Why Online Conversions Aren’t All the Same

A conversion can be much more than a sale! This term is actually much broader, and a conversion can happen at any point along the purchase cycle. Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is based on many factors, it all starts with understanding a conversion in your business environment.

What does Conversion mean in your world?

In marketing, a conversion can indeed refer to a sale. However, the term doesn’t only refer to the act of making a sale. It also refers to all the moments in the purchase cycle where a customer interacts with a business. One definition of conversion is “when the recipient of a marketing message performs the action stated in the message”. To put it another way, it’s when a lead or potential customer responds to a call to action.

In these terms, a conversion can refer to almost anything. Of course, this definition includes making a sale. But it also includes pre-sale actions such as signing up to an email list, signing up to attend a webinar, or downloading a white paper. In other words, an action is a conversion if the customer is doing it in response to your marketing message.

B2B Versus B2C Conversions

The term “conversion” is more often used in B2B rather than B2C sales. In the B2B world, the sale process is often longer and more complicated than sales are in customer-facing retail.

In B2B sales, orders are larger and more costly than your average high street shopping trip. The stakes are higher, so making purchases involves more research and more points of decision-making. In the B2B purchase process, there are multiple chances for conversion.

Conversions are important in retail too, although the sale cycle is typically shorter. However, those complex sales processes do exist in B2C sales. Getting a loan or mortgage, or buying an expensive luxury item, may involve many individual conversion moments. Google defined these as micro moments.

Conversions in the Sales Process

What’s the simplest purchase you can think of? One example is the purchase of a hamburger in a fast-food location. Often, the sales process starts with a conversion: the customer scans an online QR code for free chips, and that influences their decision to head to that location. This counts as a conversion, because it’s caused the customer to perform the desired behaviour. Once they get to the location, they use the code to get chips with their burger. The actual purchase is the second and most important conversion in this mini purchase cycle.

In a B2B sales cycle, things are a bit different. B2B purchasing involves many more conversion moments. These are touchpoints where decisions must be made before movingto the next step of the purchase process. This means there are many more opportunities for marketing to be influential.

Add the online environment into the mix, and it gets even more complicated. Online, there are more conversion moments to manage, and it can become difficult, even impossible, for smaller businesses to take advantage of them all.

Examples of Online Conversion Touchpoints

In the online environment, there are virtually limitless opportunities to create conversion touchpoints. A conversion touchpoint can be as simple as an email signature at the end of a memo, or an email capture form. Or it can be more complicated; for instance, the process of requesting a salesperson demonstrate a product for you, which may start with a contact form on a website.

Some great online examples of conversion touchpoints include:


The Adobe site demonstrates how the concept of above-the-fold versus below-the-fold content—originally conceived for newspaper publications—is relevant for websites, too. Adobe always makes a point of prominently displaying conversion-oriented content in the top third of its web page, because it’s what visitors see first when they load the site. For instance, in March 2019, the above-the-fold content includes a discount offer for an Adobe product, an eye-catching image to advertise a subscription service, and calls to action for two of Adobe’s most popular products. Adobe also places multiple calls to action (CTA) across its page, maximising opportunities for conversion using different words

Big Change

Big Change is an app that helps businesses manage their mobile workforce. It’s very much a hands-on, real-time service, and this is reflected in the touchpoints on display on the website. On the Big Change website, the first touchpoints you’re faced with are a video demonstration, a callback request, and a price schedule. This is perfect for the kind of service being offered here, because potential clients are likely to show up at the Big Change website with very specific questions, and those three prominently-signposted touchpoints provide exactly the information they need.

Vanity Fair

Another great example is the website of print and online publication Vanity Fair. The conversion points on the site are very subtle, in keeping with the publication’s more upmarket reputation. Even so, at the header section of the site are no fewer than four different touchpoints: a subscription offer, and follow requests for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This one is a great demonstration of how conversion touchpoints don’t need to be in-your-face in order to be successful. For sites like Vanity Fair, it’s more important that those touchpoints fit the magazine’s reputation and aesthetic.

Understand Conversions to Improve Your Own Conversion Processes

Conversions mean different things in different organisations, so it’s definitely worthwhile doing some homework to understand where your conversion touchpoints should be. Understanding conversions—and the various forms they come in—is vital to success, because with each different kind of conversion, there are different goals and success metrics to consider.