Thoughts on online shopping

Introductory Waffle

I’ve been thinking for the past few days about the differences between now and back in 2003, when I first got started. Specifically, in the area of online shopping.

It’s amazing to me, that after all this time, the user experience during online shopping still sucks. It’s not so bad the first time, but when you find other stores you want to shop at, you’re likely to run into differences in the user experience. I don’t really like this. For me, the optimal user experience should be similar to walking into a real store. You pull out some cash or you swipe a debit/credit card, and you leave with a bagful of goodies. Short, sweet, easy. No passwords to remember, no worrying about the safety of your personal information, just pay the cashier and leave with your purchases.

Of course, this isn’t literally possible online–if only to prevent fraud and maintain some sort of accountability, there needs to be some step to establish that you’re really who you say you are. So, online businesses have to ask for your name, address, card number, and all that, and they pass it along to their payment gateway, which will verify or decline the transaction. That’s unavoidable, but it can be made relatively painless. Not completely painless, but relatively painless. I’m gonna share some purely hypothetical thoughts on that subject over the next few pages of this post.

If long-winded discussions make your eyes glaze over, feel free to zip ahead to the TL;DR summary on Page 6, then review the items that pique your interest. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Thoughts on online shopping

  1. Anonymous

    I was making a payment on a cruise when I realized that even though I’d input the zip code, I had to input the state. Totally redundant. You may well be on to something, but, I’m afraid programmers and managers all too often regard the customer’s time and effort as having zero value. Then, they wonder why they’re losing customers. You’re on to something.

  2. glenn

    OK, now I’m book shopping and I have to login again after every “add to cart.” Mr. Roe, get your programming done stat!

  3. Tommygun

    I don’t like the fact that after you approve a payment in PayPal, the business can go back and add charges to your PayPal account without asking permission.
    I have had this happen a number of times. Sometimes it was an honest mistake when they calculated the amount wrong the first time, but they will send the new charge without asking permission and PayPal will just send more funds.
    I have also had this happen with a few merchants in China on E Bay.
    I approve a charge and a few days later an additional $3 handling fee from them shows up that I didn’t authorizes.

  4. SSG Snuffy

    User accounts are a real pain in the @$$ for me… I’ve been dissuaded several times from making a purchase because the webstore wanted a complete ancestral history [/sarcasm]. If I don’t plan to make regular purchases from a particular seller, I don’t see the point of creating a user account – I’m totally with you on that point.

    Someone once told me that websites mine their user account data for sales and demographic info… this, too, makes me not want to engage in e-commerce. The comparison you made between e-commerce and walking into a store really struck a chord: I don’t want to give a company anything other than my money in exchange for their product.

    I like all of your points, really. How soon can we begin to force webstores to implement them? 😉

  5. Highland Piper

    Being an international student what I hate is that I can not use my U.S. Paypal in the U.K. as it refuses to ship to my U.K. address. I would have to create a brand new PayPal in the U.K. with a different history. Why should I need two accounts, I’m assuming it is some stupid Homeland Security law to stop funding terrorism. I don’t know a lot of Terrorists that play GURPS, 40K, and make paper models. Well I don’t know any terrorists so perhaps I’m wrong.

  6. Christopher Roe Post author

    Only 4 people participating in this discussion so far? I guess it’s still too early for The Revolution. 😆

  7. gothique

    I’m finding online shopping pretty good at the moment. Having said that, I always use paypal and rarely buy anything I can’t download. An exchange rate of $1.4/£1 may have something to do with my positive attitude.

  8. Hauptgefreiter

    Well, I’d like to have at least the CHOICE if I want to create an account or not. Filling out all the forms just for ordering one item – is that really necessary? :-/

    Concerning your approach, Christopher, I find it quite interesting. Would be nice to try that 😉

  9. Christopher Roe Post author

    Yeah, I’m planning to do a little testbed and see how it handles in practice. A lot of it is made possible by PayPal’s various APIs, especially the combination of Express Checkout with Digital Goods. Their documentation makes my head hurt, but I gotta stay sharp. 🙂

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