The future of shopping is online. By the end of 2020, almost 55 percent of all sales worldwide were occurring online only. Understandably, a major chunk of this growth is an impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that struck the world in 2020.
However, online shopping around the world indicates a steady Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of about 4.5 percent around the globe, and the trend will continue for at least till 2023, according to industry experts.
At the same time, this boom in online shopping comes with a plethora of problems for consumers as well as ecommerce companies.
There’re several reasons for such online shopping problems, part of which are due to the inherent shortcomings of online retailers, while some arise from consumers.
To understand these online shopping problems better, here’re some facts and figures that would provide some perspective about the eCommerce or online buying and selling industry around the world.
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Facts & Figures of Online Shopping
By the year 2023, the global online shopping industry will be worth $29.76 trillion, according to online marketplace provider Shopify.
Global retail sales are projected to grow by 14.5 percent from 2021 to 2023 as people avoid crowded places to protect themselves against any future pandemics, including the Covid-19 virus.
The online shopping industry itself expects a growth of 4.5 percent during this period, as I mentioned earlier.
In 2019 alone, 1.92 billion online shoppers worldwide spent a combined $3.5 billion on buying goods and services.
About 80 percent of all online sales are done through mobile devices such as laptops, tabs, and smartphones.
10 Common Online Shopping Problems Faced by Consumer
Given the sheer number of online shoppers and the value of transactions, it’s natural that we can expect some problems while shopping online. Here’s a list of the top 10 such online shopping problems you might face while shopping online.
Here I’m listing online shopping problems that are common while shopping for both goods and services online.
1. Refunds for Cancelled Orders & Returns
Obtaining refunds for canceled orders and returns is a prevalent issue faced by consumers when shopping online. While major online retailers such as Amazon typically process refunds within a few days, this may not be the case with smaller retailers.
Some may cancel part of an order and take weeks to issue a refund, while others may require multiple calls or emails to customer service to follow up on the refund process.
Additionally, some retailers may deduct money from the refund amount for taxes or service charges. To avoid these issues, it is important to thoroughly read the return and refund policy before making a purchase from any online store.
2. Price Drop Immediately After Ordering
Unfortunately, this is a very common problem with online shopping that I encounter, even on respectable websites such as Amazon.
They make something known as ‘Lightning Deal’ or ‘Deal of the Day’ when you leave something without ordering in your basket. This means they’re reducing the price to encourage you to place the order.
However, upon placing the order, you’ll discover that the original price has dropped even below the ‘Lighting Deal’ or such special offers. This can be very infuriating. In fact, I would even state that such a practice borders on cheating.
When you call customer care, they’ll simply inform you that the seller is offering a lower price, and hence, Amazon has no control over that. You could cancel the original order and await the refund before placing a new one.
Also read: Ways To Stop Spending Money On Useless Stuff
3. Powerless Customer Care Agents
Some of the top online retailers are guilty of not investing enough resources to effectively handle customer complaints. I have personally experienced customer service agents who apologize but fail to take action to solve the problem.
They may claim to understand and sympathize with the situation, but this is often a tactic to deflect anger away from the retailer without actually addressing the issue. When requesting to escalate the problem to a senior manager, these agents may claim they are unable to transfer the call or that a senior manager would not be able to help.
This is a frustrating aspect of customer service for many online retailers, and if faced with this issue, it is advised to bring it up to a consumer court or forum for resolution.
4. Receiving Goods Returned by Others
We’ve to remember that most top online sellers don’t really store the products they’re selling. Instead, they have a network of suppliers and retailers who will fulfill your order. And often, these retailers will send you goods that have been returned by others.
That’s because they’re not going to throw away something and bear losses just because some unhappy customer returns the stuff. Instead, they’ll repack it and send it to other buyers.
It’s very simple to find out whether the seller has indeed sent you something that could’ve been returned by someone earlier.
For example, a shirt or dress will show slight stains when you examine it carefully. It could also carry the body odor of the person that wore it earlier to try.
This is not the case with readymade garments only. A closer look at the packaging of some items will reveal it was opened earlier and the seller has hastily sealed it with tape or adhesive.
If it’s an electronic item, you’ll find the wires aren’t exactly the way a company would pack them and that someone has done a shabby job of trying to repack the stuff to palm it off to other unsuspecting buyers.
If you receive such goods, return them immediately and seek a replacement. No seller or online store has the right to send stuff that’s been rejected by some earlier customer. And if replacements aren’t available, as for full and unconditional refund.
5. Goods Don’t Match Description
Receiving goods that don’t match the description on the online store is yet another common problem with online shopping.
Though larger online stores have freelancers and part-time workers check for incorrect descriptions and wrong product images, some sellers insert misleading information deliberately. They might want to tempt buyers by using the wrong tactics.
At the same time, we’ve to give the benefit of the doubt to some online stores and sellers. They might not be selling goods that don’t match the description on purpose. Instead, it could be a simple oversight or delay in updating pictures and information.
For such online shopping problems, the best solution is to return the stuff immediately. Unless, of course, you like what you receive.
There’re times when I personally have received stuff that’s much better than the one I had ordered. If you believe the price is right and the product is better than what you expect, keep the stuff and don’t return it.
6. Delivery Charges
Online shopping can be convenient as it saves time and often offers discounts, but there are drawbacks as well. Some products on Amazon and other online stores do not qualify for free delivery, even for Amazon Prime members.
This can lead to additional delivery charges and taxes, making the final cost of the product more expensive than buying it in-store. To avoid these issues, consider shopping from online stores that offer free delivery or lower prices or shopping in-store.
It's also a good idea to look for alternative products or to carefully read the terms of free delivery, as some sellers include the delivery charge in the final cost of the product without disclosing it.
7. Fake Reviews on Online Stores
Thousands of reviews, even on top online stores such as Amazon, Walmart, and eBay, are fake and paid for by sellers of various products, states America’s top news channel and website, CNBC.
Unfortunately, thousands of customers fall victim to such fake reviews and buy poor-quality stuff. There’re countless online sellers that sell products through popular shopping sites.
People get paid to post reviews on Amazon and other sites, and these sellers try to buy reviews from people using social media and other channels.
Though top online stores try and remove fake reviews, there’re no known ways to stop the practice. Instead, you’ll have to detect fake reviews and tall claims yourself before making a purchase.
MarketWatch.com, owned by DOW-Jones, provides some tips on how you can detect fake reviews on online stores.
I suggest you read this article carefully to make sure you don’t fall victim to such fake reviews and inadvertently end up buying poor-quality stuff. Of course, we also reserve the option of returning the stuff to a seller if the facility is available.
8. After Sales Service on Electronics
Buying electronic appliances online helps us get hefty discounts and also the facility of paying in Equal Monthly Instalments (EMIs). This enables us to own that dream and expensive smartphone or the latest TV set easily.
In fact, some of the stuff that we get online isn’t available from brick-and-mortar stores in our area, which adds to the pleasure of owning it.
Despite these advantages, buying such goods can become a major hassle at a later date. And that’s when we require after-sales service.
To begin with, some online sellers will provide only a three or six months warranty despite the manufacturer giving a one-year warranty from the date of purchase.
Secondly, online stores don’t really stamp and sign a warranty card since that involves opening the product packaging. They ask you to consider the invoice as proof of purchase and warranty.
And very often, service centers for the brand of the electronic item aren’t available at our location.
To avoid such a major problem, read all terms and conditions of the product warranty beforehand. And check whether a service center is available in your area. Also, retain the invoice carefully.
In most cases, invoices are printed on thermal paper and are prone to fading within a very short time. If that happens, download a proper invoice from the online store and retain it in your records or take a photocopy of the original invoice that comes with the product.
9. Online Payment Security
Online payment security is one of the major problems you could encounter while shopping online. There’re several ways this occurs.
Shoulder Surfing is the most deadly among these, according to the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In simple terms, it means criminals watching over your shoulder as you make online purchases using a mobile device and credit or debit card from a public place.
These criminals can steal your credit card, debit card, and other details as part of a very serious crime, identity theft.
The second is when you make online purchases from unknown stores. Though some such stores will appear as legit and large businesses, they’re nothing more than frauds.
They will steal your personal and financial details as part of identity theft when you make an online payment. And in the least: they would just take your money without delivering the order.
The third type isn’t that serious and can occur due to poor Internet connectivity or problems with a payment gateway or the systems of an online store.
Your payment gets debited from a bank account, credit card, or debit card but the online store app or website indicates it failed.
In such cases, you can contact your bank or the online store and get a refund when you provide proof of the debit transaction.
10. Delivery Delays
And finally, another very common problem with online shopping you can face while shopping online: delivery delays. This can occur due to several reasons.
Generally, bad weather is the biggest culprit since delivery agents can’t drive vehicles in heavy rain, snow, or stormy conditions because they wish to avoid traffic accidents.
In other cases, a courier or logistics company could face delays in getting your shipment for delivery because of the non-availability of the fleet, delays in processing the package, or late arrivals from the point of origin.
A lot of delivery delays also occur because customers fail to provide the accurate address with landmarks. Or when you’re not at home or the office to receive the delivery.
Most online stores allow you to select timings for the delivery of your goods. That helps them schedule deliveries according to your convenience. But sometimes it’s not possible for them or you to be present at the delivery address due to any reason.
You could avoid some of these problems by providing the right address and making sure you’re available to take delivery.
Overcoming delays in delivery due to external factors is also possible if you order well in advance or before the urgent need for something arises.
Other Online Shopping Problems
Additionally, there’re a few other minor online shopping problems you could face while shopping online. These can cause some minor inconveniences, but it’s fairly easy to avoid them.
- The item goes out of stock.
- Credit cards and debit cards from some issuers aren’t acceptable to the online store.
- Some items could be undeliverable to your location.
- Proper size charts aren’t available to buy garments and footwear.
- Different prices for the same item on a single online store but from different sellers.
Before concluding, I’ll add that legit and large online stores exert extra effort to ensure all consumers have a seamless and pleasant shopping experience.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible due to factors that could be beyond their control. Therefore, this article could help make the best of online shopping.
What stops people from buying online?
People may be hesitant to buy online due to security, privacy, and trustworthiness concerns. They may also feel uncomfortable with the lack of customer service or support when compared to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Additionally, they may not be comfortable with the idea of inputting their payment information online. Finally, some people may simply prefer the in-person shopping experience.
What factors influence the consumer's online buying behavior?
Several factors influence a consumer's online buying behavior, including convenience, the trustworthiness of the seller, product reviews and ratings, price, and product selection. Additionally, factors such as website design and navigation can also play a role in influencing a consumer's decision to purchase online.
What are the pros and cons of online shopping?
The main pro of online shopping is convenience. You can shop from the comfort of your own home and have items delivered directly to you. Additionally, it's often easier to compare prices and find deals online. The main con is that you can't inspect items in person before buying them, so there's a risk that the item won't be as expected when it arrives. Additionally, there are security risks associated with entering payment information online.
How to solve online shopping problems
The best way to solve online shopping problems is to contact the customer service team of the store you purchased from. They should be able to help you with any issues you are having, such as defective items, incorrect orders, or delayed shipping.