Our digital ads are outperforming, but they’re not converting into sales. Why is that happening? And what can I do about it?

Dave Buckland

You’ve created a digital ad with compelling image or catchy copy. You’ve directed it to the right people at the right time. And you’ve driven lots of traffic to your site. Nothing feels better than seeing a digital ad attract new potential customers…right? Well, sort of.

Sure, driving traffic is crucial for e-commerce campaigns. However, without ensuring that this traffic is converting into sales, it’s simply a vanity metric—a measurement that, “might make you feel good, but [doesn’t] offer clear guidance for what to do,” according to Tim Ferris.

Vanity metrics may include impressions, shares, comments, open rates, and views. They’re often a go-to assessment of the success of social media, digital advertising, and content marketing campaigns. While these indicators may look great on paper, they pale in comparison to revenue-based measurements.


Metrics such as conversion rates.

Conversion rates are the meat and potatoes of ecommerce. Simply put, these magic metrics measure the total number of visitors who take an action. In the ecommerce world, your conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who make a purchase from your online store.

Before we get too far, it’s worth noting that industry benchmarks are not in the favor of the e-commerce business owner. While there are many variables in effect—including product, sector, channel, and region-the global average ecommerce conversion rate is roughly between 1 and 3 percent.

Rather than directly push a sale, many digital ads drive traffic to a lead generation form. These pages require consumers to fill form fields with information such as name, company name, email, and phone number. HubSpot analyzed more than 40,000 landing pages and found a correlation between form fields and conversion rates. Pages with one form field generated a conversion rate of about 20%, while those with up to five resulted in a rate of 10%.

Consumers are bombarded with ad impressions on a daily basis.

Even if you gain their initial interest, there’s no guarantee you’re going to keep it. Once visitors come to your site, you have limited time to meet the promise and interest of your initial ads. In fact, according to some research, most visitors leave a website within 10 to 20 seconds—unless there’s a clear value proposition.

The truth is that no one has the time to spend minutes on your site trying to figure things out. They should be able to assess your product immediately. If the reason they clicked through is not delivered immediately, they’re going to leave your site in frustration.

That’s why it’s crucial to deliver the right information in the right order. You want to deliver a message that’s not only painless and seamless, but easy and intuitive. But how is this done?

By implementing a culture of testing.

The days of buttoned-up agency folk sitting around a table, debating the right creative approach are all but gone. While successful ads are important, so many brands cannot objectively look at who they’re driving to their site—and how solid or flawed their experience is these visitors. It’s true that successful ecommerce sites take successful UI and UX cues from ecommerce standards.

However, the best companies adopt a culture of endless curiosity—and a voracious appetite for testing.

I’m astounded by what I learn through testing. And oftentimes, these discoveries go against what I thought would happen. In a true testing culture, everything is fair game, as long as you remain true to your brand essence. Truly successful companies test everything from product names and copy to pricing and imagery.

Testing ideas and adapting to changes can boost performance. Do this continually, and you will end up in a much better place than where you started. Ignore this approach at your own peril, and get ready for a bumpy road, that for most, will lead to a failed venture.

It’s important to test the buyer experience at every stage of the sales funnel, including the top.

Ultimately, it’s important to note that engagement metrics are, by definition, not a bad thing. It’s technically true that the more traffic you have, the more opportunities you have to convert leads into customers. However, as with any metric, numbers don’t tell the entire story.

So, next time you create a landing page or digital ad, consider testing what information you should be requiring your users to submit. It could make all the difference.

Competition is fierce. Anyone who thinks you can launch a website or a creative campaign without testing is not living in the reality of 2019. If you’re fortunate enough to drive traffic to your site, embrace the challenge, roll up your sleeves, and put the time in to deliver a holistic experience to your potential customers.

If you deliver, it’s only a matter of time until these potential customers become your raving fans.