7 Obstacles to a Positive Customer Experience

* This article is part of a White Paper called “How to Exponentially Scale Up Customer Experience in E- Commerce – RIGHT AWAY.”

A good customer experience is the key factor in getting customers to buy from and return to your site.

Amazon and QVC know this and are at the top of customer experience surveys. Amazon has been consistently ranked there, although their lead has slipped for their website. Their mobile app remains the highest rated.
In thinking about your own site, a key question is what the main obstacles to a good customer experience are and how other sites have overcome those.

Here I give some ideas based mainly on industry surveys. But first let’s answer the question as to which sites are doing the best job at providing a positive customer experience, so that you can study their methods.

Which Sites Are Best?
Foresee in their 2014 survey of customer experience ranks retailers websites as follows:

Points Retailer
83 Amazon
83 QVC
82 Avon
82 LL Bean
82 Netflix
81 Vista Print
80 Apple
80 Bass Pro Shop


Which Mobile Apps are best?

And regarding mobile app customer experience, this is their ranking:

Points Retailer
83 Amazon
83 QVC
82 Apple
81 Barnes and Noble
81 Dell
80 Walmart

1. Customers Become Frustrated with Complex Processes

Surveys from Nielsen, Foresee, Oracle, and VWO place ease of use as the most important factor to enhance the customer experience.
Here is how customer experience analytics company Foresee quantifies ease of use:

• 26% “Functionality: the usefulness, convenience and variety of online features and tools available”

• 19% “Content: the accuracy, quality and freshness of information and content on the website, mobile site or app”

• 7% price, meaning versus the competitors or the “fairness” of pricing

• 52% other (Brick and mortar factors were included in their survey.)

What businesses have best tackled these issues? Forrester Research in 2014 surveyed 4,500 customers of brick and mortar retailers plus ecommerce sites in China. The top sites regarding customer experience were Tmall and Taobao, both owned by Alibaba.

The Alibaba sites beat out big international retailers like Ikea, Walmart, and Amazon. Alibaba is not in the same market as Walmart and Amazon. But their lead as the largest wholesaler probably has a lot to do having the best websites.

2. Customers Call the Help Line when it’s Not Clear What to Do

If the online help tools and guides are not intuitive, customers will phone the help line, driving up operating costs for the retailer. So the site should be designed with ease-of-use in mind.
Amazon has had many years to hone their site. Their pages and online help are good examples of what makes the best design. Their help search box works like Google, which is, of course, the best search engine and the easiest to use.

On Amazon, you type in a few phrases and then Amazon suggests possible matching topics. Further, to the right it lists the relevant category.
For example, when you type “change country” it says:

• Change country settings on Kindle

• Change country setting on account.

Further, there is one dialogue box both for product searches and help. It’s as if you are talking to one person for both tasks.

3. It’s Difficult to Drive Customers to Action

Research shows that people check multiple channels before they make the buying decision.

For example, they might go into the brick and mortar store and use their mobile phone there to check details about the product they are looking at.

That’s OK as multiple channels help drive sales. But what are some keys to getting the customer to make a purchase on the website channel and not abandon the shopping cart?

A VWO 2014 survey of 1,000 companies gives some insight into that:

• 28% of customers abandon the cart because of the shipping cost surprise.

• 23% of users abandon the cart at the login screen because they do not want to create yet another login.

• 55% say product reviews are important to drive their buying decision, so those need to be available.

Best Buy obviously has spent much effort working on this issue. Retail analysts credit improvements with their website in saving this brick and mortar business from bankruptcy.
So what tools do they make available to their customers to try to close the sale? Their product listings include these:

• A buying guide

• Ratings and reviews

• Technical specifications

• Accessories

• A buyer protection plan

• Add to wish list option

4. Negative Online Experiences Leads to High Churn

Partial shipments, a difficult returns process, and problems with 3rd party sellers are among the items that can lead to a negative online experience. So can problems with the site and an awkward interface.
Retailers needs to reduce these problems to avoid giving the customer a negative online experience.

Nielsen says in their 2014 ecommerce report, “For these cynical shoppers, overcoming negative online perceptions can be the difference between a doubter and a devotee.”

CDiscount, operated by CNova, is the number 1 ecommerce site in France, according to the company. So what do they do?

One thing that is different is they let customers call up a product expert for buying help. But it’s not free. Calling for advice costs 1.35€ per call plus 0.34€ per minute.

You would think that an ecommerce company would not want to have a customer forum, as it would serve as a platform for customers to bash the company.

But Cdiscount does that. In France it is called La Fourmilière and is a completely different website than Cdiscount.com. There, customers mention specific orders and their problems with that. Other customers weigh in, plus Cdiscount has their own people respond to issues.

5. Not Meeting the Customer’s Needs

Meeting customer needs is easier for some products than others. It’s more difficult for products with a low correlation between online searching and shopping. It is higher for, say, concert tickets and airline tickets than cosmetics.

If the site does not get the customer to buy, it could be that the site does not meet present enough information about the product.

The Otto Group is a German firm that operates the Crate and Barrel, heine, otto, smatch.com, bon prix, and other ecommerce sites. One way they meet the needs of the bride and groom is they offer a wedding registry app. That is a way to meet a customer’s needs in a way not directly related to the ecommerce application.

Perhaps the most successful app that is tangential to the business of selling to the customer, but key to working with the customer, is Clorox MyStain. It tells people how to remove stains. MyStain is a runaway success.

6. Website Responds Too Slowly

There are lots of factors that keeps a website or mobile from snapping to
attention. Many if not most are beyond the retailer’s control, like these:

• Scroll bars work slowly or are jerky on mobile apps

• The user’s laptop computer is slow because it is loaded with viruses

• The device does not have enough memory or too many open apps

• There is network congestion (One way to reduce network latency is to cache graphics close to the customer using something like the Akamai Content Distribution Network.)

All of this adds up to a slow app from the end-user perspective. The user knows none of this, so they blame the retailer.

For some reason, the situation is not getting better. Venture Beat’s headline says it all: “Black Friday 2014: eCommerce desktop pages were 20% slower than in 2013, mobile pages were 57% slower.”

The part of the system that is under the retailer’s control is the application. So that should be the top notch. Tesco CIO, Mike McNamara, said, “These days architecture is everything—it’s the most important thing to all of us. If you’ve got a good architecture you’ve got it right. We will be able to do all those things we want to do for years to come. If you get it wrong it becomes impossible.”

7. Customers Need Other Payment Methods

The importance of offering different payment methods varies depending on the demographic and country.

In the developed part of the world, Google and Apple are trying to get the stalled effort of digital wallets moving again. But in developing nations, people are dealing with more basic issues.
Customers there do not always have credit cards or checking accounts, only debit cards. Or they have no credit left on their card.

In Colombia, for example, when a customer’s card is declined, SafetyPay phones up the customer and arranges other payment techniques. The customer can go to a bank and pay there with cash.
In Mexico, Walmart lets customers pay with bank drafts online or go to the nearest Walmart and pay for their online purchase there.

This article is part of a White Paper called “How to Exponentially Scale Up Customer Experience in E- Commerce – RIGHT AWAY.”

Claim your free copy by filling the form below:


The White Paper covers a range of topics including:
Chapter 1: 7 Obstacles to a Positive Customer Experience.
Chapter 2: 10 Ways to Make Customers Happy on Your e-commerce Site.
Chapter 3: 5 Tools that Received Outstanding Customer Experience Reviews.

Matthew is the Lead Author & Editor of CXperience Blog. Matthew established the CXperience blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Customer Experience.