Top 5 Online Shopping Problems and How to Address Them

online-shopping-problems

Everyone will agree that online shopping has positively reshaped modern commerce. Gone are the days when our only option was to drive for miles to the grocery store and schedule a chunk of precious time for a mall run.

We’ve been witnessing the decline of the brick-and-mortar stores for a while now, giving way to the more efficient and seamless online shopping experience that perfectly fits our tech-driven lifestyles.

What is Online Shopping?

Online shopping allows consumers to purchase items and services electronically or digitally from sellers through the internet. Most online shops or ‘e-retailers’ employ the shopping cart system to replicate the experience of putting items in a basket and paying for it with credit cards to seal the deal, making the entire process seamless and intuitive. 

The advantages of online shopping far outweigh the disadvantages. Apart from the vast product selection that’s readily available for easy browsing, customers can shop anywhere at any time effortlessly.

However, it is far from a perfect system. Some kinks and issues exist that manage to put off shoppers from completely converting to the electronic system.

Reality vs. Expectation

The biggest drawback to online shopping is the inability to examine the actual product firsthand, which can lead to a lot of disappointments. Nothing can replace being able to feel the texture of a fabric, the color and finish of a tabletop, and the fit of a suit that traditional shopping allows. Online shopping trades the tactile aspect of in-store shopping for fast, efficient transactions.

How to Address the Problem as a Shopper

  • Go beyond the product name. Read product descriptions carefully. If the description is insufficient and you have questions about the item, don’t hesitate to contact the seller. A reputable and reliable seller will always be glad to answer your questions. Take advantage of messaging channels that are integrated into most e-commerce platforms to make communication easy and traceable. 
  • Examine the item carefully. View the product from all angles. Watch videos and check out 3D renderings of the item, if they’re available. If you’re purchasing big-ticket items online to take advantage of lower prices and deals, check them out in-store or in showrooms to eliminate surprises.
  • See what other customers are saying. Minimize frustration and disappointment by reading customer reviews. It’s also crucial to differentiate fake reviews from real ones. If an honest review mentions a product flaw, decide whether it’s a deal-breaker or something you can live with.

How to Address the Problem as a Seller

  • Provide accurate and easy-to-understand product descriptions. A good product description builds trust, helps expand your customer base, and minimizes liability. It’s always a smart business decision to invest in descriptions that sell and reduce customer confusion.
  • Offer high-quality photos and videos. While quality product photos are a powerful marketing tool to entice users to buy, make sure to minimize touch-ups and airbrushing. Photos should represent the actual product and not mislead the consumer.
  • Take advantage of interactive tools. Allow the customer to flip, rotate, zoom, and examine the product from all angles. Utilize new technologies that will closely replicate the tactile sensation of the traditional shopping experience.
  • Offer sample kits, if applicable. Maximize orders by offering free samples to help the customer finalize their decision and eliminate hesitation.
  • Be responsive to pre-sale inquiries and address concerns. Minimize future complaints by responding to customer inquiries promptly. 

Customer Support

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores usually have reps and assistants to answer customer questions. Whether you’re wondering if a food item is gluten-free or if a pair of headphones has noise-canceling features, you can get your answer. On the other hand, most e-commerce websites integrate a customer service solution to take care of inquiries, but support and communication are not always as readily available and instantaneous.

How to Address the Problem as a Shopper

  • For urgent concerns, give them a call. Phone support is the most viable way to speak with an actual human support agent. While email and live chat support are also reliable, some systems are handled by bots and designed to point users to other online resources, which may not be helpful for urgent issues.
  • Learn to love reading FAQs and reference sections. When shopping online, we trade human interaction for convenience. Sometimes, this means we need to find the information we need by ourselves. Most often than not, the information we’re looking for is already available. If you have questions, make sure to check out FAQ and reference sections for quick answers. 

How to Address the Problem as a Seller

  • Optimize your customer service workflow. Establish different support channels where your customers can get in touch with your team and ensure that customer inquiry response time and resolution are part of your business KPIs. 
  • Beef up online resources and make them easily searchable. Consider setting up a central help center page with links to customer support channels, user manuals, FAQs, and other resources. 
  • Set up a feedback and comments system. Know what’s working and what’s not with honest feedback from your customers.

Security and Fraud

What to do if you order something online, and it never arrives? Or, you get an open-box or a refurbished item when you ordered a new one? How do you handle fraudulent charges on your card?

E-commerce platforms comply with PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards to ensure that data and transactions are secure. However, audacious fraudsters employ increasingly advanced tactics and social engineering techniques to exploit loopholes for profit.

How to Address the Problem as a Shopper

  • Shop with a trusted seller. If you’re purchasing a niche item sold by a little-known seller, make sure the seller is legit, and people have purchased items from them successfully. Remember that large e-commerce platforms will likely have better fraud management solutions in place. 
  • Use your credit card to pay. It’s easier to dispute charges when you purchase with a credit card because the Fair Credit Billing Act will protect your purchases.
  • Keep transaction records. Save or print product descriptions, prices, electronic receipts, and other transaction records. Keep a copy of all communication records with the seller.

How to Address the Problem as a Seller

  • Have a robust fraud management system in place. Protect your business and your customers from different types of e-commerce fraud by investing in reliable security solutions.
  • Institute solid policies. Gain consumer confidence and eliminate future disputes by setting up sound policies about billing and payments, returns, refunds, and shipping.

Shipping and Handling

The shipping workflow of an e-commerce operation is generally a well-oiled machine until it’s not. Most products arrive at our doorsteps pristine, unscathed, and on time.

However, sometimes the delivery is incredibly late, the wrong product arrives, and order tracking is a major challenge. Delays, damage, and other shipping hassles make customers reconsider whether it’s better to buy in-store.   

How to Address the Problem as a Shopper

  • Know what you’re signing up for. Read the store’s shipping and returns policies before purchasing anything so you can easily dispute any late or non-arrival of items. 
  • Leave reviews and feedback. Be a part of system improvement by rewarding an excellent shipping and handling service with positive feedback and atrocious services with honest reviews. 

How to Address the Problem as a Seller

  • Establish clear-cut shipping, return, warranty, and refund policies. Let customers know your delivery timeframes, fees, and shipping modes. Provide step-by-step instructions on how to initiate a product return and lodge a warranty claim.
  • Understand that shipping and handling is a vital part of your business. Logistics and shipping are the backbone of an e-commerce operation and can make or break your business. Adopt best practices and stay informed on emerging technologies to calibrate the shipping process. 

Information and Selection Overload

A vast product catalog is the boon and bane of many online shoppers. Sifting through hundreds of pages to find the best laptop or camera can be overwhelming, and making sense of complicated technical specs can be time-consuming. Some customers can experience “paralysis of choice” due to the sheer number of options available.

How to Address the Problem as a Shopper

  • Narrow down your requirements. If you’re purchasing a computer, for example, decide your platform, memory capacity, processor speed, and other requirements to filter out products that don’t make the cut quickly.  
  • Make sense of technical specifications by consulting a buying guide. If the seller does not have one, check out buying guides from big-box retailers like Best Buy, Office Depot, Amazon, etc.
  • Enjoy the virtual window shopping process. Learn to treat the browsing process as you would the actual window shopping activity – as something therapeutic and not a chore.

How to Address the Problem as a Seller

  • Keep the interface simple, intuitive, and fun for the customer. Make it engaging, interactive, and uncluttered to maximize user enjoyment.
  • Offer top fives and make the Deals page easily visible. Let customers know what others are buying from your store and help them narrow down their choices. Highlight ongoing deals and highly rated products.

Careful on the Clicks

With online shopping, everything is just a few clicks away. While the convenience it brings is more than welcome, certain drawbacks can cost us a lot if we’re not too fond of the fine print. Due diligence and a good knowledge of the different security pitfalls of online transactions will go a long way and help you avoid future aggravations and frustrations.