Top 10 Things Customers Expect from Your Online Store

Oneupweb has recently put out some interesting research which includes the top 10 consumer expectations that influence purchase decisions.

Let’s take a closer look at these items:

Pricing/shipping information clearly stated – 95.5%

No surprises here, as several studies have found that “sticker shock” (the unexpected inflation of final price due to shipping and taxes) is the number one reason for cart abandonment.

Crutchfield does a good job presenting not just the price but shipping, warranty and servicing prices on this product page:

Looks credible and trustworthy – 76.5%

If you’re not a household name, you can improve your site’s “trustworthiness” by having a clean and professional design (yes, first impressions count). Security badges, store ratings and a mailing address on your contact page can also help.

You must also avoid things that scare off your customers like expired SSL certificate warning messages (even the largest sites can fall victim to this).

Product displayed on homepage – 70.8%

Most online stores show products on the home page, but not every site. For example, Abercrombie and Fitch:

The study does not specify whether customers prefer to see individual products merchandised on the home page (such as bestsellers, new arrivals, featured items, etc) or simply be shown product (in a banner, rotating Flash presentation, or other creative). But when you consider that the goal of the home page is to keep the customer interested and win a click deeper into the site, it makes sense that the customers would like some idea on what to explore on your site without fudging with menus or search boxes.

Just showing product is not enough. The way you design and merchandise your home page has an impact. If you’ve been reading Get Elastic for a while, you will recall some A/B tests we did for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Store. One test looked at home page design. We actually found better results showing categorized mini-menus above featured products. Bounce rate, conversion rate and average order value all improved with the test version.

Shameless plug alert! Want to get your feet wet with testing? Start by attending my webinar on site optimization Tuesday, July 20.

Visually appealing – 66.7%

Similar to looking trustworthy, consumers also consider the look and feel of your site. There are several low-cost tools to help you gauge whether your site is aesthetically pleasing (using real people’s feedback!)

Total cost calculator (shipping, tax, etc) – 59.1%

Showing taxes and shipping before checkout will likely reduce checkout abandonment. But don’t expect it to dramatically boost conversion rate. Rather, more people will abandon before checkout if the additional charges are too high. Customers appreciate you providing these tools, so you do win some warm-fuzzy points.

Search function – 48.2%

The larger your product catalog, the more important site search is to your ecommerce success. While it’s rare to find an ecommerce site without a search box, it happens, even among some of the most famous brands.

It’s not just the presence of a site search box that matters, it’s also the functionality of search. Web users are becoming more comfortable with Google’s “suggest” feature, the search engine will suggest terms as the user types. More and more e-tailers are adopting autocomplete tools to improve usability and relevance of search results and reduce “zero results found” occurrences. It’s possible users may expect suggestions, and even product results, as they type, rather than after they hit “submit.”

Search result usability is also important. Customers expect filtered navigation to further refine results by attributes that are meaningful to them (category, price, star ratings, color, size, etc).

Killer search result pages provide filters, the ability to sort results, prices, stock availability, large thumbnail images, product description snippets and add-to-cart/add-to-wishlist buttons.

Privacy statement – 45.5%

Though the legalese can be overwhelming, some people do look for privacy policies (though they may not read them). It’s important not just to have one but to make it easy to find wherever the customer experiences “privacy anxiety” on your site.

Check out Get Elastic’s privacy policy tips.

Onsite customer reviews/testimonials – 40.9%

There are plenty of studies that tout the popularity of ratings and reviews with customers. Reviews reduce the risk of making a bad purchase, and show an online seller is trustworthy when negative reviews appear.

Review content can also help your search engine rankings as a wider variety of keyword phrases appear on your pages than your product description alone (provided your reviews do not appear in a frame that is not read by search engines).

Testimonials are not as common (and not always as believable since only the glowing testimonials are published), but they can give the customer a bit more confidence in transacting with you if you’re not a big brand. Marketing Experiments has tips for using testimonials effectively.

Online customer service (live chat) – 32.5%

Not only can live support help customers figure out your site, locate products or ask questions, one study found that 76% of customers wanted to chat about checkout problems, which could prevent cart abandonment.

Live chat can be reactive, where a clear call-to-chat appears on your site, and the customer initiates the conversation, or it can be proactive, where the system triggers a chat invitation based on user behavior.

Links to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) – 22.7%

I was surprised to see that over 1 in 5 consumers expect to see social sharing tools on a commercial site. I can’t imagine the absence of social links would deter someone from making a purchase. Perhaps this stat is the result of how the question was worded. Today’s customers might expect to see these links because so many sites have jumped on the social network bandwagon, but that doesn’t mean they use them or are more likely to purchase because of them.

Though social sharing buttons increase the likelihood the product will be evangelized by your visitors, your site can also take a performance hit (as some have found with the Facebook Like button). This may not be worth it, as we know that site speed is one of the most critical factors in bounce rate, customer satisfaction, loyalty and conversion. (Fast page loads was an item I believe is missing from this questionnaire, it should be #1 or #2!)

Do you agree with this study? Think #10 is way out of left field? What important elements of the sales process was missed (perhaps omitted from the questionnaire?) Speak your mind in the comments!

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29 Responses to “Top 10 Things Customers Expect from Your Online Store”

  1. Alvin Tan says:

    While links to social networking websites may not be essential, they certainly create familiarity and provide convenient access to a shopper’s social graph. Perhaps a distinction can be drawn between social features that allow one-way communication (e.g. share buttons, Like buttons, retweet buttons, etc.) vs. social features that allow two-way communication (e.g. see’s innovative “ask a friend via Facebook” feature on their product pages). I’d be interested to know the numbers for social features that support two-way communication.

  2. 2 questions……..

    1. I am curious, I show the shipping charges on the shopping cart page (I have a shipping page in the website footer, plus my shipping charges are very low, $4.50, $6.50 or free) not on the product page itself as in your example. Do you think my conversion would go up it I had the shipping amounts on the product pages before they actually click on the ‘add to cart’ button? Are they any stats to back this up? Also mostly I am curious if the shipping on the product page itself actually increased conversion to the order confirmation page.

    Any feedback?

    2. I was looking at adding the ‘add this’ widget to my pages (so people could add the page link to their social media site, right?). I do not practice social media; I do not have a Twitter, Face book or any other type of social account for my business. Is the ‘add this’ widget the best way to let people add my webpage URL to the social media postings?

    • Alvin Tan says:

      Hi Audio Bible,

      I would recommend that you give social media a try for your business to really understand how social media works. For instance, on social media, word-of-mouth marketing is an effective way to promote a brand and generate sales, while social advertising less so. There are a variety of tools out there ranging from AddThis/ShareThis buttons, Facebook Like buttons, the Wibiya toolbar, TweetMeme buttons, etc. but the “best” tool would perhaps be the one that best suits your product type, character of sale, and customer modality.

    • Do you think my conversion would go up it I had the shipping amounts on the product pages before they actually click on the ‘add to cart’ button?

      I don’t believe it will affect conversion by moving it earlier in the process, but it might affect the % that add to cart. Showing tax/shipping pre-checkout will reduce checkout abandonment, and pre-cart page will reduce cart abandonment. But I don’t think it will make a big difference in conversion, just where in the selling process the customer decides the shipping is too much, if that’s the case. However, customers may appreciate the tool on the page more, and have a better feeling about your site.

      Is the ‘add this’ widget the best way to let people add my webpage URL to the social media postings?

      Actually my take on this is it’s better to show just Facebook, Twitter and email sharing options. Most people will recognize these icons, where AddThis is less recognizable/understandable. Most of those networks in AddThis will not get you much traction anyway. How many friends do you really have on Furl?

      Keep in mind the Like button can slow down your page load speed.

  3. This study seems a bit off that onsite customer reviews/testimonials only account for 40.9% of what customers expect from online stores. I would think that this stat is extremely low and should be closer to a 75% expectation rate.

  4. cody says:

    We’ve found that a shipping estimator has been quite detrimental to moving customers from cart to checkout. With the estimator turned on, we’re looking at 17% funnel from cart to checkout. With the estimator turned off, it goes up to 23%.

    This obviously caused a lower funnel on the checkout process as people were able to then decide that shipping charges were too high. However, the overall conversion rate for the site has increased (can’t say for sure how much, yet.)

    It seems to me that getting a commitment from users (email, address, etc) keeps them from abandoning after they see shipping charges moreso than when they are just putting in their zip code into a shipping estimator and have very little time committed at that point. Thoughts?

    • Lonnok says:

      I think it is called “dripping” and it works well – you add one fee (e.g., shipping) at a time and still get the sale because the purchase decision has been made at the product price level.

    • Bug says:

      What you’re probably seeing is an increase in the number of people entering the cart, but not as many are checking out. Look at the actual number of people starting the process and finishing. Percentages are not always the best measurements.

    • Interesting thought, completing more steps of a process may have an impact as customers don’t want the time they have already invested to go to waste. Hmm.

  5. Jeanie says:

    I think you over estimate the power social sharing on e-commerce sites (#10). I get that for travel review sites, like Yelp, these are extremely powerful. But I think that you are maybe so entrenched in the industry that you lose sight of the fact that the average Joe or Jane doesn’t really care whether the e-commerce site has these sharing features–given that these are “expectations” for an e-commerce site, I don’t think someone is going to go elsewhere because they can’t click a share button. And that’s the way I’m interpreting this chart (they are rating expectations, not perceived usefulness here). I’d like to see stats on how often people actually use those social features for mundane online purchases, like socks, camera accessories or children books.

  6. Bug says:

    Honestly if you look at an average consumers desire of social network buttons, I think 22.7% is wildly optimistic. People tend to friend a company and then hide them. You always need to be careful of features that distract customers away from your site. I live with an active social networker and it always cracks me up when she abandons a cart because she was distracted by a companies FaceBook page and ends up chatting. It is a lot like the rule that you try to avoid items in your cart that distract the consumer.

  7. Great article! This falls in line nicely with the concept of not making your customers think. The more information that is readily available, the more secure the customer feels in the overall shopping experience.

    This increases trust for a company and the likelihood of a repeat sale!

  8. These are great statistics to point any ecommerce site in the right direction. We develop many eccomerce sites for our clients and it’s important to understand from the visitor’s perspective what they expect to find. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Bug says:

    One thing to notice is the big difference between number 9 and the rest. #9 takes a person interacting with the system constantly for it to be a success. #8 too if you want it to be active. The rest are minimal interaction. In other words, the least needed are the most expensive.

  10. Alyssa - BluePoint says:

    You absolutely need a “save your cart” option and be emailing, if possible, to abandoned carts.

  11. Thomas says:

    Great article! I am building personas for our own site revision and the results from this research could be very instructive. I’m curious about the reliability of the research, seeing as you did not mention any basic information about organization, such as the number of survey participants, the male and female ratio, the average age, and so forth. So, I am wondering whether you could give us some information like this to make the results more reliable. Thanks a lot!.

  12. Linda,

    I’m new to your blog, and must say that I am very impressed. I’ve been in the IT business for over 30 years with great emphasis on internet services since around 1996. During the past seven years, Ive spent a great deal of time supporting a “boutiqueish” collection of e-commerce clients, culminating in the opening of my own e-commerce business ( two years ago. I’ve done a fair amount of research on all matters e-commerce, and can comfortably say that your blog is the best source of information available – your writing is concise, accurate, to-the-point, and remarkably useful. I will be a regular visitor for the foreseeable future.

  13. Just discovered this post. Very good one, Linda. Thank you for this summary and thoughtful commentary.

    Two points:

    1) I haven’t gotten their white paper, and am wondering how many other possible “customer expectations” were included in the survey (to confidently arrive at a “top 10″ list)?

    2) I too am surprised to see that ~23% of consumers want to see social sharing tools on product pages, but that’s a pleasant surprise.

  14. #2 Looks credable and trustworth and #4 Visually appealing are way too close in my opinion.

    Professional design should be its own element. And SSL certificate, security badges, etc should be separate. They have some reports on those “HackerSafe” and other badgets you can buy that supposedly increase your conversation rate by a couple percentage points but many of those badges are hundreds of dollars a month. And its hard to tell if some of the studies are influenced by the badge service provides and affiliates. Does a Verisign really offer that much benefit to conversion rate to warrant a 20-50X higher price than a GoDaddy cert.

    Food for thought.

    • It would be interesting to test just a security lock icon if you don’t want to pay for the 3rd party trustmarks to see if it gives similar lift to what the vendors’ studies claim. Walmart uses just a lock icon – but they are also the biggest retailer in America. There’s an inherent trust.

    • Bug says:

      I’m a believer of not even showing the badges until you get to the check out. My theory is this. When I am in a shopping mood, I want to shop. The badges reinforce the negative aspects while I shop. I stop thinking about what I am shopping for and start wondering if the site is safe. If it is a first time visit I really start to worry about being secure.

      I don’t like to have the site talk about security until I am in an area where security is a concern.

      It’s like walking into the showroom and having the salesman talk about how safe the car is if it catches on fire. “This baby right here gets 30 miles to the gallon AND you have a full ten minutes to get out if it catches on fire!”

  15. Bill in Detroit says:

    I think the social media badge expectations are similar to the expectation that a car salesman is going to try to hustle you for a little extra. Think of it more as ‘accustomed behavior’ than ‘requested behavior’. Social media sites are getting a lot of e-ink at the moment, so a sales site that shows the badges is indicating that it is at least trying to keep up.

    The ‘hustle’ is the free advertising you grant when you click on the social media button.

    Since I am not impressed with the amount of personal information they bleed, today is the last day on any social media site. I may even ditch my Gmail account (I have others on my own server).

  16. Great Article. It gave me a lot of ideas to improve my webshop. Thank you for sharing.

  17. This is just conjecture, but I would imagine that it’s not the ability to share on social sites that #10 refers to – but the ability to see the company on prominent places like Facebook or Twitter so you can see how active they are, what other people say on their Facebook wall, what their own “voice” on social sites is, etc.

  18. Blanshik says:

    Thanks for an article ) Though from a customer point of view I would like to add some tips.
    I do agree with search function. I think it’s one of the most important thing. Of course any web site should be usable, but if it’s not, there should be good search feature. It definitely keeps me on site.
    As to reviews… Well, they are important, but I don’t believe them much. Especially knowing that anyone can register and write anything he likes. I have more trust to big reviews from bloggers on their own blogs, they seem to be more independent. And to tell the truth, I have more trust to the product if some negative points are described (or personal dislikes). I like to know what to expect. For me one negative point isn’t a big disadvantage, so I like to read different reviews not only extremely positive. I’m not sure it’s good in general to have different points of views on your site – it’s just my personal.

  19. While building an ecommerce site, there aren’t only few elements to look for. We think it’s only a shopping cart, payment gateway and shipping tool, the site is now ready, but in reality there are many steps we should keep more attention to build a site that not just loved by users but also search engine likes to crawl.

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