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8 common ecommerce frustrations that keep customers away (and proven strategies to win them back)

8 common ecommerce frustrations that keep customers away (and proven strategies to win them back)

Olly Meakings
22nd June 2020
Ecommerce frustrations

50%. That’s how much ecommerce’s share in retail sales has grown in the first few months on 2020, reported Common Thread Collective in early May 2020.

In May, two months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, “US ecommerce spending grew by 93% year over year,” revealed a MasterCard SpendingPulse study.

Providing a high quality experience online continues becoming a critical differentiation and retention factor. In a survey we conducted in June here at UserReplay, we found that a poor ecommerce customer experience would cause 53% of customers to abandon the site permanently.

To avoid this, it’s important to address customers’ top frustrations.

Using data from our survey and a variety of other studies, let’s explore what these frustrations are and how you can overcome them, so you can win customers’ loyalty for the long term.

Poor quality customer service

96% of global consumers told Microsoft in 2017 that the quality of the customer service they receive directly impacts their purchase and loyalty decisions. In the US, 98% agreed with that statement.

According to a 2019 report by Drift and Survey Monkey, “between 2018 and 2019, customers grew increasingly annoyed at not being able to get the answers they needed and not having access to 24/7 service,” reported Smart Insights.

The report revealed that email and phone remained the preferred service channels, with website and online chat not far behind. Chatbots, who came in fourth from last, were only preferred by 13% of responders, yet they were considered the best at delivering 24/7 results.

That said, the study revealed that “people expect to receive nearly identical response times from a chatbot as they do with a face to face conversation,” reported Smart Insight.

Source: Drift & Survey Monkey via Smart Insights

If this feels unrealistic to you, there’s an even deeper need you can fulfil to differentiate your customer service: empathy.

According to the Temkin Group, customers who receive a positive emotional experience from a company are 87% likely to purchase again, 75% likely to recommend the company to others, and 63% likely to forgive the company’s mistakes.

Source: Temkin Group via YouTube

4 powerful strategies to win them back

  • Provide your team with empathy training, but don’t stop at your entry level team members who pick up the phone. Train their managers too, on how to manage and mentor employees in an empathetic way. Employees who feel heard and cared for are much more likely to make customers feel the same way.
  • Analyze your response time via phone and email. Figure out what’s keeping your team from answering faster, so you can take more strategic decisions. If agents are on calls longer because they’re practicing listening and empathy, let your customers know the delays are here because you decided every customer matters, and you won’t sacrifice service quality to meet quotas.
  • However, if you don’t have enough agents to provide high quality service in a timely matter, consider hiring additional agents. It’s a great way to help your community too, as so many people have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. In a study by EY Future Consumer Index, 57% said they’ll spend more with companies that working to support the community, reported Internet Retailing in late May. Make an effort to hire from especially impacted population sectors to make the biggest impact.
  • Improve your self-service options. Develop more in depth Knowledge Centers, and train chatbots to help direct people to the answers they need if they prefer this route. Use the Knowledge Center to train your customer service agents, too, so they’ll be able to help customers better and faster on the phone and via email.

Inaccurate Search Results

On-site search was found to be “the preferred product finding strategy” of Baymard Institute’s research participants, “as they perceived it to be faster than category navigation,” reported Big Commerce.

“That’s a big deal – because if a consumer is taking the time to type in what exactly they are looking for from your brand, then they are further down the funnel than any other potential consumer on your site,” Big Commerce added.

There’s only one problem – most on-site searches don’t work.

According to the study, simply phrasing a search query differently than the jargon a site uses, or misspelling a word, could lead to inaccurate or nonexistent results.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that, in our June 2020 survey, 56% of respondents said their biggest frustrations on ecommerce sites were the search results. 32% get frustrated when they get inaccurate search results, and 24% – when their search returns no results at all.

3 powerful strategies to win them back

  • To help customers out, start by letting go of pages that show no results. Show the closest results possible instead.
  • Then, to avoid inaccurate search results, adapt your system to understand similar terms to the jargon your site uses, and allow for misspellings.
  • Consider partnering with suppliers that provide artificial intelligence based on-site search, that can adapt more easily, and even personalize results based on the customer’s history on your site.

Poor navigation

Remember that customers said searching for a product on their own is faster than category navigation? 30% of our survey respondents said poor site navigation drives them away from ecommerce sites.

Similarly to search results, when customers want to shop, our job is to make it easier for them.

Start by creating easily identifiable categories, such as “vegetables and fruit” or “office clothes.” Then, let customers drill further down and filter the results, to help them get to exactly the product types they need without wasting time.

3 strategies to win them back

  • Continue by focus on purchase intent. On Target‘s website, if you choose the “furniture” category, then “small space furniture,” you’re presented with a bunch of options to help you navigate products more efficiently.
  • You can explore categories by room, by category (such as bookshelves and armless chairs), or by need (“use those corners,” “finishing touches”). Let’s say you go for “finishing touches” and choose “lighting.” You’re presented with another set of options to filter through, so you only need to review lighting suggestions that are relevant for you.
  • Finally, cross-promote products across categories. That chair they might have missed or overlooked under “living room” could suddenly seem like a must when they’re browsing for bedroom furniture, or vice versa.

Lack of accessibility

If your website is not accessible to people managing disabilities, you’re potentially keeping a quarter of the population from buying from you. “One in four US adults – 61 million Americans – have a disability that impacts major life activities,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to a study of 10 million pages, 70-90% of websites fail to comply with many accessibility regulations regarding menus, images, popups, forms, icons, buttons and links, among others. The following graph shows the percentage of pages that fail to comply.

As you can see, you have a great chance to stand out of the crowd (and avoid lawsuits) by making some improvements. accessiBe, who conducted the study, breaks down what the requirements are for different site elements here.

Source: accessiBe

3 strategies to win them back

  • Almost no website offers an accessible menu, so it’s a good place to start. Menus are the way visitors access your inventory, so it’s critical that they’re usable. accessiBe recommended that you enable menu navigation using the Tab and arrow keys, and loop them around. Meaning, if a visitor reaches the bottom or far right end of a menu and wants to keep going, direct them back to the beginning of the menu. It also recommended enabling opening a menu with “Enter” and closing it with “Esc.”
  • Navigation with tab and arrow keys, and closing with “Esc,” also matter in popups, the second most neglected accessibility aspect, according to accessiBe.
  • Meanwhile, while approximately half the websites in the study complied with accessibility requirements according to images, this might be one of the simplest elements to fix if your site doesn’t. “All images must have an Alt attribute… that properly describes the objects in the image, and if the image contains texts… then the embedded text must also be present in the alt attribute,” explained accessiBe. Yes, it’ll likely be time consuming, but if you do it well, it could also help you with SEO. CRM company HubSpot 8x image search traffic in one year, partially by optimizing alt text.

No product Information

Once they’ve landed on potential products, customers find product information necessary for their final purchase decision. 30% of our survey respondents said lack of product information was their biggest frustration on ecommerce sites.

3 strategies to win them back

  • To write a good product description, make sure you include important feature information, like size, weight and available colors. But go beyond that and talk about the benefits the product provides, and how it will make customers’ lives better.
  • Write as close to customers’ own voice as possible. To do that, read popular blog (or YouTube channel) comments, follow relevant hashtags on social media, and read your own product reviews and customer feedback.
  • And if you’ve got a good story – about how the product gets manufactured or how it played a significant role in another customer’s life – consider sharing it to build a deeper emotional connection with the folks who are currently considering what’s in it for them.

Difficult checkout process

Globally, approximately 7 out of 10 people abandoned their online cart in 2019, according to Satista. These are people who chose products, were a step away from paying for them… and then walked away.

Source: Statista

Our survey reveals part of the problem. Over a quarter of responders (28%) said their number one frustration with ecommerce sites was a difficult checkout process. Over a quarter of responders (26%) told Baymard the same in 2019, reports SaleCycle.

How can you make it easier for them?

Source: Baymard via SaleCycle

4 strategies to win them back

  • Start by not requiring new customers to create an account. According to the Baymard study, it leads to approximately one in three abandoning the cart.
  • For returning customers, make it very easy to recover lost passwords (for example, work to increase inbox deliverability of password reset emails).
  • Once they’re in, make it easy for customers to see the total cost of their order, and don’t surprise them with new costs they likely weren’t aware of.
  • Reduce the number of fields they need to fill out whenever possible, and make it easy to fill the right boxes and click on the right buttons on mobile.

Unreliable delivery

As Global Web Index reported in late May, the number one thing customers want from an ecommerce website, as we move through COVID-19, is reliable delivery. “Reliability considerably outranks speed. Consumers would rather have certainty than instant delivery,” added Global Web Index.

4 strategies to win them back

  • First, customers want a reliable delivery. To provide that, deliver when you say you will, and make sure you supply high quality products.
  • The fact that customers aren’t in the store to pick products out themselves is not an opportunity to get rid of products that are this-close to expiring. At least not if you want them to buy again.
  • Have plenty of essential items on stock on a regular basis, and be upfront with customers if there are any challenges.
  • Finally, customers want a reliable website. On top of what we’ve covered above, do your best to show real time inventory availability. Don’t let customers count on a product being available when it’s not.
Source: Global Web Index

Lack of empathy for customers’ experience through COVID-19


We’ve all been through a lot over the past few months. Hundreds of thousands have died, millions have gotten sick, and the International Labour Organization clarified that COVID-19’s financial effects have far exceeded those of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

Win them back

To help you design a strategy that takes customers’ most pressing needs into consideration and helps your organization move through this time, we’ve recently conducted an in-depth analysis of research studies and surveys that, together, clarify how you can serve your customers well and retain loyalty long term. You can download it here.


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