Buyers waiting longer before purchasing online

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The average time delay between a consumer's first visit to a Web site and the time of purchase has increased since 2005, according to a new study by ScanAlert. "Digital Window Shopping: The Long Delay Before Buying" found that shoppers this year are taking an average of 34 hours and 19 minutes between browsing and purchasing, up a day and a half from the 2005 average of 19 hours.

"I think it comes down to options," said said Nigel Ravenhill, director of marketing communications at ScanAlert Inc. "There are so many options when you are shopping online that people are shopping around more before they purchase."

The report aggregated data from 480 A/B tests run by 470 Web sites, including Lillian Vernon, See's Candies and Petco, between May 1, 2005 and May 1, 2007. The report also shows that the 2,652,795 aggregate sales generated by 128,264,941 visitors produced an average site conversion of just 2.07 percent.

The average time delay in 2007 versus 2005 found that delays are increasing for all time periods. For example, those transactions that took less than an hour to close went up by 14 percent, those taking three days to purchase went up by 23 percent and those purchases that took two weeks from the initial Web browsing went up by half.

Time delays between initial site visit and purchase change based on the particular industry vertical. Floral purchasing took the least amount of time with an average of 3:31 hours. Gourmet foods took longer with an average of 19:06 hours between shopping and purchase. Airline travel took a staggering 83:18 hour average, and aquarium supplies took the highest with 92:50 hours between browsing and purchasing.

The results suggest that a new way of thinking about measurement is needed.

"It is difficult to measure your pay-per-click ROI on a daily basis if customers are coming back a few days later to make a purchase," Ravenhill said. "There needs to be a more expansive view and the industry may need to come up with a new metric," he added.

In addition, marketers should be less worried about an abandoned cart - since consumers are likely to take their time - and more worried about a customer not returning.

"The site-abandonment issue is bigger than the shopping-cart abandonment issue, because if people are not coming back to your site then they are not going to buy from you," Ravenhill said.

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