online store
Casual paying online with credit card at home

By David Mercer

I recently tried to purchase a few household goods (organic pesticides for my precious chili plants) from an online store and ended up not completing checkout. Why? To be honest, there was nothing particularly wrong with the site… it just wasn’t easy to get what I wanted, and they’re not the only store I’ve had problems with.

Customers browse away or abandon their carts for seemingly insignificant reasons and it’s absolutely vital you remove any and all potential obstacles in order to enjoy the highest conversion rates and customer satisfaction levels. Your eCommerce site could be leaving money on the table because of small problems that could be driving shoppers away – problems that might take only a few minutes to fix.

Here are 5 reasons I didn’t complete my most recent purchase – opting to drive to a bricks and mortar shop and make a purchase there instead.

1.    Bad quality images & descriptions

There is no excuse for poor quality images, or images that don’t give a very clear picture – both in overview and detail – of the product you are buying.

Images that aren’t as good as actually being there holding the item in your hands aren’t good enough.

If I’m buying a bottle of organic pesticide, for example, I might want to know what the ingredients are. Maybe I’m allergic to something, maybe I want to know if it’s harmful to pets. If I can’t read the ingredients on the image, or in the description, I can’t make a decision to buy or not.

Images and descriptions are extremely important because they provide potential buyers with the information they need to make a decision. Since almost every individual has different needs or questions about a product before they buy, it falls to you to be as comprehensive and useful as possible in order to cover all possible bases.

2.    No customer reviews

According to eConsultancy, “61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and they are now essential for e-commerce sites.

If I have found a product I am interested in, I still don’t know if it’s any good. From the images and description all I can tell is that it is the “right” product – not necessarily the best one. Going back to my organic pesticide example, I might know that I have found a product that targets aphids, but I don’t know if it does the job well. For that I need to see what other people have said about it.

Customers are reluctant to make an online purchase if they don’t trust the quality and effectiveness of the product BEFORE they buy it.

Many traditional stores have attendants who can offer expert advice on which products to choose based on your needs. Sure, everyone takes their advice with a pinch of salt but at least it’s there. In the online world, the quickest option is to have easy access to customer reviews – and reviews that are clearly genuine and trustworthy.

3.    Bad cart design

If I click on an item to add it to my cart, I need to be able to confirm it is there without disrupting further shopping. In other words, it must be clear that the button I clicked added the item to the cart, and that the total price is correctly calculated – without taking me away from what I am doing.

I appreciate this isn’t trivial to design. Many stores redirect users to the cart page after an item is added so they can see what’s happening. But this can be frustrating because it makes navigation a pain – especially if there is a deep product category structure.

The alternative is to have an AJAX cart that updates without requiring a page refresh. For me this is a better option, except sometimes it’s not clear where the cart is on the page. Once I had decided on an organic pesticide to purchase I ended up clicking the “Add to cart” button three or four times without seeing any change to the page (because the cart was updating off-screen – I had to scroll back up to see the changes).

4.    Long & spammy checkout procedure

Once you have spent twenty minutes finding the right products, making sure you have read reviews, checked ingredients, watched videos, etc, the hard work should be over. I’ve done my job, now I want to finish as quickly as possible.

Don’t make me work for it. Seriously.

Stores that require me to create an account before checking out drive me nuts. I won’t use them on principle. I already have to supply my credit card info during checkout. Use that to automagically create an account for me behind the scenes (if you really must have one).

Don’t trick me into signing up for a newsletter either – leaving the “subscribe” checkbox ticked at the end of a long form is going to infuriate me when I find out. If, after making a purchase, I find I am getting bombarded with “hot deals” I will unsubscribe and not use that store again.

Let’s get this straight. As someone trying to buy something, I don’t care about your business, how many followers you have, your email marketing list, or anything else. I simply want to buy what I need. That’s it.

If you do a good job, I’ll remember you all on my own.

Internet marketers and large corporates do a wonderful job of coming up with strategies to build lists and social followings. Small business store owners tend to follow the examples demonstrated by so-called “marketing experts”, cramming their checkouts with all sorts of add-ons designed to boost their reach and visibility.

By contrast, all the customer wants is to find what they’re after quickly, checkout easily, and have their products arrive in perfect condition as quickly as possible. It’s worth checking out this list of award winning eCommerce site designs to get an idea for designs that have worked well in the real world.

5.    Complicated delivery options

I understand that there are often a multitude of delivery possibilities available to any given customer, and you want to give them the ability to choose the option that best suits them. Ok, fair enough. But there are problems with handing over choices to consumers.

My organic pesticides (several bottles) qualified for free delivery in terms of the threshold amount I was spending. Except there was also a weight limit. This meant that I ended up seeing if removing an item would help me avoid spending an additional 7% on my purchase to have it delivered. As it turns out, there was no combination of bottles and cost that qualified for free delivery. In other words, they gave me an option that ultimately turned out to be impossible, wasted my time, and irritated me. It felt like I was being cheated.

Next, there are often different delivery methods – postal service, couriers, etc – and you might think it’s a good idea to offer a wide selection of options. Except for the fact that I (as your generic customer) am not familiar with each and every service, so when you say company X offers “satchel delivery” and “same day delivery” at slightly different prices, I haven’t got the faintest idea which is which. I now have to go to that particular delivery company and research what each offering means.

No way, I’m getting in my car and going to the shops.

I’m not saying you should only provide one type of shipping. I’m saying, make a sensible decision on my behalf and give me the option of choosing a better (or worse) delivery option; without forcing me to research each and every one before making my first purchase.

Always look for ways to make the overall process as quick and painless as possible – especially for first time buyers.

Remember, you don’t get repeat business if the customer’s experience is not great the first time. Don’t try and do everything on the first go and overwhelm someone who simply wants a bottle of organic pesticide to save his prize chili plant.

David Mercer is the founder of SME Pals (Smart Modern Entrepreneurs), a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with translated into over 13 languages worldwide.