There are several reasons why online shopping is really worthwhile, for example because you can find products on the web that are not available at your local retailer or because you can find something for a lower price than elsewhere. But even so, there are some things that really frustrate me when buying products online.
I’m not the type of person that buys everything online, but I do order things on the web on a monthly basis. I mainly do this for the reasons I mentioned before, because I can’t find something I want in a store nearby or because something I want is much cheaper online.
As an experienced online shopper I have used dozens of webshops from numerous countries for over a decade, and even after all those years (in which you’d expect a major improvement in the shopping experience) there are still things that are really frustrating when filling my digital cart.
1. Credit card payment
In the Netherlands, where I originally come from, relatively few people own a credit card. Not just because it’s actually completely mad to pay money to pay for something, but also because it’s not so popular to make debt on daily shopping. Aside the Netherlands there are numerous countries where credit cards are a rarity and people prefer to pay with their standard bank cards or money they have in their pocket. None the less, as good as every webshop comes with the option to pay by credit card.
Of course I know a lot of companies like the fact that credit card payments are processed more often (because customers can buy something even if they do not have any money) and come insured, but even so we should not all be forced to own one just to buy something online. In other words, I really like to see a wider range of payment options aside credit card.
A good alternative I find PayPal, as well as paying by invoice or direct bank transfer. But generally these payment types are not always offered when buying something worth more than $50 USD.
2. Elaborate forms
Another big frustration I have are big, elaborate customer forms, the type of forms that take many minutes to fill in and that request a large amount of private information. Especially in comparison to offline shopping this is a real downsider for online shopping. When you go to the bakery no one asks your date of birth or if you are male or female, yet when you want to make a customer account to buy new sport shoes they generally will.
These type of elaborate forms don’t only make online shopping more time consuming, they also form a digital blockade between you and you actually purchasing something. Imagine how easy it would be if you could just click on the item you wanted and could pay for it straight away. The promise of the digital age is speed and simplicity, so this is what I like to see.
A good solution for this frustration would perhaps be the implementation of fast one-click checkout options for new consumers (that only visit a webshop once every couple of months), and standard accounts that require information for more loyal customers. Aside that, I would find it fair that people that share some of their private data with a shop and take the time to make an account, would be rewarded with VIP points or some other type of benefit.
3. Newsletter spam
It’s really nice to receive updates from your favorite brands or stores, but there is also something like stalking. Since most of us, including myself, are signed up for dozens of accounts, the amount of newsletters we’re signed up for is enormous. Webshop owners should be aware of this and shouldn’t bombard their customers with daily or weekly newsletters.
For my part one useful and informative newsletter per month is more than enough, when it’s more frequent I generally just opt out. The moment in time is thereby also important for me. It’s truly annoying to receive a bombardment of newsletters every Monday morning before going to work.
In other words, if you do newsletters make them valuable and time them right, make me want to wish for the next one.
4. Information overload
When it comes to information overload I generally talk about American webshops. For some reason American web designers think it’s cool to fill up the entire screen from left to right. While this might solve the issue of pulling in all the features that were agreed on with the shop owner, it really frustrates to enter a page completely filled with a carnival of banners, text and links.
It doesn’t only look chaotic and confusing, it actually makes you want to go away. It’s unclear what’s important and what’s less important and it eventually makes you decisionless on what you want to do.
So when it comes to avoiding information overload, I’d suggest to clearly differentiate important information from less important information and to leave some space empty to make a page look less chaotic.
5. Hidden costs
One of the great benefits of doing your shopping online is that you can quickly compare the prices of multiple retailers with the click of a mouse button. However, this is only possible when the retailers you look at provide a fair price, or the price that you actually need to pay when checking out.
Some of the vague additional costs I have encountered are the following: administration costs, processing costs, payment costs, booking costs and service costs. In most of the cases I directly cancel my order when I am confronted with vague extra costs like these. They might be standard for the shop owner, but for me as a buyer I am suddenly confronted with an unexpected extra price tag and I don’t know for what I pay it.
Although much improvements have been made, such as improvements in legislation within the European Union that forbid the use of vague extra costs after selecting a product, there are still lots of retailers that play with costs all over the place. In other words, I like when I can just see what I need to pay, with all the extra’s, shipping costs and additional fees combined. Only then people can make a real purchase decision.
6. Long delivery times
In the Netherlands I frequently ordered something at Bol.com, and when I did I generally received my order the next working day. Recently I moved to the United Kingdom and as good as all the orders I placed at British webshops took more than five working days to deliver (and it also appears to be a custom to leave packages on someone’s doorstep, excuse me Yodel).
This isn’t only frustrating because you need to wait for a long time, it also makes shopping online a lot less appealing. And aside frustratingly long delivery times at a lot of webshops, related to this frustration is the frustration of not knowing at what time your package arrives, requiring you to wait all day just to open the door for the post man.
A good solution I find using quicker delivery services and introducing the ability to pick up orders at central locations, such as in popular stores like Tesco or Walmart. If it’s possible to deliver packages within one day in the Netherlands, it should be possible everywhere.