Jan 28, 20198 min read

5 Bad E-commerce Customer Experiences and What they Look Like.

Jordan Dooley headshot

by Jordan Dooley

We’ve compiled 5 bad e-commerce customer experiences that are so negative consumers often don’t buy at all – so you and your business can avoid them at all costs.

We’ve all been there. Optimistically browsing online, hoping to find a new outfit for work or an upcoming event. After scrolling through dozens, you finally find the piece you know will look great, or the outfit worthy of your next board meeting. You make the decision to buy, click “checkout”, see a screen pop up asking you to create an account….and scrap the mission completely.

This is what we call a bad e-commerce customer experience.

You’re not happy, and neither is the retailer you just clicked away from. On average nearly 70 percent of shoppers abandon their cart before purchase.

We’ve compiled five bad online shopping experiences consumers face that are so negative they often don’t buy at all – so you and your business can avoid them at all costs.

1. Lack of Transparency

Keeping customers in the dark when it comes to factors like shipping costs and return policies is not the way to play it. Transparency is crucial for gaining trust and loyal customers. Just take a look at Everlane, a successful clothing startup that built its multi-million dollar business on the concept of ‘ethical transparency’. Compile the facts that nearly 70 percent of shoppers will give up their goods if they get the feeling that a return process would be a hassle, and that another 61 percent will abandon their cart if they don’t see free shipping advertised – and it’s time to start being upfront, honest, and hyper consumer-focused.

A great way to ensure transparency is to explain your shipping and return processes in simple, friendly, and easy to understand terms on a page that takes up prime real estate on your site.

An awesome example of this technique in action is the mattress brand Casper, who features their return policy and shipping rates on their main landing page, complete with fun illustrations and answers to frequently asked questions built into the pages’ functionality. This gives the impression that the brand isn’t playing games, and will deliver for customers.

But what about the customers who leave without free shipping?

In an Amazon-dominated e-comm era, it’s common for brands to extend free shipping automatically, knowing many consumers will otherwise leave with the knowledge that they can buy a similar product from a site that will deliver to their door at no cost. Offering this perk can be invaluable to scaling a business – but if you’re just starting out, or free shipping just isn’t a viable option for your company, try to offer an incentive (i.e. all purchases over $100 are shipped for free) and go after those abandoned carts!

2. Requiring users to create an account before buying

Convenience is key! Especially for online shoppers. Imagine if politely declining to set up an account at a brick and mortar store resulted in the cashier not only refusing to check you out, but also asking you to leave your goods in your cart right where it is, thank you very much.

You would be astonished. That’s why it’s so hard to believe a majority of e-commerce sites are requiring that users sign up before buying anything. This is a hassle and a half, and it is proven to leave buyers clicking away fast. Be a pal. Offer guest checkout. Make more money.

3. Confusing or long checkouts

This is one we can all identify with –  you’re trying to buy something, and for whatever reason, it seems to be much harder than it should be to make a simple purchase. This happened to me the other day. I was looking at an Instagram story, clicked on the “read the full story” link, and before I knew it I was attempting to buy pants that I already own in another color.

The key word here is attempting. The checkout process was so long and cumbersome, and required so much information that I became annoyed. I had followed all the signs, clicked at least four different CTA’s to get to where I was – and still had to wade through pages of forms and email list sign-ups to get to the pants I thought I wanted so badly. I was making a spontaneous purchase, let me be spontaneous! I digress, but you get it.

Ask users for only the information that you need. Reduce the number of screens users see and the number of forms they are required to fill out. Maybe show them a roadmap of steps so they know the end is in sight. Put a little photo of the beloved item in view, so they remember why they are filling out your pesky form in the first place.

4. Not offering enough payment options

In an unprecedented era of technology and innovation we have countless ways to pay – but not all sites or stores recognize that in the checkout process. Today it’s common for consumers to use credit cards and digital wallets, among even more forms of payment to finance their purchases. If your brand isn’t willing to accept whatever method of payment the user is accustomed to, you’re going to alienate that (formerly) potential buyer.

Ensuring you offer as many payment options as possible, builds trust and credibility while ensuring users on your site has the best e-commerce customer experience imaginable.

And what do those payment options look like?

Alternatives can include instant financing payment plans that break down purchases into bite size pieces rather than one giant (potentially scary) gulp. If a consumer knows they’ll pay for something over six months with no additional interest or convivence charge, you better believe you just removed a giant blocker from their mind – and wallet.

There is also the increasingly widespread try before you buy option. This way, clients only pay for products they already know they love, eliminating a major hesitation that online shoppers struggle with.

Using the right platform, these alternatives can work seamlessly for customers and retailers alike: the customer gets what they need (or want) and the retailer assumes virtually no risk.

5. Fractured experiences

Shopping trips that should be simple, but have a wrench thrown in them by the very people who wanted you to buy, are a prime example of a missed opportunity for the e-commerce customer experience. Let’s say you just want to buy something online  – but first, you want to ask a question about it. Now you have to get off the app and call customer service. Right before you make a purchase decision, you now have a huge distraction, and chances are very good you won’t be buying that dress after all.

Seize the mobile moment and ensure this doesn’t happen to your customers. Having an interactive FAQ page with a live chat feature can help combat this issue, giving shoppers the ability to ask questions in real time. Just make sure the person on the other end is indeed a person and not a robot, which often has the adverse effect of adding to shopper frustration.

Another method to ease the madness – a feature allowing shoppers to submit tickets if they have a question to be answered, directly on the site or app. Clients receive a text or call back depending on customer preference. This keeps buyers on your site or app (looking at all your shiny products), and away from an annoying hold line awaiting customer service.

The key takeaway in all this is that people seriously appreciate a well-thought out buyer journey, and one that puts customers first has huge economic benefits. Being aware of what commonly leads to negative user experiences allows us to be better marketers and create the best e-commerce customer experience possible.


Read more: Your Checklist to the Ultimate Online Store: 39 Things Consumers Love