Online merchants convert an average of 2%-3% of their site visitors into buyers, according to the e-tailing group’s "Sixth Annual Merchant Survey."

That’s about the same as last year. And the year before that.

The group says that driving the right customers to sites and increasing sales and retention all require more targeted tactics every year. It points to analytics and data mining as the way to make this happen. conducts a similar annual survey with Forrester Research called "The State of Retailing Online." Conversion rates in that study also average about 2%-3%.

These are averages. What about those who do better?

A Nielsen//NetRatings report called "MegaView Online Retail" cited in Internet Retailer listed the top 10 US retail e-commerce sites in terms of conversion. Every site had a greater than 15% conversion rate, and nearly 25% of visitors to top site bought something.

eMarketer Senior Analyst Jeffrey Grau says that retailers with industry-leading conversion rates are doing more than just looking at numbers.

"Online retailers who go beyond using traditional Web analytics data to truly understand their customers’ intentions, perceptions and concerns will be rewarded with higher conversion rates," he says.

Via eMarketer