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Despite what many cynics may think, establishing a successful eCommerce operation is far from a simple process.
It’s incredibly naive to think of the eCommerce industry as a means for ‘getting rich quick’ — sure; it’s possible to make stacks of cash online, but the blunt truth is that there are many potholes to avoid on the road to eCommerce success.
If you’re keen to avoid the usual pitfalls that many eCommerce newbies fall victim to, you should find this quick guide rather handy.
We’ve put together a list of what we consider to be the 5 most common mistakes that eCommerce business owners make.
Read on, and take notes!
1. Neglecting the Need for Good Customer Service
It doesn’t matter how sharp your store looks, how perfect your product is, or how flashy your advertisements are — if your customers aren’t receiving good service, your store is unlikely to see much success in the long run.
Don't Ignore Customer Service
Like it or not, we live in an era where the customer has more power than ever.
Services like Trustpilot provide platforms for customers to voice their opinions (however harsh they may be). While receiving a poor review can be disappointing (you’re unlikely to please everyone), the best business owners see the growing use of these platforms as an opportunity.
After all, your patrons should be your biggest promoters.
If that isn’t the case, then your first area of investigation should be your customer service offering.
Beautiful, simple reviews for your siteEasily collect, show & grow customer reviews, photos & videos for your business.
Go Above and Beyond
One of the most effective ways to leave your customers with a smile is by making a concerted effort to provide service that goes above and beyond.
Dedicate time to brushing up on your customer service skills, or, if you’re managing a large operation, allocate resources that will help your customer service team.
It’s a sad fact that customer service is one of the most overlooked aspects of the customer journey.
Look after your customers, and they’ll look after you!
Unfortunately, you’re far more likely to receive a write-up from a disgruntled customer than from a delighted one, but when you do receive a glowing review, this can prove more effective than any marketing campaign.
Check Gorgias’ article on great customer service tips.
2. Failing to Identify Target Audiences
Many entrepreneurs enter the eCommerce industry – guns blazing, intent on selling their products to everyone in sight.
While this might seem a relatively sensible proposition to those lacking in experience, we want to stress that a scattergun approach to marketing is as inefficient as it is ineffective.
One of the very first steps in your eCommerce journey is to identify your target audience.
If you’re unsure how to do this, there’s a great guide here.
Picking a Niche You Understand
It’s best to identify a niche you possess a decent knowledge of.
Don’t know your rods from your poles? It’s probably not a great idea to open up a fishing business.
If you’re deep into collectibles, then setting up an online business dealing in trading cards and memorabilia could be a worthwhile investment.
3. Ignoring SEO
While you could be forgiven for finding the intricacies of advanced SEO a little perplexing, gaining a firm understanding of the core fundamentals is essential — especially if you’re looking to maintain steady growth.
Expand Beyond Key Words
Contrary to what many may believe, SEO isn’t just about keywords.
The most successful eCommerce operations employ detailed SEO strategies — these plans will usually prioritize link building or aspects of technical SEO.
Don’t be put off by the term technical, either — this is just an umbrella term for the practice of optimizing your website’s performance, as search engines pay close attention to this when deciding where to rank your pages.
Of course, keywords are still as important as ever, and so there’s a good business case to be made for investing in a service that helps you find keywords and backlink opportunities to your eCommerce store.
Finding a service like this will help you rank higher & get more traffic, and boost your store’s visibility.
4. Selecting the Wrong eCommerce Hosting Platforms
Perhaps a combination of excitement and impatience may be to blame, but for one reason or another, many eCommerce business owners seem to base their choice of hosting provider on a single factor — cost.
This may seem reasonable, but your choice of host is much more than a virtual plot of land upon which to build your store.
Indeed, settling for any old host will only likely lead to headaches further down the line.
Closed vs. Open-Source Hosting
Of course, this isn’t an issue if you’re operating your store on a closed platform such as Shopify, as hosting is included as part of the deal.
However, if you’re using an open-source platform, this won’t be the case, and you’ll need to find a third party to host your store.
Luckily, Magento (technically Adobe Commerce now), Opencart, WooCommerce, and other eCommerce hosting options aren’t hard to find.
Thankfully, there’s a vast pool of hosting providers to choose from — but it’s important to remember that not all hosts are built equally.
Be sure to look for an eCommerce hosting specialist that prioritizes speed and reliability, as a slow or glitchy website will only result in abandoned carts and missed conversion opportunities.
Some providers offer extra benefits, like an extra layer of security against DDoS attacks and malicious traffic.
Don’t be lured in by something merely acceptable: shop around to find the right choice for you.
5. Failing to Use Social Media
Social media may be an annoyance to some, but like it or not, you’d be a fool to ignore the marketing opportunities it presents.
Staggeringly, the businesses that take full advantage of these free (excluding paid ads) advertising platforms are few and far between.
However, the companies that do understand and use social media effectively reap the benefits.
We could write an entire article on how to use social media effectively.
Instead, we’ll keep it brief: Aim to delight your customers, post regularly, maintain a consistent tone of voice and use the platform as an opportunity to create a tribe of brand evangelists.
Social media is dramatically different from the traditional streams of advertising — TV, radio, print — as none of these mediums offers the chance for a two-way dialogue between businesses and their clients.
Capitalize on this by building your following and using any opportunity to project your brand’s identity — you’ll soon see how effective social media can be.
Rodney Laws is an eCommerce platform specialist and online business consultant. He’s worked in the eCommerce industry for nearly two decades, helping brands big and small achieve their business goals.
For more tips and advice, reach out to Rodney on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.