The eCommerce industry does not usually get a lot of press unless it’s around the holidays, specifically Cyber Monday. However, Time Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times all featured articles about online shopping in April and May. The topic of these articles varied: from the things wrong with eCommerce shopping; to information gathering through online coupons; to marketers gathering information about eCommerce customer experience. The Time Magazine article that certainly piqued my interest was "What's Wrong with Online Shopping."
So, What Is Wrong With Online Shopping?
According to Time Magazine's writer, Brad Tuttle, there are seven main issues that hinder creating a better eCommerce customer experience:
- Price inconsistency
- Signage inconsistency
- Inventory inconsistency
- Customer service inconsistency (seeing a pattern yet?)
- Coupons game
- Delayed shipping cost information
- Creepiness of being watched all the time
Price, Signage, Inventory and Customer Service Inconsistency
There exists a disconnect between a person’s shopping experience in store vs online at the same company. Disconnects - like the inability to return an item to a store that was bought online, a store's unawareness of an online promotion, or stores carrying certain products only online or in store - leads to a shopper's confusion and frustration. In this rapid, online tell-all world we live in, one unhappy customer can really add fuel to a PR fire.
However, these are not eCommerce specific problems. They are real life, company problems. And to some degree, Tuttle acknowledges this. In the beginning of the article, he points out that, “Many of the problems seem to arise because the retail and online divisions of major stores are run by entirely different groups… and they seem more like competitors rather than players working on the same team.”
I just wanted to strongly point this out, because I feel like it’s misguided to bring up these points of contention in an article titled “What’s Wrong with Online Shopping.” Because again, these are not problems with online shopping, but of the company themselves.
The "Coupons Game"
However, Tuttle’s remaining three points are valid drawbacks to online shopping. The “Coupons Game” is starting to become a game where the customer always loses, and it’s not helping eCommerce businesses either. If your site provides discount codes, be sure they're easily accessible on the site. The last thing you want is for users to abandon their shopping carts or look for coupon codes on another site. Keep these discount codes above the fold on the home page of your website, so customers see what you're offering as soon as they land on your homepage.
Delayed Shipping Cost Information
It is always best to present the shipping cost information to a customer as soon as possible. Although an eCommerce business may think the shipping is different from the order total, the customer does not. The customer wants to know upfront how much it's going to cost them. Do not expect them to go through the checkout process thinking the order is $25, only to find out it’s actually going to be $31.99.
Some Solutions to Providing Shipping Cost Information to Customers
Smaller eCommerce businesses can breathe a sigh of relief. They usually have less products and flat rate shipping, which makes it very easy to calculate a shopper’s order as early as possible. But what if your business or products are shipped based on weight or shipping zones? This comes with additional complexities and seemingly unlimited choices of expedited shipping. Many companies have added a shipping estimator to their shopping cart pages, so users can at least get an approximate answer to their order total.
However, sometimes the shipping price, shipping time, delivery dates, etc. is just outright confusing no matter how much functionality is (or is not) included. This is where a good eCommerce website designer comes into play. If you can’t provide the functionality to solve your shipping problems, be sure to at least make the problem very clear and identifiable to the user. This happens through a clean, hierarchical website design.
Don’t just throw paragraphs of text at the user to sort through (and don’t just copy the shipping policies/maps for USPS, Fedex or UPS.) Tailor your information and graphics to your products/business and to your users. Be sure that the language used is clear - is the order being processed, shipped or delivered at any given time?
This speedy print website below provides shoppers with clear instructions on when their orders will be processed, printed, approved, shipped and delivered.
Creepiness Of Being Watched All The Time
This one relates to the New York Times article about how marketers are gathering information non-stop about a customer's eCommerce shopping experience. And generally speaking, it’s a little freaky. So much information is gained that, Don Batsford Jr. of Jackson Hewitt said, "It’s almost like being able to read their mind because they’re confessing to the search engine what they’re looking for.” Think about that the next time you search something on Google. Information is gathered about the customer, Internet address, Facebook page information and even search terms - all when you use an online coupon.
The average online shopper doesn’t realize that someone (or something) is recording all this information, so when they find out, their trust and privacy feels a little violated. Be sure that your eCommerce website is as transparent with your customers as it can be. Follow the eCommerce checkout best practices and see how security assurances increases website credibility and consumer confidence.
The eCommerce customer experience can only be strong if you align your business so that your brick and mortar store and online store work as one. I hope after reading this blog that you are able to reflect on the eCommerce customer experience your store provides and have gained new ideas on how to improve your customers' online shopping experience.
If you have any questions or want to learn more, contact us through the form below. We'll be happy to help!
Get in Touch
Related Blogs & Videos
Subscribe for industry insights and resources.