Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Working With "Digital Window Shoppers"

Added on by Tom Webster.

Jason Falls alerted me this morning to a very cool factoid from a recent McAfee SECURE study (details on Marketing Forecast) about "digital window shopping." Apparently, after monitoring the transactional behavior of 163 million consumers, the McAfee study found that the average consumer waits two days between first visiting a retail site and actually making a purchase. The study offers a variety of reasons for this, including comparison shopping, price sensitivity to shipping costs, and delaying purchases to look for coupon codes. A PayPal/comScore study also cited in this article offered a number of suggestions to alter these "bargain-seeking" behaviors, including offering coupon codes in the shopping cart, offering price guarantees and dynamically-generated shipping rates. All great suggestions. However, as a student of that big ole' middle of the bell curve, I wonder if a parallel track to pursue would be not to change this behavior (there is only so far an average consumer will trust any one site) but to accept it, and work with it. For example, if (and only if) you are going to offer a price guarantee, why not position your shopping cart as a "holding area," and promote to customers who fail to immediately complete a purchase that you will "hold" the purchase for up to, oh, let's say two days, while you go out and gather competing prices to display right in the cart? It works for Progressive Insurance, and it might work for you. Two days seems not only reasonable, in light of the McAfee data, but also gives consumers a subtle (though unenforceable) "deadline" on their purchase--after all, two days is an average, which if you think about all of the near-immediate transactions included in that average, means there are some really reluctant purchasers out there.

Of course, if you are not going to offer a price guarantee, this may not be the best idea. But there are still probably a lot of ways you could work with digital window shoppers with segmented messaging that acknowledges what these reluctant shoppers are likely doing with those 2 days (and again, given the sheer number of likely immediate purchases, I have to assume there is a considerable skew to this average) and provides them with resources to consult during their consideration phase. Even if you aren't a discounter, a well-timed email announcing that there is a "new, low price" on an item in a stored cart couldn't hurt. I'm no retailer, however--what are your ideas? How can retail sites work with digital window shopping instead of trying to change the behavior? Love to hear your thoughts!