Running a successful ecommerce store is no easy feat. From failing to understand your audience to poor user experience design, there are several mistakes online store owners make when setting up and running their websites.
However, most ecommerce mistakes that may be costing you your customers, are avoidable. I have been working on SEO projects for online sellers since 2007 and started my own ecommerce venture nearly a decade ago. Along the way, I have gone through many trials and tribulations that helped me grow as a professional.
In this article, I share the 5 most common ecommerce mistakes I’ve seen website owners make and tips on how to prevent them.
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#1: Failing to Understand Your Audience
Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of a successful ecommerce business. It allows you to target your offerings and marketing efforts to a specific group of people. 91% of customers prefer to purchase from brands that offer personally curated digital experiences and offers. In other words, customers want to buy from brands that understand them.
That’s because the same type of messaging won’t speak to everyone. More often than not, what appeals to a new mom won’t also appeal to a newly graduated millennial woman. They have different interests and pain points. So the saying “if you try to sell to everyone, you are not selling to anyone” remains true as ever.
Yet, many ecommerce owners make the mistake of failing to understand their audience. Instead, they fall prey to assumptions. Don’t assume, research! Go beyond the basics, such as location and demographics - look at what drives your customers.
Here are a few sources to help you get started with your audience research:
Look at the latest studies on consumer behavior and trends in your industry. Sites such as Statista and the Pew Research Center are two of the many you can use to find relevant market research reports.
Market Research Tools
When you’re just getting started, you probably won’t have enough data on existing customers. So take advantage of free market research tools such as Think With Google, Google Trends, and Answer The Public.
The Market Explorer feature of the Semrush Trends tool allows you to analyze the audience characteristics of your competitors. Another place to learn more about the pain points and expectations of your customers is the review section of your competitors.
Talk to your audience and listen to what they have to say. You can reach out to your existing customers with a questionnaire via email or phone. Find where your audience spends their time online. Forums such as Reddit and Quora can be a goldmine of information. The same is true for Facebook groups.
Keep in mind that collecting audience data is a continuous process. Your audience is made of real people. People change. So do their buying behaviors and what they expect from brands.
#2: Neglecting Performance and Security Concerns
Poor website security is an ecommerce mistake you can’t afford to neglect. Security goes beyond HTTPS and SSL certificates. While these are the foundations, they can lure you into a false sense of security. You don’t want to find out the hard way about security concerns related to performance and malicious attacks.
Preventing Spam & DDoS Attacks Before It’s Too Late
A sudden spike in website traffic may sound like a cause for celebration. Your SEO and marketing efforts are working! That is not always the case. That boost in traffic may be a result of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks are one of the most common ecommerce security threats you should be prepared for. A DDoS attack is a flood of fake traffic that aims to overwhelm your servers and prevent access to genuine customers. As a result, your ecommerce brand will suffer from a loss in customer trust and revenue.
The best course of action is to plan for DDoS attacks in advance and put preventative measures in place. To prevent spammers from creating fake accounts on your site, make sure to install Recaptcha by Google or a similar service. In my experience, Recaptcha does the job very well compared to other paid solutions. If an attack occurs, I recommend a service like Cloudflare, which has been around for a long time, and they are very effective at mitigating DDoS attacks.
Too Slow Site Performance
Website performance is another area you need to be proactive with. 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page if it takes longer than three seconds to load. This directly translates to loss in potential revenue. Additionally, Google has confirmed that site performance speed is an important ranking factor.
To improve your site speed, start by diagnosing performance issues using a tool such as Website Testing by Semrush. Google also offers a set of Make the Web Faster tools and resources to help you with this.
#3: Making Poor UX Design Decisions
User experience (UX) design in ecommerce is about providing a smooth and enjoyable shopping experience; It encompasses everything from how your website looks to how it works. Poor UX design decisions negatively affect your online sales. According to The Trillion Dollar UX Problem report by Amazon Web Services, following a bad user experience, 88% of customers are less likely to revisit your site. Some issues to watch out for.
When someone lands on your site, they should be able to easily find what they are looking for and complete a sales transaction on any device. Here are 8 tips on how you can improve the navigation of your ecommerce site:
- Properly define your product categories using descriptive names.
- Use parent categories and subcategories to improve information hierarchy.
- Make the main navigation bar sticky so it's always visible even when visitors scroll further down.
- Display a prominent search bar at the top of your website page. Offer search suggestions when people start typing.
- Add single click “add to cart” buttons.
- Make the logo clickable and linked to the homepage.
- Make use of internal links to navigate between website pages.
- Take advantage of the footer section by linking to popular pages within your site.
Lacking a Robust Catalog Filter System
According to the Paradox of Choice, a concept coined by American psychologist Barry Schwartz, having too many options can be overwhelming and stressful and often leads to customers making no choice at all. Therefore, if you have a large product set, you must have a robust filter system in place to narrow down results. This is one of the most crucial elements for websites to convert traffic into sales at a better rate.
Think of it as adding a touch of personalization to the shopping experience. Provide your customers with filter options to select their desired price range, color, size, material, and other metrics that are related to your products and important to your customers. This creates a friendly user experience and will ultimately lead to an increase in sales revenue.
Having a Difficult Checkout Process
Once the customer is ready to checkout, you should make it simple and quick for them to go through with completing the purchase. Customers nowadays expect convenience. A complicated, multi-step checkout process is not that. This is one of the biggest ecommerce mistakes you can make.
For example, many ecommerce websites require customers to create an account before making a purchase. This membership model may ultimately lead to repeat customers. However, 23% of customers will abandon their carts when forced to create an account. Don’t force your customers’ hands; offer a guest checkout option and see your transaction rates improve.
I like to use a solution known as “One Step Checkout,” which keeps the entire check-out process on one single page, as shown in the screenshot below. It also has a built-in auto-complete and suggestion tool for the address fields that helps the customer by requiring fewer keystrokes. Fewer steps in your checkout process usually result in fewer abandoned carts.
No Scalable Website Design
As your business grows, you want your website to grow with it. From handling increased traffic without crashing to allowing the implementation of new features. If you fail to account for future growth, it can turn out to be quite expensive and time-consuming down the road. So choose your ecommerce platform, hosting service, and UX design with scalability in mind.
Too Few Payment Options
If your customers don’t see their preferred payment option, they’ll likely abandon the cart and head to your competitors. Besides the traditional payment options such as PayPal, bank transfer, and credit/debit cards, there is a rise in the number of customers that prefer using digital wallets, Afterpay, and open banking payments. Make sure you support the latest in financial technology!
Too Few Shipping Options
According to a McKinsey report, over 90% of online customers consider 2-3 days shipping a baseline, with 30% expecting same-day delivery. So consider offering different delivery options and allow customers to choose. For instance, besides the standard baseline shipping, shoppers can choose to pay a premium to get same-day or next-day delivery. In fact, 88% of customers are willing to pay more for same-day delivery.
Free shipping is another delivery option that can greatly impact your sales. You can implement this shipping strategy in a few different ways while still being profitable.
- Incorporate the shipping cost into the product price and offer free shipping on all orders.
- Put in place a minimum order value for customers to qualify for free shipping. 48% of customers are willing to purchase extra items to reach the free shipping threshold.
- Collect a recurring fee by implementing a membership program such as Amazon Prime or Zalando Plus. These programs are also great for building customer loyalty and getting repeat sales.
#4: Having Shoddy Product Pages
Product pages are undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of your ecommerce store. A shoddy product page will cause 70% of visitors to bounce off your site. But what makes for a shoddy product page? Components such as low-quality product photos, duplicate content, and a lack of reviews negatively impact your conversion rate.
Low-Quality Product Photos
According to Etsy’s buyer survey, 90% of online shoppers name product quality as the most important factor when making an online purchase. Low-quality product photos often leave the impression that your product may also be of low quality. So no matter how great your product is, low-quality photos will stand in the way of sales. Optimize your product photos to succeed in the ecommerce space.
Duplicating Content Instead of Creating Your Own
Duplicate content refers to the same or similar content appearing on more than one web page. And Google doesn’t like duplicate content much. It can have several implications for your online store, with the most notable being a drop in organic ranking. If you want your product page to rank organically for product-specific keywords, then you must write your own product content. You can also use a tool like Listing Alerts to notify you if someone copies your Amazon listing content.
Lack of Reviews
There is no doubt that customer reviews have a direct impact on sales as they help to bridge the online trust gap; 93% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. Even having as little as five reviews displayed on your website can increase product sales by 270%! That’s a lot of money you’re leaving on the table if you don’t display product reviews on your website. The best way to gather reviews is to be proactive about it. Actively ask your customers for reviews after each purchase. Amazon sellers can learn how to get more reviews in this article.
#5 Forgetting to Build Your Brand
Many ecommerce brands forget to focus on brand-building activities. Often this happens due to the difficulty of justifying expenditure on branding efforts. However, branding efforts compound over time. A strong brand induces an emotional connection with the customer, 43% of shoppers will make repeat purchases with a brand they love.
Build A Strong Brand Message and Identity
According to the 5WPR 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 83% of customers will choose to buy from brands that align with their values. What’s more, 71% of online customers are willing to pay more for a product if some of the profit goes to a charitable cause. Your brand message or identity can help you differentiate your brand from the giants that dominate the ecommerce space.
So ask yourself: What do you stand for? Develop your brand story, marketing message, and design that shows that you stand for something greater than profit. It will help you to form an emotional connection with your customers (that’s what branding is all about). Don’t forget to communicate your brand message consistently across all your marketing channels.
Provide Quality Customer Service
The Customer Service Benchmark Report by SuperOffice reveals that while 80% of businesses claim to provide excellent customer service, only 8% of customers share that sentiment. Take a hard look at your customer service and identify areas of improvement. Good customer service ultimately comes down to being there for your customers when they need you.
Offer multi-channel support, as different customers prefer to use different channels to reach you. For instance, some customers might prefer to call and speak to a real person; others prefer to send an email or chat live with a customer support agent on your website. Lately, an increasing number of businesses are also using WhatsApp as a customer service channel. Meanwhile, some customers prefer to contact you through your social media channels.
Don’t Add Customers to Email Newsletter Lists without Permission
This is another common ecommerce mistake I see websites making. Customers share their email with you during the checkout process to receive their order confirmation and other order-related information. Do not assume they want to receive offers and promotions from you.
Avoid adding your customers to your email newsletter list without asking first. Instead, ask them if they want to join with a checkbox on your checkout page. The checkbox for opting into your Mailing list should be unchecked by default (as shown below). I’ve seen some ecommerce stores asking customers to “check this box if you don’t want to join the email list.” This can be perceived as deceiving and hurt how customers see your brand.
Ecommerce is a continuously evolving and complex landscape. Common ecommerce mistakes include failing to research your audience and failing to build your brand. Staying up-to-date with your audience's wants and needs and aligning with their value system is essential.
Another common mistake ecommerce business owners make is neglecting website design, performance, and security requirements. You have to make sure the buying and checkout process is smooth for your customers and that they can engage on all devices. You also have to make sure your product pages are elegant and comprehensive to reflect your actual products and customer service.
Don’t worry if you have made some mistakes. There are many tools and resources to help you fix them and set your store up for success!
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Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, your next goal should be marketing your content on social media. Read more about our 17 tips to boost social media marketing to drive more traffic to your ecommerce site!