errors.

It's really tough to say without taking a look at the analytics. Maybe your major competitors are running sales?


 4:10 pm on Jul 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

Do not rule out the economy. I have been selling on the net for over 10 years and this is the first year I feel the global economic downturn. Fear is in the streets.
Of course, if I was selling oil or commodities, it would be a different story!


 4:13 pm on Jul 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

Of course, if I was selling oil or commodities, it would be a different story!

Selling oil online.....now that is a great idea:)


 7:56 pm on Aug 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thank you all for your comments. It has given me certain areas to consider and work on.

Just to clarify the precise nature of the problem - in eight years of running this web site I have never known such wild swings in order numbers from a steady and stable flow of visitors - a good number of orders for a couple of days, followed by barely anything for a day or two. This is a completely new pattern.


 3:01 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

NigelT - do you run an analytics software?


 3:20 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Do not rule out the economy.

Gets my vote. Many of my ecommerce customers are having the same problem. Even my business is down. We all came to the same conclusion - no one is spending money, except for the very rich. Did you know luxury yacht sales are up? Guess we're all in the wrong business ;)



 5:25 pm on Aug 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

NigelT - do you run an analytics software?

I have used Hitslink by Net Applications for a long while, and have recently signed up for Google Analytics. However, I wouldn't claim to be an expert at interpreting the data.

Do not rule out the economy.

I sell mostly fairly low value consumable items which I wouldn't have thought would have been too greatly affected by the economy.


 2:02 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)


I work with a large number of ecom sites.
I can confirm that conversions rates have dropped globally.


 2:30 pm on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

May be nothing more than a hurting ecomony and more lookers but less buyers.

No doubt. As of late, I get a lot of "window shoppers," if you will. My widgets center mostly around the kitchen and bathroom, and I have noticed that a lot of the orders taken over the phone include the phrases, "I just broke...." and "I need to replace and old widget..." Whereas even 6 months ago conversations started with, "I am getting all new widgets and updating..." etc.

The whole climate and attitude has changed. You may have problems with your website that aren't helping, but you can't put money in everyone's pockets! Let's face it, large conglomerates with hugely diversified business operations are reporting record losses, lower than expected earnings, and are conducting layoffs. I imagine this means Adam Smith's invisible hand will sweep some of us away if we can't get the globally economy chugging along again.

Did you know luxury yacht sales are up?

Lamborghini and Ferrari still can't keep up with demand, either. Lotto ticket sales tend to do well in economic downturns, too. Go figure.


 5:15 pm on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

lower than expected earnings

Except Exxon and BP ;)

Lotto ticket sales tend to do well in economic downturns, too.

So does alcohol sales.



 8:51 pm on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Luxury yachts are soft, it's the MEGA yachts that are selling... that's the 5-10-20 million dollar yachts. The rest of the marine industry is in dire straits. The worst in decades. Not in the business but am fairly close to those that are.

These are tough times for many of us, me included. Same traffic but conversions in the toilet.


 9:13 pm on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

don't forget to test on any new technology. i once had a surprise when more and more visitors started coming with IE7 and i realised that my display was shifted down on it (i had lots of * html hacks in my CSS which no longer worked). it completely messed up the display of my site - it was a few weeks before i noticed.

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