If you are considering launching an e-commerce website, you are preparing to take on a business venture that has great income potential. You are also preparing to take on a business venture where the potential for losing painful amounts of money and damaging your reputation is also great.
How do you launch your e-commerce store successfully, and how do you avoid the mistakes that can lead to failure? That’s easy. Don’t do the wrong thing. Don’t make the bad decisions that can drive away customers or otherwise leave you in a bad position.
Still not sure what that means? Keep reading. Here is a list of the things that you don’t want to do when you launch or expand an existing e-commerce biz. You may find that it is easier to create growth when you avoid business-killing mistakes.
Failing to Give Customers Enough Information About You
One of the first mistakes many people make when launching an e-commerce website is either omitting the “About Us” or “Company Profile” page or creating very flimsy versions of these pages. You may think of these as fluff pages, that don’t require much effort or even a presence on your site, but these pages are really important to the people visiting your website. In fact, if you run any type of website analytics, you’ll probably see that these pages are high in the rankings.
Think of it from a customer’s perspective. If you were ordering something from a business that isn’t local to you, and trusting that business with your personal and financial information, wouldn’t you feel better knowing the following?
- When the company was formed and how long it has been in business
- Where the company is located
- How to contact somebody via phone or email (not Gmail or Yahoo address but an email address associated with the website domain name)
Failing to Create Simple Payment Getaways
A sure-fire way to get your clients to doubt you is to create a shady-looking, glitching checkout form. Despite an extra effort when it comes to bookkeeping, having online payment options in place is a huge benefit you can’t neglect.
In fact, you should offer multiple payment options — payments from all major credit cards (directly or via PayPal), direct bank transfers, coupons, and more depending on who you are catering to.
Ask for essential information only (credit card details only) rather than a lengthy list of additional information or a request to create an account with your service. According to Forrester report, 11 percent of U.S. adults did not make an online purchase because the website was asking for too much information.
If you want to keep online conversion high, keep your payment forms straightforward and simple.
Failing to Create a Content Marketing Plan and Dedicate Manpower to Manage it
Everybody launching an e-commerce website wants to use content marketing. Unfortunately, they often make the mistake of believing that the organic and often inexpensive (even free) nature of content marketing means that it is something that can be pulled off without a plan.
Nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, the potentials for strategic misfires and embarrassing gaffes are probably greater in the realm of content marketing than they are in any other marketing niche.
Let’s face it. The social media crowd is quick to judge, and can make a poorly thought out tweet or ill-planned hashtag marketing campaign go viral for all the wrong reasons. Consider the example of financial giant J.P. Morgan. They made the decision to create engagement with their customers via a Twitter question-and-answer session. What they failed to predict was the hostility the general public felt towards big finance after the Wall Street bailout. The Q&A session turned into an hours long public trouncing.
Now, as the owner of startup e-commerce website, you probably don’t have the potential to conjure up that much ill will. However, you should never underestimate your ability to embarrass yourself if you try to market on via social media without having a thorough plan.
Letting Any Vendor Through the Door
If you are selling only the goods that you are producing, this isn’t a big risk. However, if you are distributing or reselling products from other vendors, you have to exercise caution. The revenue potential and customer base expansion that can happen when you add a vendor is exciting. This is doubly true if you are just starting out, but you need to have controls and standards when it comes to letting others use your e- commerce for distribution.
Obviously, the first matter is quality and reputation. No vendor should get “shelf space” in your store without being thoroughly vetted. Find answers to these questions:
- What other e-commerce ventures have established relationships with this vendor and what have their experiences been?
- What is the overall tone of their customer reviews? Some negative reviews are to be expected, but the feedback should definitely skew positive.
- Are they shipping in a timely manner?
After quality, comes branding. Simply put, does the vendor, its products, business model, and branding fit in with yours? If you aren’t targeting the same customers and don’t have something similar in your brands, it may not be a good idea to form a relationship. You could find yourself uncomfortably out of your niche.
Finally, consider whether or not establishing a relationship with a vendor can result in too much growth too fast. It’s wonderful to increase your business by 50 percent simply by signing a contract with a big producer. It’s not so wonderful if your infrastructure buckles under the newly increased transaction load.
Failing to Consider the Importance of Load Time
If your landing page takes more than a few seconds to load, around a quarter of the people who click into your website are just going to click right back out again. That’s a big loss of potential customer base. You can head off some of these problems by doing lots of load testing before you launch, and you can optimize so that your pages load as quickly as possible from mobile devices. However, page load time is something that you will need to continually monitor, especially as your business expands. If you are experiencing slow loading times, you may want to take a look at the following:
- Using a Web hosting service that specializes in e-commerce
- Going with a CMS that is e-commerce friendly and not just intended for bloggers
- Avoiding the inclusion of external resources on heavily trafficked pages
- Avoiding Redirects
- Compressing your Images
If you are unsure of how or where to test the load speed of the pages on your website, you can try using Google’s Page Speed Tools.
You find a new product. You know it will be popular with your customers. You can get it at a great price. So, you buy several lots and stockpile it in your garage, shed, or basement. Then, you add the product to your website and wait for the orders to come in. They do come in, but what you thought would be a flood of orders is more like a trickle. Now, you’re sitting on inventory, and not making the revenue you had projected on your purchase. This puts you in a bad position if you need to make purchases in the near future from both a financial standpoint as well as from a space availability standpoint.
Now what? Do you deep discount your product and take a loss? Hope to drop ship everything else until space clears? It’s a painful position to be in, unless you own a company that buys overstock from others. This is why it is extremely important to research and find out the actual demand there is for a product, and how quickly others are getting that product to turn over.
Failing to Take Care of Existing Customers
It is very easy to become consumed with the idea of reaching out to, engaging with, and converting potential customers. This becomes a problem when you begin to ignore your existing customer base.
Remember that engagement and interaction aren’t just tools for getting new customers. They’re also tools for connecting with your current customers, making sure they’re happy, finding out what you can do to make them happy, and fostering a positive relationship with them. It is important to keep in mind that the customers you already have will have the most credibility with others when it comes to word of mouth recommendations.
One of the simplest ways to create positive engagement with existing customers is to reach out to them through email or phone call. It doesn’t require a poll or complex marketing effort. Something as simple as saying “thank you for your business, and please let us know anything that we could be doing better” can be amazingly effective at letting a customer know that their business is valuable to you.
Focusing on Technology Over Product
When you work towards developing and launching your store, you will be inundated with information on the latest plug-ins, website analysis tools, online marketing utilities, and other bells and whistles that are sure make your website run like a dream and your marketing efforts a snap.
Don’t be tempted to continually tweak and improve your website when you should be focusing on the quality of your products, keeping up good relationships with vendors, and making sure that logistical issues are covered.
Remember that customers will buy good products from a bare bones website long before they will buy something mediocre from a website that has dozens of features. It’s best to set up a website, focus on quality products and customer service, develop a good customer base, and then add the features that will make your customers’ experience great.