5 Christmas shopping bugbears (revisited)

Matt revisits 5 online Christmas shopping nightmares that highlight the importance of getting the basics right when it comes to eCommerce.

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Around this time last year I wrote about how my Christmas shopping experience was anything but stress-free, despite not actually stepping foot in single shop. Online retailers were underperforming left, right and centre, and it was hella frustrating.

I wanted to revisit this post to see what, if anything had changed 12 months on. Have retailers wised up to mobile? Is money still being thrown away on badly managed ad campaigns? Will this turn into another festive rant?

Spoiler alert: more retailers than not would be getting a lump of coal in their stocking this year if I had anything to do with it.

1. Tedious checkout processes

Last year I wrote about my frustrations with lengthy and confusing checkouts, and more specifically the need to handover more details than necessary when all I really want to do is pay and go.

Christmas Bugbears - Screams Internally - Browser Media

I’m afraid to say that this year was not much different, and on more than one occasion I abandoned the checkout entirely through sheer annoyance. Generally speaking, my experience with checkouts was as tedious this year as it was last.

Tip for online retailers: improve your checkout process by ensuring it ticks the following boxes:

  • Fast
  • Well signposted
  • Void of any major distractions
  • No forced registration
  • Easy form filling
  • Contains basket info throughout entire process

While it’s a bit late to implement and test any major changes this year, you’d still be wise to have a read of Vicky’s post, Optimising your site for Christmas shoppers.

2. Rubbish product images & descriptions

“Nothing says “buy me” like a pixelated image so densely plastered in watermarks you can barely tell what it is you’re supposed to be looking at. Or product “descriptions” so void of any actual descriptive content it makes you wonder why they bothered at all.”

– Me, 12 months ago.

There are still many retailers out there who are guilty of the above, and it frustrates me no end as there really are no excuses. Please make it stop.

Tip for online retailers: Stop sucking at product descriptions by avoiding the following sins:

  • Being boring (you can’t bore people into buying your product)
  • Making statements that your customers don’t believe
  • Claiming to be revolutionary or different, when you’re really not
  • Not talking about the benefits
  • Bombarding the reader with too much information
  • Not telling a story

Check out this post for more advice around writing persuasive product descriptions.

3. Badly managed ads

Still an issue. Sorry, PPC managers.

Tip for online retailers: Stop wasting your money and users’ time by keeping your ads up to date. Failing that, ensure your landing pages offer something worth hanging around for.

4. Discount codes

This year has been a particularly crazy one with regard to sales and discount codes, fuelled mainly by the massive growth of Black Friday and the Cyber Weekend here in the UK. With retailers desperate to get in on the act, discount codes have not been particularly hard to come by these past few weeks.

Christmas Bugbears - Voucher Codes - Browser Media

Last year, my biggest issue with discount codes was the general lack of consistency and transparency; retailers seemingly felt customers had to work for their reward by following them on social media or subscribing to emails.

Of all the points highlighted in this post, it is this one that looks to have changed the most – the bargain hunter inside me has never been so happy.

Tip for online retailers: If you’re going to offer discount codes, make them easy to remember, be transparent, and make the discount worthwhile.

5. Mobile

I’ll spare you the ‘year of the mobile’ spiel as it’s pretty evident by now that lots of people use their mobile phones to shop for stuff online, particularly around Christmas. While most have grasped this concept, there is a big difference between knowing and doing, and unfortunately many are still a long way off the latter.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that as a general rule, it was the smaller, independent retailers that I visited that were struggling most in this department – a lack of budget and resource the most likely roadblock.

However, to say that mobile usability is important would be a massive understatement, and therefore rolling out a fully responsive site should be the top of every retailer’s Christmas list this year, if it’s not already.

Tip for online retailers: Updating a website can seem expensive, but failing to keep up with changing user behaviour (and associated search engine algorithms) will be even more costly in the long run.

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