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3 Online Shopping Sites = 3 Difficult Experiences
Apr 2007

3 Online Shopping Sites = 3 Difficult Experiences

There’s nothing like a real-life experience to evaluate a transactional Website. Here’s a realistic experience: we were looking for several high-tech products and wanted to buy them online.

The Objectives:
– To save some time by shopping on the Internet
– To get the best price for the highest quality product, of course…

The Products:
– Two laptops with two-year extended warranties and Windows XP as the operating system (no, not Vista)
– Three 19-inch LCD monitors
– One digital camera with integrated hard drive

The Websites Used for Purchase:
– Futureshop.ca
– Bestbuy.ca
– Staples.ca (Business Depot)

The Website Chosen to Verify the Products’ Reliability:
– Cnet.com

The Technology Environment
– Laptop PC
– Browser: Firefox
– High-speed Internet
– One credit card…it was even valid!

User’s Profile?
– Internet expert

What were the results of all of these transactions?

– Two successful online transactions (Best Buy and Staples); two trips to the store (to Futureshop to finally buy the product in person and to Staples to add the extended warranty); the feeling that I had lost my own precious time.
– Being able to compare the products to one another and to the competitors’ prices was a positive experience and represented a significant savings in time. The consumer is more informed and feels a greater degree of control over the process.
– The complete process took between 4 hours (for the laptop computer) and 6 days (for the digital camera).
– Increasing frustration over the fact that online shopping sites don’t seem able to effectively manage the online shopping process, nor the payment option, and that it is so difficult to find an agent to speak with.

How could these three sites improve the user’s experience?

– Connect the user’s needs with the site’s functionalities and quickly identify information essential to an online purchase by employing User-Centered Design (UCD), including simple techniques like Task Analysis and Usage Scenarios.

– Usability Testing with real users placed in real, life-like situations would have helped identify usability obstacles.

– More effective customer service, including an easily-available phone number, would help clients validate uncertainties more quickly.

If these three sites were to optimize their online purchasing processes, their clients would be more satisfied, their online sales would increase and they would achieve a greater return on their investment.

What organization could say no to that?

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