Online Retail

February 2, 2012

Your Customers’ Online Shopping Experience

online storeYou’ve developed the products, started the company, and created the website.  Once you’ve managed to drive traffic to your site (another series of posts entirely!) are you making it easy for customers to purchase online?

This article was inspired from an online purchase of a specialty item I was trying to make from a large housewares company.  I say ‘specialty’ because this is the type of product you buy once every ten years.  So not something I’d be back to purchase anytime soon.

The web buying experience was straight forward and streamlined until I got to the check out where I was required to create an account complete with a username and password.  There was simply no getting around this – no option to check out as a guest.  Rather than simply being able to input my credit card information and get on with my weekend, I had to go through a lengthy sign up process.

While the business side of me understands that they want to capture this information so I can be added to their marketing database, the customer part of me was completely irked by this delay in checking out.  If there had been other options for me to purchase this item from another store at that point I would have abandoned my shopping cart and gone elsewhere.  Why was I, as a customer, being forced to create an account profile complete with a password that I will never remember when I got back to that store in 10 years.  Don’t we all already have enough passwords we can’t remember?

This led me to think about shopping online from small food businesses.  For many of us who have a web commerce system integrated into our sites, we’re using separate ‘off the rack’ third party systems like PayPal to securely process the order for us.  We look at the entire process, start to finish, from the business side but how many of us have made a purchase from our own site with a focus on the other side – the customer experience part of the equation?  And how many of us have asked friends and family to purchase (refunding them of course!) so they can test out the system and provide us with feedback.

Granted, with an ‘off the rack’ checkout system there may be parts you can and cannot change in the program but if you or your testers are running into a lot of technical glitches or frustrations (such as requiring an account) then chances are your customers are too and you may just want to investigate other checkout options.  The last thing you want to do is have your company’s online buying experience leave customers with a bad taste in their mouth.

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3 comments on “Your Customers’ Online Shopping Experience

  • Susan on said:

    Are there any suggestions in terms of making the customer’s experience easier when purchasing a product online and how to go about creating that experience? Thanks!

    • smallfoodbiz on said:

      This is just my opinion and I’m by no means a web design expert, but I think you have to make the process as streamlined and easy for your customers. By that I mean, if you’ve gotten someone to the point where they have actually put items into their shopping cart, you want to make sure there are no stumbling blocks that will prevent them from buying. Some people, myself included, absolutely hate having to create a new account – just let me check out without forcing me to create a password and user name. Some sites I’ve seen ask you to sign up for this and that newsletter or ask a series of demographic questions (age range, income, etc) prior to letting the customer purchase. If you feel any of those are important for your sales or marketing database, I’d suggest allowing the customer to purchase and then asking them those questions or offering to them to set up an account. That way you already have their order and they can abandon your website if they’re not interested without you losing the sale.

      Again, easier said than done if you’re using an out-of-the-box shopping cart program (as many of us are!) but something to be aware of and look for as you you determine which shopping cart program to use or think about changing your existing cart to another program.