6 Ideas to Improve Online Shopping (startups this is for you)

A few ideas I had to fix 6 online shopping annoyances: Not seeing enough of the product, Lack of instant gratification like retail shopping has, Missing package deliveries because I’m not at home, No where to drop off my used packaging for someone else to use, Forcing me to register for an account, and Making me enter my personal info (address, credit card detail, confirmation) on multiple pages.

  1. Send me an email or text message on my phone the day before my package is scheduled to be delivered. Why? Because I hate missing packages and it has happened a lot. YES, I know I can go to UPS.com and put in the tracking code and bla bla bla, look, if you don’t do it for me, I’m not going to do it for myself. If you want me to have a better experience shopping with you, YOU are going to have to put more effort into it. Make it easy for me. Hook up your online store to UPS and FEDEX’s API and send an email or text message the day before it’s about to be delivered.
  2. Create a place where people can drop off and buy used packaging at a huge discount. I Hate the insane amount of packaging and waste after I receive something in the mail. I also hate spending so much money on packaging when I’m shipping something. Rather than throw it all away, I stuff it in a closet somewhere hoping to reuse it, nly to throw it out 3 years later because I when I do ship something I never have the right size box. I wish there were a place where people could drop off and pick up used boxes and packaging.
  3. Make instant/guest checkout the standard. Having to create an account to complete checkout just sucks. I don’t have to do it when I shop at Walmart and I refuse to do it online. There are plenty of websites and shopping cart systems all over the internet that still require you to register in order to checkout. This isn’t really an idea but you’d be amazed at how many major online stores still don’t have guest checkout in the year 2011. Everyone wants to save all your info so when you come back as a repeat shopper it’ll be saved for you. I say: Don’t inconvenience me the first time to convenience me the second because there might not be a second time, especially after the way you treated me the first time. Make my experience as smooth and fast as possible during my first transaction with you and I remember it well.
  4. Streamline my experience on one page. Most of time I’m buying from online stores I’ve never used before. They do 2 illogical things that I hate.  They make me put in my full address and they separate the data entry process into multiple pages (one for address, one for credit card info, one for confirmation). Listen startups, all you need is my street and apartment number and my zip code. Using this information you can automatically fill in my City, State, and Country. Also, put everything on ->1<- page. I love to scroll, I hate to click and wait. Start with my address/shipping address, underneath that my payment info, underneath that any misc data entry required, and underneath it replicate all the data I just entered so I can confirm it quickly and hit the [complete purchase] button. 1 page. Simple. Thank you.
  5. Show me more pictures of the product. Especially when I’m buying electronics, I need a picture of the back of the TV/monitor/pc/electronic so I can see what kind of connections it has. I want a picture of the side, front, back, top, and bottom. Measurements would be nice too. Why? Because when I’m at the store I can see a display model, but online I only see 1 or 2 static pictures. Store owners put products on display for a reason. If I’m going to spend money on it, you better let me see exactly what I’m getting.
  6. Instant gratification is missing in online shopping, so simulate it. You buy something and then you have to wait a week or two for it. Excite me when I complete a purchase. Maybe show a picture of a calendar with the estimated delivery days highlighted and right next to that a picture of my items in their packaging (product packaging, not delivery box). Putting more emphasis on what’s about to arrive in the mail, to me at least, is more exciting than a boring confirmation.

THANK YOU to all of those from Hacker News for your kind emails, you not only made my day but you helped me stress test my 1and1 hosting which held up very well. This post isn’t anything special though, you’ll probably like this one better 10 Reasons Why We Don’t Use Video Chat (Technical and Psychological).

(Stock photo of Light bulb image found here)

7 Comments

  1. We do some of these at http://www.bvcommerce.com but you’ve got some great ideas too. I really like the concept of some kind of instant gratification after checkout. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Chris, thanks for sharing your ideas. I’m building an online store, which addresses some of the issues you highlight.

  3. For problem #1, just use http://junecloud.com/software/mac/delivery-status.html on your Mac or iPhone/iPad. It’s an awesome piece of software.

  4. Sdsdjhsdsdjsjksdjk says:

    good article.

  5. Eric_billington says:

    ZIP works great if in the US. I’m in Canada.
    I have visited many websites, which will not accept any address without a required US style ZIP.
    This is just plain annoying, and would require changes to implementation of Idea# 4.

  6. Techamplus says:

    Thanks for identifying some real displeasure of an online buyer. I will love to include these ideas into my site.
    Carry on your good work.
    Subodh Sakrar

  7. Dorothy Le says:

    These are all really great tips! Often times when business owners first create an ecommerce site, they just focus on the technical part of it: building a template, uploading product, integrating a online payment system. Of course all of these are the backbone to an online business store, but you have to add more “humanistic” touches to it…make it like a real in-store experience :)

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