Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail Order Association


New Report Shows Online Consumers Window Shopping for Days Before Buying

A new online shopping report that tracked more than 8 million consumers shows that they often
spend several days digitally window shopping before making a purchase. The average time delay
between a consumer's first visit to a Web site and their first purchase was just over 19 hours,
with over 20% of shoppers delaying their buy decision for more than three days.

About one-third (35%) of shoppers took more than 12 hours to make a buy decision.
Twenty-one percent took more than three days, with 14% of these "cautious shoppers"
taking more than one week to decide where to buy.

The extent to which digital window shopping has become commonplace is clearly revealed by
data tracking the buying behavior of more than 8 million online shoppers who visited 140 Web
sites between June 2004 and March 2005. Participating retailers included GSI Commerce,
Ritz Camera, and Tiger Direct. The behavior was recorded during individual A/B split tests
sites ran to evaluate ScanAlert's HACKER SAFE certification mark affect on sales conversion

"Consumers abandon shopping carts with an ease that frustrates and often confuses online
retailers," noted report author Ken Leonard, CEO, ScanAlert. "Retailers must understand,
however, that almost half of all online purchases are from shoppers who leave a site after the
first visit, and return -- even days later -- to buy."

The Web is a "catalog of catalogs." Today's online shoppers typically visit multiple sites, loading
items into shopping carts as a convenient way to compare total costs, including shipping charges.
The return-to-buy decision seems to be based on two general categories: price/availability and
safety/trust. The length of time from initial visit to actual purchase measured during the tests
shows that consumers do a great deal of evaluation in these categories before deciding where
to buy. The delay varied from site to site depending on customer demographics, brand
recognition, the number of competitors online, and average product price.

Average Time from First Visit to Purchase

     50% took more than 1 hour     21% took more than three days
     40% took more than 3 hours    14% took more than one week
     35% took more than 12 hours   4% took more than two weeks
     28% took more than one day

                      Sample Test Results

Time Delay  Competition  Product Description  Observations

 8 hr. 50 min.  Low   Infant products          Single SKU. Unique product.
10 hr. 3 min.   Low   Wholesale building       Sells largely to small
                       supplies                 contractors.
14 hr. 51 min.  Med   Retail pharmacy          Low-priced products. Repeat
                                                prescription buyers.
15 hr. 20 min.  Med   Specialty musical        Niche market.
                       instruments              Limited number of sellers.
18 hr. 33 min.  Med   High-performance         Sells to primarily
                       auto parts               male customer database.
20 hr. 25 min.  High  Sporting goods           Very competitive market
                                                focused on branded footwear
                                                and apparel items.
21 hr. 4 min.   Med   Bicycling products       Sells on price. Competitive
                       and accessories          market with small number of
                                                large retailers and
24 hr. 15 min.  Med   Metalworking tools       Niche market. High number
                       and supplies             of repeat buyers from an
                                                educated demographic.
24 hr. 37 min.  Med   Tools and                Specialized products sold to
                       hardware goods           those who typically watch
                                                PBS' New Yankee Workshop
24 hr. 51 min.  High  Home security products   Non-exclusive product SKUs.
25 hr. 53 min.  High  Logo'ed lapel pins       Low priced and widely
25 hr. 53 min.  High  PC games                 Highly competitive,
                                                price-conscious market.
26 hr. 45 min.  High  Gourmet health foods,    Products available on many
                       nutritional supplements  Web sites.
27 hr. 38 min.  High  Marine parts and         New and used parts and
                       accessories              accessories sold through
                                                online parts database.
28 hr. 37 min.  High  Luxury personal items    High price point and selling
                                                to a typically risk-
                                                averse demographic.
59 hr. 40 min.  Very  Consumer electronics     Highly competitive, price-
                High                            conscious market. Shopping
                                                search engines critical to
                                                driving traffic in this

Summary and Recommendations

ScanAlert's findings regarding shopping behavior point to both motivators and barriers to online
shopping. They clearly indicate that for those who comparison shop the most, trust factors can act
as strong motivators when present. Conversely, they can also be strong barriers when absent.
Contrary to the popular notion, these factors can be the deciding factor for a large portion of shoppers.

Two key recommendations for converting shoppers into buyers are: creating a comfort zone for
comparison shoppers, and moving the focus from shopping cart abandonment to site abandonment.
Site designers need to make the shopping experience more informative, and the sense of safety more
 "memorable," in order to influence those who "abandon" their carts not to completely abandon the
site later when it comes to deciding where to buy.

"Shopping cart abandonment is simply the act of moving on to the next comparison," Leonard
added. "Carts must therefore become convenient shopping tools -- encouraging shoppers to return
and buy. Saved search functionality, where returning purchasers can easily pick up where they left
off, is critical to saving more of these types of purchases."

Obtaining a Copy of the Report

Anyone wishing to receive a copy of the report can email a request to

About ScanAlert, Inc.

Headquartered in Napa, CA, ScanAlert is the world's largest Web site security certification company, protecting over 60,000 Web sites in 30 countries. ScanAlert conducts rigorous daily security audits that make Web sites secure from hackers and then certifies it to their visitors with a HACKER SAFEŽ certification mark. HACKER SAFE certification protects millions of shoppers every. For more information, please visit


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