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Online Shoppers: Inside Their Browsing Behavior


Ecommerce terms like “browsing,” “checkout” and “shopping cart” might make you think that the online shopping process is just like the brick-and-mortar shopping process. In fact, it’s much different, as a recent report by Hooklogic reveals. The report surveyed consumers who had shopped online in the past three months to explore how online shoppers browse and buy. Here’s what you need to know:

When consumers shop offline, they make many of their decisions before they ever go into a store. Typically, consumers know what they want to buy (for example, running shoes), decide what store to visit, then browse the selection and, in many cases, buy.

But when consumers shop online, it’s a very different process. Some 40 percent of online shoppers don’t even have a specific product category in mind when they start browsing. They’re more likely to skip from website to website as they browse...and browse. They might fill up a shopping cart on one site, abandon it and head to another site, then start all over again on a different device. They might buy online...or end up heading out to a store. No wonder that on average, fewer than 3 percent of online browsers actually make a purchase!

The average online shopper visits 2.7 sites when making a purchase. Three in 10 shoppers visit only one website; over 50 percent visit two or three sites and 11 percent visit four or more.

Even after a consumer finds a product, half will compare similar products on the same retail website, while another 25 percent will compare products on different retail sites, and 20 percent put products in their carts to save them, but don’t buy immediately.

Online browsing presents significant opportunity for online retailers to capture customers. Some 70 percent of consumers browse retail websites at least once a month, 20 percent browse weekly, and nearly 10 percent buy weekly.

The report identified two kinds of purchases: “spontaneous,” where the customer decides to buy something and completes the purchase in one to two hours, and “considered,” where the customer spends one to three days considering and researching the purchase. As you can see, even “considered” purchases that involve lots of online research, comparison shopping and price checking, the overall time to purchase is less than two days. (The one exception: In major purchase categories such as electronics, consumers often start researching weeks or months before they actually buy.)

What do these results mean to you?

  • Speed is of the essence. You don’t have much time to grab that browsing consumer and turn him or her into a buyer.
  • Use online advertising and SEO to grab customers who are searching for what you sell. If your search results are high enough or your online ad is tempting enough, you could get them to your site.
  • Reach out. Use email automation to reach out to customers with abandoned shopping carts and remind them of their wares. Use online chat to pop up and offer to answer questions when you see customers browsing. Don’t wait too long—you may only have a few hours before the customer makes the decision.