Online Stores Lacking

Web shops need to get back to the basics and learn from successful brick-and-mortar stores, according to an international study of e-commerce sites.

“Click-Here Commerce,” a study by Shelley Taylor & Associates, analyzed 50 consumer e-commerce sites representing a cross-industry sample including, technology, entertainment, books, music, sporting goods, and travel. Sites were analyzed based on 175 criteria.

The study found that many sites lack in navigation and ease of use. Requirements such as browser plug-ins, screen resolution, high- bandwidth pages, and RAM-intensive applications discourage the users of laptops, older equipment, and first-time users from shopping at some e-commerce sites, the study found.

Many sites also lack in the navigation department, according to the study. Offline stores use “you are here” maps, kiosks, and signs to guide shoppers through their shops, and online stores should do the same, the study found. Almost 25 percent of the online stores surveyed lack global navigation, which allows users to move between major sections of a site.

Almost one-quarter (24 percent) of the online stores studied offered no pre-sale assistance, and 32 percent fail to provide purchase instructions, the study found. Two-thirds of the sites studied offer some product specifications, but only 12 percent provide third-party reviews. Only one site in the study offered a features/benefits comparison.

The study also criticized online shopping carts. The carts, the study said, fail to take advantage of pro-active selling opportunities such as cross-merchandising or the ability to save carts for future shopping. Only 8 percent of sites provide a current list of cart contents on each page, and only 30 percent of sites in the study offer information about product availability prior to submitting the order.

“Contrary to media hype, Web commerce is not a revolution, but an evolution in retailing,” said Shelley Taylor, the study’s author. “Online stores fail to translate the lessons learned from centuries of land-based retailing and merchandising into successful online shopping experiences for customers. Even though technology has changed, the way we humans process purchasing decisions has remained the same.”

Among the sites that fared the best in the study were CDnow, Barnes & Noble, Brainplay, Lands’ End, and Blockbuster.

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