Statista records report more than $400 billion in retail ecommerce sales in the United States in 2017. Running an effective ecommerce website requires more than good design and product selection, but also knowing what common problems to avoid. We asked industry experts to share the most common problems and how to avoid them.
Here are 25 ecommerce problems and mistakes to avoid as shared by the pros.
1. Failing to Match Your Competitor’s Site Speed
Mark Watts, Director, Just Airsoft Guns USA
People are used to completing things online as fast as possible. Images and videos play instantly, and we’re impatient if a site doesn’t load immediately. In this way then, it’s surprising that something that is often overlooked in ecommerce stores is the speed of your site. People have shorter attention spans due to how consumable media is in this digital era and won’t sit around waiting for the page to load, even if it’s only a couple of seconds longer than a competitor. Data coverage on mobiles today is excellent, and bigger websites have elevated the game when it comes to how quickly pages load, so consumers are expectant of a fast loading site.
2. Losing Data Due to Poor IT Infrastructure
Zachary Vito, Senior Account Executive, MSR Communications LLC
For today’s ecommerce companies to ensure that they are successful in increasing sales, avoiding bounce rates and mistakes in general, they must build a resilient digital business infrastructure. When it comes to data management, ecommerce companies collect valuable data from a number of different sources and is hard to gain a holistic view of this data to perform analytics and generate insights to improve business processes. eCommerce companies must be able to ingest and analyze the information from dispersed data sources efficiently to help analyze their data. Additionally, the success of ecommerce depends on building a resilient information technology infrastructure that keeps their website running at peak performance 24/7. Any downtime can have a significant impact on not only customer experience but also return on investment (ROI). For today’s major ecommerce companies, one second of downtime can cost billions in revenue.
3. Using a Complicated Multichannel eCommerce Platform
Gavin Graham, Editor, FitSmallBusiness
A growing ecommerce business needs to have their products available across multiple channels, and this makes inventory management a challenge without using a multichannel ecommerce platform. However, not all platforms are the same and using one with a complicated interface can eventually do more harm than good. Shopify is an all-in-one store management platform with an incredibly easy-to-use interface that gives you a better multichannel selling experience. It integrates seamlessly with sites like eBay, Amazon, Facebook Store and Pinterest and makes every essential selling function simple. Enjoy unlimited product listings and a 14-day free trial by visiting Shopify today.
4. Ignoring Your Email Marketing Opportunities
Adrian Bertrand, Marketing Manager, BouncePilot
When it comes to building an ecommerce store, growing traffic is the single most important task. After all, without growing visits to a store, no business can become profitable. One common and crucial mistake any ecommerce business owner can do it to forget that email marketing is a necessity. Did you know that the average ROI from email marketing is $50 for every $1 spent in a business-to-business context? Regardless of which channels are most profitable like organic social or paid, you should always give email marketing a fair trial as it can be responsible for 10 to 40 percent of all aggregate monthly revenue. In particular, abandoned cart email perform so well that at least 20 percent of recipients will likely complete a purchase.
5. Overlooking the Importance of a Conversion Rate Optimization Tool
Marc Prosser, Co-founder, FitSmallBusiness
Not knowing how your content is performing can make you fall short of your digital marketing goals. It’s important to be able to analyze how your content is performing so you can keep adjusting it over time to get the results you want. Freshmarketer is an all-in-one conversion optimization tool that provides A/B testing, form optimization, heat maps and session replays so you can see how viewers interact with your website. Best of all, it’s free for up to 10,000 monthly visitors or approximately 70,000 page views. Click here to try Freshmarketer.
6. Forgetting to Link to Your Social Media Page
Zoë Sadler, Vice President of Marketing, SnapRetail
Running successful ecommerce isn’t just about setting up inventory, payment processing and shipping — it’s more. It’s about building a brand to attract new visitors and keep existing customers engaged. When starting ecommerce, don’t forget social media and stay top of mind with your customers, so they make larger purchases and abandon fewer shopping carts.
7. Poor Showcasing of Product
Alex Senn, CEO, Orkiv
Especially for certain categories, it should be no secret that you want your product looking it’s absolute best on your website and elsewhere. Using super zoom so customers can see threads on a coat or the blades on a blender are important for making this customer buy. A great way to do this is with something called “shop the look” or “shoppable images” that let you take a picture with multiple products in it and tag the product in the picture so it can be shared on all media platforms as shoppable.
8. Adding Hidden Costs and Conditions Late in the Checkout Process
Natasha Kvitka, Digital Marketing Strategist, GiftBasketsOverseas
Usually, it’s being done to make the offer more attractive to the customer, relying on the belief that if they start the ordering process and fill into some forms, they won’t leave it and will finalize the purchase anyway. From my experience, this technique results in a high drop-off rate from the checkout pages and plummeting conversion rate. Users need to be aware of all costs, including shipping and handling and taxes up front, moving to the checkout with a clear understanding of the price they’ll be charged.
That’s an important part of building trust with a customer and having this process right, along with other retention techniques, increases chances of the return purchase and might affect the customer lifetime value (CLV) positively, which with growing rates of cost per acquisition can be considered as one of the most important customers’ metrics.
9. Long Cart and Checkout Process
Boris Goncearenco, Marketing & PR Officer, NY Furniture Outlets
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes made by commerce project is bad cart and checkout flow. There are a lot of reasons for that. For example, you have perfectly set-up AdWords campaigns, your ecommerce has divine SEO and wonderful content on landing and product pages, but your cart is difficult to use by the typical user. If your checkout flow has a lot of unnecessary steps, has a lot of data to be filled out, unclear and bad data validation process, the cart will most likely be abandoned by the user, and you will lose the sale. Data validation should be done on the front end and be interactive to avoid such situations.
Another thing, important in the cart and checkout process is the presence of all important information about the payment methods that you accept and security certificate that makes any transaction secure, so your client will be sure nobody will steal credit card information from your website. Making your checkout process work properly is also necessary for any Google shopping campaigns you may have. If you have bad cart and checkout process, your AdWords campaign will likely be suspended.
10. Writing Product Descriptions as Product Meta Descriptions
Kathy Long, CEO, Kat & Mouse
One of the common mistakes I see is business owners writing product descriptions for their product meta descriptions when in actuality it’s exactly what they don’t need. If your product shows up in search, most likely that’s because someone searched for that product specifically. If they searched for it specifically, they are already well aware of what it is. They don’t need a product description — they are just looking for a place to buy it. So, use your meta description to sell them on your business and get the click. Tell them why they should do business with you and not your competitor.
11. Sending All Your Search Engine Traffic to Your Home Page
Mark Aselstine, Founder, Uncorked Ventures
I see one thing that absolutely kills conversion rates consistently, which is sending all your search engine traffic to your homepage. The exact stats are going to change based on your industry, but every additional click that you require tends to decrease conversion rates by at least 10 percent and sometimes closer to 50 percent. So, if you see a wide range of products or even products in different categories, having all that traffic land on your homepage is literally killing your conversion rate. Sure, it’s harder to do SEO and to drive traffic to many landing pages instead of one, but the long-term results are well worth the effort.
12. Forgetting to Compress Images on Your Website
Jeff Moriarty, Marketing Manager, Mother’s Family Rings
We own a jewelry business that does more than $1 million in sales each year online. Because our customers spend a lot of money with never seeing the actual item, we first started providing dozen of angles in very high quality for each item. From our perspective, it looked great. But, after reviewing analytics, we noticed very high bounce rates, especially through mobile devices, where 60 percent of our traffic was coming from. We finally decided to do a speed test and realized it was taking 15 seconds to load our product pages. This was forcing people to bounce because they didn’t want to wait. We started compressing the images and removing some of them. We eventually got it down to about 4 seconds, which dropped our bounce rate by more than half.
My recommendation is to make sure you compress your images and not too add more than you need and always review your speed. It’s not only a ranking factor but can cause serious usability issues.
13. Using Fear as a Business Strategy
Kevin Simonson, CEO & Co-founder, Metric Digital
No ecommerce store is going to be successful by staying in their comfort zone. Unfortunately, some merchants, out of fear, will only run advertisements for which they have a certain return on advertising spend or cost per acquisition. Other merchants might stick with proven strategies that everyone else is doing. Both of which will earn new sales, but none of which will create significant growth. At a certain point in their brand trajectory, every merchant has to take chances. They have to try new audiences and experiment with fresh tactics frequently. There are tons of things you can always be testing or move forward like refreshing creative, trying new ad units and different tactics with copy and influencers. If you don’t experiment, you won’t grow.
14. Trying to Rank for All Product Categories
Jomel Alos, Online PR Lead, Spiralytics
One of the things that we notice for first-time ecommerce owners is they get overwhelmed by the number of their products or product categories. Some owners badly want to rank for all the product categories on search engines immediately, but it’s not realistic. It’s important to choose pages that you will prioritize so your efforts and resources will have actual results.
To know which pages you should prioritize for SEO and advertising, get the page value of your category pages. Essentially, by getting the page value, you’ll know:
- What products people are interested in
- What they usually search for
- If a specific category generates good revenue on a certain date
15. Offering Infringing or Counterfeit Merchandise for Sale
Chelsie Spencer, Attorney, Ritter Spencer PLLC
One costly mistake that ecommerce websites make is offering infringing or counterfeit merchandise for sale. If you are engaged in selling products in ecommerce, you need to ensure that the products are not counterfeits, that you have the right to direct-sale those products to consumers and that you are not infringing someone else’s trademark through your product description or the product itself. If you are not diligent in clearing and respecting the intellectual property rights of others, it is only a matter of time before you will receive a cease and desist or a lawsuit. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
16. Using Only One Shipping Carrier
Liz Hull, Lead eCommerce Writer, Merchant Maverick
Every online store is unique, and so is every shipment. If you’re just using one shipping carrier to process all of your orders, chances are you’re missing out on thousands in savings. Different shipping carriers specialize in different aspects of shipping. While USPS might be the cheapest option for light shipments, you may find that UPS can handle your larger orders faster and cheaper. It all depends on the size and weight of your shipments as well as the distance and speed of the delivery. To get the best rates on shipping, it’s a good idea to integrate your online store with a cloud-based shipping software. That shipping software can calculate rates from multiple carriers based on the specifications of each order.
17. Allocating Too Much to Your Ad Spend
Stacy Caprio, Blogger, Dealsscoop
eCommerce companies should avoid spending more on ad spend than they are getting in profit. I’ve seen companies do this and fall into debt unable to move forward. It is important to optimize your ad spend carefully. Start small, scale up and make sure it’s profitable the whole time to avoid falling into bankruptcy. This will ensure your business is able to grow profitably. Don’t fall into the trap of spending more money than you have.
18. Maintaining a Nonresponsive Website
Kriti Agarwal, Content Writer, Orderhive
Desktop-only design or unresponsive website should be upgraded. Today, people are shopping, making payments and transactions through the mobile and tablet at a rapid rate. We no longer live in a world of desktop computers. So, it is essential that the ecommerce website must be responsive one. It should be one that can be optimized on different devices, desktop, mobile, tablet and laptop. In not doing that, you can lose existing and potential customers who use other devices or are shifting from their old ones.
19. Posting Duplicate Products in Different Categories
Francesco Baldini, SEO Consultant, BetaKrea
One of the most important is product duplication into different categories. As a business owner, you know that a product can be listed in different categories, such as its main category, between the offers (20 percent off), in a bundle together with other products, time-based deals (like Valentine’s Day) or organized per characteristic like color, size and material. This generates duplicate content, which increases the number of pages, reduces the quality of the site toward search engines, makes the site database heavier and difficult to manage and reduces the chance for Google and other search engines to show the right pages to their users’ queries.
What you should do instead is to define a single web address and assign the product to the different categories. Unfortunately, not all the CMSs [content management systems] are able to manage pages in this way, and you should be careful about it. The other option would be to assign to each URL a canonical tag to the main product, but it requires much more technical work.
20. Not Picking an SEO-friendly Domain Name
Kim Smith, Content Marketer, GoodFirms
Many entrepreneurs quickly pick a domain name and sometimes don’t think about SEO and product relevance. Being creative is important — no doubt. Working up out-of-the-box ideas is how you come to your customers’ notice. Hence, deciding the name of your company that will be used to brand your image in the customer’s’ mind matters a lot. However, every entrepreneur has to consider the future possibilities of his or her ecommerce product line and then pick a name. Not forgetting the SEO relevance for the company to show up in the online search results. For example, don’t pick a name that limits you to a particular demographic like “Fashion America.” Go for a name that empowers you to cater to the global audience and show up through the complex Google algorithms.
21. Forcing Registration on New Customers
Dan Burke, User Experience & Product Manager, Getfused
Perhaps the biggest misstep among ecommerce websites is requiring users to create an account prior to purchase. Businesses assume that user accounts will make it easier for customers to check out, but they can have the opposite effect for new customers. If users are required to sign up before they check out, you will see a lower conversion rate. Even if all the fields required for account registration are identical to the fields that are required to check out, the user will view it as additional work and a commitment, leading some to abandon their cart. Instead, allow users to choose between Login and Checkout or Checkout as Guest. Once users have completed their guest checkout process; you can prompt them to create an account by asking if they would like to save their information for next time.
This way, you still get the benefit of collecting customer information, the customer gets the benefit of quicker future checkouts, and you didn’t suffer a lower conversion rate as a result of the forced registration speed bump at the start of the checkout process.
22. Assuming That Everyone Visiting is Internet-savvy
Dave Hermansen, CEO, Store Coach
One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is that they assume that everyone visiting their website is internet-savvy. Many of the people who have the most money in this country got out of school long before computers were invented, and they aren’t always comfortable using the computer. As such, you need to construct your website in a way that makes it as easy as possible to find products and check out. Better yet — have a large, bold phone number up in the header of your website that they can call. Many people,(especially older people, prefer one-on-one contact with another human being. Nothing converts better than a phone call, so you should be doing all you can to solicit phone calls.
23. Using Poor Copywriting on Your Website
James Feldstein, President & Owner, Audio Den
Take seriously the words you use on your site. This is not only important for SEO but also for converting sales. Make sure each of your product pages has unique copywriting. Many ecommerce sites simply copy their text from the manufacturer website. This is a mistake. You need to write your own product descriptions. If you have different products with nearly identical descriptions, you should write unique copy or use canonical tags. Canonical tags help search engines know which is the preferred page by passing on link signals. They also help you avoid being penalized for duplicate content.
24. Not Sending a Clear Message or Branding
Shannon Howard, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist, Overit
Many ecommerce businesses sell a variety of products or services, which is completely fine. Diversity can be great, but not when it starts to become unclear what you sell. If a prospective customer is coming to your business to buy something, but then they can’t tell what you actually sell, that’s a problem, and it’s going to take a hit to your sales. While it sounds super intuitive, it’s a mistake many ecommerce businesses make. Not sure if your message is unclear? Ask a couple of objective parties to check out your website and tell you, in their own words, what you’re selling and to whom.
25. Failing to Create a Sense of Urgency
Matt Warren, CEO & Founder, Veeqo
A big mistake I see a lot of retailers make on their ecommerce sites is not having a live stock figure clearly shown for each product. Yes, this is a great way to be transparent and help give customers more information. But, it also creates great urgency and can nudge browsers into making that purchase decision now. The best thing about this tactic is that the lower stock levels get, the more urgency is created and the better conversions should be. Of course, this is almost impossible to do if you’re selling on multiple channels while tracking inventory manually. So, using a quality multichannel inventory management software and integrating this with some kind of app or tool for your online store to show live stock is the best way to go.
BONUS: Not Offering Alternative Payment Methods
Jimmy Rodriguez, COO, 3dcart
Online shoppers have their own preferences when it comes to paying for an order in an online store, and not offering their choice of payment is one of the top reasons for cart abandonment. Businesses should be wary of limiting payment selections to just credit cards!
Start by making sure that all card networks are accepted as part of your credit card options. PayPal is still among the top preferred payments for online buyers, but also consider including additional digital wallets like Visa Checkout, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay and Google Pay. And depending on your type of customers and products, you should consider adding eChecks, Cryptocurrency and “Buy Now, Pay Later” financing solutions.
Once you have defined the payment selection that makes sense for your business and customers, display their acceptance marks in the footer of your website so customers know it’s accepted from the moment they arrive at your website.
Over to You
Most ecommerce mistakes don’t get noticed until it has caused significant losses to a business. Make sure you keep these tips in mind to always get the most out of your hard work and investment.
Know more ecommerce problems worth mentioning that didn’t make our list? Share them with us in the comments.