The 5 Pain Points of E-Commerce

by Jim Berkowitz on October 9, 2007

Here are several excerpts from a recent article by Jessica Tsai, The 5 Pain Points of E-Commerce:

As part of’s Annual Summit, Forrester Research Senior Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru delivered a keynote address that resoundingly argued against the conventional wisdom that online retail may have already seen its best days.

“Some think e-commerce has peaked,” Mulpuru said, citing recent news reports from sources such as (“Online Shopping Growth to Slow in Next Decade“) and The New York Times (“Online Sales Lose Steam“). But Mulpuru believes that e-commerce still holds great potential — in fact, she predicts an approximate 25 percent year-over-year growth for both 2007 and 2008.

The Web 2.0 era has delivered very sophisticated functionalities, Mulpuru told the crowd, but the growth she’s predicting will not come by depending on technology alone. In her keynote, Mulpuru described many online retailers as “running before they can walk” because they are so caught up in what’s new and complex — such as videos and podcasts — that they haven’t yet nailed down the fundamental attributes of their online presence.

When businesses begin to really focus on what they’re offering and how they want their customers to interact with them, Mulpuru noted, solutions will become readily apparent.
To that end, she addressed what she called the five pain points of e-commerce — and said that dealing with them is essential to maintaining a successful online presence:

  1. Not Available 24/7. First, contrary to the inherent purpose of shopping online in the first place, online retail still isn’t user-friendly. Mulpuru reported that her research has found that the number-one reason people shop online is for the convenience, followed by selection, then by price. Web sites should be available and working 24/7, Mulpuru said, adding that that one out of every 50 online transactions fails because of a retail error.
  2. Mismanaged Marketing Resources. Second, Mulpuru said that online marketing is inefficient in terms of what its resources are focused on. Mulpuru calls for an industry-standard definition of return on marketing investments and what profit means for retailers. She questions the extravagant amount of marketing spend devoted to paid search (41 percent, according to her figures), claiming that the costs are outweighing the revenue, particularly for nonbranded terms. Finally, she said, marketers need to focus on customer retention and building customer loyalty rather than customer acquisition.
  3. Failure to Listen to Customers. Third, marketers need to listen to their customers instead of simply “watching” them. Mulpuru noted that most marketers (73 percent) react to the actions of their competitors. Instead, marketing staffers should work to understand the behaviors of the customers — especially to determine why customers act the way they do.
  4. Poor Organization. Fourth, the organization of many Web sites is poor — that makes it difficult for consumers to navigate and find relevant products. Mulpuru noted that while the tools to help increase relevance exist, they are rarely implemented.
  5. Lack of Channel Coordination. Last, retailers have yet to coordinate and maintain their multiple channels. Mulpuru reported that conversions achieved through cross-channel sales can be up to three times greater than through offline channels alone.

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