The 31 Worst Ecommerce Mistakes You Can Commit

Posted by James Dunford Wood 19 May 14

shutterstock_185658812According to industry statistics, the average Briton spends 18 days a year shopping online. Overlooking the fact that the 'average Briton' does not exist, and that many of us don't spend even a whole day online (see my previous post on Data Use, Misuse and Abuse), you get the picture. And because we spend so much time shopping online, we are increasingly picky and demanding as to the online shopping experience we expect. A few years ago we may have waited patiently for a page to load - nowadays it's a big fail.

We all have our list of pet peeves as far as online shopping goes. Here are my top ecommerce mistakes:

1. Delivery charges on check out

I HATE not having delivery charges spelled out before I start shopping. Granted, in many cases the exact amount will depend on the number of items bought, and in some cases weight, but I want an indication before I get to check out. Better still, no delivery charges at all. That's the way it's gone in the US, so what's the problem here, where most postal distances are under 200 miles?

2. Hidden returns policy or other essential info

I don't want to have to hunt for this stuff, it should be clearly visible. If the returns policy has gone AWOL, then so shall I.

3. Hidden physical address 

Same goes for the legal stuff, as well as where the company is based. I want to know who they are, where they are located, and that it's all legit and not some slick online portal for a company based in (pick your dodgy country.)

4. Hard to find customer service number

You would think this is obvious, but then some companies just can't handle phone based customer service, which is a red flag to me.

5. 0845 numbers

I know I am on a losing wicket here, as there are good reasons for companies to use these - they can easily be forwarded to outsourced customer services companies for example. However, did you realise that it costs a small fortune to call these numbers from a mobile, however cheap they may be from a landline? Why can't they have a landline alternative? Sometimes they provide a landline for overseas visitors - (+44-(0)20 etc) - this is the one I always call. I'm half Scottish, you see.

6. No results message on search

We have written extensively on this blog about this no-no. Please, get your search together. It's like asking a shop assistant for help and them just saying no, sorry, can't help and turning their back on you. If you can't help, suggest alternatives. And please, try and be intelligent about guessing what I might be looking for if I haven't got the search term quite right.

7. Categories with just one product

Again, I'm probably on another losing wicket - (cricket anyone?) - because many retailers just don't have the stock to flesh out every category properly. Still, it doesn't mean I should like it.

8. Newsletter pop-ups on first visit

Horrible. I've just arrived on the site, don't yet know what I want to buy there, might not even know anything about the brand, and they are asking for my email address? It's like being stopped at the doorway to a store and being asked for my ID. (Though I'm flattered of course if it happens in a supermarket. Hardly likely though.)

9. Live chat that does not answer

If you are going to offer live chat, make sure you can support it in office hours.

10. On hold customer service with music...

...and no indication of how long you will wait. Worse still, Britney Spears.

11. Crappy fonts, or too small

Perhaps this is more of a design peeve, but I don't want a site that is not comfortable to read. Still, if they are selling designer suits at knockdown prices, I'll put up with anything.

12. Images with busy backgrounds

So I can't see the product properly. Images need to add value, not detract.

13. Cookie messages that won't close on mobile

This drives me nuts - it basically makes the site unusable.

14. Coupon code boxes that don't have any indication of how you can find them if you don't already have one

This is a real slap in the face for the majority who don't have a code. It makes me feel I'm not part of some secret club. At least have some text or a link to somewhere you can review where to get codes.

15. 'Download our app' messages on mobile sites that load on first visit

This can be infuriating, just like the newsletter pop-up. I may want to download the app at my leisure, but I don't want it rammed down my throat.

16. Smiley girl in the headset


This post says it better than I could

17. The disappearing footer

When you get long results pages, the footer either is a hassle to find or disappears altogether. Please, let's have contact information and other performance critical stuff where we can see it.

18. Sites that ask me where I am based when it should be obvious where my IP is

Most sites default to where they think you are based and then give you the option to change it.

19. Multiple opening popups when I have not asked for them

This is real old school stuff - Tripadvisor used to do it when you searched hotel rates, as did Dealchecker. So I was surprised to see Skyscanner suddenly doing it. It's obvious why - they charge each of their affiliates every time a window opens. But it's a scam - I never asked for this, and it's a terrible user experience. If I want price comparison, I want it displayed neatly on one page, not in a series of popups.

20. Look-up address boxes that won't let me write in my own

You know, those lookup boxes that often take longer to find your address than putting it in yourself - or better still auto-filling it using Chrome. So you do that, and press enter/send/go - and the effing thing says you have not filled out your address. Grrr!

21. Forms that require me to put in a county or region

London, London, London.

22. UK based sites where the UK comes under UAE

And worst of all, US sites that have no UK, but England! OK, so the theory is you can start typing and it will jump down the list for you, but you still end up at the United Arab Emirates.

23. Over-sensitive, flickering drop down menus that disappear as soon as you stray off the text

Simply adds more stress.

24. Asking me if I'd like to buy other stuff that won't go away until I click shut

Go daddy, airlines etc - I guess it works for them, so we have to live with it, but I still consider it a #fail. 

25. Emails that follow me MORE THAN ONCE when I abandon a cart

Retargeting efforts are great but they should be used intelligently. Annoying me won't get me back.

26. Graphic badges and awards I can't read

If you want to flaunt your prestige, please do it with some design know-how. Otherwise it's useless flair. 

27. Blogs that don't show you how to get back to the main site

This is another bad design element. Make things easy for me!

28. Difficult to find shopping cart links

Some would say that shopping is a visual artform, so c'mon, at least show me what I'm buying. 

29. Pagination on product results

This should all be dealt with via good filtering, and a list of top products plus 'refine your search' options. Not pages 1-47.

30. Add to cart buttons that won't work

And then don't remind me I have forgotten to enter size or colour variants.

31. Forced registration

Well, I left this for last as it's on everybody's list, and if there's one piece of banning legislation the EU could usefully pass, this would be it. 

Any howlers I have left out? Let me know in the comments below! And if you really enjoyed reading this post, subscribe to our blog to get regular emails on optimising your ecommerce site, plus industry trends and retail news. 

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Topics: Ecommerce marketing tips

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