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What is Customer Dwell Time & Why Does it Matter

Customer dwell time can mean different things depending on whether we are talking about an e-commerce website or a physical retail store, though the term retains the same general idea in both instances. As you will see, for both online retail and brick-and-mortar retail, customer dwell time is an incredibly important metric for assessing the efficacy of either the website or the store.

Often, higher customer dwell time means greater conversion rates and more revenue for your business. Moreover, you can learn from customer dwell time metrics about your average customer journey, customer satisfaction, and much more, giving you the information you need to optimize the customer experience of your average customer both online and in-store.

If you own a brick-and-mortar store, you likely also have a website, so paying attention to both metrics is incredibly important. For purely e-commerce businesses, obviously only the online customer dwell time metric will be of concern. In this article, we answer the question, “what is customer dwell time?” for both online websites and physical retail stores and then explain the importance of each for your business.

What is Customer Dwell Time in E-Commerce?

Dwell time is the amount of time that goes by from the moment a user clicks on a search result to the moment they return to the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s a measurement of how much time a customer spends on a website, beginning and ending with the SERPs.

For example, someone might search for a Korean restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. They click on the first organic search result that they see. The potential customer decides to explore the restaurant's website a bit. They may look at the menu, view pictures of the restaurant’s food, read the restaurant’s mission statement, and after that, decide that they want to keep looking at other restaurants.

They then go back to the SERP. The amount of time that passed between when the customer first clicked on the restaurant’s webpage from the SERP to when they returned to the SERP is the customer’s dwell time.

How Does Customer Dwell Time Differ from the Key Metrics: Time on Page and Bounce Rate

People often confuse customer dwell time with another key metric: time on page. Whereas customer dwell time measures the time between the click on the webpage from the SERP to when a customer returns to a SERP, time on page is a measurement of the amount of time a person stays on a particular webpage, no matter how they got to that webpage and no matter where they go to leave the webpage.

For example, you might have a dedicated webpage on your restaurant’s website which shows the menu. The time between when the customer clicks on your menu and when they leave the menu, even if it is to a different part of your website (i.e. your event calendar), is the time on page for the menu webpage. Thus, while dwell time helps give you a broader view of the customer experience, time on page can act like a heat map showing higher or lower intensities in different areas.

A bounce rate is somewhat different from customer dwell time and time on page since it is not a measurement of time data. When a customer only clicks on one of your website’s pages and then leaves by either closing the browser, going back to the SERP, or anything else, this is considered a single-page session. The bounce rate measures the amount of single-page sessions customers have on your website.

What is Customer Dwell Time for Physical Stores?

Simply put, customer dwell time is the amount of time that passes between when a customer enters your business and when they leave.

Customer dwell time for physical retail stores is more simple to understand than dwell time online, but it is also much harder to track. Online, there are many tools like google analytics for tracking customer behavior, customer demographics, much more. However, tracking customer behavior or the average dwell time of customers in, for example, a grocery store requires methods such as wifi analytics, mobile-enabled foot traffic analytics, and video analytics.

Despite the difficulty in determining dwell time in physical stores, customer dwell time is still an incredibly important metric that has implications for store layout, the placement of products in different areas of your store, and much else. Below, we go deeper into why customer dwell time matters.

Why Does Customer Dwell Time Matter in E-Commerce?

1. The Amount of Time A Customer Spends on Your Website Affects Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

If the average dwell time on your website is long, it is likely that they have found your information useful, intriguing, or entertaining. Search engines pay attention to this, as their algorithms are designed to promote websites that best meet your needs depending on the keywords you have typed into the search engine.

Since longer dwell time is an indication that your website or web pages are doing a good job of meeting the needs and desires of customers, your SEO ranking will go up, and this will result in more traffic to your website.

2. Customer Dwell Time Helps You Determine the Efficacy of Your Website

If you have a long customer dwell time, it is likely that you are doing something right. People are sticking around on your website. They are engaging with your content and hopefully buying your products. On the other hand, low customer dwell time could be an indication that your website needs improvement. Of course, customer dwell time alone will not tell you all you need. Low customer dwell time may be an indication that you need to check the time on page for each of your pages.

Those with low time on page may need to change to be more useful or interesting. An analysis of the combination of dwell time, time on page, and bounce rate may indicate that you do not have a well-designed landing page. In general, then, customer dwell time metrics can help you optimize the customer journey on your website, increasing sales and improving your SEO.

3. Increased Customer Dwell Time on Your Website Helps Brick and Mortar Retail

People often look at a business's website and/or social media before they decide to actually go to a store. In other words, the customer journey often traverses both digital and physical terrain. We can use the example of a restaurant again. If there is a long dwell time on your website, it is likely that people find your restaurant intriguing.

If people believe that they will have a good experience at your restaurant based on your website, then it is much more likely that they will actually go to your restaurant to eat. Additionally, they might be willing to endure longer wait times to get into your restaurant. Focusing on only your website or only your physical store is no longer enough. Each area benefits the other.

Why Does Customer Dwell Time Matter for Physical Stores?

1. Greater Customer Dwell Time Translates into More Sales

For retail stores, the longer a customer spends in your store makes it likely that they will have many more items to purchase at checkout. This makes sense: the longer they are in your store, the more areas of your store they will explore, the more items they will be exposed to, and the more time store representatives will have to connect with them and upsell them.

All of these factors together mean that the customer will likely purchase more than if they spent little to no time in your store. If the customer has a low dwell time, they won’t see nearly as many of your items, won’t have as much time to imagine owning your items, and won’t have as much engagement with your marketing material.

Getting foot traffic into your store is incredibly important and a great first step, but getting them to actually spend time in your store and purchase items is the real challenge and the real opportunity to make money.

2. Customer Dwell Time Metrics Can Help You Optimize Your Customer Experience

If you are noticing that the average customer dwell time in your store is low, then this is an indication that your store must be optimized in some way. Low dwell time might mean that you have to reorganize your store layout to increase dwell time and exposure to your products.

It might also mean that you need to update your decor or that you need to present your products in a more engaging way. You could have the best marketing material out there, but if your store is designed in a way that does not want them to spend time in your store, then you are losing out on a lot of potential sales.

Increasing Customer Dwell Time WIth Digital Signage

So you now know why customer dwell time is so important. You might have even collected data showing that your customer dwell time is low. Still, you may likely be thinking, “now what?” We have at least one answer: start with digital signage.

What is Digital Signage?

Digital signage, sometimes called electronic signage, refers to display technologies like LED walls (or video walls), projection and LCD monitors to vividly display webpages, videos, directions, restaurant menus, marketing messages or digital images.

How Can Digital Signage Increase Dwell Time?

1. Digital Signage Increases Foot Traffic

The first step in increasing dwell time is getting people into your store and getting people excited about the products in your store. Digital signage allows you to display highly customizable eyecatching images that will draw people into your store. In your store has an eyecatching sign, then people will be a lot less likely to simply pass your store by.

Moreover, excitement about your store actually has a lot to do with how long people will stay in your store. If people have high expectations for your store, they are much more likely to explore the different areas of your store, engage with sales reps, and look at your items with more interest. In this way, effective digital signage, which can be acquired from companies like Loop can function as a good first impression. We know how important first impressions are for making friends and kickstarting romantic relationships. Well, a good first impression of a store is no less important when it comes to buying items.

2. Digital Signage is a Great in-Store Marketing Tool

Once people are in your store, digital signage is an incredible way to increase customer engagement and market to your customers. With digital signage, you can highlight new products, inform customers about sales or deals, show social media posts about your company and your products, and help direct your customers to areas of the store that they might be most interested in.

In-store marketing is incredibly important to increase customer dwell time and increase sales. People love instant gratification, so if a promotion catches their eyes while they are in a store where they can immediately buy the desired product, they will be much more likely to make the purchase. There are so many creative avenues for in-store marketing with digital signage that there is no question that digital signage will be a staple of successful retail stores.

Time to Increase Customer Dwell Time

We want your business to be successful, and in order to have a successful business, it is probably about time that you start paying attention to customer dwell time metrics. Customers are looking for an engaging customer experience. The product is no longer enough.

The customer journey is just as important, whether online or in a physical store. By paying attention to customer dwell time, you can work on optimizing your website or store so that people will want to spend a long time engaging with your content or your products. This will likely translate to happier customers and more sales.