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Although cautious online shoppers take longer to make purchases, they are also ultimately more likely to be converted to sales, according to [pdf] a new white paper from internet security technology provider McAfee.

Most Online Shoppers Wait More than One Day
The findings of “Digital Window Shopping: The Long Journey to Buy” indicate that the average delay between first visit to a site and final purchase was 33 hours and 54 minutes. This figure is little changed from 2007, when McAfee research indicates the average delay was 34 hours and 16 minutes.

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The distribution of purchase delay times shows that a combined roughly 54% of online shoppers wait between 12 hours and two days to make a purchase after initially receiving a cookie from an e-commerce site. Only about 12% of total online shoppers wait less than 12 hours, while close to a combined 33% wait longer than two days. In addition, a combined 64.6% of online shoppers fall into what McAfee terms the “cautious shopper” category, those who wait one day or longer to make a purchase after an initial site visit.

Delays Dramatically Improve Conversion Rate
The longer an online shopper waits to make a purchase, the higher their conversion rate. On average, the online shopper conversion rate is a little less than 11%. Among shoppers who make a purchase less than 12 hours after initial site visit, this rate drops to 9%. Once a shopper hits the one-to-two-day wait range, their conversion rate creeps above the average to reach exactly 11%. Shoppers who wait more than five days to make an online purchase have a conversion rate of almost 13%.

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Security Trustmarks Improve Sales Conversions
On average, sales conversions were 10.85% higher for shoppers who were shown the McAfee Secure trustmark. In other words, if a control group of 1,000 shoppers who did not see the trustmark made 100 purchases, the group of 1,000 who saw the trustmark made just fewer than 111 purchases.

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Shoppers who delayed their purchases the longest were even more responsive to security trustmarks from McAfee SECURE service. For example, the sales conversions rate of shoppers who delayed by more than five days was 12.77%, compared to the overall average improvement of 10.85%.

Looked at another way, the sales conversion rates of the most cautious consumers (with delays greater than five days) were 17.7% higher than the average result from exposure to the trustmark. By contrast, shoppers who purchased relatively quickly in a day or less converted 4% better when exposed to
the trustmark, but below the overall average improvement.

Reasons for Delay
McAfee reports the following common reasons an online shopper delays a purchase:

  • Brand recognition – Merchants with higher brand recognition will experience shorter purchase delays than lesser-known brands, in part due to the comfort level of the consumer.
  • Demographics/experience – More experienced online shoppers are more comfortable with the e-commerce experience, from checkout procedure knowledge to security savviness, and will click “buy” more quickly than a shopper new to e-tailing. These veterans are often, but not always, on the younger side.
  • Competitors – Merchants who sell in a marketplace crowded with close competitors will wait longer to see a sale as consumers shop for similar product by price and convenience. By contrast, merchants offering unique or hard to find items will experience quicker purchase decisions.
  • Price – Higher-priced items or high purchase value orders will tend to take longer to complete as shoppers think hard about affordability, especially during times of economic difficulty.
  • Novelty – New services or products, especially if they are too pricey to “try on a whim,” will take longer to get to “yes.”

Retail E-commerce Sales Rise in Q4 ’09
Increased buyer caution may be translating into higher retail e-commerce sales totals. US retail e-commerce sales totaled $39 billion in Q4 2009, a 2% increase from $38.1 billion in Q3 2009, according to comScore.

Retail e-commerce sales dropped 7% in Q3 2009, 9% in Q2 2009, and 10% in Q1 2009. For the entire year, retail e-commerce sales remained flat at $130 billion, buoyed by the relatively strong fourth quarter performance.

About the Data: McAfee analyzed the shopping behavior of more than 163 million online visitors and the almost 2.6 million purchases they made during a two-year period.

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