3 E-commerce Pitfalls [And How To Avoid Them]
By Colin Scotland
.1. You Don’t Have A Plan
Setting up in eCommerce has never been easier. With the plethora of ‘online shopping’ platforms and providers to choose from you would think making a success of selling online would be easy, right?
The power like never before is truly in your hands. You can achieve anything.
Therein lies the problem.
For most retailers looking to develop eComm as an additional channel. For information providers wishing to sell their services. And for everyone else looking to ‘transact’ business via the Internet the choices are almost infinite.
Too much choice in fact.
What are the important things to focus on and in what order?
How do we take payments?
How do we ship products? (Physical and Digital).
The power of choice can be overwhelming. All too often we end up with cobbled together marketing systems and processes because it’s plain confusing.
Well, as Peter Parker’s Uncle said: “With great power, comes great responsibility”.
Wise words, take heed. Now, I am not suggesting you parade around your office in a spiderman suit or anything 😉
Simply to be mindful of the choices you are making when it comes to transacting business online. Use your power wisely. As a leader, you owe it to yourself and to the people around you to plan ahead.
Don’t fall into the trap of ‘bolting’ on digital marketing and eCommerce into your business.
If you were sailing across the Atlantic in a boat, you wouldn’t set off without first charting your course.
Your business is no different. If you don’t chart your course, you will find yourself sailing around in circles and never getting anywhere.
Set yourself clear goals and objectives for what you want to achieve in your business. A goal is your broad aim, for instance, to grow your business using digital marketing channels.
This goal should then be broken down into separate objectives. These are the milestone steps by which you measure if you have arrived or not.
Goals can be broad; objectives must be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (So you can check if you have achieved them or not).
Measure all of your objectives against this criteria.
Here’s a worked example of how to develop SMART objectives in your business.
To achieve our broad goal of business growth we need to increase sales. But to ‘increase sales’ is not SMART. Let’s make it SMART.
Our objective becomes:
To increase sales in category X by 20% by the end of the 2nd quarter.
You can create these stepping stones for each area of your business that is going to help you reach your goal.
You may need to increase website traffic. Improve conversion rates. Grow your following and engagement on social media. And much more. All of which will contribute to you achieving your goal.
This process forces you to think about the actions that are necessary to attain your goals. It is these actions that form the tactics you put into place.
Spending time thinking about your goals and objectives will help your business in more ways than you think.
You will have clarity of your vision and direction. But more importantly, everything you do will be measured against the yardstick of stepping stones towards achieving your goals.
If it doesn’t contribute to achieving your goals, get rid of it.
Suddenly, ALL of your efforts are driving your business forward the way you want it to go. Dead weight is just not tolerated.
When you focus your efforts like this and take steps towards your goal, guess what? Success becomes the only logical outcome.
Get your head into the planning space and chart your course to success, whatever that looks like for you. Choose your steps wisely. You have the power.
2. You Can’t Handle Growth
When I first started experimenting with growing my online business, it felt a lot like I was playing a game of Whack-A-Mole.
Remember the game, lots of holes and you don’t quite know where the mole is going to pop up from next.
Growing an eCommerce business feels a lot like this.
You manage to get more traffic.
Hit the mole.
Then your site falls down because the server can’t handle more traffic.
Hit the mole.
Then your supplier can’t supply enough product to meet demand.
Hit the mole.
Next, your bank account goes overdrawn because the payment provider decides to hold onto your funds and cashflow goes into crisis.
Hit the… You get the idea.
I stumbled from one problem to the next in my journey from zero to £300,000.00 every month.
The biggest thing I learned. Prepare as best you can by planning ahead.
If you can afford the next tier of hosting, get it now. Think scalability in everything.
My supplier has 1000 of these items. What will we do when we are selling 1000 per month or week?
Then think even bigger.
Make plans for the big success. Then things are less likely to fall down when big success comes.
Your main areas of focus should include the following.
Your Website and Hosting Environment
What would happen if your daily visits went up x10,000? Could your server cope, or would it fall over?
Your Supply Chain
How robust are your channels of supply?
Can your current supplier handle growth on a massive scale?
What would you do if demand for what you offer spiked?
Lay the groundwork for a plan of action now, even if it is only in your head.
How would you purchase enough stock if your sales grew by 1000% overnight? Where would the cash flow come from?
Create a simple spreadsheet and work the numbers.
If you are bootstrapping your way, like I did, you will likely need to develop a good working relationship with the commercial team of your chosen bank.
This way you can ensure you have sufficient means in place to pay your creditors and your staff when the numbers start to get scary.
Once you have dedicated your time to planning. Enjoy the ride.
Sure you will hit against things that you never planned for. Welcome to life, my friend.
But you can be sure and certain that you have laid out the vision and put things in place to allow yourself to realise that vision.
3. You Don’t Make The Most of It
As the saying goes, “make hay while the sun shines”.
When you do all the hard work to get someone to your website, make every step count.
Think about each step of the purchase journey.
When a visitor arrives at your website for the first time. Make sure your website is welcoming, with easy navigation and clear calls to action.
Is it responsive (mobile-friendly)? Over 50% of your traffic is likely to be viewing on a mobile or tablet.
Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to find what they are looking for, fast.
Ensure critical information around delivery, returns, contact details, etc. are all present.
So you’ve enticed visitors to your website. Next, you need to ensure you are maximising the potential.
One example is putting the ‘add to cart’ above the fold (so the visitor doesn’t need to scroll down the page to see it).
Another may be presenting ‘related products’ or ‘customers also purchased’ to maximise the cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
Use unbiased product reviews to take people from unsure about buying to credit card in hand ready.
We all love a bit of social proof.
Not only does it reinforce the decision to purchase, but it also lends credibility to you, proving that you can actually deliver because lots of happy and not-so-happy customers are vouching for you by sharing their experiences.
Then in checkout. Up-sell.
I am spending $50 on a product. Offer me the better alternative for $99.
Have an upsell to a related add-on product for an additional $19.
I have seen first-hand how these simple tactics can literally double your revenue.
Post purchase. Communicate regularly with customers.
Check in to see how things are going. Build a relationship.
Encourage social sharing. Encourage customers to leave a review. Encourage repeat business.
Optimising at every stage of the buyer journey is the key to your eCommerce success.
The beauty is these principles are universal, whether you are just starting out in eCommerce or you are $100 million per year business.
Create a bold, visionary plan for growth.
Ensure your infrastructure can handle it.
Enjoy the surprisingly rewarding results of building your eCommerce business.
Guest author: Colin Scotland
Colin is a forward-thinking Marketing and Business Growth Strategist who helps entrepreneurial clients to grow and scale with bold and visionary digital marketing strategies.
Read his guide : 5 Mistakes That Kill e-Commerce Growth