Taking Away the Downsides of Online Shopping

Online shopping

A study by the Dutch home shopping association revealed the downsides of online shopping, as compared to offline shopping. This article aims to provide solutions to take away those downsides.

Four times per year, the Dutch home shopping associated publishes the home shopping market monitor. In this report, they provide insights into the Dutch B2C e-commerce market. Contained in a recent publication (Q4 2015) were the results of the poll: ‘What do Dutch consumers in 2015 see as downsides to online shopping’.

In this article, we’ll review most of the objections and provide you with examples of how these downsides can be taken away or at least reduced significantly. Note: careful consideration has gone into assuring that the findings and examples translate into other local markets as well as possible.

The downsides

The following downsides were the top ones present in the study, with the percentage showing the number of participants that mentioned them.

Not being able to feel or see the product (50%)

With the current level of technology, this is one that we, unfortunately, can’t take away entirely yet. Perhaps in the future, 3d printers or holograms might be able to solve this in part, but for now, we will have to work around this.

Images with deep zoom

One way of getting as close to the offline shopping experience as possible is to provide high-resolution photos, that allow for deep zooming. This way, visitors can still see the details of the product and will feel more in control of what exactly they will be buying.

Product-in-use videos

Another way to help visitors get a more realistic view of the product they are considering to buy, are videos. Especially when the show the product in, they can help to persuade a prospective customer of its benefits, and help to show the product from a great number of angles.

Free shipping and returns

While this one might not apply to all stores, it can certainly help with many of them. Especially shops in items related to clothing can offer this service in order to take away this number one objection to shopping online.


For some web shops neither one of the solutions above work really well. For instance, furniture suppliers or websites selling fragrances aren’t well off with either one of them. Such sites might resolve their visitors’ objections by offering to send them samples of their products

Shipping costs (49%)

The costs of getting the products to their home is a close second, trailing by just 1% behind the number one. Most likely the shipping costs frustrate online shoppers so much, because the offline ‘shipping costs’ (gas, parking, etc.) aren’t taken into consideration when comparing online and offline shopping.

Remove all shipping costs

Even though most organizations have to spend money in order to move their products, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the customers should pay for that. After all, the thing that web shop owners should do is to align their shipping policy with their strategic plan.

For instance, a service-oriented company like Zappos may choose to offer free shipping & returns, and absorb the cost that goes with such a decision. On the other hand, a company selling large, difficult to move pieces of furniture, might be best off charging some shipping costs, in order to minimize the number of returned pieces.

Free shipping over $x

This one could even act as a double-edged sword when the tipping point is placed just right. Namely, it could help to make visitors spend just a slight bit more than they had intended to buy, just to avoid having to pay the shipping costs. Also, it prevents people that intend to place large orders from abandoning their process because of a (relatively small compared to their total purchase amount) shipping cost.

Requirement to pay in advance (24%)

This one might be more specifically related to the Dutch market, because of the low market share (~10%) of credit cards that they have. However, apart from ‘shipping’ the item home in your own car or having it delivered by someone else, both online and offline you have to pay in advance.


A smart way to mimic the offline payment system is to simply have people pay by invoice after they’ve received the item at their home. However, this could create complicated situations for the web shop owners if the customer is unable or unwilling their invoices after receiving the products. All in all, it seems like supporting the major credit cards will be a good way to mitigate this issue.

Uncertainty about trustworthiness (22%)

It can be difficult for web shops to gain the trust of their visitors, especially if they aren’t well-known brands. However, the online world does offer some unique benefits over offline in terms of explaining why a brand can be worthy of trust.

Testimonials, ratings, reviews, case studies

All of the forms can show current visitors how previous customers have experienced buying from this particular website. More specifically, the ratings offer a more quantitative measure, where testimonials, reviews, and case studies offer a qualitative opinion.

No/little impact on the delivery time (19%)

One of the most important reasons for shopping online is that it’s easier to fit into a busy schedule than shopping in a brick-and-mortar mall. When, however, there is very little impact on the delivery time of the products, this basically negates the effect of online shopping on the busy schedule.

Let them choose their delivery time

The image shows how the major Dutch grocer Albert Heijn is letting customers choose their food delivery. Unfortunately, such granular control over the delivery times might not be possible for all web shops. However, even a variation in which visitors can choose a time of day (morning, afternoon, evening) might already provide some help in fitting deliveries into busy schedules.

Can’t take product home directly (16%)

Of all the objections, for this one it might be the most difficult to mimic the offline world. Neither click-and-collect, nor drone delivery, or even 3d printing will get the direct ‘product in hand’ feeling that offline shopping delivers. While perhaps in the future teleportation might offer solutions, for now, we’ll have to look into ways of getting around this issue.

Other forms of instant gratification

The offline experience has the benefit of offering instant gratification to shoppers because there is no delay between purchase and holding the product. In order to at least offer this instant gratification online, web shop owners might give out free items after purchase. For instance, a related ebook or a discount coupon for the next purchase.

Uncertainty about delivery times (14%)

This one ties in closely with the perceived lack of impact on the delivery time. Also, the broad range that is usually offered as the delivery time (e.g. between 8 AM and 1 PM) doesn’t help either.

Send an SMS

In order to keep the customer up to date about the exact delivery moment, considering sending out an (automated) SMS message with the specific delivery time. This way, customers feel like they are in control about the delivery, while at the same time reducing the risk of finding nobody home when the package is delivered.

Lack of personal contact (12%)

While true personal contact won’t be possible, you can try to get as close to this visitor as possible.

Live chat

This currently offers the next best thing to an offline shop assistant. It allows you to be in direct contact with your visitors, and offer them answers to questions directly, rather than making them wait for a reply to their customer support email. With some added intelligence, automated chat bots like Ikea’s Ask Anna could serve as online clerks.


Many web shops are working on ways to beat the competition online. However, much is to be gained on making sure customers buy online at any site. By applying some of the tips outlined above, the most important objections to online shopping can be removed.

Theo van der Zee

Author: Theo van der Zee

He is the founder of ConversionReview. He has been building and optimizing websites for 15+ years now, and doing so with great success.

On top of his digital skills, Theo is also a trained psychologist and frequent speaker at events around the world.