Fact: Users take their time purchasing

Paul Boag

There is nothing like cold hard facts. For years, most of us that work with ecommerce sites have known that users do not always purchase on their first visit. Now we have the facts to back it up… enter clever boffin Dr. Alan Rimm-Kaufman.

Dr. Alan Rimm-Kaufman from the Rimm-Kaufman Group recently tracked one million clicks (boy that must have been fun!) on search ads on Google and Yahoo. His results showed some interesting stuff:

  • 50% of the conversions occurred within 28 minutes
  • 75% of the conversions had occurred within 24 hours
  • 95% of the conversions had occurred within 12 days
  • The remaining 5% took as long as four weeks after the initial click

Unsurprisingly the larger the value of goods being purchased, the greater the delay to conversion. For items costing less than $100, 90% of orders were received within eleven days. For items costing more than $300, it took eighteen days to reach that level.

This is because people needed time to view the competition and consider their choice before purchasing.

Design implications

Jakob Neilsen, who commented on this report, identified a number of design implications worth taking into account:

  • If you use cookies to track users make sure you set an expiry date of at least 90 days otherwise you will loose track of some conversions.
  • Users will often need to visit your site multiple times before making a purchase so make sure you have provided incentives to keep them coming back.
  • Don’t make premature demands on users who aren’t ready to buy. For example, don’t require registration to see a demo.
  • Make sure that a users shopping cart is available across multiple visits.
  • Retain the special landing pages for search ads and other campaigns for at least three months after the campaign ends.

Jakob concludes with this:

In general, the slow tail tells you that not all users are ready to commit on the spot. Don’t rush them. Let users browse your site and gradually learn about your products, while making it easy for them to buy during future visits.

Good advice that I would encourage all to stick with.