Top E-Commerce Complaint: Web Images That Don't Look Like The Product

E-Commerce customers have several complaints about online buying, but the top concerns are Web images that don't match the real thing and sites that make it difficult to easily ask any questions, according to a late March Opinion Research Corp. Web survey of 1,092 consumers.

The complaint about "receiving an item that doesn't look anything like it did on the Internet" was the top concern, at 24 percent. But "not being able to speak to anyone to answer questions" was also right up there, the choice of 23 percent of participants.

Rounding out the complaints was "learning that items are back-ordered or out of stock after they are in the cart" (19 percent), "Web sites that malfunction as the payment is being processed" (14 percent), "an unclear return policy" (8 percent), "unclear shipping information" (6 percent) and "not getting an acknowledgment after the order has been placed" (6 percent).

Linda Shea, the polling firm's senior vice president and global managing director of customer strategies, said the inability to answer questions was particularly telling, and it was the result of an E-Commerce double-whammy. It reflects a rapidly increasing set of consumer expectations when it comes to E-Commerce sites at the exact same time that retailers are slashing customer service budgets, she said.

"The level of customer service is way down and expectations are continually being raised," Shea said. "As the economy starts to slow, companies look for places to cut and customer service is often at the top of the list."

Shea conceded that the lack of follow-up questions made analysis difficult as respondents might have meant very different things. For example, is the complaint of visual disconnects referring to suspected retail deception—where a product image is intentionally misleading—or something much more innocuous, such as the fact that color reproduction is often faulty and is based on the user's monitor, screen settings, browser version and even whether a laptop is plugged in or working on batteries?

The concern about not being able to speak to anyone might be referencing a literal inability to communicate with anyone, it might mean "talk" as opposed to text messaging or it might mean that call center personnel on the phone or texting were acting so unresponsively that the consumer felt they weren't getting anywhere.

Those are all legitimate problems, but each one would merit a very different kind of E-Commerce response.