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Five Consumer Pain Points in the Ecommerce Industry

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Larry Alton
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When you think about it, the ecommerce industry is still in its infancy. Mass adoption has only just happened in the last decade or so. So, it stands to reason that there are a number of areas to improve. And, while these pain points are often overlooked, consumers are becoming less willing to deal with ecommerce brands that continue to ignore them.
The Growth of Ecommerce
According to market research conducted last year, global ecommerce sales are expected to eclipse $3.5 trillion by 2019. In 2015, researchers were expecting the Internet to account for 7.3 percent of total global retail sales, while that number could balloon to 12.4 percent by 2019.
In other words, ecommerce is growing at a confounding rate. The question is, are things growing too rapidly? We're fewer than 15 years removed from mass adoption of online shopping, and, in many respects, this is still apparent in the volume of pain points that consumers are left dealing with on their end.
Though nobody is going to argue the value and impact of online shopping on the business world, there are plenty of folks who recognize a need to satisfy the pressing consumer pain points in order to create more efficient and satisfactory online shopping experiences across the board.
Five Major Consumer Pain Points
Let's take a look at some of the most pervasive consumer pain points in the industry and why they need to be corrected in order to maximize healthy growth in the industry.
1. Too Much Research Required
If you've ever made a significant or sizeable purchase online, you've probably momentarily transformed yourself into a mini detective - looking for clues and piecing together information to find the best deal possible. Before buying anything, you bring up your Google search bar, and browse websites and blogs for coupons. This includes things like 10 percent off, 20 percent off, and free shipping - discounts that can be substantial in certain situations. But, while the discounts may be helpful, this sleuth activity shouldn't be necessary.
"But why is the step necessary? Why force us to play this game? I understand that these little discounts are a means for retailers to get shoppers excited to buy - and one way to do so is to make them feel special with an 'exclusive' or 'limited-time' offer," writes Brad Tuttle, a business and finance reporter for TIME. "But come on. This is annoying. If there's a special promotion available and valid, then make it automatically available to all consumers. Don't make us play games."
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like retailers are going to do anything about the current setup. However, from a consumer point of view, at least one solution has arisen in response to this pain point: the Shopta browser extension. This extension streamlines the shopping process and automatically notifies shoppers when there's a coupon, deal, discount, free shipping, etc.
In the coming months, look for more tools and solutions like this to emerge as ecommerce businesses become privy to the fact that consumers are growing weary of research-heavy shopping experiences.
2. Common Shipping and Handling Issues
Nearly half of ecommerce customers experience at least one online customer experience issue each year. The three most common problems are deliveries arriving late (reported by 19 percent of customers), goods arriving damaged or faulty (13 percent of customers), and goods not arriving at all (11 percent of customers). Other common problems include deliveries being left outside without permission and unexpected fees.
While any one of these problems occurring in an isolated instance may not seem like a big deal, they become major issues when compounded over millions of different interactions. If the problem grows, and consumers continue to question the shipping and handling aspect of ecommerce transactions, a pivotal shift will become inevitable.
3. Lack of Interaction
One of the most glaring issues is the fact that online shopping comes with innate differences - namely that it's impossible for customers to touch, feel, and interact with products prior to making a purchase. This is why so many consumers participate in what the industry now calls "showrooming." This is where shoppers browse physical stores to test products, and then order them online.
This lack of interaction is something that etailers are fighting hard to overcome. Many are turning to product demonstration videos, immersive online experiences, and generous return policies - but the reality is that nothing can overcome the physical gap between shopping online and shopping in a store.
Quite frankly, it's brick-and-mortar stores that have more to worry about when it comes to showrooming. After all, they're the ones who are investing the time and effort only to lose the sale at the last moment. If you were to survey brick-and-mortar retailers, you'd most likely see this reflected in their responses. Nevertheless, it's an issue for ecommerce businesses too, as "reverse showrooming" has now become a trend.
4. Lengthy Delivery Times
We live in an "I want it now" culture. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, smartphones, on-demand streaming services, and other technologies, the average consumer - especially millennials who know nothing else - has been conditioned to expect immediacy in their purchase decisions. When it comes to purchasing physical products online, immediacy isn't an option.
The reverse showrooming trend that was previously referenced involves consumers doing research and price comparison online, then visiting a brick-and-mortar store to make the purchase. Typically, the logic behind reverse showrooming is that shoppers don't want to wait the three to five business days it takes for the product to arrive in the mail.
While Amazon has been using two-day shipping with overwhelming positive results, the truth is that most etailers can't afford to implement this option. And, if they can, most shoppers won't be able to afford the option. This is one pain point that needs to be solved in order to continue propelling the industry forward while simultaneously enhancing customer satisfaction.
5. Poor Filtering Options
The fifth major consumer pain point in the industry is poor filtering options on websites. According to a 2015 benchmark study, only 16 percent of major ecommerce websites offer a "reasonably good" filtering experience. In fact, 42 percent of top ecommerce websites lack category-specific filtering for some of their core product categories.
This goes back to the first pain point about how users are required to do exhaustive research prior to making a purchase. Poor filtering only increases the complexity of making an online purchase and is sometimes a leading factor in forcing online shoppers to finish the purchase process via brick-and-mortar.
Enhancing the Ecommerce Shopping Experience
While the ecommerce industry is obviously thriving - all you have to do is look at the numbers - it's also clear that there are a number of pervasive consumer pain points that need solutions. In the coming months and years, the growth of the industry will be restricted by these needs. It'll be interesting to see how individual businesses respond. It'll also be intriguing to keep an eye on brick-and-mortar, as this sector of retail has shown that it's not willing to go down without a fight.

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