Online Consumers Are Becoming More Sophisticated
A decades-old ad slogan says that "an educated consumer is our best customer," and based on the findings of a new report by online advertising vendor DoubleClick, the idea is true for online consumers, too. The report finds that they have become more educated and sophisticated over the past year, and that their shopping patterns are changing accordingly; whether that has made them better customers remains to be seen.
The study, "DoubleClick Q2 2004 E-Commerce Site Trend Report," analyzes results compiled from multichannel users of the company's SiteAdvance Web-analytics product, and represents in aggregate more than $1 billion in sales and more than 24 million shopping carts. The report's findings include increases in the use of search functions embedded on retail sites, and in the average size of purchases that result from those searches. According to Kathryn Koegel, director of research and industry development at DoubleClick, those changes "reflect a growing sophistication of consumers. They're taking in more content, but spending less time on each page of content--they're just becoming quicker."
However, the report also shows that overall, less than 10 percent of site visitors end up adding items to their shopping carts, and 42 percent of those
customers do not proceed to checkout. Perhaps most worrying of all, only 58 percent of the consumers who make it to the promised land of checkout actually click to complete the purchase.
The report is the first of DoubleClick's quarterly summaries to be released with year-over-year comparisons, and while some movement is positive--revenue per visit increased by 25 percent, for example, and overall conversion rates went up by 14 percent--other findings are more troubling. The percent of sales resulting from "previously carted items"--an indirect measure of how often consumers return to abandoned shopping carts--fell 26 percent.
Patti Freeman Evans, retail analyst at Jupiter Research, says the results of the DoubleClick report show that "consumers are using their shopping carts as holding bins," in place of the "wish lists" some retailers have established. "Consumers are shopping around and comparing," she says, and while she acknowledges that comparison-shopping sites like MySimon.com are great, "a lot of consumers don't use them."
Freeman Evans says the most surprising result of the DoubleClick study is that only 19 percent of visitors are making use of an on-site search function--even though that figure represents a 26 percent year-over-year improvement. The study shows that the average value of orders placed by visitors using search jumped 47 percent over last year, leading Freeman Evans to suggest an obvious area for retailers to target: "If you can get your search to be more user-friendly you might want to spend some time there."
Retailers, she says, need "to use search results as a proactive merchandising tool." With the keywords entered, retailers "have got some input from the consumer [and] can proactively generate a sale from that."
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