Creating a good eCommerce experience isn’t hard – you just need to make your customers’ experience as easy as possible.
In theory, this is really easy, but many still get it wrong.
Let’s take a look at the example of a company called Scan. This company offers computer hardware and we occasionally use them for our company.
I’ve had a couple of bad experiences with them over the past couple of days. They were different orders but the problem was the same each time. I’ve also always had issues with their site, so I thought the time has come to offer some constructive criticism.
Their site design is generally alright, although the homepage is quite crowded. However, it’s still easy to see what they offer and I imagine most visitors find it quite useful to see the options and prices displayed as they are.
There are a couple of issues to my mind, though…
Display & Navigation
I quite like the top navigation menu, but the problem is that when you click on an option, a new window pops out. You then have to choose the subcategories you want.
My problem is that I don’t like the tick boxes and having to make the selection in this way – it can also be hard to determine the differences between the sometimes very similar subcategory options.
Also, the product listing pages are often full of adverts and links so you have to go down to the bottom part of the page to see the products you’re actually looking for.
Lastly, if you make use of the filtering options, these are significantly above the products parts of the page. This means it’s quite awkward to scroll between the two and you can’t tell whether the filter selection has worked until you go back down towards the bottom of the page.
Account Log In
The login form on the Scan site is not the best I’ve ever used, to say the least. You need to get an account before you can buy anything, and you have to enter lots of details into separate boxes just to log in – your first and last names, postcode, password and your mother’s maiden name. I just can’t quite work out why it’s like this.
I need fewer details to get onto my online bank account than I do onto this account.
Also, because of how the login form has been set out, the details are never properly saved no matter which browser I use, which means I have to enter most of it in manually each time.
My big problem with the checkout form is that it always adds something called Scansure Procedure. This is an insurance policy that lasts for about a month to cover you in case you break something while installing it onto your computer.
I don’t mind them offering the service – I’m sure some people find it very useful. However, I don’t like the assumption that anyone placing an order will definitely need it. The cost is often upwards of £30 based on the standard value of one of our orders. You then have to acknowledge another confirmation when you try and remove it from the order.
This basically adds three unnecessary steps to the order process: noticing the extra charge, deselecting it, and then confirming the deselection.
One thing that I do like about this form, however, is the fact that you can choose a delivery time and date from a selection of options. More sites should do this as it really is very convenient.
Customer Service Fail
Even though the issues discussed so far are irritating, Scan could resolve them fairly easily. The really big issue that I have with them is to do with their stock levels.
They list everything on their site as either ‘pre-order’ or ‘in stock’.
However, when they say something is ‘in stock,’ they don’t say how many they have in stock. This means that when you order, say, three graphics cards that are all the same, you can end up getting a nasty surprise later that day in the form of an email informing you that your order has been delayed.
They then tell you that because of a temporary stock shortage, you can’t actually get what you’ve ordered. They won’t even dispatch what they do have in stock: they put the whole order on hold. It’s not great when you’re relying on their components for your own customer orders.
You’re allowed to check out and pay for your order – but then at the end of the day when their customer helpline has closed for the night, you find out you can’t get what you paid for.
This inevitably means that you have to once again go through the business of logging into the site to get more order information, only to find that there is no additional information or explanation. You just have to wait until the phone lines reopen so you can call for help.
This is what happened to me very recently. The guy on the other end of the phone was very helpful, but he had to admit that the site can’t tell how much of a particular product is in stock. Nor did he know why it took so long for me to be informed of a problem with my order.
When I asked if I could just be sent the one graphics card and have a refund for the other two, he seemed to get a bit of an attitude. It’s not exactly encouraging me to use them again.
Also, yesterday I needed a specialist part. A scan was one of the only companies I could find any of these parts at so I ordered two. The exact same problem happened to me again. So annoying!
Our company spends thousands – sometimes much more – on component parts every month, and I try to avoid using Scan because it’s such a hassle to use their service and they suffer from service problems that other companies don’t seem to.
All of these issues could be rectified without too much trouble, but it’s been this way for a couple of years now – they’re probably losing quite a bit of business from this.
Please, when you are designing a website, make sure you don’t do anything that might irritate your customers. It’s difficult enough getting their business in the first place: you don’t want to drive them away almost as soon as you’ve won them over.