Online store retailers: Don’t frustrate your buyers

Mom wants a new handbag

Recently, my mom wanted a new handbag and asked me to help her check online stores for a stiff, red leather one. 
 Asos is my preferred choice for such things because they’re pretty efficient and have never botched my order but given current exchange rates and stories about card usage restrictions on transactions in EUR/USD/etc, I thought to try a couple of Nigerian online stores first.

But it’s difficult to find what she wants on Nigerian sites

I visited Konga, Jumia and SME Market Hub, in that order.

On Konga, I could filter for red bags, but not for leather ones.

But there were only 5 red bags anyway, so it was easy to pick one that looked okay.

In reading through the product specifications, I expected to be told if the bag was a leather one or not. I wasn’t disappointed, but… what is ‘PU Leather’? 
 Hint: It’s not leather.

On to Jumia: As with Konga, I could filter for red bags, but not for leather ones. The search results were a bit overwhelming (191), which made it all the more frustrating that I couldn’t filter by material as that would have whittled down the number of bags I had to look at.

I could filter by price though, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the price slider to work. I moved it every which way but the number of filtered results still appeared to be 191.

I soldiered on and picked a bag at random, which also turned out to not be leather. 
 And I was supposed to do this 191 times? Haha..

Next stop, SME Market Hub. I couldn’t even filter by color, but I could filter by bag type.

And again, because I couldn’t filter, I picked a random one that looked workable.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t totally random, maybe I picked this one because I recognized the brand, BUT! It was such a nice surprise to find that this one had complete size measurements and it looked to be just what Mother wanted! 
 Unfortunately, the price tag was above my mother’s budget, and I was tired, so I moved on to Asos.

So I give up and buy from Asos

Now I was back in familiar territory where I could filter for everything, and I did.

There was no need for guesswork because they were all red and leather, so I just picked a good looking one…

I think the pictures could have been a bit more detailed, but no matter. This was a red, leather, 9" x 14" x 4.5" bag, my mother had all the information she needed about the bag, liked it, paid for it, and now it’s on its way to her house. Woo.

Why did that happen, and what can be done to improve things?

I’m curious as to why some helpful metadata such as material, size, and more descriptive photos is missing from many products on the Nigerian sites I visited. 
 Were there some impossible constraints to work with during design and implementation, or do you have little improvements such as these on your to-do lists but just haven’t gotten round to designing/implementing?

Also, how do you choose the parameters your customers can filter for? Do you choose arbitrarily, or are your choices based on user research data?

If you choose arbitrarily, and/or if you’ve never thought about any of this before, here are some suggestions that might be useful:

  1. Analyze the data you have, or carry out some tests to find out how buyers search for products on your site, and what seem to be the most useful search parameters for your buyers.
    * If you neither have relevant data nor resources for user testing, you might have to wing it, either by shadowing very successful ecommerce giants whose service offerings and user bases are similar to yours, or by reading about and applying best practices.
  2. I don’t have any experience with ecommerce content management, but I read a couple of things here and here to inform my next statement. Please say something if I’m off the mark
     Include those useful important parameters (or attributes) in the product upload forms or CSV files that vendors in your marketplace have to fill when adding new products to their storefronts.
  3. Make it standard practice for vendors to include as much useful information as is possible. In the past, I’ve looked at other items on Jumia, Konga and SmeMarketHub and while a good number had some information, many didn’t and I feel like this is because the way things are set up, it’s the vendor’s prerogative to include whatever information she thinks is relevant. Let it be standard to give me size measurements for a bag I’m looking at, or to tell me the the best way to clean this table mat you’re selling.

Why are these suggestions important? Because they contribute to reducing friction during the buying process, helping your customers make quicker, more informed decisions, and reducing the chances that they will return the product at the point of delivery (and this is probably one of the reasons customers choose POD options: so that they can decide not to pay if, on examining the item physically, it turns out to not be what they want).


My mom wanted a red leather bag, but I couldn’t find what she wanted in 3 Nigerian online stores because of poor filtering options and not-enough product information.

So, I gave up and bought from Asos, and then came here to detail my frustrations and suggest ways to prevent this from happening again.

I hope you found this more useful than whiny. Thanks for reading.

Originally published at on January 8, 2016.

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