Transcript: My Top 10 eCommerce Mistakes (& How To Avoid Them)

When you started your business, did you secretly think that running an eCommerce store would be easy?

I’m sure I did. It’s many years ago now, but I know I was naïve to the ways of business. I thought I could throw up a website, and people would flock over and buy my products like a bunch of women at a shoe sale!

I would be rolling in it! I thought. Hahahahahahaha….

Getting your online store functioning well and converting and offering your customers a great experience is essential if you want to see sales growth. 

Here are some sobering statistics that illustrate just how crucial this is for your business.

  • 89% of customers will stop doing business with a brand after a bad experience.
  • Only 1 in 26 people will complain (or tell you directly) after a bad experience. The rest will just leave.
  • Customers are twice as likely to share bad experiences compared to good ones.
  • 86% of customers will pay more for a better brand experience. (Just think about budget vs premium airlines as an example!)
  • Increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits from 25%-95%!
  • Leaders in Customer Experience outperform those who don’t by 26%.

In reality, running a profitable, lucrative eCommerce store needs work. And with worldwide eCommerce sales due to reach over 4,000 billion dollars this year, we wanna be one of those money-making-machines, right?

But in order to achieve that, you gotta make sure you avoid these 10 common eCommerce mistakes! (Or, if you ARE making them, get onto fixing it ASAP!)

Mistake #1: Not knowing your ideal customer (or how they buy)

A common mistake I see, particularly with start-up online stores, is not knowing your audience.

To be successful in eCommerce now, we need to niche down. We need to serve a very specific audience, and we need to be clear on who they are and how they buy.

Are you selling kids clothing?

Or are you selling funky, hard-wearing threads for the outdoor adventure-loving little super hero?

What kind of marketing messaging will appeal to your exact customer?

And what is the ultimate benefit they are buying in your product?

In my first business, which was a modern cloth nappy (or diaper) brand, I initially thought every new parent was my ideal customer. 

I mean, technically every new parent needed to buy nappies for their baby, right?

But I soon learned that not all new parents were sold on the idea of reusable nappies. And trying to target all parents meant that my messaging was too watered down and not addressing the key points that were actually of interest to my ideal customers. 

If you don’t know exactly who your ideal customer is, here’s what will happen:

  • Your images and words on your website and in your marketing are unlikely to be focused on communicating the right messages that would attract, engage and convince people to buy.
  • Your website content layout is unfocused and therefore ineffective at helping a customer to make a purchase decision.
  • Your menu and site structure is not intuitive for people to find what they want and buy.
  • Your product pages are not communicating your product value statement, and therefore don’t effectively convert visitors to buyers.
  • Your checkout process doesn’t address the perceived risk or other friction points of your ideal customers.
  • Your paid advertising is not going to reach the right audience – either in targeting or in the images and words.
  • Even product selection – not understanding your ideal customer can lead to stocking or producing products that just do not appeal, or having a disparate collection of products that don’t all appeal to the same ideal customer.
  • And I could go on…

I think you get the point… Sounds pretty dire, right? Clearly, understanding your ideal customer is the foundation for getting the rest of your eCommerce business functioning!

So how do you avoid (or fix) this particular issue? 

Well, the number one thing you need to do is to identify your ideal customer, and to document their avatar and their buyer journey.

Typically we conduct some market research to learn all this stuff. If you have an existing customer base you can survey them, and if you don’t then you need to work a bit harder to find some people who you think would fit the profile and interview them. 

This is something that we cover in detail in our training program, the Productpreneur Website Formula, which I’ll share some details about over the coming weeks.

Mistake #2: Poorly designed website

This follows on from mistake number 1, but warrants its own description, because a poorly designed website stems from more than just not being clear on who your ideal customer is. 

To start with – if you already have a website – check out how well does your website convert? Is your conversion rate equal or better than the eCommerce average of 2%?

The other day I saw an eCommerce website that actually didn’t have a Shop link in their menu AT ALL!

I see so many websites that just are not designed to convert, and I think this is largely because it’s so easy for everyday people, who are not professional web designers, to create their own website.

Platforms like Shopify, which I love, and many other platforms as well, make it super simple to set up a site using a template that’s easy to customize by adding in your own logo, changing the colour scheme and uploading your own products. 

The big problem here, though, is that a template is very generic. It should be taken as a guide only, as it is not tailored to suit your ideal customer or their buyer journey.

From there, you need to personalize your website so that the layout and content – the design, the images, the words – to suit your ideal customer.

Making sure your website navigation is intuitive is super important. Ensuring your website design is simple, clear and visually attractive to YOUR audience is essential.

Then there are platforms like Wix that are designed in a drag and drop fashion. This sounds appealing, because you can literally drag and drop content and navigation elements wherever you want to put them. And it’s really easy to use. 

But I ask you – if you are not an experienced web designer, do you think you have the right know-how to create a high converting website? Most likely not. I know this sounds harsh, but I’ve seen so many instances where the product is fantastic but the website is just too hard to use, and the owner is not realising that the customers aren’t going to forgive a hard to use website. If it’s too hard to for a customer to find what they want and purchase it, they will leave and find an easier site to shop on.

Your website must be effective at attracting and engaging the attention of the right people, walking them through their buyer journey, and getting them over the line to purchase.

It also MUST be simple to navigate and check out. You literally have a split second to grab the attention of your customer – any longer than that and you lose. So if it is not immediately clear to your website visitors, what it is that you sell, who it’s for and how to get it, then your site is unlikely to convert.

The second issue with a poorly designed website, is when the website is just not functional in the way you need it to be for eCommerce. 

There’s the assumption that any and every platform does the same thing and works in the same way, but that’s just not true. 

There are platforms that aren’t predominantly designed for eCommerce retail. WooCommerce, for instance, is an extension to the blog platform WordPress. So the shopping cart process tends to be clunky and difficult. Not always, but often. 

Also, not all platforms will integrate with the sorts of marketing applications that you will need to use to grow your eCommerce business. Like the Facebook pixel that you need to install so you can advertise effectively on Facebook and Instagram. 

Then there are those who have their website custom built from the ground up. Meaning they’re not built on an existing platform like Shopify or WordPress, but a developer has coded it from scratch. 

This is a massive no-no – and I can tell you from personal experience how bad this is because I made this mistake myself with one of my early websites. 

Having a custom-built website means you are tied to that developer forever. All future updates or fixes will need to be coded in for you. At more expense. 

Additionally, you know those marketing applications I mentioned you’ll be needing? Things like Facebook advertising and email marketing? A custom-built platform won’t have a native integration with any of these other applications you’ll need to use – that’ll need to be coded in for you as well. And any time those marketing applications roll out an update to their platform? Yep – another expensive call to your developer. 

So just because someone offers you mates rates on a custom website – just say no. Bad move.

So how do you avoid getting stuck with a poorly designed website? 

It certainly doesn’t mean that you must outsource your web design to a professional. In fact that actually doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the right website – not if you go with a web designer or developer who doesn’t really understand eCommerce. 

The best thing to do is to start with my first point – doing the research and really understanding who your customer is and how and why they buy. Then using that customer avatar and buyer journey to inform your website design and layout. 

Getting some advice around the structure and layout can also help. Just this small bit of input can then guide you to do the rest of the website setup without spending a tonne of cash.

Then, go with a quality platform that is designed specifically for eCommerce. Our recommendation is Shopify.

Mistake #3: Not optimising your website for mobile users

While we look at or work on our own websites, we’re usually doing so on our desktop or laptop. Because it’s easier.

But the current and the upcoming trend has shifted to mobile users that account for 63% of website traffic. The data says, mobile is handy and everyone likes to use the internet over mobiles.

The question is, is your eCommerce store optimized for mobile? Can your website visitors have just as good an experience browsing and shopping from you on their mobile device? 

As soon as you put your website on a smaller screen the whole functionality changes. So you need to make sure you start with a mobile responsive template and ensure that your menu navigation and site layout is super simple and easy to browse on a smaller screen.

You want to make sure that the search feature is optimized for mobile users – especially if you have a large range. 

You also want to stick to common design solutions, like logo in the top middle, hamburger menu in the top left or right corner, using symbols instead of words for the Cart, and so on.

There are some stores that I think are almost easier to use on mobile than desktop and I think this is smart. Birdsnest.com.au is a great example of this and they have a huge range, so that’s one to go and check out to see how they do things.

So this isn’t a trend that’s going away. It’s going to get more and more popular and more and more people are gonna shop on mobile.

There is one way to check if your online store is mobile-friendly or not. Go for the “Google mobile-friendly test”.

You just enter your URL and then Google will tell you right away whether or not it is mobile-friendly and if it’s not mobile-friendly, what are the things you should work on it.

You can also just test it yourself by visiting your online store on different devices like smartphones, different size tablets, different brands of device and using different browsers.

Mistake #4: Confusing menu navigation

Like I mentioned earlier in the episode – I recently saw an eCommerce website that did not even have a Shop link in the top menu! 

And I frequently visit sites that either have way too many options in their top menu – some products, some information pages, blogs, contact pages etc etc – or just too few options, like the whole Shop is in one section with no sub categories. 

This is going to be confusing and make things difficult for your customers, and that will definitely hurt conversions. 

Shoppers in your online store will generally be one of these three things:

  1. People who already know exactly what they’re looking for,
  2. People who have an idea but need to figure out the specifics (size, colour, design, brand, price, quantity).
  3. People who think they want something from your range but need to look around before they make a decision.

By making it easy for these people to find the products and information they’re looking for, you will improve your eCommerce customer experience.

You can do this in a few ways:

  • Separate your top-level menu into your most popular product categories, 
  • Include a product search filter high up on your website, 
  • Move any content pages that can be a distraction to the purpose at hand – shopping and buying – into the footer. That means your blog, About and Contact pages go into the footer. 

Mistake #5: Poor quality/unclear Product images

As the saying goes – images speak 1000 words. 

It’s absolutely true though. We can process and understand a LOT more information through visuals than we do by reading words.

Part of image selection is so that you immediately attract the right customer. This means having some lifestyle images – images that show someone much like your ideal customer using and enjoying your products. 

And part of image selection is functional – customers will want to see the detail as well, so they are confident in what they’re buying.

You can use video as well to demonstrate products and how to use them in more detail. 

Not only will investing in good quality images help you to sell more products to customers on your website.

It’ll also help you to bring more of those potential customers TO your website, as you can use those images in your advertising and emails as well.

Things to remember with your product images:

  • When shopping online, customers can’t actually try on a product or touch it, feel it, see what it’s like, so great images help your customers get an idea of exactly what they’re buying.
  • It’s also useful to add details like the size of the model and comments on the fit. Birdsnest do a great job of this.
  • Ensure your product images are zoom-able – people will want to zoom in to look closely at the detail.
  • Crop all your product images to the same size so that your product pages look uniform. If your images are all different shapes and sizes, this just looks messy and unappealing.

Mistake #6: Not collecting and displaying social proof at the point of purchase

Social proof is one of the most powerfully persuasive elements of your eCommerce checkout process. 

Showing reviews, testimonials, customer photos and star ratings, helps to give potential new customers more confidence in making a purchase decision.

Customers are highly influenced by the knowledge that other people just like them have taken the leap of faith, bought the product, and loved it.

Typically you want to use an app that collects verified customer reviews, like Stamped.io which is what we use and recommend. 

Stamped will automatically place your reviews on the right product pages in your store, which is where you want it. If someone is about to add a product to their cart and they can see some good reviews right there, that helps give them confidence to proceed with the purchase.

It can also be beneficial to show reviews on Google and social media, and Stamped has an option that will automatically sync your reviews across from your website to those platforms. 

Plus stamped can display an icon on your website that will dynamically update, showing the number of verified reviews you have. My client Tiptoeandco.com.au has this in place if you’d like to see an example of that.

Statistics show that including 5 or more customer reviews or testimonials can increase sales conversions by up to 20%.

Mistake #7: Difficult checkout process

Probably the worst example of a difficult checkout process that I’ve come across on an eCommerce website, is one where the website literally could not take a transaction online. 

This particular site required the customer to fill out a form and request an invoice, at which point they then had to pay the invoice and email back their remittance advice. 

That’s a pretty extreme example, but there are many other ways that you may unintentionally be making the checkout process difficult.

First thing to look at is – how many clicks does it take to get from the home page to the ‘complete purchase’ page? 

Even last week I was auditing a website that took me about 7 clicks to get through. That’s just way too many clicks. No one has the patience for that anymore – you’ll definitely be losing sales.

The goal is to have as few clicks between the product page and the order confirmation page. (The more clicks to complete a purchase, the higher the chance people will abandon their cart!)

When you get the customer into the checkout, try to only require them to add their shipping details in. By not insisting on the customer also typing in their billing information, and only asking for the shipping address (not insisting on billing address), you can increase conversions by up to 10%! 

Do you have trust symbols clearly displayed on your website – either always visible in the menu somewhere, or on the product and checkout pages? 

Symbols communicating things like a guarantee, secure payment methods, flat rate shipping, fast shipping, easy returns and so on, or if you sell specific things like non-toxic products is there a symbol to communicate that? These things go a LONG way at reducing friction and shopping cart abandonment.

Another tip is to make sure you show the product image, name and price in the shopping cart and through the checkout, so that customers can very easily see that they are buying the item they selected from your store.

(Not including the product image, for example, invites the chance that the customer isn’t sure they’re buying the right product, and they are more likely to abandon their cart.)

And lastly – I’ll say it again – all of this needs to be simple and easy to do on mobile, as well as desktop! 

Mistake #8: Lack of effective marketing

When it comes to growing your eCommerce business, you MUST always have some marketing in place that will build your audience AND convert new and repeat customers. 

Unfortunately, I see far too many eCom stores rely on Instagram as their only method of connecting with customers. 

Yes there are some huge success stories who have built massive business off the back of their Instagram following. 

But typically these brands got into Instagram when the platform was new and exciting and it was possible to get lots of organic engagement. 

Now that the platform has matured, we need to ‘pay to play’.

But equally, putting all your eggs in one basket, ie focusing all your marketing efforts on one platform like Instagram, is a risky strategy. 

You do not own your audience on Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg does. And he can change the rules on you without notice, and you would suddenly see your audience and engagement and website traffic and sales drop off a cliff and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

I’ve seen this happen a few times before. First with Google, then with Facebook and more recently with Instagram. 

There are several marketing strategies that are our mainstays, with the top 3 being:

  • Content marketing and working on optimising your website for search engines
  • Email marketing, building up a database of email subscribers that you OWN 
  • Paid advertising on social media and Google.

Of course, before you rush off to start marketing via these channels yourself, first of all you need a bit of a plan! 

You need to consider these channels as the vehicles via which you are communicating to your customers. 

WHAT you communicate to them should be a cohesive message that is repeated across all channels. 

That way, a customer who sees a Facebook ad and then visits your website and then signs up to your email list and then forgets about you and then Googles you and comes back again and then adds a product to their cart but gets interrupted and then receives an email reminding them to finish their purchase – receives a consistent message with consistent imagery and consistent wording that is all tailored specifically to the customer, because you KNOW your ideal customer and what’s important to them. 

That’s how you will sell more and effectively grow your business!

I do want to make a special note here about Email Marketing, because I see far too many eCommerce stores really missing the boat on this one.

Email marketing is still THE most effective way to convert new and repeat customers.

It is also the most reliable way to help you to convert more sales off your free organic search AND your paid traffic from advertising. 

Last but not least – by focusing on building up a database of email subscribers, you will ALWAYS own your audience. You will never fall prey to another platform pulling the rug from under your feet because you don’t own it.

When it comes to email marketing, first you want to choose an email marketing platform that is designed to work best for eCommerce. 

Unfortunately, despite the hundreds of different email marketing applications available on the market, most of them are not really suited to eCommerce. 

You want to choose a platform that will integrate deeply with your website shopping cart. This will enable you to set up some really powerful and effective campaigns based on the actions customers take on your site. 

Our recommendation for the best email tool on the market is Klaviyo, which integrates with virtually all eCommerce website platforms out there.

Next, you want to employ a mix of automated as well as broadcast style newsletter emails. 

Your automated emails should be the backbone of your eCommerce sales-generating efforts. 

This means you have a setup that enables you to automatically convert new and repeat sales and reclaim abandoned carts, all on autopilot. 

And then you layer over the top of that your regular email newsletters and your product launch and promotional emails. 

We have clients following this strategy who regularly generate 25-35% of their revenue from emails. 

They still generate a lot of revenue from organic traffic and paid advertising, but they amplify their results from these other channels with their email marketing. Because they’re always growing their email list from their traffic generating efforts.

Whereas the stores who rely purely on paid Facebook ads, or purely on their Instagram following, or purely on organic search are missing out on so much. 

For example, let me tell you about a client we started working with a year ago. We started working with her on her Facebook advertising and also building out automated email funnels. 

The ads went live first and started to generate traffic and sales. All good there. 

But then our email list-building and automated email marketing went live, and all of a sudden the sales converting off the Facebook ads skyrocketed. This was simply because they were being reinforced and supported by the email marketing! 

Two really important things to avoid when it comes to your email marketing, or any marketing for that matter, are:

  1. Don’t be boring. If there is nothing engaging in the way you craft your emails, don’t expect anyone to read them or act on them. We’ve seen some incredibly boring emails and Facebook ads for products and brands that really should be great fun – if it’s all practical information and no story, or the images are not engaging or eye catching, then it’ll be a snooze fest. 
  2. And don’t be a spammy douche. Basically, email your list the way you’d email your friends. Share news about cool new stuff and reward them with great promotions. Don’t discount constantly (that’s the fastest way to burn your list!). Don’t use really sales-y or highly promotional language (especially not in subject lines). Do make sure your emails work well on mobile. And do make sure your email content is suitable for the audience!

Mistake #10: Not tracking or measuring your results

In the words of Dr Phil – you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

If you’re not tracking your results, how will you know what is working and what isn’t? You won’t.

You want to track and measure your performance metrics regularly – weekly I recommend. 

Things like:

  • Website visitors – total and by channel, like organic search, social media, email etc
  • Number of purchases
  • Average order value
  • Total revenue 

I recorded a whole episode about how to work out what to focus on in your business, which I’ll link to in the show notes, and much of this was around reviewing your analytics. 

Don’t just take a look at your results either – record them. Over time you’ll be able to see the trends in your results, and that will help you to make much smarter decisions.

Of all my clients enjoying really big growth, ALL of them measure and review their performance metrics.

Bonus mistake # 11: Not planning ahead!

As the saying goes – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail! 

But I know that many people don’t plan not because they don’t want to, they just don’t know how to.

Imagine if… you always knew exactly what marketing campaigns or promotions you’re going to run in your business?

Imagine if… you knew exactly what marketing activities would generate the results (sales growth!) you’re looking for?

Let me help you take the thinking out of your marketing and learn how to plan like a pro!

Join my FREE 5-Day Challenge and let me teach you how to create an effective eCommerce marketing plan.

Over 5 days, I’ll teach you step by step, how to put together an effective Marketing Plan for your business – a plan you’ll actually use!

Here’s what’s included in the training:

  • Receive DAILY video training delivered to your inbox, and support in our EXCLUSIVE Facebook group.
  • Learn how to set the right goals in your business – goals that are motivating and ambitious, yet also achievable AND set you on the right path to achieve your ultimate dream business!
  • Discover what you need to FOCUS on in your marketing plan to drive website traffic and sales in your Ecommerce store.
  • Be guided on which marketing strategies you should choose to reach your goals and how to document a step by step marketing plan that makes implementation a breeze.

If you’re keen to join the planning challenge – click here to sign up for free! 

That’s it for today’s episode, I hope you’ve enjoyed it! Maybe it’s been a bit of an eye opener for you, or maybe you’ve picked up something useful you can implement in your business. 

If you’ve enjoyed this episode – I’d love you to jump over to iTunes and leave me a review. 

And next week I’ll have another guest on the show, so make sure you tune in again for next week’s episode!