Average eCommerce Session Duration: Implications

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Wolfgang Digital analyzed 130 million website sessions, over €330 million in online revenue, and calculated the average session duration (time on site) for all of retail (e-commerce) at 2 minutes and 57 seconds. (Source)

To put this is in perspective their 2019 report had the average session duration for all of ecommerce at 3 minutes 1 second. This means the average time on site is going down year over year.

If you’re an eCommerce retailer this session duration (time on site) trend is bad news. You’re at a fork in the road.

Average eCommerce Session Duration
Crossroads

Implication

Think about the product you sell on your site. Maybe it’s a dog wheelchair …

Dog wheelchair. Image taken from HandciappedPets.com
Dog wheelchair. Image taken from HandciappedPets.com

… maybe it’s a room purifier or a compression sock made for people with diabetes.

My point is that of you are an ecommerce business selling a technical product there is no way you are converting a new visitor in under 2 minutes.

What not to do

I’m a marketer so I know how marketers behave. When we are giving a big marketing challenge we pump up the marketing problem. If we know our ecommerce average time on site is down we try and cram as much as possible into the 2 minutes and 57 seconds that are available to us. We’re speed talking in hopes that it’ll covert the shopper.

It takes 9 months to deliver a baby. You can’t expect 9 women to do it in one month.

Similarly, your buyer has a buying cycle (how long it takes them to go from Awareness, to Interest, to Desire, to finally Action). You can try but you can’t short-circuit this process.

What to do?

The statistic says that the average session duration for an ecommerce site is 2 minutes and 57 minutes, it doesn’t say we can’t have more time. So, let’s get more facetime with our buyer.

Here’s the strategy: let them consume our sales pitch at their own pace. At strategic locations show them action buttons (we explain action buttons in this article). The purpose of an action button is to drive engagement with the user. To either understand the struggling moment of a shopper or engage them in a conversation.

In this specific example (where we’re trying to increase session duration) our goal is get the user right when they are about to exit our sales pitch.

So our action button, which is placed midway through the sales pitch, will say:

Just researching today? [Yes] [I’m looking to buy today]

If someone clicks [I’m looking to buy today] just get out of the way. But if someone says [Yes] let’s add them to our mailing list. Not our general newsletter list, that’s garbage, I’m talking about a mailing list specifically designed to sell this product.

This is a big deal

As we’ve established we can’t expect to convert the shopper in under 3 minutes. But if we can get their email address and continue the conversation then we can have a lot more time (like 3x more time to convert them).

Imagine how much more effective you would be if you had 10 minutes with your potential buyer versus a measly 3? Oh man, that would be the dream.

Ok, so we have their email address, now what?

If you send these buyers content that influences their buyer psychology you’re going to convert them. If you send them your generic marketing messages you would have wasted the 10 minutes, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Getting an opportunity like this and squandering it.

Notes:

  • We like to send 4 emails to convince and convert the shopper.
  • Each email should ratchet up the desire. We need to convert these shoppers.
  • We like to set 2 days between each send. But you can alter this based on your product.

Here are possible topic ideas for the first 3 emails.

Pick one topic for each email:

  • Talk about the product and establish why it’s the best in the world for the price. Share some surprising details related to your product. If you are selling an air purifier say, “Did you know indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality?” Shoppers are visual animals, show them visuals to highlight key features.
  • Introduce the company. Talk about the exhaustive research and development you did to develop this product. How you constantly tweaked it and made it better till you got it just right. How your dream to solve a real problem, not just make more money. Shoppers find expertise sexy. Show them you’re an expert. Shoppers root for people who beat the odds. Let your buyers know you are likable.
  • Show customer stories.
  • Talk about the inferior alternatives. People like knowing they have stumbled into something rare.

More

  • Your biggest competitor aren’t competing brands, it’s inertia. The shopper always has the option to do nothing. They need motivation to beak habit. But here’s the thing: this shopper came to your site and gave you their personal email address. So they clearly want the product. But they’re also lazy so you need to give them the psychological push to pull the trigger. That’s what this email is for.
  • Justify price. Talk about the incredible value for money. Talk about your satisfaction guarantee.
  • Draw up a list of negative questions that the shopper can have. Maybe shipping isn’t free, so explain why you charge for shipping. Maybe a competitor product has a feature that your model doesn’t, explain why you left this feature out. Take all these questions and rebuttals and make them into one email.
  • Talk about post-purchase support. The shopper isn’t just concerned about buying the product, they’re thinking about what happens when they buy and they have questions.

Study the list above and decide which 3 you want to pick for your first 3 emails.

Email 4

For email 4 we’ll simply ask the buyer:

Hi, Steve.

I created the educational series just for you. Our goal was to improve your understanding of [product category].

Recap of what we covered in our series:

  • Email 1 talked about [blah blah blah] (link to email)
  • Email 2 talked about [blah blah blah] (link to email)
  • Email 3 talked about [blah blah blah] (link to email)

I have one job, to create content that answers your questions. And this is why this next part really matters:

Did these 3 emails give you all the answers you were looking for when you signed up 6 days ago? Be brutally honest:

[Yes] [No]

When people click either of the buttons take them to a page on your site to collect more feedback.

Rinse and repeat

Your first sequence is likely going to suck. You might notice people don’t open email 2 because the subject didn’t have enough of a hook. Or you might find most people are buying by email 2, this could indicate you need to speed up the sequence. You might get terrible feedback in email 4. That’s ok. We have had worse feedback.

But the good news is that you take these learnings and make the email sequence better.

Measuring ROI

In the end, all roads lead to, return on investment, as they should. I measure effectiveness of this campaign by first looking at the original look-to-book ration for the product page. Look-to-book ratio is:

Look-to-book ratio = # of unique visitors to the product page / # of unique unique units sold for that product.

It’s expressed as a ration like, 18:1. That means for every 18 unique visitors to this particular product page we sell 1 unit of that product.

If adding our email series is improving this ratio to 12:1 we know it’s working.

So this, my friends, is how you can improve conversion rates in a world where average eCommerce session durations are going down.

A little about us

Thank you for reading this rather long article. We hope we answered your ecommerce session duration questions. We are Frictionless Commerce and over the last 11 years, we’ve thought about just one thing: how do we get online shoppers to convert? We’re fascinated by buyer psychology. Once we’ve understood how your site visitor thinks we use our 9 point copywriting process to convince and convert them.

If you’re on LinkedIn much you can should definitely connect with me. I’m posting ecommerce conversion ideas every day, multiple times a day.

Other buyer psychology-based eCommerce conversion ideas


If you liked this article you’ll love our other ideas:

“Is My Marketing Working?” A Unique Product Page Design Idea

Price Insensitivity Priming

Product Reviews & Buyer Psychology

Making Long-Form Content Mobile Friendly

Personalized Product Description

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