Ecommerce is an exciting and rewarding field to break into. With the brick-and-mortar shop a thing of the past, more and more small business owners are looking into expanding to the world of online shopping. However, there are some serious pitfalls to look out for if you want to get ahead and see your business succeed in 2017.
Do Not Overestimate Demand
A successful online e-tailer knows exactly what the demand for their product is going to be. Doing research is critical in this field in order to succeed. You need to know what kind of demand you will have for your product, no matter what the product is. Look online to find potential competitors and see what their sales rates are.
If what you sell is niche enough, there may not be much in the way of competition, but there may also not be too much in the way of customers, either. Do not focus too heavily unless you are confident that demand is high.
Do Not Lose Focus on Your Product
Losing focus is a huge mistake. Especially at first, specialization is a great way to prevent overinvestment and underperformance. Sell just a few things or one specific type of product, and focus all of your energy on marketing those things. You can always expand later once business is well-established. If you are selling eco-friendly glasses frames, it doesn’t make sense to start selling t-shirts. Make sure additional products you purchase go with the brand. Branding is key.
That being said, don’t be so niche that you lose out on potential customers. You should branch out to a certain degree. Offering different types of a similar product, different appearances and options for a customer to choose from, is a real benefit, so long as you remember that offering too many choices can end in decision paralysis for the customer, and they may leave your site feeling confused and stressed out, without buying anything.
Do Not Overspend on Freebies
Giving away too many freebies is a huge no-no. While free samples may seem like a great idea and a great way to get your product in the hands of consumers, it’s not exactly a great strategy for everyone. For instance, it’s a great way to bring in customers if you are selling a product like food or cosmetics, a liquid product that does not last forever. If you’re selling t-shirts, you’re not going to want to overdo free samples, as once a potential customer has a shirt, they probably are not going to feel compelled to buy another—why would they, they already have the shirt!
If you’re selling an illiquid product, consider incentivizing previous customers to recommend others to buy your product. If you are selling perishables or other liquid stock, consider keeping your sample sizes small and only distributing in limited amounts.
Not Creating a Business and Content Plan
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to go into business without making a plan. Every entrepreneur who has gone into business thinking they were going to just make a success of it without considering the hows and whys has ultimately failed. What is your SEO plan? How will you get customers to your shop? Will you use an email newsletter to tell customers about new products, or are you hoping tweets will be enough? How much money can you spend on marketing? How much product will you have to sell to make your business sustainable? You need to know all of this before you begin. You can always change a plan later, but never go into business without one.
When Possible, Delegate Menial Tasks to Others
Menial tasks are the bane of an entrepreneur’s existence. They suck time and money away from you, and can be a tantalizing way to procrastinate while you dither about the color of a button or the perfect cart icon. These are tasks you need to delegate to someone else. As soon as possible.
Not Knowing your Target Audience
If you don’t know your target audience, then you don’t know who you need to market to, and thus you will waste a bunch of time and money marketing to everyone. If you sell wooden glasses frames, is it actually very likely that people who don’t need glasses are going to have a reason to shop with you? Targeted marketing—in this instance to young, glasses-wearing, eco-conscious and fashion forward people–is going to get you customers that not only need your product but will return again and again. Knowing who to market to is key to increasing traffic and sales. Imagine your perfect customer. How old are they? What do they do with their time? Why should they shop from you rather than from the competition?
Not Having a Marketing Plan
Planning is key to success in many areas of business. Needless to say that if you don’t have a marketing plan, you won’t know who you are supposed to market to and how much money it’s going to cost. A multi-front marketing plan that incorporates many different marketing strategies. Most importantly, you should nail down your brand from the get go. Build your marketing strategy around your brand for coherency and clarity.
Not Using Social Media Correctly
It seems obvious that social media is important to a brand. But do not underestimate its true importance—social media is everything. Using social media effectively, and targeting your efforts to a few sites rather than having many abandoned product pages gathering dust in the Facebook archives isn’t going to get you any customers, nor is it going to get you noticed. If you don’t know anything about social media, find someone that does, and can use it effectively to market your brand and your message.
A Bad Website
This is obvious. A poorly-designed website is going to scare business away. In a customer’s eyes, a bad website isn’t just difficult to use, it’s scary—bringing up thoughts of unreliability, credit card theft, and scams where if nothing else, they lose money on a product that will never come. Invest in a good website design. It should be intuitive, easy to navigate, and easy to check out of.
Checkout Should Be Easy
It’s simple—if it takes more than one or two clicks to purchase something, most customers are going to leave without purchasing anything. The cart icon should be easy to find and click through to the main cart page, and customers should have the option to continue without creating an account or signing into one. It’s fine to have accounts, but if it’s required to buy, most are going to say no thanks and go to Amazon.
Bad customer service
We all have our horror stories about bad customer service. Don’t be one. Treat your customers well, within reason of course, and they will be happy to come back to you. answer calls and emails in a timely manner, or make sure that your customer service rep does so. A potential representative should be polite and courteous.