Conversion is a simple equation: The number of people that walk in / The number of people who actually buy something. The start of the second chapter in “Why We Buy” focuses on what retailers typically don’t know. Unfortunately this book is a slight bit outdated because most major retailers have taken care of the conversion mystery with automatic counters at the door and fancy computer systems that compare the number of transactions for the day against the number of people who entered. However, the concept of conversion is still just as relevant.
When I began working at my job, one of the seasoned associates informed me that I should watch out for the clothing censors in relation to conversion. If someone sets off the front door alarm without understanding the cause, about half of people will walk through the censor again just to be sure it was them. This messes up our conversion rate. “I don’t even consider theft anymore,” my coworker admitted. “I’m just like, get out of the doorway, you’re messing up conversion!”
I appreciate the method that the book uses for discussing the different expectations of conversion. If you are a fast food chain, you would expect 100% conversion, because people enter with the intention to spend money because food is a necessity. If you are an art gallery, you probably have a conversion rate of 1% or less, assuming 1 out of every 100 people who enter the gallery purchase something, and that is expected for that genre of store. My work sets their goal at about one-third, which is typical for clothing. Mostly because not everyone NEEDS what they have to offer.
All of this to say: conversion is like a measure of real success. Once the customer is actually in the door, what are the odds they will actually make a purchase? How can you improve the number of people who actually purchase something once they are inside? Part of this is customer service, or perhaps availability of items desired, but a large part is merchandising and making the product appealing and accessible.