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E-commerce from a customer’s perspective

I belong to several website design and development groups.  Recently there was a discussion on what a client/customer would look for, what they want to see, including what annoys them when shopping online.

My personal pet peeves are:

  • Having to create an account before I even purchase anything or add to a cart. I will go elsewhere.
  • They don’t realize that the US Virgin Islands uses the USPS.
  • Having to contact the business to see if they ship here.
  • Shipping being calculated as a foreign or international destination.
  • I have to call you in order to purchase.  Guess what! I’m not going to call you.

Comments from members:

“I want to be able to find what I’m looking for quickly from the home page. I don’t want any song and dance about the wonderful company or cute names to decipher. I want a clear taxonomy of the products on offer so I can get right to evaluating the product.

I want complete information about whatever it is, and exactly what I want to know may not be the same as what someone else wants to know. I want to know how big it is, what it weighs, is it a legacy product or brand new, what it’s compatible with. What chipset does it use, how much power does it draw. Feel free to make this a second “full specifications” page or popup, but make sure it’s there.

And don’t ever make me guess how much it costs. If I want to become a dealer, getting wholesale prices can wait, and maybe I want to join an affiliate program or maybe not. In the meantime, tell me what it costs to get one in my hands.

I don’t want a bunch of crap about the vendor on the home page, but I do want to know who I’m dealing with. It shouldn’t be hard to learn where the business is, how long they’ve been around, and what business they’re in. If the site is about breath mints, I want to know if the company behind it is mostly in candy or mostly in health care products or just somebody that had a good recipe from grandma and is now selling it for the first time out of their home.

If there’s an interesting story to the business or the proprietor(s), I probably want to hear it. I don’t want it in my face, but I may be starting a relationship with this enterprise, and being able to “personalize” it in my mind is important.

People are different, and how they approach buying things are very different. The site design needs to give everybody what they need to know without blocking anyone else from learning what they need.”

— Van

“I buy almost everything online. I get irritated when I can’t choose the number of products displayed (like 12, 24, 48 or 1000) because I’m on dialup and a smaller number is more likely to download. I can do this easily on Land’s End, but not at all on Jessica London.

I want direct navigation; if I click on toasters, I want to see a bunch of toasters; not toasty socks or a bed warmer.I want to be able to refine my search. After arriving in “womens” I want to see just sweaters, not bathing suits, pants, shoes or overcoats. Make it easy for me to do this. Also, one click should take me to the merchandise I want to see, not to featured products or a general department the merchandise might be found in.

I want an easy way to contact you if something goes wrong; I want to know when things are shipped, confirmation that the order was received, and if anything is being backordered. I want to know when the money will be charged to my account. I want to know your website is vendor safe; verified and that every hacker in the world is not privy to my information. In addition to a picture of the merchandise, I want the dimensions somewhere in the copy. I don’t want to spend $50 on a set of “porcelain” cups & saucers at Target plus $10 shipping only to find out that the copy writer doesn’t know the difference between stoneware and porcelain (they refunded my shipping costs, but I wouldn’t have bought them at all had I known the truth).

I love the ability to read other customer’s comments who have already bought the item I am considering. Sometimes the unanswered question preventing me from making a purchase is answered in a previous customer comment; so that’s valuable.

I don’t want “controlled forms” that I have to fill in to complete the transaction. Land’s End has added a slider bar to their review form, one end says “fits small” the other end says “fits big” and the center, where the slider sits prior to entering anything, says fits perfectly. The form will not be accepted until you move the slider, even if it fits perfectly. Dumb. Makes me not want to try a second time. Or the form that asks for my phone number, but kicks back the form because I let autofill put that in. I have to retype my phone number (exactly the same numbers) in order for the order process to continue. Waste of my time.

Having a promotion code makes me spend more, shop more often and buy things I might not otherwise buy. I can find them at coupon sites,but I prefer to receive them from the vendor as a reward because I am a valued customer. Free shipping is a clincher every time–makes me go back and make sure I haven’t missed something.”


“I want to know right up front if they don’t ship to my country. What currency is being quoted?

As for pictures of the product – I want them. Maybe several pictures for a complex or expensive product, and give me thumbnails for sure but give me a decent size large picture so I can really see what the thing looks like. I loathe those sites that give a link to a ‘larger version’ of the image but it’s still just teeny tiny.

I think there’s no such thing as too much information about a product, even if you hide some of that info to start with.”

— Miraz

I want complete information about the product. I also want to be able to calculate shipping to my location before I start the checkout process.

— Judy

Additional Resources
How To Engage Customers In Your E-Commerce Website
Getting Started With E-Commerce: Your Options When Selling Online
Handy Tools and Tips for E-Commerce Websites
35 Beautiful E-Commerce Websites – A great starting point to show your website designer or developer what style you are interested in, how you want the products to display, etc.
5 Universal Principles For Successful eCommerce-Sites
Principles Of Effective Search In E-Commerce Design

For more articles on e-commerce visit the blog section on e-commerce.

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