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Wild and Random Conversion Swings

same traffic, sources and products

     
1:15 am on Sep 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hi all. I'll try to keep this post as brief as possible. I have a retail site in health and beauty and this particular site in operation since 2005. We do a substantial revenue on moderate volume (100+ orders per day). Our PPC is laser targeted and we have great organic listings. We have consistent inventory and a wide selection of products selling daily.

When someone finds us through PPC or organically, our conversion rate is nearly 10% for a sale. There are reasons I would be happy to detail why we are so high with the conversion rate if anyone is interested but it's not relevant here. The average items per order is 2.2. I can bank on this year after year after year. 10%, 2.2 items....

We run 5 or 6 days steady at 10%/2.2 and suddenly an unknown factor takes the conversion rate to 6% and every order is a single item order, dramatically decreasing revenue sometimes by 60% or more for the length of 'brown-out' time. This time has been normally 24-48 hours but a few weeks back went 5 days straight, killing my week.

We have changed shopping carts 4 times in 6 years, the problem follows whether hosted or not. (Currently back to a hosted solution). Changed web hosts, changed even the host of the a name listing to be consistent with the site host, even changed religions. Problem remains.

Basicstate daily summaries show absolutely no correlation of conversion rate with site load time which would be my first guess.

No tests during the downtimes ever produce a single error for me no matter if I'm on a clean pc, a random Best Buy store somewhere or have the site cached at home.

Day of the week doesn't matter. Can happen this Tuesday and next Tuesday I will set a revenue record.

Does anyone else with statistically significant traffic and conversions experience these wild swings?

Where else can I possibly look for an answer?

Sorry for the lengthy post. Any help is greatly appreciated.
Aaron
1:38 am on Sept 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So you're saying that you think there is some kind of technical problem, which is making your orders predominantly single item orders? Has a customer ever said they had a problem loading multiple items?
12:19 pm on Sept 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Correct. I believe it's technical and may be not necessarily impossible to put to items in the cart but it's discouraged by slow page load or whatever the problem is. Customers rarely report even when something is obviously and completely down, they just move on.

We do see this issue come up after our hosted cart solution does a routine software upgrade. With a software upgrade, there's a two day brown-out until the site spools back up and converts at normal levels. Other times the cause is unknown but it is not a random swing in the numbers.

[edited by: lorax at 1:12 pm (utc) on Sep 16, 2011]
[edit reason] fixed typo [/edit]

7:16 pm on Sept 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hmm... I don't know. If there was that large of a cart problem, to the point where that many people can't put more than one item in at a time. I would think you'd hear about it. Especially with the volume you seem to be doing. I could see it being tied to some sort of free shipping deal, or other type of sale... where you have people purposely buying more stuff to meet the criteria somehow. I would think that if anything... people would just cancel their order altogether if they couldn't get the cart to work right. I mean, assuming that you sell stuff that can be purchased elsewhere. That's what I would do if that happen to me. But if I really wanted your stuff and there was an issue, I'd contact the site. I have to think multiple people would, if it was that wide scale a problem. I wouldn't rule out a fluke. There's some really weird patterns that just seem to happen with people in sales.
7:42 am on Sept 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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call me paranoid but I tend to blame Google. We get many sales for a few days straight and then for the next few days nothing. Doesn't matter the day it's been like this for years.

Is google sharing the high potential buyers around to different sites?

If you think about Google does know who the buyers are due to personalization and goal tracking in analytics. Google knows who buys online more often than other visitors

Just like they control traffic they can control buyers now too.
10:15 pm on Sept 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I had a site that with level visitors but the sales ONLY came through on every 3rd day, again I dont know why. Another site goes crazy for sales Nove to June then nothing at all.

And I mean nothing.

Having said that having owned Bricks shop ive seen the same thing, tons of people no sales..... Human nature ?
8:32 am on Sept 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Can you run a solution like clicktale and see if it's on the browser's side? Is it possible more payments are getting declined on a specific day?
12:53 am on Sept 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Oziman, Thanks for the clicktale lead. I wasn't familiar with any service quite like this and have always thought such a service would be enormously useful. Will implement and report back.

Also, I started this thread after a really weird week of ups and downs as explained above. About 9 days ago the hosted cart announced our new software version was live. Site has been converting normally (what I consider normal for this site 10% and multiple items) every single day since, no exceptions. I see these analytical anomalies with almost every software upgrade and often wonder if whatever they are doing on the server side is affecting performance of the live site.
12:18 am on Sept 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Have you tried to look at other possible issues with your store:
- issues with the site search engine for the store,
- payment systems,
- integration with the shipping carriers,
etc.
It seems there could be issues with those pieces also.
The shopping would have no effect if any of these pieces have downtime or issues.
Cheers,
dan
1:50 pm on Sept 28, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you believe it might be a technical issue you should check if you have some cronjobs running which slow down server performance. Automatic newsletters, log file statistics, something like that.

However this might be normal statistical fluctuations. I am sure you also have days where the average is 3 items, or the conversion rate is 13%.