Here’s a rule we can (probably) all agree on: the more time someone spends in your store, the more likely they are to buy something. Sure, there are outliers—the jokesters who poke around for hours and then leave without buying anything, or the speed-shoppers who know exactly what they want and fly through the checkout as if they have a bus to catch. For most customers, the equation is simple: more time on site equals more conversions. Time equals money.

Your goal as an online merchant should be to keep your customers in your store for as long as humanly possible. We’re not talking about keeping customers coming back to your store (although that’s a topic we’ve touched on before, and it’s also super important) but rather keeping them on your site, browsing products, and finishing the sale.

There’s a lot of data out there on the average session length of visitors to ecommerce sites. The numbers are pretty mixed across the board, but two of our go-to sources for stuff like this, Kissmetrics and Moz, put the average time on site at 3-4 minutes for ecommerce.

Moz’s study, in particular, notes that time on site and number of pages viewed both have positive correlations with conversion rate. In other words, increasing pages viewed per visitor and the amount of time visitors spend in your store is likely to lead to more conversions.

Using 3-4 minutes as a benchmark for average session length, you should be able to get an idea of how your store is doing by looking at your analytics. Remember, every store is different. If you find that your average session is dramatically lower (or higher) than that number, don’t freak out. Just know that it’s time to start thinking about what you can do to get that number trending upwards—because the conversions are sure to follow.

So how do you get visitors to stick around?

This is the critical question, and our most honest, least helpful answer is to give your customers the best shopping experience possible. A well-designed website, high-quality content, and products that appeal to your visitors will go a long way towards making sure customers stay engaged with your site and don’t leave for greener pastures. But there are other things you can do as well.

We talk a lot about engagement on this blog, and about engaging visitors with popups in particular. Not only are popups a great way to capture email signups and promote special offers, but they can also be extremely useful for giving customers a reason to stick around. And when you consider how time-consuming and expensive it can be to acquire visitors to your site, you should be doing everything you can to engage them and get the most out of them.

In the case of average time on site, one good strategy is to create a popup with a delay, so that it appears only after a certain number of pages have been viewed or a visitor has spent a certain amount of time on your site. You can look at your analytics to see how many pages on average a customer views per visit—if the number is 4.6 (as Kissmetrics says it is), then try showing them a special offer once they’ve visited four pages. Similarly, if your average user spends three minutes on site, show them an offer after two minutes. You get the idea.

We’ve also added exit-intent delays to Pixelpop, our Shopify app that lets merchants easily create great-looking popups and banners. Exit-intent popups are getting a lot of buzz recently and for good reason. They’re magical little popups that wait and wait and wait to appear, until the final moment when a customer is about to leave the page.

How do they know when to appear? Magic.

Exit intent popup gif

Essentially, exit-intent popups are like a second chance at converting your customers. You get visitors to browse your site for the entire length of time they normally would PLUS whatever additional time they spend as a result of your incentivizing them with a special offer.

Is that extra time worth offering them 10% off their purchase? We think so.

What else can you do to make visitors stay?

You made it through our little pitch, so let us run through a few other things you can aim to improve in order to up the amount of time visitors spend in your store.

Navigation

Most customers will hardly notice your navigation—and that’s the way you want it. You want your site to be well-organized, with simple and clear navigation that keeps customers browsing. If customers are tripping over your navigation or struggling to find it, their next move is probably getting the heck out of Dodge.

Make sure your navigation is right for your store. If you have a lot of products, you’ll probably be well-served by a mega-navigation or multi-tiered sidebar menu—provided it’s well-organized and makes sense to new buyers. If you have only one product, you should keep your navigation as minimal as possible and let your products do the talking.

Content

What kind of sites do you like to browse? Beautiful ones with consistent, high-quality imagery and captivating, well-written copy? Or clunky ones crammed with spelling mistakes and photos that look like they were taken on a potato? You know your answer is the same as everyone else’s.

Investing in good product photography has many benefits, and keeping customers on your store is one of them. The same goes for writing quality blog content, helpful product descriptions, and even adding some character to your About page. You can do a lot with content to increase the time visitors spend on your site.

Responsiveness

Newsflash! It’s 2017 and more than half of all traffic to ecommerce traffic comes from mobile devices. You best make damn sure you’re giving as much thought to the mobile version of your site, not only by picking a theme that’s responsive but by testing it out on your phone, your friends’ phones, your friends’ friends’ phones—you get the idea.

Even if a high percentage of mobile visits are simply customers doing research (before buying on desktop later), serving up a smooth mobile experience is essential to improving your average time on site. Nobody wants to pinch and pick their way through another crappy mobile browsing experience.

Before we take off

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for how to keep visitors on your store. Try adding an exit-intent popup or giving some TLC to your website content, and then check your analytics to see if your pages per visit, average time on site, and conversion rate have increased.

Finally, remember that at the end of the day, most visits to your store aren’t going to end in sales. It will take most customers numerous visits to your site before they make their first purchase, so make sure you’re getting their email addresses and doing everything you can to keep them on your site for as long as possible each time they visit. Eventually, things will reach a tipping point, and the orders will come pouring in. All it takes is a little patience and creative thinking.

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