When online shopping goes wrong

Waiting in a queue was the last bastion of the seasoned shopper trying to get that elusive product or the must have clothing of the season. Online shopping promises salvation for many of us who don’t have time to wander aimlessly around the shops touching and feeling the clothes and trying before we buy. The ideal solution to no time and no patience was online shopping. Or so you would think. Although many retailers have got online shopping right, many still are forcing customers to wait and struggle while shopping online?

The challenge

While trying to order two pairs of jeans from one high street retailer I became involved in a battle with slow loading pages, pages which didn’t load at all, out of stock items and error messages which provided nothing but frustration. In the time it took me to get into one retailers website and locate a pair of jeans which were in the right size, length, colour and in stock add them to my shopping basket and pay for them I could have probably driven to the shop, tried them on and purchased the item in person.

The customer experience

There is a need for online retailers to monitor their customers shopping experience not only in their physical stores but also in their online stores. It is very easy to lose customers online as there is no interpersonal contact between the sales staff and the customer; it is all numbers and logins. Even with the added bonus of broadband, fast loading pages are still not a reality, and not many retailers have stopped to think about those shoppers without broadband. The customer experience and quality of service online is still not matching that of the physical in store experience.

The premise of online shopping is that it is quick and easy and can be done in the comfort of your own home, but is online shopping loosing its sparkle? In the modern world there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything so the online shopping experience seemingly offers both speed and convenience. Retailer’s websites need to be able to accommodate the speed shopper as well as the browser. Providing the ability to ‘quick shop’ by entering catalogue numbers in a list and providing the customer with the ability to store their shopping bag selections for a short period of time, are just two ways of ensuring the customer is supported.

When it doesn’t work

Many customers still experience errors when using online shopping sites. These errors can range from links not working to JavaScript errors. There are online shops where, if JavaScript is not enabled, the site won’t work which means for some customers there is no shopping experience at all.

There are many things that can enhance a shopping experience but also many that can frustrate. For example, it would be more useful if an ‘out of stock’ message was presented before reaching the checkout stage. If the item is not in stock then it shouldn’t be available to select from the online shop and added to a basket. If an item is out of stock on the high street then it cannot physically be picked up, added to a basket and taken to the checkout.

Shoppers now have a much greater choice of retailers online than in the high street. Retailers are even easier to access and buy from now and so the competition for customer’s hard earned cash is now even stronger. Any small error or frustration with an online shop which affects a customers experience could escalate into a loss of that customers business.


Shopping on a slow online store and then experiencing the frustration of an empty basket when the website crashes is enough to ruin a customers faith in online shopping and force them back on to the mean streets to indulge in some retail therapy.

Creating a good customer experience is not something that should only be thought of as residing within the physical high street stores. Providing excellent customer service through an online store should not be difficult, although customers are not able to deal with a sales consultant face to face there are still other ways in which a customer can feel valued. For example, a clear website structure and navigation, clear categorisation of content, confirmation feedback for orders, clear delivery information, company contact details both email and phone, quick responses to queries and also informing users when items are out of stock before they get to the checkout. These are all aspects which can help enhance online shopping and help customers have a great shopping experience.

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