March 24, 2011, 1:38 PM

It’s 10 p.m.—do retailers know where their paid search ads are?

A study urges e-retailers to closely analyze when online shoppers are researching and buying.

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Online retailers need to take a closer look at when consumers research and buy products in order to squeeze more profit from paid search campaigns, suggests a new study from NetElixir, a search marketing firm.

A study of daily clicks and online orders over the past six months for 32 e-retailers shows that clicks on paid search ads and completed online orders increase as the day progresses. Purchases tend to peak between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., while clicks steady increase from about 7 a.m. before reaching a peak at around 3 p.m., with another spike between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Among the 32 retailers studied, the weighted average for hourly orders for all the retailers reach as high as 60, while average hourly paid search clicks top out at about 3,000, according to NetElixir data.

A consumer who clicks on an ad doesn’t always go on to buy a product, points out Udayan Bose, NetElixir’s CEO. But a click does indicate the consumer is researching a particular product or brand. “Analyzing and understanding when shoppers search and purchase can help to create more precise and effective search marketing techniques,” he says.  Retailers that possess such data can do a better job of timing the appearance of their paid search ads to coincide with when consumers are most likely to be shopping for specific products.

For consumer electronics, for instance, NetElixir data show that consumers tend to research products late at night, generally between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. (times are Eastern), after children have been put to bed and a shopper can enjoy uninterrupted hours of product research for items with a hefty dose of technical specificity.

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