The average time on websites is dropping – 3 ways to combat the growing consumption crisis


Jack Law

February 21, 2023 | 5 min read

Last Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Do we have your attention? According to our 2023 Digital Experience Benchmark Report, we might not have it for long. The report reveals that the average time spent on websites dropped last year—just one of several metrics measuring engagement and page consumption that fell. 

So let’s cut to the chase. 

2022’s drop in page consumption (despite a boost in traffic in Q4), reveals a growing ‘consumption crisis’ that threatens digital businesses everywhere, particularly given the precariousness of the current economic climate.

In this article, we’ve taken just a few of the many insights in our Benchmark Report to give you a quick overview of what’s fuelling the consumption crisis in digital, and three approaches you can take to start combating it.

To get all the insights you need around the digital customer experience in 2022 and 2023, including traffic, consumption, outcomes and solutions, download the report today.


Uncover trends for crucial digital KPIs

Access the 2024 Digital Experience Benchmarks Report and Interactive Explorer.

Access the Benchmarks


Average time spent on websites fell in 2022—and so did other consumption metrics

Consumption measures how much content visitors to a site are seeing and engaging with. And in 2022, those metrics were headed in the wrong direction.

Scroll rate fell from 52% in 2021 to 50% in 2022. Taken by itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad sign, since not every web page requires visitors to scroll and it’s ‘just’ one metric. 

However, nearly unanimously across all sectors, average session duration (time spent per session) also fell. Overall, the average time on websites in a single session fell by an alarming 7.5%. 

And there’s more. Session depth (the average number of pages viewed in a single session) fell, too. In Q4 of 2021, sessions averaged 5.1 pages on desktop and 4.5 on mobile. In Q4 of 2022, these numbers dropped to 4.9 on desktop and 4.4 on mobile.

Given that converting sessions typically see 5x more page views than non-converting sessions, it’s no surprise that conversion declined by 3.1% overall. 

At the same time, traffic rose 4.6% YoY in Q4 of 2022, a fourth-quarter surge that was effectively canceled out by the drop in conversions

So: more traffic—but lower consumption. What’s going on?

Average time on websites: the growth of ‘grazing’

The high traffic/low consumption metric mix we’re seeing shows that visitors are increasingly ‘grazing’ websites. And while grazing is good for sheep, it’s not something digital businesses want to see consumers doing. 

Grazing behavior is shrinking the average time on websites per visit. Therefore, businesses have a proportionally narrowing window of opportunity in which to capture customers’ attention and persuade them to purchase. 

What’s to blame for the growth of grazing? To begin with, our shrinking attention spans. According to Dr. Gloria Mark, our average attention span on screens was 2 ½ minutes back in 2004—today, it’s only 47 seconds. It’s enough to make a goldfish blush. 

In our defense, however, there’s more screen-based stuff competing for our attention—and business—than ever before. 

Today, there are an estimated 12-24 million websites in eCommerce alone, all vying for our attention (of which there’s less and less to spread around) and money (of which, given the downturn, there’s not much to spread around, either).

All these macro factors contribute to the rise in grazing behavior. However, at least some of the blame can be cast on the sub-par digital customer experiences many businesses provide. 

Which brings us to what you can actually do about grazing. 

You can’t get rid of your competitors’ websites (alas). You can’t singlehandedly revitalize the economy. (N.B. If you can: please get in touch with somebody important, pronto.) 

But you can take steps to better engage the visitors to your site—and encourage lengthier, deeper, more conversion-driving journeys—by making the right adjustments to your digital experience.

Here’s three steps to get you started…

3 ways to combat the growing consumption crisis

1. Fix frustration to increase consumption (and cut out bounces)

Why the average time spent on websites is dropping? Maybe because of frustration cause frustration is key! Frustration is an arch-enemy of consumption. According to our data, 36% (1 in 3) of user sessions are impacted by it. 

No doubt about it: the all-too-common presence of frustration in customer journeys is contributing to the rise of grazing and the decline of consumption metrics such as average session duration and average time on websites

More specifically, it’s contributing to the worrying rise of that metric most dreaded by digital teams: bounce rate, which rose in 2022, with 49% of users leaving websites after viewing just one page. 

Luckily, the frustration factors causing (at best) friction and (at worst) bounces are fixable. You just have to identify them first. Our report will help you out, here, naming and shaming the five most common obstacles in the customer journey. 

Uncover trends for crucial digital KPIs

Access the 2024 Digital Experience Benchmarks Report and Interactive Explorer.

Access the Benchmarks

2. Average time on sites: encourage user activity to drive conversions

Friction pushes visitors away from your website. But to increase average session duration and other consumption metrics, there’s also got to be something pulling them in—and down the conversion funnel.

Having crunched 2022’s digital customer experience data, we’ve discovered that the clearest sign you’re providing that tantalizing, magnetizing ‘something’ in your customer journeys is a high rate of user activity. 

How to optimize the average time on websites? Another tips is to track the good metrics. As a metric, activity measures the share of time users spend interacting with your website (with clicks, scrolls, swipes and typing). And our report reveals that sites with higher activity enjoy 19% higher conversion rates and 20% lower bounce rates than sites with the lowest activity.

3. Monitor the average time on website with every aspect of your CX with digital experience analytics

Of course, knowing you’ve got to fix frustration and encourage activity is one thing—but how can you monitor and improve these aspects of the digital customer experience yourself? Well: you’re probably going to need some better tech.

Many digital teams are held back by thinking they have a complete understanding of the customer journey using traditional analytics tools. These tools often tell you how much traffic you’re attracting, losing and converting. But they can’t detect, alert and prioritize improvements outside of conventional errors. 

To close the customer behavior insights gap, you need rich, contextual insights that give you a holistic understanding of your customers’ behaviors, including what’s happening and why, between clicks. And for that you need digital experience analytics (DXA). 

Our DXA platform leverages machine learning to give you actionable insights into precisely what your customers want from your site, how they use it and how they feel about the entire end-to-end experience. 

This holistic analysis empowers businesses to build a digital experience designed for humans— not grazing sheep-people.

Here are just a few DXP features that will help you increase not just the average time on websites but also user activity and conversions in 2023:

  • Customer Journey Analysis lets you visualize your customer journeys page by page to see where users are leaving and looping—and identify friction factors and bottlenecks to remove ASAP.
  • With Session Replayyou can watch replays of individual visitor sessions to see what’s frustrating and activating customers and optimize your journeys accordingly.
  • Find & Fix leverages AI to bring client-side errors to your digital team’s urgent attention, prioritizing those impacting conversion and revenue. 
  • Zone-Based Heatmaps allow you to see at-a-glance which page elements users are (and aren’t) clicking on, hesitating over and scrolling to—and the influence those elements and their placement have on user behavior and conversion.

We could go on. But that would take more words—and if you’re reading this sentence we’ve done well to keep your attention even this far. 

So why not check out a video demo of our platform, instead? 

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The average time on websites: grow your business starting now!

If you consume one piece of content this year (which we don’t advise), make it the 2023 Digital Experience Benchmark Report. 

It’ll give you all the perspective, insight and metrics you need to boost consumption metrics like average time spent on website, session depth and scroll rate—and grow your business in these toughest of times by making every click count.