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Conversion Rate Optimization

An Early Look At Covid’s Impact On Doing Business Online

The global impact of COVID-19 has been felt by everyone. In the spirit of wanting to help everyone adjust to this new environment, we are sharing what we’ve seen on driving business digitally across Intellimize’s customer base. Marketers are working through new challenges in their online businesses every day. This is a “first take,” and the conclusions may very well shift over time.

We’ve seen a lot by observing our Intellimize customers

We are fortunate to work with a lot of great marketers. They are moving quickly to adapt to these unprecedented market conditions. Here are just a few of the changes they’ve made in the initial weeks of widespread shelter-in-place orders that have changed the environment for almost every business.

  • Focusing the website homepage on products and special offers that support working from home, content that was previously not present on the site or not on the homepage
  • Shifting to virtual consultations, either with a human or with AI, to replace interactions that were previously conducted in-person
  • Promoting content relevant to remote workforces up from landing pages to the homepage
  • Highlighting home delivery services and special COVID-19 offers
  • Being more proactively transparent about delayed shipping than in the past
  • Highlighting new ‘free shipping’ offers

This rapidly changing online environment isn’t just something we see anecdotally. This change is also showing up quantitatively in the behavior of our customers and their prospects.

For the analysis below, we compared Mar 1 – 15 to Mar 16 – 31 to understand the effect of covid. We chose these dates since most lockdowns happened mid-month. And what did we find?

People are online more, and conversion rates are down

Not surprisingly, across all of our customers, traffic was up as more people sheltered in place. In the second half of March, traffic was up 18% compared to the first half of March.

However, as so often happens when traffic goes up, you get less qualified traffic, and conversion rates go down. That is what we’re seeing across our customers. Conversion rates in the second half of March are 11% lower than the first half of March.

The net result for marketers is in positive territory, though, since the growth in traffic more than offsets the decrease in conversion rates.

Change in the Mar 16-31 period vs. Mar 1-15 period
Low Conversion Rates

However, the conversion rate impact of covid is far from uniform.

Conversion rate impact appears lumpy

When we look at how conversion rates have changed pre- and post-covid by industry, the results vary quite a bit.

Change in web conversion rates Mar 16-31 vs. what they were Mar 1-15
Industry Conversion Rates
  • We see B2C SaaS up by the largest amount. This makes sense for a category that is heavily weighted to “stay at home” offerings such as education and personal video conferencing.
  • B2B is also up. Perhaps B2B buyers have more time to look at potential solutions.
  • Other B2C conversion rates are flat.
  • Ecommerce is down. Really? That’s not what we expected as people spend more time online. So we looked deeper.
  • Finance is also down, and we learned more about why in the next set of analyses.

Exploring ecommerce and finance more

It didn’t make sense to see data that ecommerce conversion rates fell when we know that so many more people are at home with strong incentives to buy online, so we dug deeper.

Change in web conversion rates Mar 16-31 vs. what they were Mar 1-15
Ecommerce and Finance Conversions

When we explored ecommerce further we saw that ecommerce that was only available online is up a fair bit. Ecommerce that was explicitly tied to brick and mortar activities was down. This could be selling something online that is also sold in a store or selling something online that is tied to an in person meeting.

We looked further and saw the same thing in finance. Digital only financial services’ conversion rates are up while financial services that involves in person activities, like creating a coupon online that you redeem in person, have much lower conversion rates post-covid.

This was interesting and unexpected, so we cut the data further.

Digital-only businesses conversion rates rising

It turns out that there’s an underlying trend that wasn’t obvious to us in advance. The companies with digital-only business models are seeing conversion rates go up, even as traffic goes up. Since conversion rates typically go down as traffic increases, this is a big deal.

However, the businesses that are tied to in-person activities have seen conversion rates go down by a lot. They have not yet adapted to this unprecedented and rapid preference shift toward online interaction. When in-person engagement isn’t possible, success probably requires the ability to engage differently with prospects.

Change in web conversion rates Mar 16-31 vs. what they were Mar 1-15
Digital-only Business Models

This suggests that the importance of engaging differently with prospects in a time when in person engagement isn’t possible is really important for online businesses that have an in person component. In fact, we’re seeing that principle, of adapting to this changed environment, true across the board.

Status quo web pages need updating

While we earlier saw how conversion rates overall are down 11% post-covid, we’re seeing that existing messaging, experiences, and content in status quo websites are underperforming that substantially.

When we look at those same websites in the portion of traffic that is dynamically personalizing, automatically adjusting to changes in visitor behavior, the dip is 78% better.

Change in web conversion rates Mar 16-31 vs. what they were Mar 1-15
Dynamic Personalization Platform

Prospect behavior is changing rapidly. This made a lot of existing messaging, experiences, and content not nearly as effective as they were just a few weeks ago. This reinforces that marketers should adjust their digital engagement to mirror rapidly changing visitor behavior.

Marketers are more active

How are Intellimize’s customers investing their time post-covid? Rather than close up shop or go quiet with covid, our customers increased the number of tests that they ran by 35% in the second half of March vs. what they were doing in the first half of the month (before most lockdowns happened).

As the pandemic became more widespread and the reliance on digital engagement increased, the need to optimize digital experiences became even more important. Every new idea is another chance to discover a better performing approach.

Our customers are actively responding to this rapidly changing environment by trying new ideas, new content, and new ways to engage their prospects

New tests being run (aka ideas being tried)
Website Optimization

We hope these insights  from the first weeks of a post-covid environment are helpful as you consider where to invest your time and money to drive your business during shelter in place. We invite you to believe, as we do, that prospect behavior is always changing, even more rapidly now, and that your prospect engagement should change with it. Finding the right way to engage will help each of our businesses weather this difficult environment better.

Join us at the RevGrowth Virtual Summit to discuss these ideas and findings live. We’ll have additional content with deeper looks and some updated data, so don’t miss it. Register Today!

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