Consumers 'window shop' on the web too

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Study finds most of us visit a retailer's site the first time without buying anything

There's an old-school retail expression called “window shopping.” It's when a consumer walking down the street stops at a storefront to gaze at the products on display in the window.

Window shoppers may admire what they see, maybe even imagine owning it. But they don't go in the store to buy it. Instead, they continue down the street.

Today, there's an updated version of window shopping. It's when a consumer visits a retailer's website for the first time but leaves without buying anything. And it turns out almost all of us do it.

A study by Episerver, a digital commerce support firm, says 92% of consumers will go to a brand's website for the first time and leave without buying anything. The report, “Reimaging Commerce,” delved into the reasons for a first-time visit.

The researchers found 45% of consumers are simply looking for a specific product or service. One-quarter are shopping prices and other variables. More than one in ten are on a scouting mission, looking for details about the store.

Unlikely to make sale

The study covered more than 1,100 consumers to get an idea of what they are looking for when they visit particular retailers' sites. The takeaway is that unless the consumer is familiar with the site, the company is almost certainly not going to make a sale on the initial visit.

Nearly a third of consumers who actually plan to make a purchase when they visit a brand's website or mobile app almost never complete checkout. Drilling deeper, the researchers found the biggest turn-off is missing or incorrect information about the product they want.

“The content customers see and the experiences they have while interacting with a brand online are crucial to shaping their purchasing behavior, said James Norwood, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of strategy at Episerver. "While not every consumer visiting a brand's website is there to make a purchase, brands must consider how the experience of their websites -- from navigation to checkout -- supports engagement."

Of course, some consumers do make a purchase on their first visit to a brand's website. When they do the researchers found more than half will go directly to the product page. These consumers are less likely to consider other items that might be on sale and only 7% check out consumer reviews first.

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