Is Your eCommerce Website Underperforming? Let’s Discuss the Top 5 Reasons for Poor eCommerce Website Performance

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A solid online presence is mandatory for eCommerce businesses that want to succeed in today’s digital environment. Online shopping is gaining popularity, and online stores must meet customer needs at the right time. A critical factor that determines an online business’s success is its website. When an eCommerce website is underperforming, the company will see a drop in sales, low customer satisfaction, and even a damaged brand reputation. Identifying the root cause of poor website performance is detrimental to the future of your site. 

In this article, we are going to discuss the top five reasons for poor website performance. You will better understand how eCommerce sites work, the specific bottlenecks of retail websites and how to optimise your website to achieve your business goals.  

What Is the Main Challenge in the eCommerce Industry?  

Challenges in the eCommerce Industry

Before diving right into the reasons for poor website performance, we want to discuss the main challenge of the eCommerce industry. We want business owners to understand why their eCommerce websites are so critical in today’s market and why they should pay attention and immediately act when their online stores are underperforming.  

A significant challenge in the eCommerce business is the fast-growing competition. In the online space, there are almost 24 million eCommerce websites worldwide, and every year, the eCommerce industry is growing by 23%. As you can see, online shopping is gaining further popularity, and more and more businesses are joining the online eCommerce market. Therefore, standing out from the crowd, attracting new customers and building customer loyalty are becoming extremely difficult. The intense competition can lead to a higher customer acquisition cost, price battles and lower return on investment. Because of these factors, 22% of eCommerce businesses fail in the first year.  

We would also like to share two other key factors that make the eCommerce market a challenging environment to be successful. The first factor is to ensure a flawless, secure and hassle-free customer experience. The user experience starts when they first arrive on your website and lasts until they receive their order. From website navigation, design, product descriptions, product images, payment methods, and shipping options to return policy, transportation and delivery times, everything must be flawless and straightforward. Implementing the right eCommerce website features is crucial for the overall customer experience. 

Another challenge an eCommerce business has to overcome is quickly adapting to the changing market trends and technologies. Customer behaviour changes fast and evolves simultaneously with the online environment. Technology advancements such as a new payment option, customer service platforms such as AI-powered chatbots, and new search methods, such as voice commerce, etc., are emerging. Online stores must incorporate these changes to remain competitive and relevant. 

Knowing what customers want from an eCommerce website makes an online store succeed or fail. To overcome these challenges, you should focus on strategy, problem-solving and technical website aspects that will deliver a seamless user experience and build trust and customer loyalty. 

Top 5 Reasons Why Your eCommerce Website Is Underperforming

A brick-and-mortar store is a business investment, as is an eCommerce website. When you own a physical store, you want to make it as appealing to a potential customer as possible. You think of the design of the store, the branding, the look and feel when a client comes through the doors, the way your products are displayed on the shelves, the prices, etc. An eCommerce website is precisely like a brick-and-mortar store but in an online environment. We advise translating everything from the physical store into your eCommerce website. We strongly recommend you pay attention to details. We will further discuss the top five reasons why an eCommerce website is underperforming. No piece is too little when it comes to online stores.   

1. Slow Loading Website

Speed matters! A website’s loading speed is detrimental in today’s online world because users want results quickly. According to Portent, the first five seconds of a page’s loading time impact the most eCommerce conversion rate. Moreover, almost 70% of consumers admit that page load speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online store. Both desktop and mobile websites must have fast and responsive. The highest eCommerce conversion rates happen on websites with 0-2 seconds load times. 

Why do slow page load times occur?  

There are various reasons why a website’s speed can be affected. Amazingly, you can optimise your website and improve its performance quickly. First, check the following list of factors that might affect your website’s loading times and act accordingly.    

  • The location and reliability of your hosting provider. It might not seem like a big deal, but choosing your hosting company is crucial in determining a website or web application’s performance, security and accessibility. Your hosting provider’s data centre location can affect loading times, web performance, and implicit user experience. The closer the website’s hosting server is to the inline visitor, the faster the website will load. The reliability of a hosting provider refers to the uptime percentage. The uptime percentage is the amount of time that the servers are up and running. For a hosting provider to be reliable, they must have an uptime percentage of 99.9% or higher. Furthermore, they must solve any technical issues or outages fast! We strongly recommend you do your research on hosting companies, read customer reviews, check the uptime guarantees and the SLAs (service level agreements), see if they have reliable customer support to assist you with any technical issues and make sure that they have robust security measures in place for website and user data protection. 
  • You choose to use a shared server and cheap server hardware. You might get attracted by the cheap price of a shared service and hardware if you are on a budget, but in our opinion is not worth it because it will disrupt the user experience. Besides getting a very slow website if you have a lot of traffic, a shared website and cheap server hardware might cause security concerns, limited resources and a lack of control over the server environment. A shared service means it hosts multiple websites on the same server, and its resources are limited because they are divided between the sites. Cheap hardware cannot handle high traffic or might have outdated components that affect website performance. 
  • The reliability and compatibility of site apps and plugins. Reliability refers to the way that a site app or plugin functions. They must have a consistent performance without errors. If not, your website will crash, and errors will pop up frequently. This will impact your revenue, traffic, and user experience and damage your brand’s reputation. The compatibility of your website with third-party apps and plugins is crucial because it can lead to conflicts and errors that will make your website malfunction and crash. Site apps and plugins are designed to add functionality and extra features to your website.  
  • Too many large-size on-page images and videos. Large images and videos take a great time to load if they are not optimised for website usage. This leads to long page loading times that will harm user experience by creating frustration. Moreover, large images and videos require a lot of bandwidth to load. This increases the amount of data that has to be transferred from the server to a user’s device. If a user has a slow internet connection or an outdated mobile device, it leads to long loading times and high data usage. Another environment that is influenced by the number and size of website images and videos is the server load. A server with limited resources will not perform, leading to slow website performance or even downtime, especially if you receive high traffic levels. 
  • Embedded external resources. We refer to YouTube videos and social media feeds when discussing embedded external resources. This is similar to the large size of on-page images and videos because they use a large amount of bandwidth and server resources. On top of that, embedded external resources require additional requests to external servers, which increase the page loading time and can affect the overall website performance. 

Slow Loading Websites

Our advice to ensure fast loading times is as follows:
  • Proper research of service providers to ensure they can support your website needs. We recommend choosing a dedicated server and high-quality server hardware. 
  • Thoroughly check the reliability and compatibility of site apps and plugins before installing them to ensure optimal performance and a seamless user experience while protecting your website from cyber-attacks.
  • Limit the number of on-page images, videos and the number of embedded external resources. An eCommerce business must have high-quality pictures and videos. Therefore, we strongly recommend choosing a CDN (Content Delivery Network), optimising every media file on your website, and implementing lazy loading and caching to improve the website’s performance.  

To check your website performance, we recommend using online tools such as PageSpeed Insights or GTmatrix. Google strongly supports and rewards websites with fast page loading time and optimised for a great user experience. This is why search engines provide online tools such as Google Lighthouse and Google Analytics 4 to help website owners improve their businesses.  

2. Bad Website Design

Website design refers to more than just how your website looks. We incorporate multiple UX design and UI (user interface) specifics and factors in this category. According to Top Design Firms, 42% of users will leave a website if it is not functioning properly. Therefore, let’s discuss what bad website design means for an eCommerce website: 

Why does bad website design affect the performance of an eCommerce website?   
  • Your eCommerce website is not responsive. Mobile users have exceeded the number of desktop users since November 2016. Because of this, Google started to roll out algorithm updates that help mobile-friendly websites to have a higher position in search engine rankings, while unresponsive websites get “buried” in the rankings. Responsiveness is a critical ranking factor. 
  • Chaotic website architecture and poor navigation.  For eCommerce sites, these factors will create a frustrating user experience, which leads to lower sales conversion rates and low customer retention rates. Chaotic website architecture and poor navigation translate into difficulty finding products, confusing product categorisation, and overwhelming product options. 
  • Inconsistent branding or design and a cluttered layout can be a factor that will confuse visitors. They might have difficulty understanding the purpose of the landing pages or the overall purpose of your site. Moreover, inconsistent branding and design can lead to difficult navigation and an unprofessional website look. Both design issues can create an unpleasant user experience and a lack of trust in the brand, leading to a cut in sales. 
  • Lack of trusting signals is another factor that influences the buying decision. When an eCommerce site does not display customer reviews, social proof, and security badges, users can be sceptical of the legitimacy of the business.  
Our advice to improve the website’s design is as follows: 
  • First and foremost, make sure your website is responsive. There are multiple ways to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly, and you can choose which method is better for you: responsive design, dynamic serving or a dedicated mobile site.  
  • To ensure the legibility of your eCommerce online business, you should definitely focus on building clear and organised navigation with natural product categories. The website architecture must be logical, and the navigation should be intuitive and user-friendly. 
  • The branding, design and layout must be consistent throughout all website pages. We strongly recommend a clean, eye-catching design with clear actions and intuitive next steps. 
  • Display trust signals and do not remove negative reviews. We strongly recommend you reply to reviews and also ensure that even if a customer had a negative experience, you tried to fix it. Feedback is crucial to identify gaps in your business model and operations.  

To identify where your website is lacking and where people lose interest in your website, you can use Google Analytics to analyse the traffic and where the users bounce. You can also check Google’s Mobile-Friendly test and Search Console for errors or discrepancies. UX/UI is crucial for eCommerce businesses and their success. A website redesign can change how your target audience perceives your website and improve the overall performance of your online business.    

3. Outdated and Incomplete Product Pages

A product page is the main factor that makes users buy from an eCommerce website. Having up-to-date, complete and informative product pages is crucial for eCommerce success. 98% of online shoppers will only buy a product if the information on a product page is complete or if they find the details that interest them. 

How do outdated and incomplete product pages affect the performance of an eCommerce website?   
  • Decreased conversion rates can occur when product pages do not offer enough content that is of interest to users. Potential customers usually want to make an informed purchase decision. If users have doubts or unanswered questions, they will mostly leave your website and will not return. Because of this behaviour, your business will see a decrease in sales. 
  • Poor search engine rankings are influenced by a website’s content quality. Content engages internet users, and search engines can find your online store based on the site’s content, keywords, and search engine optimisation efforts. Search engines favour up-to-date and high-quality content.     
  • Decreased credibility is one of the factors that can break a digital commerce business. Outdated or incomplete product pages can cause doubt regarding the quality of the products and distrust in the brand. If you have a great sales funnel but your site is not meeting customer expectations, you will miss out on sales, and you will see a decrease in customer loyalty and trust.  
  • Poor user experience is another factor that, in time, will affect your website’s sales performance. If customers cannot find what they are looking for, they will leave your online shop and never return. Moreover, they will only complete a purchase if they are convinced your products are deserved buying.    
Our advice for creating a converting product page is as follows:
  • We strongly recommend you write compelling product descriptions and titles. This means highlighting the benefits of your product and describing your product in detail. Make sure to add specifications, size charts, product composition, and everything in between that can interest customers.     
  • Use only high-quality images and videos to showcase your products from different angles. Implement features such as zoom-in or a 360-degree view. This way, people can have a better understanding of your products, and they will make an informed purchase decision. 
  • Straightforward pricing and shopping information are great ways to build trust and let customers know exactly when shoppers will receive the products. 
  • Add social proof to your product pages to build trust. Include customer reviews and testimonials. 93% of consumers say that online reviews affect their buying decision.
  • Use a prominent call to action and make sure it is action-oriented (users know precisely what happens if they press the button), such as “Add to cart” and “Buy Now”.
  • Implement industry-specific features on your product page, such as a wishlist, product comparison, automatic replenishment, etc. 

We strongly advise you to check the content regularly to keep it up to date, include social sharing buttons, add product recommendations, and do not forget to include links to your returns and refund policy. We also recommend you build an eCommerce blog to educate people about your products, services and industry while promoting your online business. 

4. Long and Confusing Checkout Process

The checkout process is the last step of online shopping and can highly impact the shopping experience, cart abandonment rate and sales. The average checkout conversion rate is 1.12%, and the average add-to-cart conversion rate is 6.96%. Considering this, just because people add their favourite products to their cart does not mean they will complete the purchase. The cart abandonment rate in 2021 was 69.82%.   

What are the factors that make the checkout process complicated? 
  • Customers first abandon their carts because they must create an account to complete a purchase. 23% of users will not complete a purchase if they have to create a user account. We stand by the fact that mandatory account creation is not needed to be able to order products online. Of course, having a user account comes with various benefits, but it should not be mandatory for online shopping. 
  • Another factor that can stop a consumer from completing your sales funnel is the checkout form. If you ask for irrelevant details such as birthday, gender, etc., consumers can feel overwhelmed and think your checkout process is time-consuming.  
  • Cart abandonment can also occur if you have hidden costs. When a checkout page does not provide clear information about shipping costs, handling fees, or taxes from the start, consumers will feel frustrated and misled by you. 
  • Unclear calls to action can also confuse customers because they do not know what action to take next.   
  • Restrictive payment options are also blocking a consumer from completing a purchase. You will lose eCommerce sales if you do not offer multiple options to accommodate various needs and preferences. This applies especially when you address international customers. 
  • Long shipping times can also affect the buying decision. In today’s environment, people want fast and efficient shipping. If a competitor offers faster shipping times, customers will most probably abandon their cart and buy from another business.  
  • The return policy is unclear, or a business that does not accept returns has a significant negative impact on the business. The return policy is viewed as a safety net for online purchases. Therefore, if your business does not accept returns or has a confusing policy, customers will feel uncertain about your brand, tend not to trust your products, or hesitate to make a purchase.   
Our advice to create a smooth checkout shopping experience is as follows: 
  • Give people the option to checkout as guests. This way, you will not lose customers who have already decided they want to buy from you. 
  • We recommend implementing a one-page checkout process. This way, every step is condensed into a single page. In a one-page checkout, consumers will see their order summary, they can enter the shipping and billing information, and choose the shipping and payment method, all on one page. This will simplify the checkout process. It is more convenient and less time-consuming for customers. 
  • Disclose every single cost, including shipping, taxes and other fees, from the beginning. This way, customers can make a decision from the start if they will complete the purchase or not. 
  • If you ship internationally, we strongly advise you to implement multiple payment methods that are accepted by the countries you sell to. 
  • The same advice applies to shipping methods. However, we recommend you choose logistic companies with a good reputation and fast shipping times, as the complete shopping experience does not end after the buying process. You can implement overnight shipping options for those customers that require faster delivery. The shipping times and the quality of the services impact the overall user experience. 
  • Present a clear return and refund policy. We consider this aspect essential to building trust in your brand. Whenever your customers are unsatisfied with their purchase, a clear return policy is their assurance that they can return a product and get a refund, exchange their product, or receive store credits. However, we advise you to be very careful with the store credit strategy, as this, if not implemented right, can get your customers frustrated. 
  • Lastly, we recommend you display trust badges on the checkout page. A trust badge is a symbol or logo that helps online businesses inspire trust and credibility with consumers. These badges reassure the customers that the business is secure, trustworthy and legitimate. 

Smooth Checkout Shopping Experience

Fortunately, you can increase de conversion rate by 35.62% if you optimise the checkout page process. You can optimise the checkout process by looking at your Google Analytics account, analysing and identifying the checkout behaviour. This way, you can find out where the bottleneck in this process is and what to improve. Moreover, we recommend you monitor the new customer behaviour after the optimisation. 

5. Lack of Customer Service

In such a competitive market with plenty of alternatives, online businesses do not get second chances too often. After a poor digital experience, 51% of consumers will avoid doing business with a company, and because of a negative customer service experience, 44% of users will switch to a competitor. Furthermore, people will share their digital experiences with people they know or even on social networks. 72% of customers will share a positive experience with at least six people. 

How does a lack of customer service affect an eCommerce business?
  • When consumers need assistance regarding a product or service when they try to purchase it, and the customer service is non-existing, or it doesn’t satisfy their needs, they might be reluctant to complete the purchase. This results in decreased sales and an increase in cart abandonment
  • When customers have a bad experience with customer service, they might leave a negative review or give negative feedback. This leads to a damaged brand reputation and can drive away future customers.
  • When customers expect fast answers and the response time of your customer service does not comply with their expectations, they will be reluctant to buy from you in the future. This will lead to a decrease in customer loyalty
  • If your customer service is not corresponding with consumers’ expectations, you might get an increase in costs associated with customer returns, complaints and sales.     

Customer Service

Our advice to create a positive impact in the customer journey and increase the customer lifetime is as follows:  
  • We recommend you offer multiple communication channels such as live chat, social media, phone or email. This way, you can provide a consistent experience, and consumers will easily get the help they need. 
  • Be prompt in solving customer inquiries and complaints. We suggest starting by acknowledging their concerns and providing solutions that meet their expectations. Automated tools like chatbots can quickly provide answers and redirect more complex queries to a customer service representative. 
  • Consider user feedback because it will help you improve the customer experience. We strongly recommend encouraging customers to leave feedback and reviews after a purchase. This way, you can identify patterns, gaps and areas that need improvement. 
  • Provide quality training to customer service representatives. This way, you can ensure that all of them know what has to be done in different situations because they are knowledgeable, empathic, and proactive. They can offer a consistent experience to each customer. 
  • Personalise customer interactions by using their names. Moreover, you can also reference their purchase history and customise the solutions to their problems. eCommerce personalisation matters for user experience because consumers will feel connected to your brand and become loyal. 
  • Have an incentive strategy to reward your customers with a positive experience. You can offer a small discount on the next purchase or free shipping. This way, you will encourage them to continue buying from you. 

It is crucial for eCommerce business owners to understand the importance of these strategies, as they can help you provide reliable and effective customer service. Therefore, offering a seamless customer journey and remaining competitive in today’s market. 

By identifying the top 5 reasons for underperforming eCommerce websites, we hope you are now equipped with the knowledge to take the necessary actions to improve your website performance and increase customer lifetime. We strongly recommend you analyse KPIs and performance metrics to ensure your online business runs efficiently and effectively. If you notice a change in organic traffic, user behaviour, cart abandonment, sales, etc., we advise you to take action immediately. 

We are here to help you improve your eCommerce solution if you need help figuring out where to start. Moreover, if you are interested in more topics regarding online businesses, you can check out our blog for valuable insights. Contact us today, and let’s take your online business to the next level!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is an eCommerce website underperforming?

There can be multiple reasons, but the most common ones are slow loading times, lack of mobile responsiveness, and lack of SEO (outdated or duplicate content).

How to identify an underperforming eCommerce website?

Analyse metrics such as bounce rates, page loading times, and conversion rates. Moreover, conduct user testing to identify areas for improvement.

How does poor eCommerce website performance impact user experience and conversion rates?

High bounce rates and cart abandonment rates, negative user experience, low conversion rates, and lack of user engagement.

How to improve my eCommerce website performance?

Start by analysing and finding the root cause of the poor performance and afterwards the necessary steps to solve it. You can also hire a digital agency to take care of everything.