Turn Browsers Into Buyers

Tales from the infinite aisles: real-life stories of shopping experiences

Thursday, 21 July 2022
Tales from the infinite aisles: real-life stories of shopping experiences

The online retail experience is at an all-time high.

From phones to tablets, gaming consoles to personal computers, we’re surrounded on a daily basis by ways to access and purchase goods online.

The only problem is, it can be a little brain-melting. It’s something that we’ve explored beforehand, but simply put, with the choice that comes via online shopping, so does a sense of ‘purchase paralysis’.

A whole host of reasons are culpable for this, from dodgy companies to thousands of shopfronts existing to sell the same thing, but the underlying aspect remains the same: there’s simply too much choice and not enough purchase confidence.

We've taken a look at this topic in depth, with our own research and plenty of peer-backed socio-scientific studies. But it feels like a good time to zoom in on individual stories. So we asked our people, our friends, families and colleagues what they think about their online shopping experience. Here's what they shared as their pain points, experiences and opinions.

1. People are shopping online more than ever before

Two-thirds of our respondents said that they had been shopping online more in the last couple of years. This comes as no real surprise — lockdowns and a heightened worry about crowds have certainly accelerated this, alongside a rise in hybrid working models.

However, several people made the point that ‘physical stores do not have all the inventory’. And some people praised sites that ‘host a variety of different shops on one platform’ — so clearly, some amount of choice is appealing.

There were a few respondents that told us they aren’t shopping online more often in the last few years… but simply because they preferred it almost entirely to begin with!

2. Respondents widely found online shopping to be easier – with caveats

A large majority said that shopping online was easier: more options, being able to compare pricing and finding an unbiased opinion. Sorry shop floor staff, but of course you’re going to say that your most expensive option is the absolute best we’ll find anywhere.

But the age-old issues are cropping up, even in our small-ish selection of respondents.

“Decision paralysis is real for sure”

“In person, I can generally evaluate if something will fit much easier”

“I find it harder to narrow down on my searches”

We’ve found purchase paralysis is a real issue online, especially as some purchases are easier to make in person than others. And we keep seeing references to a certain type of purchase being more difficult: clothes.

Materials you can touch, items you can try on and suspiciously ideal website pictures are referenced throughout the anecdotes we received.

3. Despite online positivity, most have given up on a purchase at some point

Despite a majority finding online shopping easier, a similarly high percentage (66%) reported that they had given up on a purchase at one point or another. A better shopping experience certainly doesn’t mean a perfect one.

The reasons they had for giving up on a purchase syncs up with some of the ideas that we’ve seen before: namely, that the size and importance of a purchase correlates strongly with paralysis. The bigger the buy, the more powerful the paralysis. In this case, it was furniture and vacations.

Our respondents also mentioned issues surrounding timeliness. With endless choice, next-day delivery and a seamless experience, any break within the pathway can cause a drop off. Specifically brought up are ‘last minute needs’, and ‘taking too long to find’. As the way we shop has changed, so have our expectations.

But it can’t just be sizable purchases and moments of inconvenience that lead people to lose hope. Surely there’s something more?

4. Every single respondent has been misled or received a poor quality product at some point

Yep, every single one of them has a tale about being let down by a shoddy purchase or company at some point.

‘I purchased a dress and chose the same size as I have always used, but the item arrived significantly smaller.’

‘The delivery time was 3+ weeks and the material was of very poor quality (with a higher price tag).’

‘I've fallen for insta ads a few times buying clothes and kitchen gadgets, where the product you get is cheap and doesn't fit well.’

‘The product descriptions can be deceiving.’

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when shopping online was very similar to visiting physical stores, just via a different medium. But as the Internet has sprawled out to countless limits, so too have those looking to make a quick buck.

And the issue that this has caused? Mistrust.

5. Reviews reign supreme for trust

If companies, shopping portals and the products themselves can let down their customers, then reviews are the clear solution. Hearing from other people’s honest experiences makes the difference, so much so that they are specifically named as a key ‘sign of quality’ by ten of our intrepid shoppers.

Of course, not all reviews are built the same. Our respondents seem to mistrust unverified reviews or ‘white-labelled widgets’ displaying too-good-to-be-true scores.

One key concept when it comes to reviews and building customer advocacy is that of the trust-powered journey. Broken down simply, if you let customers review you, then future customers are more likely to have more trust in you as a business, which can result in an increased likelihood of buying. You also get feedback which can be iterated upon to make your products better, and the cycle goes round once more, each part feeding into the other.

By getting that cycle of trust right, brands have reached heights where their name alone can be taken as an arbiter of trust. And that’s a powerful thing.

A specific kind of insight

Examining the specific anecdotes of online shoppers has been a helpful exercise for us; these stories are what make up the macro data. Businesses would do well to examine the reviews they receive in a similar vein; don’t just look for trends, but also for the outliers and the oddities. You might just find a diamond that can propel you to delivering an even better experience.

For more information on how trust can be built into your reviews to gain customer advocacy, explore the lifecycle of a Trustpilot review, or get started with a free profile today.


Related stories