The report, created by a security service called ScanAlert and based on about 128 million visitors to 470 Web sites, makes the reasonable conclusion that the increase is based overwhelmingly on the increase in the number of e-commerce sites today. In theory, this allows for much more extensive-and time-consuming-comparison shopping.
Comparison shopping is certainly a very good possibility, but as the novelty of e-commerce purchases becomes more of a distant memory for most, other more innocuous options are also possible.
Customers today, for example, are more comfortable with virtual shopping carts and those shopping carts are also becoming more sophisticated. Combined, this makes many consumers much more comfortable with throwing items-of-interest into the shopping cart, confident that the items will be waiting for them whenever they have the time to return.
In other words, a visit followed by a several-day absence doesnt necessarily mean the consumer was visiting rivals. Indeed, the report specifically applauds such consumer thinking.
"Retailers should think of shopping carts as convenient shopping tools, and encourage shoppers to save their searches for future return visits. Of course, merchants might have to work with cart developers to create this functionality," the report said. "Still, saved search functionality where returning purchasers can easily pick up where they left off would save more of these types of purchases. Amazon's 30-day cookie recreated the author's two-day old search for a heart rate monitor but the experience could have been much more comprehensive (and more likely produced a sale) if a saved search and [an] e-mail reminder system had also been used."
Other possibilities not addressed in the report include the possibility-raised in other reports-that the average cost of products purchased has been increasing, another hint of the slowly increasing consumer comfort level. Its not surprising that consumers would want to take more time-to consult with a spouse, to see if they get that hoped-for bonus, to see if that big sale really does come through-as they are considering more expensive items.
The evaluated sites represented a handful of major brands-including Lillian Vernon, PetSmart, ShopNBC, U-Haul, FTD, National Geographic, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Marvel Comics and Vermont Teddy Bear Company-to an eclectic mix of Web sites for smaller retailers, including GunDogSupply, Mr.Beer, Adult Toy Chest and Christian Cinema. (Ill resist wondering if those last two sites do a lot of business with each other.)
Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com.
To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here.