Rick Birtles
Senior Data Analyst
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  • Data Analysis

7th Dec 2018

3 min

Image Credit @Franki

Philadelphia, August 11, 1994:


Phil Brandenberger probably doesn’t realise it, but he has just made history in eCommerce by making the first online purchase with secure payment [a Sting album costing $12.48, not counting shipping].

In 1995, Amazon begins to take part in this budding dynamic and is followed by a series of players including the French alternative Alapage (now a thing of the past).


From that moment on, everything took off at speed.


Today, for 68% of European Internet users, making purchases online is the norm. After several years of continued growth, the EU’s e-commerce sector is now approaching an annual value of €602 billion. Behind this colossal figure is a complex and pitiless market, where hundreds of thousands of websites share the crumbs of a cake whose largest chunk goes to industry giants.

e-Commerce development has always been lead by technical and marketing innovation. Ads are better targeted to buyers, marketplaces complement the traditional product catalogue, payment has become even more secure, and mobile has, little by little, carved out a big place in the digital landscape.

Despite this tidal wave of new opportunities, e-retailers remain confronted with the same old difficulties and challenges of traditional retail:

  • attracting visitors
  • maximising conversions
  • and building loyalty with consumers.


In addition to attracting, converting and building loyalty, there’s also the new, decisive and indispensable factor which makes marketers’ eyes sparkle – the ability to collect and analyse data in a simple way across their entire digital presence.

Average conversion rate rarely exceeds 3%


Figures don’t lie: The average conversion rate rarely exceeds 3%. And more than 9 out of 10 visits generate acquisition costs without generating any revenue in return.

Too often, we equate improving online sales performance with acquiring more traffic. The equation seems simple – to boost turnover, you need more traffic. As traffic acquisition costs explode, the “leaky bucket” metaphor nicely sums up the ineffectiveness of this simplistic approach:

Why continue pouring water into a bucket full of holes?


Industry heavyweights have caught on and realised there’s an incredible range of possibilities for improving the performance of your online sales activity, mainly by focusing on the steps following the acquisition stage:

  • optimising the product catalogue,
  • offering an ultra-personalised purchase experience,
  • rethinking the UX of the most critical stages of the purchase process (product pages, cart, payment…)
  • persuading on-the-fence buyers
  • facilitating repeat purchases.

We can add Artificial intelligence to this multitude of initiatives which only work with a certain type of refined fuel: data.

So, why continue pouring water into a bucket full of holes?

Those who possess quality data (as well as massive technical and financial resources) have the advantage.

What if the battle for e-commerce market share was actually a battle of ideas on leveraging data?


In this series of 5 short blog posts on data insights and analytics, Rick Birtles from UX & Conversion Optimisation specialists, PRWD sets the scene why eCommerce has taken off so dramatically and what it means for digital marketeers.

Below are links to the other 4 articles in this series:

  1. How to be ‘sic’ at analytics

  2. How data keeps the audience engaged

  3. How data optimises internal search to increase the purchase experience

  4. How data optimises the purchase experience once the user is engaged

  5. How data helps your users become converts

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