Converting Website Visitors into Buyers

by Bryan Heathman

The beauty of online marketing and ecommerce is the ability to automate sales conversions in a way that is virtually impossible offline without a major investment in a salesforce.   However, the problem with online marketing is your ability to truly influence the buying process as is possible with face to face selling.  Closing ratios for a professional salesperson range in the 15-25% area, where typical closing ratios for an ecommerce environment are under 2%.  The solution that eludes most ecommerce marketers is approaching conversion ratios similar to face to face encounters.  Let’s look into the psychology of online conversion, with the goal of attaining converting visitors in a predictable and optimum manner.



As in face-to-face sales, Conversion Marketing boils down to two factors that are directly under your control:

a.      Increase the quantity of qualified prospects in your sales funnel
b.      Increase your sales conversion percentages.  To increase sales conversion ratios, take a look at the 5-step method below.



Think about your online Conversion Marketing strategy in the same way you would plan a party.  That may sound a little odd, but the same process that party planners use is applicable to increasing sales conversion rates on your website.  I have a friend, Megan, who is a professional party planner, who happens to be planning a party for a prominent physician.  The physician is launching a new company that allows doctors in remote areas to have the equivalent of hallway conversations with colleagues from major teaching hospitals.  So, Megan’s job is to invite doctors to an elegant gathering at his waterfront home, complete with a Spanish guitarist greeting guests as they arrive, where they will be presented with a rare opportunity to become early-stage seed investors in his company.   If you have never been invited to a soirée like this, here is how it works….. two acquaintances of mine were invited to a similar gathering by Jeff Bezos, the founder of, who sold a small percentage of to early-stage investors.  In a few years, their $50,000 investments grew into sizable fortunes within the span of a few years.



So, back to Conversion Marketing….what is it?  Similar to planning a party, CM is a 5-step process.    In e-commerce, the 5-step process is called the Conversions Loop and we will refer to the Conversions Loop throughout this article.  By the way, if you are a visual learner and would like to see the Conversions Loop, feel free to print one at


When planning a party, the first activity that Megan does is to send an Invitation to guests with information on the event.  This Invitation step in the Conversions Loop is what we call the Awareness Mechanism, which is where you entice prospects to visit your website.



The second step that Megan does is to collect the RSVP’s from guests attending her party.  This is the step where guests give permission to Megan to contact them with reminders and the full details of the party.  In sales terms, the second step of the Conversions Loop is equivalent to the notion of Engaging a prospect,  such as where your prospects know who you and will respond to your messages.   In Conversion Marketing, we Engage the prospect by asking for Permission to send email via a short survey, which converts your website visitor to a Prospect.  This Prospect has now given you permission to send information along with offers that are relevant to their needs and desires.



Now that you have Permission established, you are at the third and fourth stage in the Conversion Marketing process.   This is the stage in the process where you establish familiarity and trust, while simultaneously introducing subtle Buying Triggers into your communications.   Trust is accomplished by a variety of means, using a series of messages that include Buying Triggers to build brand trust.  A few ideas on establishing trust and rapport include sending a series of carefully segmented email messages, complete with images and messages that align with the aspirations of each target audience.  You can create segments of your email list by geography, product interests, gender, income bracket or any number of criteria that are relevant to the products you sell. Another idea to build trust with your audience could be publishing a series of articles or videos from a trusted authority in your industry.  In Megan’s world of party planning, she accomplishes the third and fourth step by sending a series of reminder messages to invited guests with relevant information about the event such as date, time, attire, number of guests and location.



Finally, the fifth and most important step of the Conversions Loop is to Ask for the Order, or close the sale.  At the party, Megan will be circulating the room making small talk with guests, offering appetizers and refilling wine glasses.  The physician who is hosting the event will be “asking for the order” by making a pitch to invest in his start-up for the greater good of the medical community.  So a question I often hear is how can I “ask for the order” online?  Here are several methods for closing the sale online:


Free shipping with order, today only (if you offer tangible products)

2-for-1 offer with purchase is one of the strongest offers you can make, providing this type of offer fits with your brand, product and pricing strategy •

Percentage off with purchase (the amount of the discount will vary by your pricing strategy, but 50% off will generally generate the highest response rate of any other percentage discount).



There you have it – follow the 5-step process of Conversion Marketing, similar to the 5-steps of planning a party, and you will be headed in the right direction in crafting the perfect ecommerce strategy for converting visitors into buyers.



Bryan Heathman is a popular speaker and author of Conversion Marketing.  Mr. Heathman has run hundreds of online marketing campaigns for the world’s largest marketers and ad agencies including Proctor & Gamble, Nissan Motors and Travelocity.  Bryan Heathman shares his experience of what is working today into a series of psychological tools of influence for website marketers to achieve the highest sales conversion ratios.  To see Conversion Marketing in action, visit for the latest tips and tricks of conversion.


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