Search Engines Growing Source of Customers For Online Merchants

marketlive-online-merchants-customer-acquisition-q12012-apr2012.jpgSearch engines continue to be the strongest source of customers for the online merchants who comprise the MarketLive Performance Index, finds MarketLive [download page] in an April report covering Q1 2012. About 39% of customers were acquired via search engines, up from roughly 38.2% in Q4. Close to 29% were bookmarked/typed, and about 1% were acquired via social networks, down from 1.3% the previous quarter, and 3% in Q3 2011. All other means combined represented the remaining share of acquired customers. Of the various verticals studied, brand manufacturers saw the highest proportion of customers acquired via social networks, at 2.1%.

Visits, Revenues Up Y-O-Y

The online merchants made significant year-over-year gains in areas such as visitors and revenues during Q1 2012. Data from “The MarketLive Performance Index Vol. 18? indicates revenue among year-over-year sites rose almost 20% compared to Q1 2011, while visits increased more than 4%. Conversion and engagement rates were both up more than 12%, to 4.23% and 10.59%, respectively, while abandonment rate dropped 1% to 61.09%. Tempering this success was an almost 12% increase in the “1 and out” rate, which grew to more than 36%, meaning that more than one-third of visitors now leave the websites after viewing a single page.

Q-O-Q Results More Disappointing

Despite the encouraging year-over-year results, online merchants saw quarter-over-quarter declines in various metrics. Looking at the average of all sites (not just year-over-year sites), MarketLive found that overall conversion rate dropped 26.1% to 4.28%, while engagement rate (visit to carts) fell 8.33% to 10.79%. The overall cart abandonment rate rose 9.84% to 61.15%, while the only good sign was a slight 0.63% drop in the 1 and out rate, to 36.32%.

Other Findings:

  • Average order size among index merchants during Q1 2012 was $148.97, representing close to 6% growth from $140.87 in Q4 2011. Average order size was highest for apparel, footwear, and accessories sites ($205.04), and lowest for brand manufacturers ($74.22).
  • Average revenue per visit was $5.74, down from $6.57 the previous quarter.
  • The average customer viewed 11.21 pages per visit.
  • 62% of index sites had reviews. Catalogers had the highest percentage of sites with reviews (84%), while brick-and-mortar retailers and apparel, footwear, and accessories shared the lowest (43%). According to results from a March 2012 BazaarVoice study, these merchants should pay close attention to the reviews posted on their sites, as their are significant insights to be found in them. Examining more than 6 million pieces of user-generated content from both in-store and online shoppers, BazaarVoice found that 12% of all reviews include product suggestions, and that the frequency of suggestions was highest among very positive reviews (4 out of a possible 5 stars), at 20%. Overall, about 8 in 10 product suggestions were deemed constructive.

About the Data: The MarketLive quarterly report examined Q1 performance data from more than 100 retail sites.