Jeremy Smith Feb 19, 2019 11:27:35 AM 21 min read

Top 10 E-commerce Fears of the Everyday Online Shopper

There are two MAIN factors that will help you achieve success in e-commerce – understanding who your customers are and solving their problems before they arise. It's the only way your site will achieve the best conversions every time.

That's why marketers pay so much attention to persona research. Understand the different

That's why marketers pay so much attention to persona research. Understand the different online shopper personas, and you know what motivates them or drives them away. Sean Cook of Shop Visible has one take on shopper personas. He divides them into:

  • Price-conscious consumers, who are looking for the best deal.
  • Researchers, who want to know what others think before making a buying decision.
  • Convenience consumers, who want the shopping experience to be easy.
  • Brand-loyal consumers, who enjoy personalized shopping experiences.

But there's a lot other persona research out there. MasterCard recently did a study on global online personas, which revealed that a group described as "solely shoppers" are 21% of all online consumers. Most of this group researches online, uses mobile devices for showrooming, and appreciates special offers.

In contrast to the persona research, LivePerson says that personas alone are not enough, unless they are supported by examples of how consumers actually behave in a live situation. That's where the second part of the conversion optimization equation comes in: knowing what problems online shoppers face when they visit your site, and solving them before they happen.

Online Shopping Fears – All Consumers

  1. Is Your Business for Real?

Ever been to an e-commerce website that looks like a refugee from the early '90s? One of those sites with poor design, little content and lots of ads? When I visit sites like that, I immediately suspect that something scammy is going on – and there's no way I'm going to part with any cash. Many consumers feel the same. That's why it's important to address some of the subtle and not-so-subtle cues that can allay that fear. That means:

  • Looking after web design, making sure your site is clear and makes it easy for people to shop.
  • Linking to social media profiles (only the ones where you are really active) to allow people to connect with you there.
  • Making sure online shoppers can find your location and contact details easily.
  • Having a real "About" page, preferably with a photo or video of the person behind the site.
  • Including customer testimonials on your site.

All these build trust and stop people from bouncing away before they have even browsed.

  1. Can I Shop Safely?

We often hear about password hacks and other security breaches. All those stories enhance the perception and fear that online shopping can sometimes be risky. That's why e-commerce retailers have to address this. No one wants their credit card details to be stolen. Fix this with these three trust signals:

  • Trustmarks, which are logos from external accreditors who say it's safe to shop on your site. Some common ones include McAfee, Verisign, Paypal, BBB, and TRUSTe, which were found to be the most effective in a survey by Actual Insights, but there are many others.
  • Payment system logos (from the major credit card providers and Paypal), which show customers they will be able to pay for items easily. Since these logos are trusted, some of that trust rubs off on your site.

Including a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) button and a privacy policy so online shoppers know their details will be safe.

Online Shopping Fears for the Price-Conscious


Photo Credit: Maura Teague

  1. Is This the Best Price?

Both the MasterCard and Shop Visible research show that many consumers are really price-conscious. And iAcquire cites research that shows that insecurity about the value of the purchase is a major sticking point for a lot of people.

Just as some shoppers visit multiple brick-and-mortar stores before buying an item from the store where they originally saw it, online shoppers – especially the price-conscious ones - will shop around for a bargain. If you want to keep them on your site, the answer is to provide coupons and discounts or to price-match. That's what Best Buy does, and Target does the same in-store. Of course, having the lowest price doesn't keep all online shoppers happy …

  1. Is the Product Too Cheap?

Sometimes the cheapest products just don't sell, because there's a perception that there must be something wrong with it if the price seems too good to be true. A study from Stanford says sometimes price comparisons make some products look more risky and stop people from buying at all.

What can you do to prevent that?

  • Give full product information, so people know what they're getting and can assess the product properly.
  • Provide social proof (more on that in a moment).
  • Use pricing psychology to steer people toward the product you most want to sell.
  1. Is This the Final Price?

There's nothing worse than getting to the checkout cart and realizing that the cost of shipping is higher than the cost of the item. That's enough to make any shopper think twice. According to research from GetElastic, 41% of online shoppers abandon the shopping cart because of hidden charges. You don't want that to happen on your e-commerce site.

The fix is to make it clear what the price of delivery will be, as Amazon does, before you hit the checkout button. Even better, offer free shipping in a certain price bracket, which is a major incentive for 73% of online shoppers according to an e-tailing study. When consumers know the price, that builds trust and keeps them on your site.

Online Shopping Fears for Researchers


Photo Credit: jurvetson

  1. Will I Like This Product?

For researchers, there's only one thing that matters – other people's opinion, or social proof. This helps them decide whether they are likely to like the product too. If a product gets a dozen bad reviews, your typical online researcher will ignore it forever. But if there's a balance of positive and negative reviews, the typical shopper will do some more research. Take a leaf out of Amazon's book and provide:

  • Prominently displayed customer reviews, which show they are from people who bought the product on the site.
  • Links to other popular related products.
  • Links to products people actually bought when looking at the same product.

If your site also includes video product reviews, this helps, too.

Shopping Fears for Convenience Shoppers

  1. Is the Product Too Complicated?

You know what helps online shoppers buy? Product videos. Seeing the product in use, being assembled, or simply viewing it from all angles lets online shoppers know that they can also use the product without a problem. Get Elastic says the presence of product videos boosts conversions by 58%. And the iAcquire research mentioned earlier says that many people stop shopping because they don't feel they have the information they need.

The bottom line? People want to know what they're getting, or they will abandon the cart or buy the product and then return it if it doesn't meet expectations. Speaking of which …

  1. How Do You Handle Shipping and Returns?

Some 11% of people abandon shopping carts because they can't understand the shipping details. If you're not going to make shipping free (see point 5), then reduce their uncertainty by:

  • Making it clear what your shipping policy is.
  • Having a transparent process for handling returns.

When people know they can return the product, there's no reason NOT to buy.


Photo Credit: mikecogh

  1. Does the Checkout Process Work Well?

The research is clear. A slow checkout process causes anxiety and often results in shopping cart abandonment. And a complex checkout process will do the same. Design your checkout process for ultimate simplicity, and conversions will increase – guaranteed. Here's how Amazon does it:

  • Prominent add-to-cart buttons
  • A one-click shopping process
  • Keeping items in the cart so you can resume the transaction anytime you visit the site.

You can also help the process with a checkout progress bar and clear buttons indicating when it's time to move to the next step.

You know what else people hate? GetElastic's research says they hate having to register to shop. One retailer boosted conversions by 29% just by adding a guest checkout (no registration) option to their site.

Keep checkout processes short and more people will complete purchases.

Shopping Fears for Brand-Loyal Online Shoppers

  1. Am I One of the Crowd?

Brand-loyal online shoppers want to be part of the in-crowd. They are among the 60% of online shoppers who want to get your newsletter, and they are looking for special deals. Those don't have to be about price, but may be about factors like early access to new products and services, and rewards for their loyalty.

Brand-loyal online shoppers also care about personalization. Offering the chance to customize products in some way is a big win with these customers. Clothing companies can do this by allowing shoppers to add their names, change colors and so on, but there are options for other e-commerce businesses too. And using past purchases, location and other cues to give each shopper a unique experience works particularly well with this group.



Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.