Length of sales cycle, your web site, and web analytics

The Google Retail Advertising Blog recently posted sales cycle statistics for a variety of consumer products. At the low end, shoppers took an average of 7 days to purchase pet supplies, while they took 16 days for electronics. The data did not include purchases larger than home appliances like cars or homes which presumably take much longer. Similarly large business purchases can take weeks, months, sometimes even years.

The delay between initial visit and final purchase presents two significant challenges. First, it reduces the chances that a purchase will be made at your site, or at all. Second, it complicates measuring the results of advertising programs because the same person may not be the final buyer, or the delay may result in elimination of cookies that enable tracking.

You can do several things on your website to mitigate the negative effects of delayed purchase decisions:

  • Remember shopping carts and wish lists without requiring a login each time or at all.
  • Provide links to enable easy sharing product pages. This encourages bookmarking, sharing of links with others, encourages revisits, and (assuming URLs include session IDs) may enable measurement of advertising results.
  • Even better than links, provide a quick “share this” form that allows users to enter their email address and the recipients so that you can remind them at some later time if now purchase has been made.
  • Offer the ability to subscribe to announcements about a particular product or all products in general.
  • Suggest similar and related products to position yourself as the definitive resource for your products.
  • Offer additional information by email. Go beyond basic product descriptions which should already be on your site.

To enable measurement across delays, your site should record the source of each visit for each customer, whether they make an initial purchase or not. Also don’t rely solely on cookies as these will be deleted by a percentage of your users in between visits to your site.

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