New Study Reveals Consumers Are ‘Uninspired’ By Online Shopping

Through a new joint survey, Compare Metrics and the e-tailing group have concluded that 67% of shoppers want to shop online because they find it fun and efficient, but most respondents still find their current shopping experiences uninspiring. 

The Shopper Navigation & Discovery Study was created to help retailers better understand how traditional online search capabilities influence the online buying experience. Study participants filled out an online questionnaire focused on the shopping tools they used and their level of satisfaction with the experience. In-person sessions were then conducted, allowing participants to demonstrate their experiences shopping on retail web sites and then compare them to shopping experiences using Adaptive Navigation. Of the 33 consumers involved in the study, 21 said they conduct 50% to 75% of their shopping online, while 11 conduct 25% to 50% online.

Consumers were asked to rate their discovery experiences on top retail sites. Overall, respondents gave an average rating of 6 out of 10. More than half of respondents (52%) felt the majority of current web sites have become overwhelming due to a variety of factors, including irrelevant product details and content that distracts from visual elements.


“The shoppers do want more but they don’t want it all shoved at them at one time,” said Lisa Roberts, VP of Marketing at Compare Metrics. “For us, it feels like [shoppers] wanted this mix of simplicity with inspiration.”

Findings from the study also indicated that 73% of shoppers express fear of missing out (FOMO) when searching for products online. These consumers believe their searches are often misinterpreted and that “absolute” filters cut out product options they would have otherwise considered.

“That was a massive ‘a-ha moment’ for us,” Roberts said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It really was shoppers not trusting their search results and truly being afraid to select a certain filter. They would ask: If I click this box, what is going to go away that might have been a perfect purchase?”

Perhaps in an effort to address “shopper FOMO,” 70% of the shoppers use browse-based navigation tools for product discovery instead of the traditional search box. Reported reasons for not using traditional search include overall dislike for the tool due to its limited and irrelevant results, in addition to feeling restricted to specific search categories.

“What I am noticing is a lot more interactivity and ability to customize,” said Lauren Freedman, President and Founder of the e-tailing Group. “I think that a lot of consumers want to be in control of their own experiences. What we saw in the research was that if they’re able to discover it their way versus having to follow the way of the on-site search engines, it’s a lot more appealing to them.”

Freedman added that as a result of these consumer trends, the retail industry as a whole will “move away from everything being forced. I think those search capabilities will still exist, but maybe they will be running parallel with more exciting discovery experiences.”

The study points to three factors retailers need to focus on if they want to create optimal search experiences for shoppers:

  • Create and refresh unique product content;
  • Simplify the process by using standard default filters instead of custom ones; and
  • Let shoppers identify the collection of filters they care most about, without limiting product options.

“In many ways, online is very cookie cutter, and that’s not just in search,” Freedman said. “It’s in a lot of areas, where you can close your eyes and you couldn’t tell the difference between one site and another except for maybe the product that’s being sold. So I think it really comes down to differentiation. Retailers really need to be thinking about what they can do to differentiate their brands, assortments and merchandising.”

Click here to download the white paper, titled: Your Site Experience Is Old School.

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