Web Shopping: Do You Know What Really Ticks People Off?

If you’re like most online retailers, you’re never 100% satisfied with your Website. We click through competitors’ sites, exultant where we find we have an edge, wincing on the discovery of a cool feature the other guys have. “We need lots more video content,” we say, “and the gift registry should be more prominent.”

Admirable notions, but let’s not lose focus on those who vote with their credit cards. Before we add any more bells and whistles, perhaps we should find out if we’re actually annoying them.

Ah, but we regularly buy from our own sites (perhaps we even proceed all the way through checkout). Surely we would have noticed anything irritating. Well, here’s the bad news: As insiders, we can’t really put ourselves in our customers’ shoes. We are too close; we’ve been contaminated. We understand the reasons things are the way they are. As a result, we can’t truly experience the highs and lows of navigating, evaluating, selecting, and purchasing from our own online stores.

My associates and I recently decided to poll our friends and neighbors, in a decidedly unscientific survey, to learn how they felt about Web shopping in general. We sent some 75 e-mails, nearly all to people outside our industry, asking whether they experienced frustration while Web shopping. Apparently we struck a nerve; several respondents even said that typing out their answers was a liberating exercise!

Below are broadly categorized versions of their anecdotal responses, presented in decreasing order of popularity. Note: The first four gripes were in a virtual dead heat in terms of how frequently they were mentioned.

Gripe #1: I have to do too much work to find out how much shipping will cost.
“I want to know how much the various shipping options will add to the cost of my order up front. Often I have to get to the very end and change the options to see how much the price goes up and down. Hate that!”

“My major pet peeve is not being able to get shipping rates until actually going through the order process. I’m always afraid I’ll inadvertently place the order when I’m actually gathering information to decide whether or not to buy. The shipping-rate link should also be easy to find and use… I hate it when you have to guess what part of the site (e.g., customer service) will show the shipping rates, return policy, etc.”

“Don’t surprise me with your huge shipping charge ($15 on a $9 CD) after I’ve spent an eternity filling in contact info, etc.”

Gripe #2: I can’t find your #&@& phone number.
“Why bury the telephone number and physical address? If given the choice, I will go with the company that won’t make me resolve any customer service issue through e-mail.”

“If I can’t find a phone number to call a human, I won’t shop there.”

“Companies should put a #&@% phone number on the Web page for idiots like me who can’t navigate their Website. I know that the idea is not to use the phone to order, but companies that don’t list one will do without my business.”

Gripe #3: Don’t make me log in just to place an order.
“Don’t make me register to do business with you. Next time, I will have forgotten my password and have to reregister, only to be told ‘this e-mail/user name is already being used’ before starting the password retrieval process.”

“I hate sites that force me to create an account, password, etc. so that I can spend my $$.”

“All of the BS info you are required to fill out such as ‘user name’ and ‘password’ should be optional. I have to waste time filling out that stuff, then if I do happen to return to the same site to order something later, I have to wait for an eE-mail reminding me of the password I forgot (If I can remember what user name I used). This is brutal.”

Gripe #4: How do I get back to shopping?
“It’s frustrating when you put something in cart and want to continue shopping, but ‘continue shopping’ takes you back to the home page instead of where you left off!”

“The ‘continue shopping’ link is buried somewhere on the page and hard to find when you want to keep shopping after having added something to your cart.”

Gripe #5: Spam.
“Don’t automatically opt me into your ‘spam list.'”

“I also asked my co-workers for input. A recurring complaint was the inability to decline future e-mail promotions from the company.”

Other gripes:
“Another thing that makes me leave a Website is if there is no search box, or if the search box says ‘search for products.’ Sometimes I’m trying to find information other than product information…like shipping rates! Again, the search box should be very visible.”

“Redundant forms: Why do I need to fill in the city and state when the zip code could do the job?”

“Don’t make ‘log out’ so difficult to find. There’s no standard for where it is or how large it should be. Some sites have it in a tiny font and a color that almost disappears on the screen.”

“I hate being forced to scroll one page at a time through a large selection of merchandise.”

How many of these irritants appear on your Website? As an industry insider, I can see both sides of many of these issues, but rest assured that each of your customers will have only one point of view.

Mark Lee is president of Charlottesville, VA-based catalog and web marketing consultancy The Mark Lee Group (www.TheMarkLeeGroup.com).

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