The challenges of online shopping for e-retailers

In 2013, consumers worldwide parted with $1.2 trillion, to purchase a variety of products via the global online marketplace. What's more, a further $4 trillion worth of goods annually also had the potential to be sold, however, resulted in shoppers abandoning the sale.

In today’s flourishing e-commerce industry, this figure represents a lost opportunity for retailers and highlights the diverse challenges that the competitive and dynamic industry faces.

Online shopping has become a popular practice among consumers, providing the ultimate convenience for our already busy and time poor lifestyles. However, despite the convenience that online shopping offers, many consumers are unsatisfied with their experiences, resulting in abandoned carts and potential sales lost. In fact, some of the most common reasons for deserted sales was the result of extra expenses such as shipping, tax, fees being too high, the lengthy and complicated checkout process, slow loading times, and unsatisfactory returns policies.

Fortunately, these issues can easily be rectified to promote a more cohesive user experience, which will minimise cart abandonment and improve overall e-commerce sales. Through implementing design changes, optimising for mobile, incorporating paid search advertising strategies and providing real-time support, e-commerce retailers will be able to capitalise on previously missed opportunities and increase their online conversions.

A central and crucial component of online retail is inevitably the website. It may seem obvious to some, but a poorly designed e-commerce website that has slow loading speeds or lengthy checkout processes makes the site increasingly difficult for consumers to use functionally, resulting in an unpleasant online shopping experience. Such issues pertaining to website usability are also cited as the most common reasons for cart abandonment, in which consumers leave products behind to spend with competitors with better user experiences. To put this into perspective, more than half of online shoppers will leave a site that takes more than 3 seconds to load, while simply optimising the site and minimising the loading time by even just one second, will increase conversion rates by 27%.

Mobile and responsive design is another factor that needs to be considered for e-commerce providers. Studies have revealed that online retail websites that fail to be mobile responsive are 76 percent more likely to lose customers in comparison to websites that are have been optimised for mobile traffic. Furthermore, Google recently stated that 58% of online consumer’s demand that mobile sites load just as quickly, if not faster than the desktop counterpart, exacerbating the need for adequately designed responsive e-commerce websites.

While many internet retailers have already identified the importance of this, multiple companies encountered barriers to its implementation. Brands and retailers tackled the issue by producing duplicate content for mobile-specific websites. By doing this, e-commerce providers negatively affect their search engine optimisation efforts due to Google’s complex ranking algorithm which penalises identical content. This issue is easily resolved through coding your existing website in order to promote functionality for cross-platform use without duplicating content, while also ensuring a consistent feel across the mobile, tablet and desktop sites.

Consumers also identify issues with the checkout process itself as a reason to discontinue their online purchases and abandon the cart. 35% of consumers did not want to create an account during the checkout process, while 27% were put off simply by the lengthy and complicated process. Furthermore, 18% of consumers fail to trust some sites with their credit card information and 8% of consumers were unsatisfied with the payment options offered, leaving the store behind in favour of competitors who provide these services. With a few website design tweaks such as displaying badges to emphasise secure payments, integrating multiple payment options such as Pay Pal and Apple Pay which can help simplify the buying process to promote higher conversion rates and reduce the likelihood of cart abandonment.

While the aforementioned website design and development issues can have a detrimental effect on e-commerce sales, they can also affect the sites overall search engine ranking. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) search advertising and search engine optimisation strategies are another useful opportunity to further capitalise on the potentially lost e-commerce sales. In fact, digitally savvy consumers are exposed to roughly 100,500 words via online platforms on a daily basis. Therefore, it has never been more crucial to stand out and rank number one on any given search engine. 

In fact, recent studies have highlighted that the prime position of the first place on Google results in an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4%, while position 2 has an average CTR of 12.5%, and position 3 reduces to a CTR of only 9.5%. Research indicates that targeting long-tail keyword phrases by producing high-quality content, can capture the attention of potential shoppers who are searching for your product and generate an extra 20,000 organic searches per month to the online store, improving rankings and significantly increasing the chances for further online sales.

Google Shopping has also proven to be a successful strategy to encourage online conversions. In fact, the search advertising strategy is responsible for more than half of all paid search clicks across all devices. As complicated checkout processes were highlighted as a key reason for abandoning sales, such a strategy allows for ease of shopping and added convenience.

Along with functional design and a strategic search advertising plan, real-time support needs to be a central component of any e-commerce site in order to push sales and reduce the likeliness of cart abandonment. As e-commerce websites provide convenience for consumer’s busy lifestyles, it is unsurprising that the most common time for online shopping has been identified as 8 pm. However, research also suggests that this time of day results in significantly higher abandonment rates. Further research also identifies that 72 percent of e-commerce merchants fail to provide real-time assistance to their consumers during this time.

While it may not be viable for a customer service representative to attend to any queries during these times, automated solutions such as chat bots can instantly address any customer concerns. Having a live customer service solution at a peak time of day will help prevent any potential sales losses, as well as overcome the challenge of providing customer service to consumers who expect it instantly.

While e-commerce sales have grown exponentially in recent years, there is still a great opportunity for even better results. E-commerce retailers constantly face the challenge to persuade consumers against major competitors while also staying up to date with the dynamic nature of the industry. Cart abandonment rates may be significantly high, yet with website design tweaks, paid search advertising strategies and implementing real-time customer service support, conversion rates will improve and further sales will be generated.

At RGC Advertising, we are a full-service online advertising agency based in Sydney, with proven strategies in e-commerce marketing. To find out how we could help sell your products online, please contact Richard on (02) 8883 2988 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.