Online shoppers take longer than ever to make purchase decisions, according to ScanAlert research released in July. The research shows the average delay between customers' first visit to a Web site and their first purchase has increased 80 percent since 2005, from 19 to 34 hours. These site visits yielded an average conversion rate of 2.07 percent. Based on over 480 tests by 470 business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) organizations, over 57 percent of shoppers take over one hour to make their purchase decision.

Since online purchasers tend to be goal-oriented, this behavior seems surprising. But it's totally consistent with the high shopping cart abandonment rates online marketers have been noting for years. Many e-commerce sites have found their customers often use shopping carts as a convenient place to store items they're considering purchasing.

From a marketing perspective, it's important to ensure customers get the information they need to aid their purchase decision and they can complete their purchases with minimum hassle when they're ready to buy. It's also important to facilitate sharing information with others who are involved with or may influence the purchase decision.

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