Sign in
12 min read

Brits are missing sales assistants as research reveals most challenging products to buy online

Ve Global
Ve Global
Digital Revenue Optimisation
Brits are missing sales assistants as research reveals most challenging products to buy online

Clothing, groceries and vehicles voted the most challenging products to buy online due to difficult browsing experiences and confusing product specifications

London, 8th September 2021 - Ve Global, the ecommerce technology leader, has published the findings of new research revealing the top products British consumers find difficult to buy online. The results reveal the reasons why consumers have less confidence shopping online and what online retailers need to do to compete for these often in-person purchases.

As part of the research, consumers ranked products they have started buying online in the last 12 months to uncover the most challenging product categories to purchase, with clothing (27%), groceries (21%), vehicles (20%) and home & garden furniture (16%) coming out top. The research also highlights the reasons why these products are difficult to buy online, compared to in-store, revealing that British consumers are missing aspects of the in-person shopping experience. 

Top reasons include difficulty browsing for products online (25%), confusing product specifications (21%) and not being able to ask a sales assistant for guidance or advice (21%). Consumers missed getting help from sales assistants most when shopping online for white goods (37%), consumer electronics (37%), vehicles (29%) and beauty products (26%), which are typically considered high value purchases and/or long term investments. Other common reasons included not being able to touch or test products (61%), or gauge the size of products (45%).

The research shows that consumers are missing the same tailored in-store experience when shopping online, as they seek out the necessary guidance to find products and complete their purchase. A quarter (25%) of consumers said being able to ask questions and get advice live on the site would make them more likely to buy products that are challenging to buy online. Consumers also said detailed product details (31%), the ability to tailor research results to their needs (21%) and the ability to discover relevant products more easily (20%) would make them more likely to complete their purchase.

“With the return of in-store shopping, and the personal service it brings, consumers looking for products that they find difficult to buy online will be the first to ditch the laptop for the high street,” said Jack Wearne, CEO at Ve Global. “So having a website alone isn’t enough for online retailers to compete for considered purchases. Adaptable brands are experimenting with technology to make online shopping even more convenient. Brands that can reimagine the in-store sales assistant online will enable customers to get the guidance they need to discover and choose products, and importantly get the same premium experience they’re used to getting in-store.”

More key findings from the research include:

  • Younger shoppers are increasingly browsing in-store before buying online: The research reveals that half (52%) of 25-34 year olds and 47% of 18-24 year olds like to browse or research products in-store, before going online to make their purchase, suggesting retailers must prioritise a seamless multichannel experience.This compared to 35% of people on average. Younger shoppers were also most likely to shop online more than in-store even once the pandemic is over, with 53% of 18-24 year olds and 51% of 25-34 year olds saying that was the case. 
  • Clothing is a pain to buy online, for older age groups: A third (30%) of consumers said they started buying clothing, shoes and accessories online in the last 12 months. However, almost half (47%) of 45-54 year olds and (46%) 66-74 year olds said they found these items difficult to buy online compared to in-store. Top reasons included not being able to try items on (71%), touch and feel products (67%), gauge the size of products (62%), and difficulty browsing products (23%).
  • Vehicles were the third most challenging thing to buy online: Though buying cars online became the norm in the pandemic, 20% of consumers said they have less confidence buying a car online compared to in-store. A quarter (24%) of consumers said confusing product specifications made it challenging, with 30% saying more comprehensive product details would make the shopping experience easier. 
  • Consumers rely on expert advice when buying white goods: Over a third (37%) of consumers said they find white goods challenging to buy online because they can’t ask a sales assistant for guidance or advice, with roughly the same amount (36%) feeling that the ability to ask questions and obtain advice on site would improve their online experience.

​​Discover why consumers find these products challenging to buy online and what brands can do to make it easier. Click here for full access to the report from Ve Global.



Walnut Unlimited conducted independent research on behalf of Ve Global  in August 2021. The survey was conducted online, interviewing a nationally representative sample of 2,014 GB adults (aged 18+).

About Ve Global

Founded in 2009, Ve Global is a global technology company that provides eCommerce businesses with a managed-service of proprietary marketing software and digital advertising solutions. Ve's flagship product, Digital Assistant - "the personal shopping assistant for your website," helps sell products and support customers. It enables brands to recreate their in-store experience online - by providing a customer-friendly revenue optimisation toolkit that enables marketing teams to better support, guide, and inspire their customers at every step of the buying journey.

Media contact

Nicole Louis on behalf of Ve Global

Request a demo today