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Wednesday, Jul. 2, 2008 at 7:47 am

E-commerce Still Too Complicated For Most

By Brian Bond
July 2nd, 2008

eMarketer: Positive and Negative Attitudes toward Online ShoppingI was catching up on my reading from last week and noticed this gem from eMarketer. In it they shared some data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project study in February 2008 on the positive and negative attitudes of online buyers by age.

One thing jumped right out: Across the board, the percentage of those surveyed who had negative things to say about shopping online was higher among older shoppers, with one exception. Can you guess?

Online shopping is still too complicated.” Unbelievable, huh? But it’s a sentiment evidently shared by 18 year olds and 65+ year olds equally.

To me, this just shows the opportunity that still exists in the e-commerce space. The burden is really up to us as marketers to understand who our visitors are and what they what to see in order to be comfortable purchasing. It’s a challenge that keeps me passionate about this space and I hope motivates you.

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Comments (14)

  1. Interesting data to say the least! As time moves on, we believe e-commerce won’t be considered too complicated for anyone! This certainly is something to drive emarketers as you mentioned.

  2. I’m as computer savvy as they come (I work for a marketing software company, did computer repair for 6 years, have my own Web site and blog), and they’re right–online shopping is still too complicated.

    Unless you’re willing to simply accept whatever one of the big online retailers (Amazon, et al) throws at you, online shopping can be an impenetrable maze.

    For example, I type in “Canon Rebel XT” into Google and get over a million page results. How do I know where to go? Should I go to Amazon? Do I go to one of the paid click ads? When I get there, am I actually buying from Amazon, since it’s listed on their site, or am I actually buying from a third party, whom Amazon is simply listing? Whose warranty applies, Canon’s? The store’s? Whose return policy is most applicable, Amazon’s, or the third party’s?

    And don’t even get me started on eBay. I don’t even bother with eBay. To make a purchase on eBay from a seller that could be considered even remotely trustworthy in most cases is only marginally cheaper than buying the product directly. Sure, you can get good deals on eBay. But in my experience, purchasing on eBay is less about the actual product, and more about the experience of purchasing on eBay. It’s about the emotional “high” of fighting other people for the product and winning, and less about the product itself. The barrier to entry for Average Joe Consumer is waaaay too high for eBay.

  3. Hi Brian,

    From my usability perspective, opportunity is the key word in this post – as you say the opportunity for people such as ourselves who are experts in this space is immense, and its one of the reasons why we have recently launched our own e-commerce platform.

    I also share similar feelings as yourself in terms of being totally passionate about the online retailing space. This combination of the opportunity and passion, combined with adopting User Centered Design processes to deliver e-commerce solutions, is certainly the key principles on which we carry out our services and build long term client relationships.

    Thanks for your post..

  4. Uh ? Have they updated the data after your post ? I can’t understand the correlation between what you’re saying, and the data i see in this board.

    Maybe it’s my english which is really too poor …

  5. Hello Tong,

    The figures I am pointing out are the second to the last set in the graphic. The question “Shopping online is complicated” 84% of 18-29 year olds, 83% of 30-49, 82% of 50-64, and 84% of 65+ agreed that shopping online is complicated. Hope that helped

    Everyone who has commented so far I agree and I’m excited for your optimism.

  6. Steve Watts: I tried to explain to an e-commerce owner a few months back that he needed to simplify his site. Every landing page for his ads came up with dozens of items. I explained he needed simple, unique landing pages for each item, and it just didn’t get through. E-commerce sites ARE way more complicated than they need to be, I totally agree with you. I am just not sure why there’s so much resistance to change in e-commerce design.

  7. Thanks for your article, it validates what I have been saying to my clients for sometime now, “Keep it Simple” and you’ll have a better conversion rate. Shopping online is complicated? I might not agree, but I have been online since 1995 and have learned to practice. Amazon is a good model, and I use it often.

  8. Great point.
    Another angle on this is to remember that anyone reading this blog is not part of the audience that thinks e-commerce is too complicated.
    Regardless of age, 5 million+ new users are coming online for the first time every month. This is a huge audience to whom all this “online stuff” is still new, and somewhat intimidating, every few weeks!
    “Don’t confuse yourself with your audience” is an excellent design maxim.

  9. Just an interesting observation, and it only counts because I’m so very late in commenting on this post. Amazon in 2008 posted record sales, while every single brick & mortar retailer posted record losses!

    I think out of necessity (of saving money), consumers are becoming more OK with e-commerce.

  10. interesting read

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  12. [...] E-commerce Still Too Complicated For Most – Future Now – Jul ‘08 [...]

  13. I sell on both ebay and Amazon, through my website,, and I have found that ebay is far more difficult to use as a buyer and a seller. I’ve even had people agree to buy something from me on ebay and then tell me they won’t be paying because they bought it on Amazon instead. It’s just way easier, especially the payment process, for people who are newbies.

  14. Hi Eve Lopez,
    Yes, you are right e-commerce is so complicated, but one day i was searching for shopping portal, then i came across an online goo2o shopping portal. That portal was very simple in design and it’s very easy to locate your product. So e-commerce is not so much complicated that much we are thinking there are some good sites where we can make transaction to buy goods in very simple manner

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