Online Shoppers Search, Click, and Bargain-Hunt More Before Making Purchases

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Online shoppers are getting smarter—and slower. Two years ago, consumers clicked on an online ad an average of 2.7 times before making a purchase. By early 2011, the average had risen by 15%, to 3.1 clicks. Consumers are also taking more time and are more likely to visit a competing site to check prices before pulling the trigger and making the purchase.

A study conducted by NetElixir, summed up by Retail Online Integration and the NY Times, shows that online consumers are increasingly likely to pause, evaluate, and shop around rather than indulging in quick impulse buy. The amount of time between first click and actual purchase rose 12% over the past two years, and whereas 30% of online shoppers visited a competitor’s site in early 2009, 52% of shoppers were scoping out the competition in early 2011.

What might this mean looking forward?

“Post-recession consumers are establishing a new normal in which impulse click-buying may be becoming a thing of the past,” said Udayan Bose , CEO of NetElixir, in a company press release.

I can’t see impulse buying disappearing—not online, not in person, no how. But, as consumers become more attuned to the games played by online retailers, and more aware of the fact that there’s almost always a better deal out there somewhere, they’ll become more careful with their “impulse click-buying.”

Can you be careful and impulsive at the same time? Relatively speaking, I suppose you can. When you have a closet full of jeans and you’re presented with a deal for discounted designer jeans, the truly impulsive shopper will click to buy right away. The careful shopper will take a few moments to shop for a better deal on these jeans elsewhere. And the wise consumer will just put on one of the pairs of jeans he or she already owns.