Using your website to sell your products can be a great moneymaker. Instead of paying rent and utilities on a storefront and hiring people to staff it, you can virtually open a store online and sell to everyone everywhere with very low overhead.
Although similar to starting a physical store, simply starting a website won’t guarantee sales in and of itself. Many people assume that an e-commerce store is a slam dunk when it comes to moving product, but there are many things that can go wrong that require contingencies that website owners don’t necessarily think about.
Below are 10 of the most common e-commerce mistakes you should do your best to avoid.
1. Lack of Customer Service
Even though consumers will be purchasing online and not speaking face-to-face with a sales rep, customer service is still important. Make it easy for consumers to get their questions answered, speak to a person (if they want) or file a complaint. You also need to be prepared to take returns and process a variety of payments, including refunds if necessary.
2. Insufficient Product Images
The only way for consumers to truly understand what they’re buying online is through product images. They cannot pick up the object or test it out, but must infer from the images you choose that it is what they’re looking for. Make sure to offer more than one product shot, preferably from multiple angles. If the product comes in many different colors, make sure to include pictures of those options as well, or at least switch the color of your existing images.
3. Insufficient Product Descriptions
These are just as important as the product images. You want your product description to cover all of the selling points, but also answer questions about how the product is made, what it does or how it works. Whenever possible, include a listing of the materials used to make the product, any manufacturing processes or techniques and if it comes with an automatic warranty.
4. Complicated Check-Out Process
Once a purchasing decision has been made, the customer should be able to make their purchase quickly and with as few clicks as possible. Make sure to offer a “check-out as a guest” option so that people who don’t wish to create an account don’t have to. If possible, keep your check-out process to one screen.
5. Lack of Shipping Options
All consumers like to have options, and this is especially true for shipping. Do your best to offer a variety of shipping methods in terms of delivery time and price. It’s hard for a customer to justify making a purchase from you if there’s only one shipping option and it costs as much as the item they’re buying.
This also helps you, the business owner, because different shipping providers offer different perks. Diversifying your shipping options also helps in the event of a natural disaster or other work stoppage; even if one carrier is effective, you might still be able to fulfill orders by switching to a different vendor.
6. Inadequate Search Capability
If you have a multitude of products, it’s important that customers can search using a few keywords and find the information they need. According to Andy Eades of Elevate Web, customers who use on-site search to find a product are three times more likely to purchase.
With this type of conversion rate, you don’t want to miss out on these customers because of a faulty search engine. Most website platforms offer a search engine plug-in, but make sure you’ve optimized your product descriptions with keywords and tags as well.
7. Lack of Social Media Presence
It’s just about impossible to conduct business online in 2015 and not use social media. This is especially true for e-commerce. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram can act as veritable catalogs of products, giving people the chance to share their favorite products with their followers.
Also, Twitter and Facebook are valuable promotion channels that allow people to spread the word about you and your site. Make sure that you have social sharing buttons available on all of your product pages.
8. Desktop-Only Site Design
We no longer live in a world of desktop computer users. Today, transactions are taking place on smartphones and tablets at an alarming rate making it imperative that you have a mobile-optimized or device-agnostic website. For most website platforms, this feature is automatically included.
If your e-commerce site is older, however, then you might want to look into having it designed in HTML5 so that people can view your products seamlessly on whatever device they choose.
9. No Search Engine Optimization Strategy
How are people going to find you? There’s a good chance they’ll search for your company or product using one of the major search engines like Google. In order for you to be listed in the first few pages of the search results, you must have a solid SEO plan for your site. Search engine optimization is about more than keywords; it also focuses on how your site is built, how images are tagged and what data is parsed by search bots that conduct those ridiculously quick searches.
10. Poor Site Navigation
There aren’t too many things that can discourage a consumer quicker than poor navigation. Hard-to-find information, a lack of buttons and too many font types and colors all lead to customer frustration and often no sale. Your e-commerce site should be easy to navigate.
People should be able to click through images to the product page, see more information about a product and click on the header at the top to take them back to the homepage. Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to your site’s navigation; use navigation best practices to get the most out of your site.
Whether you’re just starting your e-commerce business or you’re looking to upgrade your current one, avoiding these 10 pitfalls should put you on the road—or conduit, rather—to success.