By Caleb Burley

With the trend of brick-and-mortar businesses turning to online stores as an outlet to make more sales, it’s no surprise to see ecommerce stores on the rise.

As a business owner you may not know where to start or how you can avoid the mistakes that are common to new ecommerce startups so that your online store can stand the test of time and become a thriving online business.

While mistakes are an opportunity for us to learn, I’m sure that most people would rather not make any mistakes by being prepared to avoid them from the start. So let’s look at six of the most common ecommerce mistakes and how to avoid them so that you have the best chance for online success.

1. Reinventing the Wheel

One of the first problems that I come across while helping clients who are small business owners is that they are trying to “reinvent the wheel.”

They feel like they need to revolutionize the way that people shop, and be different from everyone else in some way. While you should try to make your products better than your competitors, the way that you present your products online should remain similar to your industry standard.

Why? Because the majority of your customers are looking for a shopping experience that they’re familiar with and trust. So because of this I often suggest to my clients that they should go with well known and trusted ecommerce platforms such as Shopify or WooCommerce and use payment options that their customers will trust.

Don’t waste your time, energy and money trying to build a new selling platform that your customers are unfamiliar with, unless the platform you’re creating is a selling point for your brand or a big reason why your target audience will purchase from you.

If the platform that you use is irrelevant to the customer then you should always try to go with the one that the customer is most familiar with and trusts so there are no unexpected hiccups throughout the buying process.

You don’t need to recreate the function of things like shopping carts and payment options to put your business in a unique selling position (USP). You need to focus your time and energy on that areas that will separate your product from other products within your industry so that you can have the best product on the market.

So when you’re setting up your online store remember that if it’s not a selling point for your brand then try to find another service who specializes in that area and let them take care of it. For example, if you’re setting up payment options for your online store let Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, etc. take care of the payments, unless your brand is about offering better payment options online.

2. Failing with Web Design

Next to business owners thinking that they need to revolutionize the way their customers shop, the design of their ecommerce shop is one of the next biggest mistakes that I see small business owners making time and time again. A lot of shop owners try to save money by trying to design their own stores and it’s usually a big failure, but you can avoid this mistake as a shop owner by doing 1 of 2 things:

  1. Outsource the designing to a marketing agency who specializes in it.
  2. Use a modern-looking ecommerce template and DIY.

(Option 2 will require that you have an eye for design and some basic knowledge of web design.)

If your brand revolves around looking top notch, then invest in professional design, but if your brand doesn’t necessarily need professional design you can still buy clean looking themes that won’t make your customers question whether they can trust you or not and you can try to build them yourself.

After all, the design of your store is not the place that you want to cheap out on and cut corners. And how you look online is the perception that you’re giving to your customers and if they don’t trust you by the way that you look, then why should they give you their personal payment details?

3. Not Having a Responsive Website

While this issue might not be as notorious as it was several years ago, it’s become more important within the last couple years from an search engine optimization (SEO) perspective and the mistake can still be made from just being unaware.

So what is responsive web design? It’s a website that is designed for an optimal viewing experience and easy navigation no matter what device or search engine you use to view it with.

For example, if your website is responsive then you’ll be able to view it on a mobile device just as easily as a laptop and won’t need to ‘pinch and squeeze’ to see what you’re looking for because all the content will already be formatted for optimal viewing.

And with almost 50% of all Google searches being made from a mobile device, I cannot stress the importance of making sure that your ecommerce website has a responsive design. Also, you may want to run a few tests prior to launching your store on multiple devices to ensure that you iron out any potential issues before your customers start shopping and give your audience the best experience possible.

Without a responsive design you will not only lose your customers on mobile devices, but your SEO will also suffer as a result.

4. Not Identifying Your Target Audience

I almost never come across this issue when helping with clients who have a brick-and-mortar store and are wanting to get their products online. I have noticed, however, that this is a very common mistake made by ecommerce startups who have an amazing product, but haven’t quite figured out who they’re trying to sell it to. They will usually spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on ads trying to target people who aren’t even interested in what they’re trying to sell before trying to get help figuring out who their target audience is.

The only way that you can get ahead with ecommerce and build a long-term business is by knowing who you’re trying to sell to and then focus on that audience.

Something I have found that works well is creating a profile of the ideal customer and then try to find ways to sell to that specific audience. You can use a lot of analytical data from past sales and some intuition to determine what is the most likely audience to purchase a certain product/service from your business.

Once you have figured out who your target audience is you will save a lot of money on ads and get a higher conversion rate by targeting a more specific group of people.

5. Using a Complicated Buying Process

Nobody likes a lengthy, complicated buying process, but surprisingly it’s still quite common with ecommerce websites. And when you think about it, it makes very little sense as a small business owner to make it more difficult for your customers to spend their money at your store by adding obstacles throughout the buying process. If your customers have already decided to buy your product then you should try to make the buying process as simple and hassle free as possible for your customers.

Here’s some important DON’Ts to remember when designing your ecommerce store.

Never add hidden fees in the final stages of the buying process. Be up front with your customers about the actual costs that they will have to pay to receive your products. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to the final stage of the buying process and finding out it’s gonna cost more than the product listing said it would. Also, by adding hidden fees you’ll start to see a trend of customers leaving their carts in the last stage of the buying process and they likely will never shop at your store again.

Never make your customers sign up for an account or verify an email account. One big reason why your customers will leave their carts mid-purchase is because you’ve made it mandatory for them to sign up for an account on your website or verify an email. Not only is this inconvenient, but it makes it far to complicated and it will mean that you’ll get almost zero mobile customers, because setting up an account on a phone while shopping online is usually too much hassle for any customer.

If you a want customer’s email for future promos then try a coupon code that pops up when your customers first arrive at your website.

6. Not Having a Logo

Wouldn’t it be nice if you were able to create brand awareness without paying a big agency fee as a small business? You can! All you need to do is create a logo and start putting them on your products so that anyone who sees your products in their day to day lives can pick it up and see exactly who sells it.

Many small business owners don’t realize that by having a logo on their products they can actually get free marketing for as long as their products last and are in use.

Remember that like your website design, your logo is one of those areas that you DO NOT want to cheap out on. Because your logo is literally the face of your business, and it’s really the only visual thing that your customers will remember about your business when they’re trying to find your business again, and the only thing they’ll recognize when they see your products, you should hire a professional to create the logo for you.

The initial investment in a good looking logo is small if you’re committed to your business for the long run.

Hopefully this guide will help you to prevent some of the most common pitfalls made by small business owners and new startups trying to break into the competitive ecommerce industry.

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Caleb Burley on Twitter
Caleb Burley
Caleb is the Co-Founder of Artiiseo, a digital marketing firm in Winnipeg Canada. He’s an avid reader of anything marketing and loves to share his knowledge of successful marketing strategies with business owners through writing.

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