July 15th, 2010 | 5 MIN READ

Top 10 Things Customers Expect from Your Online Store

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

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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