Complexity or Simplicity in Online Shopping?

By: Hechuan Lou

In “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple”, Spenner and Freeman (2012) discuss what consumers want from marketers when they go online shopping. According to the authors, marketers think that consumers are web-savvy, and they are good at filtering information in order to get the best deal from the market. By thinking in this way, marketers started expanding the volume of marketing information. However, the authors claimed what online consumers want from marketers is not a large amount of information but simplicity. Expanding the number of marketing messages will make it complicated for consumers to make decisions and push them away from look for alternatives. The authors conclude that marketers should provide simple purchase paths based on consumer’s behavior.

Spenner and Freeman analyzed the reasons why simplicity worked by giving an example of two camera brands, A and B. After comparing their online purchase path instructions, brand B won more consumers as they provided a simple path to make decisions based on consumers’ individual needs. I agree with the authors’ opinion that marketers should understand the consumers’ needs first and then provide trustworthy and simple information and paths to help them make decisions, because consumers are not interested in becoming an expert in a specific area by gaining a large amount of information; they are interested in using the easiest way to find perfect products. It’s very important for marketers to understand this before they develop their marketing strategies. The marketers’ goal is to attract as many consumers as they can, and the key to achieving this goal is to meet the consumers’ needs because customers’ behavior will have a direct impact on the number of products the marketers sell.

How do the marketers satisfy consumers’ needs to help make decisions simple? In this article, the authors analyze three points to answer this question: aiding navigation, building trust, and making it easier to weigh options. I agree with these three points because thry can make sure that the consumers are on the right path that will lead to a positive result for the marketers. However, there is one point I disagree with. The authors suggest that marketers should “build cadres of trustworthy advisers, rather than simply developing recommenders who will push the brand”. I disagree with this opinion because people who are looking for a real product are more likely to trust other consumers’ recommendations rather than a person who they think is on the same page with the marketers. In other words, consumers believe “word of mouth” is better than paid advisors. To illustrate, people like to shop on They read and write reviews, and the reviews help them make decisions. For example, I recently bought a pair of headphones from Amazon. I saw the pictures that other buyers uploaded and the suggestions they gave, and I decided quickly to buy the headphones. Therefore, when the reviews are positive, customers are more apt to purchase. Otherwise, they will look for other products or even go to other store websites. For example, there is a video on YouTube video, “I made a mistake I bought a Jeep”. After it was posted by an Australian customer, many people commented that they were going to buy a jeep, but changed their mind after watching the video.

In conclusion, the article pointed out that “[m]any brands lead consumers down confusing purchase paths.” By addressing this problem, the authors suggested that marketers should combine the three points above to make decisions simpler. I think with so many online resources day-after-day, consumers are tired of filtering a large volume of messages. Providing a simple and easy path becomes more and more important for marketers and many of them have already started developing their simple paths for consumers.


Spenner, P., & Freeman, K., (2012). To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple. Retrieved from


22 thoughts on “Complexity or Simplicity in Online Shopping?

  1. cimminoc April 30, 2016 / 1:17 pm

    Making the purchasing path simple plays a large part in executing sales. A more effective technique could be instead of the consumer searching each thing they may want, there could be a suggestions page that is based on passed experiences. Amazon has a page like this. If I have searched for something on Amazon, then I am going to see similar products as suggestions on my front page. This makes the process simple because I may not directly be looking for one of those similar products, but if it is on my front screen there is a better chance of me seeing it and clicking it.


  2. Marisa Harrington May 1, 2016 / 7:32 pm

    It is important for a stores website to be up to date and simple throughout the buying process. From a personal point of view, when an online store has a long checkout process, it gets annoying. I can imagine that many other people don’t like that either. Although it is better from a marketers point of view to have all those advertisements for the products that aren’t in your shopping cart. There have been times where I have purchased something else because it says “did you forget something”? The suggested products can be annoying but it works in the purchase process.


  3. Olivia Sullivan May 2, 2016 / 4:02 pm

    Websites need to make the online buying process more simple because people tend to get annoyed with everything they need to fill out when checking out. Some stores also don’t update their website often which gets annoying. When checking out I have noticed that the sites auto fill my information, more stores need to do that so you don’t need to type it in every time.


  4. adeangelo13 May 2, 2016 / 10:52 pm

    I personally like when stores fill in my information for me and it is much quicker. I see why some might not like that because they may not want their personal information saved on a computer like that but for me – I trust it. In general I think some websites could make online buying a little simpler.


  5. Andie-Jane Phinney May 3, 2016 / 4:22 pm

    Completely agreeing with the autofill for customers who shop online. Though some may be skeptical because it is “saving” the information, I believe it is much more efficient and I believe will bring back more customers to shop at that site. All sites I believe should have this option. Another great point was based on the reviews and how it helps someone make a decision when purchasing an item. I know if there are great reviews on a certain item, I am more apt to buy that item, as it was already something in mind that I wanted to purchase. Commenting through online stores is a great way to interact with others, even a great way to market.


  6. reganka May 3, 2016 / 4:54 pm

    I definitely think that the simpler the better. If a check out process is too long or too complicated then I may not follow through with purchasing the product. Autofill for online consumers is a great idea and generates more sales and fast. Personally if I saw a product that I liked on a website that already has my information saved, I would be quick to make the purchase.


  7. Alicia May 3, 2016 / 7:17 pm

    First of all, I 100% agree with the fact that word of mouth is the most important marketing tool for any business. When I was reading this article it was suggested that it is more important for a business to build relationships withs trustworthy advisors, rather than developing recommendations from people who will push the brand, I completely disagreed. As the daughter of two parents who both own their own businesses, word of mouth is the most beneficial form of advertisement. It is also important for consumers to have a simple and easy experience when online shopping. The other thing that was mentioned in this article, which I thought was really important, is that marketers should understand the needs and wants of the consumers before providing them with information to help with their decision making.


  8. cbernard7778 May 6, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    I think websites can have any range of simple to difficult means of checkout for online shopping. I find it a lot more convenient when you can check out of purchase as guest without giving an email or creating an online id. However, looking for a more secure checkout often requires an account sign up. I agreed with the above comments about Amazon with suggested options. Its a great marketing tool as well as relates back to IoT with suggesting items that are similar to what you have purchased in the past. Websites that include this type of online marketing are usually more successful with the aggression and spontaneous purchasing.


  9. Derek Lawton May 6, 2016 / 11:59 pm

    Personally I hate online shopping and would much rather go to the store to buy my products. When I have online shopping in the past I tend to get annoyed because it seems as though many items they offer are out of stock and some websites are hard to navigate. I think for the most part online shopping is a great thing but marketers need to do a better job of providing consumers with their needs and wants.


  10. Kevin Poulter May 7, 2016 / 12:58 am

    I agree that online shopping makes getting the products easier because you can get your desired products but I feel the online checkout process needs to be adjusted. I hate filling 4 pages of information just to order a pair of shoes or a tee shirt at the most it should just fill out card information and hit send. I feel companies could lose business through the online ordering process.


  11. Meg May 7, 2016 / 2:03 am

    I greatly agree with the statement “what online consumers want from marketers is not a large amount of information but simplicity.” When I shop online I want to be able to quickly and easily access information. I also want to find similar products and compare products easily. I hate going on a website and needing to give information before seeing the merchandise, and I will not access the website if that’s a requirement. Businesses lose customers because they don’t allow consumers to look at the products.


  12. Maria May 7, 2016 / 3:44 pm

    Simplicity is what consumers want. We do not want to go through different links in order to find what we are looking for when shopping online. Many may think that they need to include as much information about their product, company, and services in order for consumers to know what they have to offer; however, if everything is organized in a simple layout, consumers will have a better time and understanding of what the company wants to advertise.


  13. Jing Wang May 8, 2016 / 10:55 pm

    I think the online shopping was borned for convenience cusotmer, so simplicity is an important factor for customers make an decision to buy online or not. Also, I think the most important way which determined the online store is successful is after-sale servise, So I think the simplicity the online shoping step but make complicated customer service. the complexity in here is nor mean made custoemr hard to get the feedback of after-sale service, it means that online store need to set up the complete system which allow customer get more information about the customer service.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kathy Makiver May 8, 2016 / 11:56 pm

    The simpler it is to make an online purchase, the more likely that I will buy on that site. I agree that many companies are finally getting it and are providing us with a simpler path. We are not interested in doing a survey after our purchase and just want to get it done quickly.


  15. ssceery May 9, 2016 / 12:53 pm

    In our world of hustle and bustle, consumers want simplicity. In the world of online shopping and advertising, it must be simple to filter through. I know myself as a consumer there have been times when I’ve just gotten fed up and given up, there is just too much there. However, where is the balance for online retailers when evaluating consumer behavior. The information search and evaluation of alternatives stages are critical in the decision making process, therefore it must be a balance between the information offered and crossing the line.


  16. Nichole Urbanski May 11, 2016 / 6:18 pm

    I agree, I think that shopping online has a perk of being convenient but I also think that it really depends on what you are purchasing and from where. There have been multiple times where I have purchased something online and have had to wait several weeks to receive the purchase. When I finally received my order it was evident that it wasn’t even what I had originally purchased. I decided to give up with the order because of the time it took for the first order to come in. However, buying online makes things easier especially when the store you want to purchase from isn’t down the street. Sometimes online you can even get different sales or purchases. Some places will have signs on their websites which say “online only.” This makes you feel as though you need to purchase the item because you cannot physically go to the store and purchase it because they don’t sell it in person. With all of that being said, I tend to purchase items in person so I can see for myself first hand what the product looks like.


  17. Jennifer Buonarosa May 12, 2016 / 10:53 am

    I agree with the simple purchase path. There are some people out there that are not all that tech savvy and when they are forced to order something online they are looking for simple they don’t want anything complex with a bunch of nonsense questions etc… Simple is definitely the way to go. Also when people order online I am sure the return rate is high because people are not able to touch and feel the item before purchasing so an equally easy return is great too. People have to be able to understand what they are buying and easily be able to walk through their purchase.


  18. CJ Enos May 12, 2016 / 5:21 pm

    I agree that by making online shopping simple it will lend to better consumer experience and as a result customers will be more apt to buy those products. I also agree that customer feed back is much better than paid advertisements. Word of mouth is always what I rely on to know if a product is really what it is advertised to be. Perfect example is the iPhone. When they first came out I was very skeptical. But after hearing the reviews of others I was sold on the product.


  19. Jessica May 12, 2016 / 7:13 pm

    Great article. For me, i am skeptical of online shopping. I don’t like the idea of all my information including my credit card number just being thrown out into the internet. So when things are almost too easy to buy online, i question the reliability off the source. I do want to easily be able to find reviews, the good and the bad. When its almost impossible to find reviews, or to find bad reviews i begin to question the reliability of the source.


  20. Ashley Alves May 12, 2016 / 8:26 pm

    I personally disagree that less is more when it comes to online shopping and things of this nature. When purchasing something online I often look for very detailed descriptions and reviews. If I can not see the product in person I am relying on the marketer to help me make my decision. Sure, less information may technically make things a bit “simpler”. But, this may actually result in me going to a competitor that provides me with all of the information I am looking for.


  21. Matt K May 12, 2016 / 8:56 pm

    I do not generally participate in online shopping because I rather look at the product in person. But when I do online shopping I always have to type in the same information over and over again and it gets really old. I think that online shopping websites need to make reviews more easily accessible as well as they need to make it so you don’t always have to enter your personal information. I think they should have a log in and a pin number before check out in order to save you time and the hassle of typing in all your personal info.


  22. gabriellepecher May 12, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    I think simplicity is very important when it comes to shopping, especially online shopping. I know for me personally, when I am shopping and feel as though the process it too complex and get overwhelmed I either leave the store or website. However, I do like to make sure my information is protected when I am shopping online so I do prefer not to have this part made easier. I would rather go out of my to enter all of my information than have this part of the process faster and easier. I do like how some companies, like Apple, are using the iPad to help speed up the check out process. However, I have seen people that are a bit older and not as familiar or user friendly with technology become uneasy when having to use this.


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