Online Shoppers Take Their Time

Online shoppers take longer than ever to make purchase decisions, according to ScanAlert research released in July. The research shows the average delay between customers’ first visit to a Web site and their first purchase has increased 80 percent since 2005, from 19 to 34 hours. These site visits yielded an average conversion rate of 2.07 percent. Based on over 480 tests by 470 business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) organizations, over 57 percent of shoppers take over one hour to make their purchase decision.

Since online purchasers tend to be goal-oriented, this behavior seems surprising. But it’s totally consistent with the high shopping cart abandonment rates online marketers have been noting for years. Many e-commerce sites have found their customers often use shopping carts as a convenient place to store items they’re considering purchasing.

What Does Delayed Purchasing Mean for Marketers?

From a marketing perspective, it’s important to ensure customers get the information they need to aid their purchase decision and they can complete their purchases with minimum hassle when they’re ready to buy. It’s also important to facilitate sharing information with others who are involved with or may influence the purchase decision.

Here are five steps to help customers choose to buy your offerings:

  • Extend cookies to 30 days. Prospective shoppers will find the merchandise they were considering in their shopping carts when they return to your site. While this may seem obvious, there are e-tailers whose cookies expire sooner. If customers have spent time putting your product in a shopping cart, they don’t want to go through the process again!
  • Make related product easy to find. To this end, include:
    • A search box, so users can refine their research or locate another product

    • Meaningful site navigation, either left hand or horizontal
    • Related product to cross sell
    • List of bestsellers to increase sales
  • Answer shoppers’ questions. Since customers may have issues regarding your product or site, make sure they can get questions answered in a reassuring way. Be prepared to take action if these queries lead to an immediate desire to purchase. Include:
    • An FAQ for popular topics.

    • A toll-free number for customer service.
    • An e-mail contact that’s answered within a reasonable time. Manage customer expectations with an autoresponder.
    • Live chat, if available.
    • A physical address with a link to maps, where appropriate.
  • Help customers share information. This will aid in the shopping decision. To this end, have:
    • A bookmark-this-site link or button so users can find it later.

    • E-mail-a-friend functionality. Make sure e-mail includes relevant product information, a product picture if possible, a URL, an e-mail contact address with a link, and a toll-free number and retail address, where applicable. Remember, users may be sending this information to themselves as a reminder.
    • Print-this-page button. Make sure the printed page has a URL that’s easy to type, along with your toll-free number, e-mail contact, and physical address. Customers may use this printout to order. For tracking, use a special e-mail address and toll-free number.
    • IM and social bookmarking options.
  • Enhance the shopping experience. You’ll meet the needs of a variety of buyers. Among the options are:
    • Give customers a “Buy Now!” button to purchase the merchandise directly.

    • Have a “Save My Shopping Cart” option that doesn’t require lengthy registration. Test asking for just an e-mail address to allow you to send an e-mail reminder.
    • Allow customers to create a wish list. People tend to use these lists for gift-type products, not everyday items.
    • Include e-mail newsletter and RSS feed registration for future promotions.
    • Use trust marks like “Hacker Safe” early in the process. According to Nigel Ravenhill, ScanAlert’s director of marketing communications, “The best placement to maximize conversion lift is in the upper corner of the left navigation column about two inches from the top, near the search box.
  • Measuring Delayed Shopping

    Delayed shopping can affect your tracking, particularly on paid search marketing effectiveness and shopping cart abandonment. It can be difficult to track sales back to the initial engagement. To this end, it’s important to consider this goal when setting up customer contact points to collect information that aids your post sale analytics. Here are some suggestions:

  • Incorporate appropriate tracking into the sales process. Plan your marketing promotions with an understanding of your business goals so you can incorporate and collect useful metrics. This includes ensuring your cookies last 30 days to monitor return visitors.
  • Track conversion rates and time to successful conversion. See how your site measures up to this current research, and monitor your trends over time.
  • Extend paid search tracking to monitor delayed purchases. Given paid search continues to increase in cost, it’s critical to ensure you’ve captured all postponed sales from the initial investment. (Note: Customers who initially used paid search to find your site may use it again to return. This is also important to track.)
  • Monitor shopping cart abandonment. By taking a longer, lagged view of purchase conversion, assess whether your site has a lower shopping cart abandonment rate than it first appears.
  • When prospective shoppers visit your site looking for a product, they may not be ready to buy. You must facilitate their ability to find more information about the product they’re looking for (as well as related items), to share their research, to easily find your site again, and to quickly purchase the product when they’re finally ready.

    When a visitor leaves your site, the clock is ticking. Your prospect may buy from your competitor if you didn’t make the extra effort to close the deal.

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