5 eCommerce Fails and Fixes

by Sharon Hurley Hall

Last updated on September 27th, 2017

Recently, I shared the reasons why Amazon is so successful from an eCommerce point of view. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had that good an experience everywhere?

Sadly, on many sites the shopping experience leaves a lot to be desired, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some of the common eCommerce fails shoppers encounter, along with tips on how websites could do better.

5 ecommerce fails and fixes

Image: Pixabay

Fail #1. There’s No Trust

Before people buy anything, they are consciously—and unconsciously—assessing the website. As we know, first impressions count and if a site looks shady, people will go elsewhere. No reputable website should look as though you’re operating it from your garage (even if you are).

The Fix

Invest in a professional site design and include trust signals on your site such as contact information and your business address and phone number so shoppers can know who’s behind the site.

Place safe shopping logos and web security badges prominently on your site so people know the information they enter will be secure. The research suggests that these really work to reassure shoppers. And make sure there are product reviews so there’s plenty of social proof.

Fail #2: Poor Site Navigation

Before people can buy, they need to find the information they are looking for. In fact, the minute people land on your site, they will be wondering if it will be easy to find what they want.

A cluttered site design or poor navigation and search features will send shoppers away. Research from Nielsen Norman Group shows that even when sites get it right only 64% of users find what they want the first time.

The Fix

The Lemonstand blog suggests making it easy for people to find what they want with search autosuggest, category filters, searchable categories and more. And here’s a bonus tip: make sure your site is set up for mobile eCommerce so that shoppers can find what they want easily even if they are using mobile devices.

ecommerce site

Image: Place.it

Fail #3: Lack of Payment, Shipping and Returns Information

One major annoyance on eCommerce sites is when you can’t figure out how much the item is going to cost. Tiny or hidden prices don’t help anyone, least of all the eCommerce retailer.

Another pet peeve is adding on other services (something certain web hosts are famous for). All that does is annoy customers, because no-one wants to end up paying double because they weren’t paying attention. Customers also want the security of knowing how they can return a product if it’s not right.

The Fix

Make shipping and returns information transparent and consider offering free shipping. Two studies show that this is a deal-breaker for either 73% or 93% of shoppers. And if you can’t do free shipping, here are some tips to improve your pricing.

And finally, a personal plea: wouldn’t it be great if you could pay by Paypal (or your online payment gateway of choice) on every eCommerce site?

Fail #4: Shopping is Difficult

There are some experiences that can really ruin an online shopping experience. Here are a couple of stories to illustrate them.

The other day, I was looking for a gadget and thought I’d found what I wanted on the site. I had to set up an account before I could buy (another fail) and dutifully filled in all the form fields, or so I thought. When I hit “submit,” it turned out I’d missed one and all the information I’d entered had disappeared. Since I had other things to do, I left the site and later shopped somewhere else.

On another occasion, I browsed another site and added items to the cart, but when I completed the account signup process, all the items were gone and I had to start again. A quick poll suggests that this is another easy way to lose customers.

A third annoyance is when you fill out a form and can’t tell whether it has been successful or not. If you’re making a payment, you need to have this information before trying again.

The Fix

Each of these situations has an easy fix. To solve disappearing information and mysteriously emptying shopping carts, what you need is a persistent shopping cart. Not only will this help at the time of purchase, but it will fuel later purchases too. Research shows that 56% of people save items intending to come back to them later so a persistent shopping cart could help you sell more.

Letting people know they have successfully completed an order just requires a thank you message. And, if you follow Amazon’s example, you can use the page to highlight other items shoppers might like.

Oh, and the account setup thing? Smashing Magazine suggests that e-tailers fix this by letting shoppers complete the order and only then offering them the option to save the info they have already entered for future purchases.

ecommerce checkout

Image: Place.it

Fail #5: Checkout Woes

Waiting to complete a transaction online can be painful—and it’s a point of weakness for eCommerce websites. Research from Invesp shows that 11% of shoppers abandon the process because it is too complex and 11% abandon the site when it is too slow. A further 5% leave if the website crashes.

Other research shows that 67.4% of shoppers abandon their carts. And what’s worse is that people usually think they are waiting longer than they are. All of this adds up to a big problem which could seriously hurt conversions and sales.

The Fix

Make the checkout process as simple and speedy as possible, removing all potential barriers to completing the purchase. Optimize off-page to reduce page load times and help shoppers by including a progress bar (there are some examples here) that lets them know how far they are into the shopping process.

These aren’t the only eCommerce fails, but they are some of the most annoying. For even more advice, check out our definitive guide to shopping cart abandonment and tips on improving usability on eCommerce sites.

See other Crazy Egg articles by Sharon Hurley Hall.



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Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her career has spanned more than 25 years, including stints as a journalist, academic writer, university lecturer and ghost writer. Connect with Sharon on her website.


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  1. Steve says:
    June 8, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    Something important that you forgot to mention – try not to compete with the big boys if you don’t have to.

  2. Altaf Gilani says:
    October 10, 2014 at 1:05 am

    Return policy on many website is not clearly mention and product description must be cleared on product which enhance buyers interest in your website.This may results in failing of ecommerce business.Thanks For great post!

  3. Dan says:
    October 7, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Sharon, thanks for the great tips. I have one question for you related to #3. I have noticed most sites don’t provide an in depth explanation about the features of a product/service anywhere in the site, instead just tease the user with features and offer a free trial to try. Is it a good strategy or are they missing the chance to answer the questions users have with an in depth feature explanation?


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