10 E-commerce Mistakes To Avoid
All that a successful e-commerce website needs to do is attract visitors and get them to buy something! Unsurprisingly, this is not as easy as it sounds. If you want to have a flourishing e-business then you will need to avoid some of these very common pitfalls:
1. Too little marketing
“If you build it, people will come” – this may apply to supermarkets or art galleries but it never applies to websites. You probably need to spend at least half of the budget for a new website on promoting it – no matter how good your website is, it will take time before it can compete with other similar websites in terms of search engine results. To plug this gap you should put resources into paid online advertising, email shots to new and existing customers and in building links from trusted websites related to your business.
2. Poor choice of domain name
It is important to get a word or phrase that sums up your business in to the web address. So if you sell watches make sure you get ‘watches’ into your domain name even if it is combined with your company name or a specialty of the business. Try and avoid using hyphens in the domain name – aside from this not sounding good it inevitably means the person who owns the version without the hyphen will end up getting some of the web traffic that was intended for you. For an e-commerce website, having a ‘dot com’ suffix would usually be your first choice, but if your business mainly sells in the UK you shouldn’t sweat too much by only owning a .co.uk suffix.
3. Not providing enough product information
If you walk into a shop you can see and touch items. With something like clothing you can try it for size or if it is ‘technical’ product you can ask advice from a shop assistant. You can’t provide this experience on the web so you have to provide as much clear information as possible. As well as producing bullet points, the page should provide detailed technical information on the product as well as examples and case studies. Having a high word count and appropriate, informative content won’t do you any harm when it comes to search engine ranking.
4. Small product pictures
This goes hand in hand with providing plenty of product information. A tiny or badly photographed picture won’t sell your item. Ideally you want pictures that you can zoom in on or click to enlarge and photograph it from different angles. A commonly used picture size is 1024 x 768 pixels, and make sure to optimize the file size so that large images don’t take a long time to download (see examples here).
5. Wrong keyword targeting
Bike, cycle, bicycle? Target the most common words and phrases but also secondary words as well – the Google Keywords Tool is very helpful for this. As a rule of thumb, be quite general for categories and then more specific or ‘longer tail’ for individual products. Keyword targeting is such an important and huge topic that it is way beyond the scope of this article. For a new website or the ongoing maintenance of an existing e-commerce site then you need to put some serious resources into keyword research.
6. Hiding contact information.
Few things let a website down more than not having easy to find contact details. If people are going to hand over their money to you, then they need to know who you are and where you are based. An easy to find page with an address and telephone number will inspire 100 times more confidence in your website that an anonymous ‘contact’ form. If you really want to enhance your plausibility then have more than one telephone number – perhaps a sales line and a technical support number – and also include your opening hours.
7. Confusing navigation
When you build or rebuild a website, time spent on planning your navigation structure will not be time wasted. Start off by looking at how the leading companies in your sector have organized their navigation but bear in mind that these can be improved upon as your competitors may have added new things in as they grew. Very few e-commerce web managers would say that if they had to start again from scratch they would do it exactly the same again. Consider future expansion as you don’t want to have some top level categories with lots of products in and other areas where there are very few. Navigation should be based on a logical set of rules that you can stick to as your business grows – you do not want to be changing the structure two or three years down the line.
8. Not including related searches
If you have got visitors to the right product page then there is a golden opportunity to sell them a better item than they originally intended or accessories to the thing they are about to buy. You don’t get many bike shops that only sell bikes and no other paraphernalia around cycling. Assuming your content management system allows for this, then it will largely be a manual task to set about thinking of related products, but this is a cost effective way to enhance ‘add on’ sales
9. Poor shopping cart
A long and confusing check out will lose you customers who were on the edge of purchasing. Don’t ask for any unnecessary information. If you ‘need’ to have customers sign-up or register then absolutely make sure you do something with the information – not just spam email but contact with relevant customer offers. It is also essential that when something has been added to the cart then it is easy to return to the original page – remember the add-on sales!
10. Hiding shipping costs
If you are not up-front with your shipping costs then you will find plenty of abandoned orders in the shopping cart. Shipping costs as well as policies and warranties should be associated with all product pages. Consider offering free shipping on orders above a certain size.