Many E-Commerce Sites Are Stupid


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E-commerce sites don’t make sense. In many cases they look like every other site, cluttered and not easy to search for the Contact Us number. If a telephone number can be located, it is usually buried in a maze of other categories or only available through the company’s search engine. Even when you find a telephone number to call, the menu options make it almost impossible to ask a basic question about a product. If the retailer doesn’t have 24/7 live operators, rarely is the option offered to leave your name and telephone number for a call back. That’s not using good business sense.

The other day I decided to conduct a mystery shopper e-commerce visit.  I searched the Macy’s site for jewelry and then sorted my selections by price. What popped up? An engagement ring for $36,475.90. (Yes, an extra 90 cents!) Is an average shopper going to buy an expensive ring without being able to easily ask a question?  I don’t think so. It gave me an option to increase the quantity so I added 6 rings to my shopping cart. It accepted the 6 items totaling $186,027.06 and let me know that I had saved $32,828.04. Wow! It also gave me a message, “Congrats, you get free shipping.” Well, I would hope if I just spent $186,027.06 they would include shipping charges, especially since 6 engagement rings probably weigh less than 1 lb.

After my first attempt to purchase the 6 rings, I decided to replicate my search to take some additional screenshots for background information for my blog. This time a “chat box” popped up. I was first requested to enter my name and email address before I could start chatting. I thought how many sales has Macy’s lost because some shoppers may want to get their question answered before sharing their contact information.

My conversation was as follows:

Richard: Hi, I want to know if I purchase 6 rings can I get an additional discount?

Chat agent, Hello, thank you for chatting with a Fine Jewelry expert at Macy’s. Please give me one moment to review your comment. (two minutes later). I’d be more than happy to assist you. May I have the Web ID number for the item you have questions about? The Web ID number can be found by scrolling down under the product details. I can see if any discounts apply. (I was surprised the chat agent didn’t have the technology to know what item I was referencing)

Richard: I told her I couldn’t readily find the number, but gave her a detailed description of the ring.

After a few back and forth questions I asked,

Richard: May I speak to an associate over the phone to ask some additional questions?

Chat agent: Yes, please call 1-800-289-6229

Richard: When I call will I get a person directly or do I have to go through menu options (don’t forget I’m thinking about making a purchase for $186,027.06)

Chat agent: You will be able to select the jewelry department and get a live associate.

Richard: Okay, thanks for your help. Have a nice day.

I dialed -1-800-289-6229 and was responded to by a voice recognition system that did not understand my question. I said, “I saw an item on your website and have a question.” After many back and forth conversations between the voice recognition system and me, I hung up.

I’m not picking on Macy’s, but can you imagine all of the e-commerce potential sales that are abandoned.  Wouldn’t it make more sense…

  • If there is a chat agent available, that you don’t have to be required to provide your contact information before the shopper’s question is answered?
  • There is technology available that allows the chat agent to automatically know what item you are viewing?
  • There is a direct line to the fine jewelry department. The potential order was for $186,007.06.

Many retailers have just reported highly successful financial earnings. A substantial percentage are touting their e-commerce focus and results. The economy is strong and consumer confidence is fairly high. If the economy hits a wall retailers need to think of ways now that make sense to continue moving forward.

If you are responsible for an e-commerce site, do a mystery shop like I did.  Inquire about purchasing one of your more exclusive or expensive items and see how the process is working. For higher priced items, a live associate who can easily answer questions can help make the sale. To me, almost all e-commerce sites would be much more successful if their telephone number was prominently highlighted on the home page. Added to that, a telephone posted that went directly into a customer service department filled with live and educated associates.

Unfortunately, most e-commerce sites are designed to be devoid of human to human interaction. In my view, a big mistake.

What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Shapiro
Richard R. Shapiro is Founder and President of The Center For Client Retention (TCFCR) and a leading authority in the area of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For 28 years, Richard has spearheaded the research conducted with thousands of customers from Fortune 100 and 500 companies compiling the ingredients of customer loyalty and what drives repeat business. His first book was The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business and The Endangered Customer: 8 Steps to Guarantee Repeat Business was released February, 2016.


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