The Cost of Convenience of Shopping Online

What’s a customer’s time worth? What could be more convenient than ordering products from home or from an office and having them delivered to your doorstep or desk? Is it really easier and more convenient to get into the car, drive through traffic to a store, find a parking space, go into the store, locate the products, wait in line, pay for the items, and then drive through traffic to your office or home? That process is not convenient or time saving, yet that is what people are willing to do because they perceive that it is “easier” than shopping on some websites. Unless there is an immediate need to have a product, successful online shopping is clearly more convenient.

The Online Shopper

Shopping process hierarchies depend on the purchase purpose, and the online store needs to address these purposes. Generally, for those shoppers who already know what they want to purchase, the process is simple and similar online to the retail process. The process normally features the following steps:

The other two types of shoppers may shop randomly. The browsing third is enticed by link, an ad, an end cap, or another promotional device. This shopper will move randomly around the store to see what is offered. The information shopper is more specific in searches and may look in catalogs, search at retail, or investigate on the web.

When Michael was seeking a specific product, he was not interested in the distraction of a pop -up advertisement. Yet, when he was looking for a vacation spot, the pop-up window did not bother him. In fact, he quite enjoyed it. He wasn’t waiting for a client, and he had plenty of time before needing to book reservations for his vacation.

Sub Category and Product Detail Pages

Because customers can’t pick up virtual merchandise and read labels, the product detail page represents the product or behaves like the product package. It must clearly communicate what the product is and what the customer will receive as a result of its purchase. Anytime a page offers a product for sale, it must provide the following information for each of the products offered:

  • What it is—the description, picture, uses
  • Relevant and complete compatibility, sizing, color, or other information
  • What’s contained in the package—what the customer will receive
  • Other items needed for immediate operation (batteries, cables, assembly, UL specifications)
  • Spare or complementary items (extra batteries, film, or a carrying case)
  • "Care and feeding" of the product (special polish, cleaning instructions)
  • The price and any hidden charges (extra shipping or handling)
  • The manufacturer’s or designer’s name
  • Sample content (for example, sample book pages)

The customer must know clearly what the product is and what it looks like. And for customers who know exactly what they are looking for, accurate descriptions and specific product numbers or models must be included so they may easily recognize the correct product. Our research across more than 25 major elcommerce websites identified incomplete or inadequate information. In many cases, the web stores did not provide complete compatibility information.

Shoppers will not purchase from a site that cannot confirm their choice or be specific about what the product is that they are purchasing.

Product detail pages let customers know what they’re getting and what else they may need or want. In this example, product features—the "speeds and feeds"—are listed. This includes products they may need to purchase in order to use the product. It also features other products the customer may want. Good clothing stores recommend coordinated accessories to give customers ideas to complete ensembles for a variety of social occasions.

Easy Customer Guide

Hunting for products on websites is either like a treasure hunt or a needle in a haystack. People were ecstatic if they were successful and very disappointed if they weren’t. The process was arduous, and they came up empty-handed. When asked to describe their experiences, customers used the terms “frustrating.” “horrible;” “difficult,” and “confusing.” They often tempered their comments by saying that’s what they expect from the web anyway.

All products that customers looked for were on all of the websites. They were top-selling products in their category. Customers tried a variety of methods, but they just couldn’t find the products. Can you imagine what would happen if they tried to find a product that wasn’t as important?


Help customers easily find what they’re looking for by applying the following recommendations:

  • Learn how your customers shop.
  • Use familiar category names.
  • Keep navigation simple, and structure the site according to the customer’s understanding of products.
  • Cross-reference links between categories if a product could belong to more than one.

Provide a”breadcrumb” trail on top of the screen to show the customer’s current location in the website.

People abandon shopping carts if they can’t find products to put in them.

How Does Your WebStore Stack Up?

Regardless of the size of your online store or your organization, there are questions that you can ask of your site as a potential influencer of site design and customer experience. A website self-evaluation shows opportunities to improve site usability. Comparing your competitorssites against the same criteria and analyzing the results reveals areas of focus to remain at a competitive advantage or to catch up. Read the rest of this entry »