I’ve finished my Christmas shopping with an entire week to spare, which is something of a personal achievement.

But despite not actually setting foot in a single shop, the experience has been far from stress free.

As someone who works closely with website owners on a daily basis, I fully appreciate the struggles and limitations associated with achieving the ‘perfect website experience’, if such a thing even exists. However, what this process has reaffirmed to me – from the consumer side of the table – is the importance of getting the basics right.

Unfortunately when it comes to the online shopping experience, all too often these  basics are overlooked, which has led me to vent some frustrations via this blog post.

Here are 5 reasons I’ve been swearing at my Macbook or iPhone over the past week or so.

1. Tedious checkout processes

Browsing for gifts online can often lead you to sites you have never visited before, and are unlikely to ever visit again once you have completed your purchase. In instances such as this, you just want to pay and go.

What you definitely don’t want to do is create an account, hand over any more personal information than  absolutely necessary, and subscribe to a lifetime of email spam.

Tip to online retailers: Not every one of your customers wants to be your friend. Give these customers a quick guest checkout option to allow them to do their business and get out in the shortest amount of time possible.

2. Rubbish product images & descriptions

Nothing says “buy me” like a pixelated image so densely plastered in watermarks you can barely tell what it is you’re supposed to be looking at. Or product “descriptions” so void of any actual descriptive content it makes you wonder why they bothered at all.

Not one website I have used during my Christmas shopping ventures has provided everything I need on one page: best price, best description and best images rarely come as a package, it would seem. I am, as a result the master of multi-tab shopping.

Tip to online retailers: Think carefully about your product images and descriptions, and tailor them to meet the expectations of your customers. While a single image and a couple of bullet points might suffice for a £5 pair of socks, a £150 jacket will require a bit more effort. Have you considered using video? For a best in class example of how to sell products, check out fashion powerhouse, ASOS’ catwalk videos – the ultimate product image and description rolled into one neat package.

asos

3. Badly managed shopping ads

Here’s what I hate: Clicking on a Google product ad, only to be taken to a page where I am told that product is out of stock, with no indication of if or when it might become available again.

Tip to online retailers: Stop wasting your money and users’ time –  keep your ads up to date. Failing that, ensure your landing pages offer something worth hanging around for.

4. Discount codes

Don’t get me wrong, I love a discount code. In fact, everyone one of my Christmas purchases was made using a discount code, or via a cashback site. Tight? I’ll hear none of it.

A recent study (by us) showed I’m not alone here, with 4 in 5 UK adults confessing to having used a discount code of some kind in the past 12 months. It’s safe to say discount codes have become the norm. A standard procedure for any savvy shopper.

DISCOUNT CODE

So what’s the issue?

For me, it’s a lack of consistency and transparency. In many cases, there seems to be an air of secrecy around discount codes, like they’re an exclusive reward customers must earn to right to use.

Realistically, no discount code remains exclusive for long, so by hiding them away retailers are only delaying the purchasing process. Don’t make customers work for discount codes, just make life easier for everyone and serve them up on a plate.

Tip to online retailers: If you can offer shoppers a product cheaper than your competitors can via a discount code, the likelihood is they’ll buy from you. Therefore, if you are running a promotion, make it obvious.

5. Mobile

We live in a world where you can buy virtually anything via a few swipes of your thumb. However, perhaps the biggest revelation to me this Christmas was the number of sites which still haven’t caught on to the fact that mobile is quite popular now.

It’s frustrating for users, but ultimately more concerning for the thousands of retailers who are missing out on sales as a result of their clunky, mobile shy sites.

Tip to online retailers: It’s almost 2015, if your site doesn’t work on every type of device, it doesn’t work –  simple.

Online shopping should be a stress free alternative to the high street and all of the horrors it brings, but as I’ve highlighted here, this isn’t always the case. First impressions count, and with so much competition out there, it’s essential that retailers optimise their online shopping experience to make it as smooth as possible for their users.

Do you have any online shopping horror stories? If so, please feel free to leave a comment below.