Research has identified that just over 1% of an ecommerce site’s users contribute 40% of its revenue.

By analysing 950m page views from more than 123m website visits, the research found that whilst this 1.06% of total visitors generate four tenths of a site’s income, there are a further 20% of site visitors who will visit regularly, but never make a purchase.

So what are the traits of these very different consumers and how can you use this information to convince them to shop more, not less?

Sofa surfers

17% of website users visit regularly, but never purchase. Their regular viewing times of 9am to 11am and 1pm to 5pm suggest that they might be stay-at-home mums or non-working individuals with plenty of time on their hands to surf their day away.

They are twice as likely as your average site visitor to be surfing on an Apple device using the Safari browser and to be using a tablet. Geographically, these users tend to come from urban areas, although Londoners don’t seem to be as prone as others to this behaviour.

Big spenders

This core group of loyal website fans make up just 0.03% of total users but create 30% of revenue  Intensely loyal to their chosen retailer, they visit their preferred sites 300 times more often than the average user.

They’re 20% more likely than the average to be using a tablet, but are 10 times less likely to be visiting via a mobile. These users shop between 1pm and 3pm during the day, but will also spend up to 20 times longer than the average user surfing between midnight at 4am.

These users are 23% less likely than the average visitor to come from Central London but are over-represented in the city’s suburbs, in particular in Ealing, where more than twice the average number reside.

Basket cases

A strange retail breed, the basket case comes to a site and fills their shopping basket but never completes their purchase.

They only represent 2.46% of users, but generate no revenue for the retailer. They tend to use Google’s Chrome browser, which has a younger user base that’s happy to shop around, perhaps explaining their bizarre on-site behaviour.  

These users come from the Midlands and North West, particularly from Birmingham, with 1.5 times the expected number of visitors coming from that area. They’re also largely nocturnal, with their web usage focused around 7.00pm-3.00am.

Speedy shoppers

Making up 1.03% of users, the focused few generate 10% of total revenues, making them the second most valuable segment.  

These users visit a site and make a purchase with no messing around and seemingly little consideration. Whilst Mancunians rarely display this behaviour, people from NE London seem to be keen on this sort of focused shopping.  

They’re 18% more likely to be using a mobile than the average user, and tend to surf via Internet Explorer or Chrome.


How to increase conversion rates 

The research findings show that by breaking down online shoppers into these different personas its easy to see where retailers should be focusing their efforts.

Sofa surfers and basket cases show all the traits of ‘real’ shoppers and if you’re not analysing your audience properly you’ll never know that they’re not giving you anything in return.  

By understanding what people are doing on your site, and whether or not they’re going to turn into paying customers, you can make more informed decisions about where to invest your marketing budget.

Conversely, its vital that you encourage and embrace your big spenders and the speedy shoppers because these tiny segments are driving a massive percentage of your revenue.

Ian McCaig

Published 29 November, 2013 by Ian McCaig

Ian McCaig is Founder at Qubit and a contributor to Econsultancy.

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Comments (3)

Ali Moghadam

Ali Moghadam, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Hey, nice bunch of stats here!

I'm pretty sure I fall into the basket case category - I like to imagine that I can have the stuff I put in there. Which makes me an actual basket case.

I often do it when there's no wishlist or save for later option and I don't want to clutter my bookmarks up. If I'm still interested in the item when I come back, it's good to have it there ready to go.

I think everyone falls into one of these categories at some point or another - maybe even all at once across a bunch of sites. I know that I visit some sites regularly but never buy, spend at others all the time and use some really quickly, almost impulsively.

It could be a fun project to see if this could be broken down into demographics and site themes/types.

I wrote a post about ecommerce recently that might be of interest too:

I've found myself sofa surfing on a mobile before, unable to complete a transaction because the site wasn't mobile ready and I couldn't physically select the button to continue!

over 4 years ago

Lenka Istvanova

Lenka Istvanova, Consultant at Seven League

Interesting insights, Ian! I think I'm fall into all of the categories you described but again this massively depends on the shop/brand I'm looking at. I agree with you creating personas and having inside-out knowledge of your site's data is crucial. Believe it or not but there are still companies with e-commerce website but no e-commerce analytics tracking setup!

over 4 years ago



Interesting article and intrigued by the 'basket case' statistics.

I wonder whether implementing a cart abandonment process would help try and convert some of the basket cases.

I am glad that you have highlighted the site speed as from experience this is one that has to be considered and monitored, especially at this time of year when site traffic levels increase so the servers come under more pressure and if you are not on the right set-up, site speed can drastically suffer.

over 4 years ago

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