July 09, 2007
Blog Entry

New Research Reveals Consumers Delay 34+ Hours Between the Click and the Purchase

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

A new ScanAlert research report, revealed exclusively to MarketingSherpa for publication this morning, shows that consumers now delay on average 34 hours and 19 minutes from the time they first click to an ecommerce site and when they finally buy something there.

So, any marketer who measures conversions solely by click-to-immediate-sale is blind to the vast majority of his or her success.

But, the bigger news broken in this report is stunning trend data. You see, back in 2005 when the study was conducted for the first time, consumers took an average of 19 hours to covert. Over the past two years, that delay time has risen by 80%. So, more consumer comfort in shopping online equals *longer* conversion cycles. That's something I don't think any of us ever predicted would happen.

The problem seems to be that consumers are comparison shopping more, rather than buying at the first place they click to. However, as studies for the past seven years have concurred, price is rarely the biggest deciding factor. Instead items such as shipping speed, guarantees, on-site merchandising, merchant name-brand and, of course, site trustworthiness, all play a role.

Tomorrow, you'll be able to get the full report on this data from the folks at ScanAlert, who offer the HackerSafe service to ecommerce sites. It's worth a read. In the meantime, thanks to ScanAlert's Director of Marketing Communications Nigel Ravenhill, who slipped me a copy early, I've had time to consider its practical implications.

My top four tests you should consider in trying to win the delayed conversion wars are:

#1. Add "About Us" blurbs to every conceivable entry point

Nearly every site page you have now is a landing page for a click (especially if you have fabulous SEO.) However, by bypassing your homepage, consumers also bypass much of your warm-fuzzy content about who you are as a brand.

Merchant brand matters. Have you tried adding an "about us" blurb sidebar or extra copy block to all landing pages? Does the content in it emphasize why people should buy from you rather than someone else offering the exact same item? Do those reasons go beyond price alone? (I sure hope so.)

This is a good place to pop in all that feel-secure info, including various icons of trustworthiness and "as seen in" fame. It's also a great place to put any evidence of tangible offline existence, such as a photo of your flagship store or a real-life customer service person waiting to answer questions.

#2. Grab emails early on -- before the shopping cart

This is especially important if you don't have a truly famous household brand name. Don't rely on consumers' memory alone to get them to return to your site -- and, for gosh sakes, don't pay for another click for the same exact person.

Instead, consider testing a DHTML overlay offering an email opt-in offer (perhaps a % off coupon for first purchase to be sent via email) triggered to appear when first-time visitors add something to their carts, or when they spend more than three minutes examining a particular item.

If you wait to ask for email permission until the actual checkout, then you'll miss the opportunity to promote to fleeing shoppers.

#3. Content: give more product info than the competition does

If you rely on data feeds from manufacturers alone, chances are you don't have enough content on product pages to convert those "in consideration" shoppers. This type of thoughtful shopper is the perfect person to become engrossed in:

o Long copy -- as in more than 150 words, better yet, more than 400 words
o Tech specs, product details and trivia of all kinds
o Shipping data and in-stock data
o Reviews -- customers, "experts" and press
o Comparison charts with similar products

#4. Exclusive here-only bonuses

If you sell something that's truly indistinguishable from items available elsewhere, consider creating a line of "extras" to offer as free gift with purchase for your top-sellers.

Often, that extra can be nothing more than a PDF eBook on something related to the topic. (Top 100 Tips to Get the Most from Your Digital Camera; 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Gifts for Men; Easy Recipes; 25 Best Web Sites for New Parents; User Handbook for … etc.)

Depending on your product, the eBook doesn't need to be more than five pages long, as long as it has some entertainment or practical value.

Or you can toss in any extra your fulfillment department will let you come up with that extends your brand without raising shipping costs too much. This could range from an extra single long-stemmed rose to a bag of scented confetti or silly imprinted balloons.

My personal favorite? ArchieMcPhee.com will ship your order to you for free along with your NEW CAR when you order $1 million worth of items from their catalog or site.

Have you tested anything to improve those pesky delayed conversions? Let us know in the comments below ... and someday a Sherpa researcher may be calling you up!

Useful links related to this article

ScanAlert's home page, where, no doubt, a hotlink to the PDF of this study will appear on Tuesday, July 10:

My past blog on -- rather shocking -- data CareerBuilder's marketers discovered when they tracked delayed conversions:

Past Sherpa Case Study on a personable 'about us' page:
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