Did you know that there are around 12-24 million ecommerce companies in the world? And yet only 650,000 of those are making significant revenues? That means only 2.7%-5.4% of businesses are actually proving to be a success. Although any number of factors can have a negative impact on the success of a business, it’s often the small and easily avoided mistakes that have a hugely negative effect on the company’s ability to succeed. If you want to be one of the thriving 650,000 businesses and are determined to not to be one of the 4 out of 10 startups that fail before 5 years, here’s some eCommerce mistakes you need to be avoiding.
1. Choosing a platform that won’t grow with you
There’s no doubt that starting a business is daunting. And if you are trying to go it alone, the magnitude of responsibilities can be too much to juggle. So it’s no wonder businesses choose a selling platform that’s easy to setup and maintain. Out of the box solutions such as Shopify and WooCommerce and market places such as Etsy and Not On The High Street are all great places to start. But you need to make sure you choose a platform that can scale with the planned growth of your business.
For example, if your business plan forecasts sales of 100,000 units a year, an eCommerce platform such as Shopify or Etsy isn’t going to be able to handle your volume of orders and you’ll end up having to start your website from scratch on a new system. These platforms are much better suited to businesses whose yearly sales are much lower.
The key here is just to think ahead and do your research. What suits your business now might not in three years and unless you’re happy to move your website across to a different platform, it’s important to be aware of what the eCommerce platform can offer from the beginning to avoid making one of the most common eCommerce mistakes.
2. Going full steam ahead without goals, targets or direction
So you’ve had a great business idea and you know exactly how to get the business started, but how are you going to know if it’s a success if you don’t have any goals, targets or direction? Plenty of businesses fail because they simply aren’t tracking the progress of their business. You can invest plenty of time and money into your business thinking it’s going to make a positive impact, but without goals or targets, you’ll never truly know whether the investment was worth it and it could be one of the biggest eCommerce mistakes you make.
You need to make sure your business has goals from the beginning. Forecast yearly, 3 year and 5 year goals and make monthly notes of how your business is performing in relation to these. This way, you’ll be able to identify when important changes are needed to be made before it becomes too late.
3. The proof really IS in the pudding
Did you know that as many as 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews?
So many businesses fail as a result of having no social proof. If 90% of customers rely on reviews to make a purchase decision, having none could really stump your online business’s growth. Whether it’s reviews on an external companies site such as Trustpilot, reviews on social platforms such as Facebook or testimonials on your website, the feedback really will help. And if it’s the thought of negative reviews that’s putting you off… don’t let it! The odd bad review won’t hurt. In fact, it can make your business seem more human and your review profile seem more trustworthy. After all, is there really a company out there that gets it 100% right all of the time?
It’s just as important to remember that you’re going to need to build up a significant amount of social proof before you begin promoting it. Over promotion of poorly followed social media channels and advertising a couple of reviews is just going to make your business seem smaller than it is and could be one the the biggest, and potentially damaging, eCommerce mistakes you make. Make sure you keep things under wraps until you’ve built up a well established profile of social proof.
4. Forgetting about customer services
Setting up your own eCommerce business is great. Quite often when you first start out, you can run it by yourself alongside another job with no problem at all. However, running your own business needs a little more attention than just updating your website and fulfilling orders. You need to make sure you set aside time to answer customer queries and resolve any issues they might be facing.
Many eCommerce businesses fail as a result of neglecting customer services. It might not seem like the most important aspect of your business, but 66% of customers are likely to jump ship to a competitor brand if the service they receive from your company is poor. If you don’t have time to manage customer services yourself, you may need to consider taking someone else on board to cover this for you. Avoiding it could be one of the biggest eCommerce mistakes you make.
5. Going in with too much, too soon
If your eCommerce store is new or you are in the process of setting one up, it’s probably best to test the waters with your product range before you go full steam ahead. Many online businesses fail as a result of investing a lot of time and money in producing a huge product range only for it to turn out not to be successful. It’s best to get to know your target audience first before you launch a full range. By going in with too many products to begin with, you can lose focus on what your target market actually want and leave yourself in a tricky position.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Start by launching a succinct and focused product range that you know your target market will love and gradually add new products once you get to grips with your markets buying behaviour trends.
6. Underestimating the importance of a good product description
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a good product description; until you disregard writing them. It’s an easy eCommerce mistake to make, but many businesses suffer as a result of neglecting them.
‘They’ll never read it anyway…’
You’ve probably said, we all have. But it’s important to put yourself into your customer’s shoes. Not every customer is going to read your product descriptions, but there will be those who want to know the specifications and care details before they make their purchasing decisions. You don’t have to spend hours upon hours writing paragraphs of descriptions. Just make sure you get the important details written down (see here for a production description guide). It’ll also work wonders for your SEO.
It’s also important to mention here that using manufacturers or pre-written descriptions are a big no-no. They’ll be other companies using these descriptions and you simply won’t be able to compete or gain good SEO ranking by using them.
7. Forgetting to let customers know how to get in touch
We’ve come across so many companies, especially startups, who forget to provide their customers and prospects with contact information. That’s a huge eCommerce mistake to make considering there’s no bigger purchase-deterring factor then not being able to get in touch with a company if you want to find out more or encounter a problem with your order.
We understand many small businesses are being run by owners who have other full-time commitments, and that’s fine. But there is no harm in giving your customers a contact email address so you can answer their enquiries when you have a spare 5 minutes during the day. In fact if you do so, your company will appear a lot more trustworthy and your prospects will be filled with the confidence they need to make a purchase.
We hope you found this guide useful and are able to take the advice on board before it’s too late for your company. If you have any other eCommerce mistakes that businesses commonly make, share them in the comments below to help other business owners avoid these too. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more helpful eCommerce and marketing guides.