The world of e-commerce is incredibly competitive. Not only are you battling the big guys like Amazon, you’re also competing with hundreds of other small e-commerce sites selling what you sell.

Given the slim margin for error, can you afford for your e-commerce website to turn customers off?

A recent survey asked 1,000 U.S. e-commerce shoppers what they like and don't like about e-commerce websites. Here’s what they discovered.

It’s all about the product

By far, the biggest pet peeve e-commerce shoppers share is difficulty finding the products they’re looking for. More than four in 10 say their biggest pet peeve is poorly designed menus/a lack of merchandise subcategories. Thirty percent say their biggest pet peeve is search functionality that’s “too basic” with no filters to narrow results. Finally, 26.4 percent say their biggest pet peeve is when “products are buried behind too much branding.”

These are serious issues for your e-commerce business: Almost 70 percent of respondents say any one of the previous pet peeves would motivate them to shop around on other websites instead.

The takeaway: Make sure your main menu is well designed and clearly organized so it’s easy to find your merchandise. Main product categories are essential, but adding subcategories will help users get through your e-commerce site quickly—a key concern for online shoppers. If your search feature doesn’t already have advanced search and filter options, it’s time for an update (who wants to search through 40 pages of results for “women’s white T-shirt”?).

Cart before the horse

Once your shoppers navigate your website, make their buying decisions and load their shopping carts, there’s still room for error. The checkout experience is a deciding factor in whether customers buy or give up.

For one-third of respondents, the biggest pet peeve about the e-commerce shopping carts is a lack of upfront pricing. Some 27 percent dislike having to create an account, while 22.9 percent are annoyed by high shipping costs.

The Takeaway: Don’t try to hide things—especially when it comes to money. Prices should be clearly visible on your website, and shopping cart totals should update as more items are added. If you use offer codes for discounts, provide the opportunity to enter the codes before beginning the checkout process, so shoppers can get an accurate total and see how much they’ll save.

A customer’s primary concern during online shopping is making the purchase quickly and conveniently. Creating an account slows that down—and could drive shoppers elsewhere. Instead of requiring customers to create an account, allow them to check out as guests, while promoting the benefits of accounts, such as discounts for early access to sales. (When you send that email alerting them their order shipped, it’s a great time to remind them “Why not create an account to make tracking your order easier?”)

Shipping costs are major concern for online shoppers. Offering free shipping when the customer orders hit a certain dollar value can help you strike a balance between keeping customers happy and keeping more of your profits. Look at your analytics to see how many of your customers want rush shipping—perhaps you can offset any losses from free standard shipping by increasing the charges for rush deliveries.

Learn from the best

Wondering how else you can improve your e-commerce website? According to the survey, 45.4 percent of respondents say electronics retailers have the best e-commerce websites, while 18.7 percent praise fashion websites. Try checking out popular electronics retailers like Apple or Best Buy, or fashion retailer It’s the number-one fashion site on the web.

According to the experts behind the survey, ranks highly because

  • The site generates trust and makes it easy to get support
  • Strong categorization and search makes it easy to find products
  • The checkout process is “simple, short and without unnecessary distractions.”

Your SCORE mentor can check out your e-commerce website and find areas to improve. 

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog

CEO, GrowBiz Media
E-Commerce Shoppers’ Biggest Pet Peeves