7 Common Ecommerce Friction Points


7 Common Ecommerce Friction Points

Internet retail stores have been enjoying huge increases over the last decade. In 2011, ecommerce sales totaled $194.3 billion up 16.1% from 2010 (source:internetretailer).The technology behind these stores has kept pace with sales which has brought everyone some very convenient and wide-ranging shopping solutions.

What has not kept pace with online sales is online sales techniques. Many websites commit errors that are simply astounding considering how much information and testing abilities are available to developers and marketing professionals. There are many reasons why companies, large and small, may be limited in promoting a good online shopping experience but lack of information and an affordable shopping cart are not good excuses. In the last year we encountered a $1billion company that didn’t include a total amount of the order in their shopping cart. They simply stated they would email the customer a total once they figured out tax and shipping expenses. Seriously? In this case, the marketing department knew the problems and had solutions but company culture restricted their ability to influence change.

Listed below are seven common ecommerce friction points. These may not be the most important for your business… the most important friction point for your business is the one that has the greatest negative impact on sales. Remember, these are friction points not important things to do like getting the email first, running tests or actually turning a profit.  Also, don’t try to imitate large popular websites or what brick and mortar leaders do on their websites. Not all ecommerce sites are trying to turn a profit.

Many companies run loss leaders in order to build a list of contacts where they can then use direct response companies like KD Mailing to mail postcards or high converting catalogs.

Below, in no particular order…
1.  Have a prominent toll free phone number that someone actually answers. Many online customers want to know there is someone truly connected to the website. Often, after they call, they want to return to the website to continue shopping and will place the order through the cart. The phone call was used to confirm trust.

Also – try to use an 800 number, or even an 888 number. Companies that use an 866 number can often look like they may not have been around for a while. It’s sort of the phone equivalent of using a .NET, .TV or .CO instead of the default .COM for your ecommerce site.

2. Answer all emails within 24 hours and respond to all emails within minutes. With all the autoresponder email software available it should be easy to find one that fits any budget. There is just no excuse for not sending a simple, “We received your email and will get back to you…”. This is also a trust building or breaking exercise. If the customer has an unanswered email for 24 hours that is a friction point. If they don’t receive a response for 48 hours – they are no longer your customer.

3. Let your customers see the shipping charge without registering. Make this an easy to find feature. Not displaying the shipping amount until later in the checkout process can lead to increased cart abandonment. According to a study by Paypal and Comscore, 36% of shoppers abandoned the cart because they felt the total cost of the purchase was higher than expected. Don’t lose sales because of aggressive shipping costs.

NOTE: According to the Forrester report, Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment 44% of shoppers who abandoned the cart did so because they felt the shipping and handling charges were too high.

4. Make sure you have a guest checkout option. Forrester research has recently shown that 14% of shoppers abandoned the cart because they couldn’t remember their usernames and passwords. Apparently, resetting the passwords was too much trouble… after all, Amazon is only a click away.

5. Trying to increase sales with related offers is a good technique, but having too many options on the checkout page can be confusing. Once confused, a shopper is very likely to simply leave so that they feel better. Closely related to having too many offers is having a prominent field for a coupon discount code to be entered. You want to make it easy for someone that has a coupon to actually use that coupon, but you don’t want to make someone without a coupon feel like they are missing out on a discount.

6. Make sure you have links to your privacy policy and returns and exchange policies. Having this information up front helps build trust between the cold, digital website and the very real person pecking away at the keyboard.

7. Have user friendly error messages on the checkout pages – especially where customers enter their credit card information. Regardless of your design people will enter the wrong information from time to time. Instead of causing their stress levels to rise by not making it exactly clear what they need to do – give them a soft landing. Show them exactly what they need to do to complete the form. If your shopping cart solution requires registration – make it as simple as possible. If the customer must choose a password that contains a number, be over 8 characters in length, include a capitalized letter and contain one non-alphabetic character – make darn sure you spell this out clearly. One or two mishaps as they try to register will have most customers looking for Amazon.

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Joe Bennett has spent the last 12 years consulting companies for lead generation and conversion optimization in the Chicago area. He currently runs

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