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Study Finds Repeat E-Commerce Shoppers Outspend New Ones by 50%

When it comes to who to market to—loyal, return customers or those seemingly exciting but not-yet-attained shoppers—the focus should probably lie with the loyal.


According to a new study by experience marketing platform Monetate, return customers are outspending new customers by nearly double.

“Every business needs to balance acquisition and retention costs,” Monetate CEO Lucinda Duncalfe said. “This struggle for balance leaves many marketers asking, ‘Where do I focus my efforts so they make the most impact?'”

And though Monetate says there’s no need to choose, data shows that in the fourth quarter of 2015, return visitors spent $5.3 billion online, just about doubling the $2.7 billion new visitors spent in the same time period.

New visitors were half as likely as repeat visitors to even add an item to their cart, a trend Monetate said was universal across all device referral channels. Return visitors added an item to their cart 15 percent of the time in Q4, on average, whereas new visitors only plucked something from the site to put in their cart 8 percent of the time.

Bounce rates were higher across the board during the period, up to 30 percent, compared to the prior year quarter’s 29 percent. And when looking at how often a user left a site they were visiting via a mobile device after only looking at one page was higher than other devices at 37 percent, compared to a 28 percent bounce rate for tablets and 26 percent for desktops.

“It’s clear mobile still has challenges to overcome,” the report noted.

Not surprisingly, the holiday season contributed to solid conversion rates for Q4, averaging 3.5%, the highest for the year, according to Monetate’s tracking, and higher than Q4 2014, which came in at 3.4%.

Both e-mail and search saw growth as referral channels, but new visitor conversion rates, according to Monetate, “trailed returning customers in every way possible.”

The average new visitor conversion rate for the quarter was 2.5%, compared to return visitors’ 4.55%.

“Customer retention and customer acquisition don’t have to be two parallel lines that never meet,” Duncalfe said. The key to targeting both, however, will be improving conversion rates, engagement, acquisition and retention by personalizing every experience in the customer’s journey.