Repeat visitors 8 times more likely to make online purchase


Here are some interesting figures from a story on

Visitors returning to a web site are eight times more likely to make an online purchase than new visitors, according to new data from WebSideStory Inc. During the first three months of 2006, repeat visitors to business-to-consumer e-commerce sites had a conversion rate of 12.61%. That compares with a 1.55% conversion rate for new visitors.

This begs a couple of questions.

Here’s one of them:

When you consider those figures, and think about someone coming back eight times before completing a purchase, what went wrong the first seven times? How did we manage to fail them seven times in a row?

Granted, some people come to our sites simply to browse, without any immediate intention to buy. Others will be comparison shopping and find a better deal elsewhere.

But even so…why does it take eight visits before someone buys?

And here’s the next question:

If it does take multiple visits before someone is ready to buy, can you do to get those first-time visitors to come back seven more times?

– Do you try to collect at least their email addresses on that first visit?

– Do you email newsletters or special offers from time to time?

– Do you try to recover visitors who started to make a purchase during one of their first few visits, but didn’t complete the process?

– Do you provide 1-800 numbers for people who would like to buy, but are being held back by one or more unanswered questions?

– Do you respond to all customer and prospect inquiries quickly and courteously?

I think there are two things to be learned from these figures.

1. We need to review, test and analyze every pathway on our sites to identify where we are losing people’s confidence and why.

2. We need to do a much better job of making first-time visitors a lot more comfortable and confident about buying from our sites….right from the start. And make efforts to collect at least their email address as soon as possible.

Here are some research briefs that contain some relevant and useful data relating to these questions:

Shopping Cart Recovery

Optimizing Subscription Pathways

Profit from Inbound Customer Service

The Compounding Effect of Micro–Gains

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  1. Jon Schutz says

    It seems to me that your focus “why does it take eight visits before someone buys?” is not consistent with the original article that states “returning visitors are 8 times more likely to buy”. On the second visit, the visitor becomes a returning visitor, at which point they have a 12.6% chance of conversion, which coincidentally is about 1/8.

    I see the more likely profile that it would take 8 new visitors, who then return, to make 1 conversion, rather than the same visitor returning 8 times.

    I have seen data that suggests that the time between site entry and conversion is more or less Zipf distributed after the first 10 minutes or so, which pretty well reflects consumer behaviour. A small percentage (1.55% apparently) will convert on impulse, on the first visit, in a relatively short time. After that you get the customers who do some price comparisons etc on other sites and then convert the same hour or same day. Then a smaller number of customers come back to the site in a day or two, and so on. As an example, for two sites in two different industries – on the first site 76% of transactions in a 90 day measurement period occur within 1 hour, 82% within 1 day, 88% within 1 week; on the second site, only 40% transact within 1 day and 60% within 1 week. By far the majority of transactions occurred on the second visit.

    Of course, I agree that getting visitors to return is key to conversion, but 8 times? I don’t think so.

  2. David Morgan says

    Although I agree with a lot of the comment Jon Schutz has already posted I suggest a different reason why returning visitors are 8 times more likely to purchase.

    When I need to purchase an item, lets say, “Item X”. I will find websites which sell the item, compare the prices / models / other variables and decide which website offers the best solution for my purchase of “Item X”. If I then return to a website it will be because I liked the site and have either decided to purchase from that site OR have at least liked the site enough from my first visit to keep it in consideration for “Item X” or future purchases.

    If anything i think the fact that a returning visitor is 8 times more likely to purchase than a new visitor shows that web users are searching multiple sites when making a purchase to get themselves the best value.

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