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Is One Number Enough?

This post will take you about 2 minutes to read.

I have the privilege of speaking with several business owners and marketers each week. These are people devoted to selling more online. One of the most popular questions I receive -

What’s a good conversion rate?

A tough question to answer. It’s like asking what’s a healthy weight? There is no one size fits all answer. A healthy weight for Shaquille O’Neal and Tina Fey is no where near similar. The same is true for business.

Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost - for support, not illumination.

Vin Scully

There is no silver bullet metric. One number never tells the whole story. Take a sports and business example.

In baseball, people measure everything. If you can record it, then there is a statistic for it. In 2013, UNC left-handed pitcher Tate Parrish appeared in 20 games out of the bullpen - the sixth most on the team. That’s 28% of the team’s 71 games. It seems like a lot.

But Parrish only threw 6.2 innings. That’s all of 20 outs. In comparison, there are 540 outs in 20 games and over 1900 outs in 71 games. While he pitched in 28% of the team’s games, he only had a hand in less than 1% of the team’s outs.

Because Parrish is a left-handed specialist and often just threw to one batter at a time. The “appearances” statistic is misleading on its own, but when you added in innings pitched - we can all see clearly now.

Two popular online businesses - let’s call them Sam’s Sandals Shop and Gary’s Golf Store.

Sam’s Sandals Shop has a 10% conversion rate. For every 100 visitors, 10 make a purchase. Gary’s Golf Store has a 3% conversion rate. For every 100 visitors, 3 make a purchase.

Which business is more successful? 10 is greater than 3. Sam’s Sandals Shop is more successful. But that’s not how it works.

The average order on Sam’s Sandals Shop is $5. In this example, he makes $50 off of 10 conversions from 100 visitors. Gary’s Golf Store has an average order value of $300. The 3% conversion rate nets Gary $900.

Gary’s Golf Store generates 500% more revenue than Sam’s Sandals Shop, despite have a conversion rate less than 7%. Conversion rate on its own is not just misleading, it’s careless. Because everyone would choose Gary’s Golf Store in this scenario.

So, what’s a good conversion rate? The best answer is a question. Because you can never judge anything off just one metric.

One is the loneliest statistic.