Five mistakes you should avoid when launching your ecommerce website

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We strive to work towards success in our lives, yet making mistakes and being faced with failures is inescapable as it’s part of being human. Although everyone makes them, every single one of your mistakes opens a possibility for personal and professional growth. With a proper mindset, one can turn each of their mistakes into original solutions and each of their failures into valuable life lessons.

This thinking also applies to businesses, especially to those of the ecommerce type since they are still a relatively recent addition to the market. However, what if you could spare yourself the trouble of tackling your own trials and errors by exploring the mistakes of others? By maximizing learning from the mistakes and failures of other ecommerce businesses you’ll minimize the chance your business will suffer the same fate.

So, whether you’re getting ready to start your first ecommerce site or you’re already running multiple online stores, you’re bound to encounter a few bumps in the road threatening to hold your business back. To evade them, you’ll have to equip yourself with other people's experiences and educate yourself about the everyday mistakes faced by young entrepreneurs and business people alike.

To back you up, we’ll share the five most common mistakes that ecommerce owners mainly make at the beginning of their journey into the ecommerce business. Some of them will set your business back right off the bat, while others may take a while before they start messing with your dreams about success. Whichever the case may be, the perfect time for you to act is right now.

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1. Not taking time to find your targeted market and building a business strategy

If you were struck with a seemingly splendid idea for an ecommerce business out of the blue and want to start working on it straight away, stop to consider whether it is applicable in reality. To your best buddies and yourself, it may sound like the best thing since sliced bread, but if it isn’t backed by comprehensive audience research it might end in a catastrophic failure. So, before making your first steps into the ecommerce area, make sure you know who you are making your site for, that is who your target audience is.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if there aren’t enough people interested in your products or services, you’re fighting a losing battle. The overall cost of running an unsuccessful online store will roll up after some time and soon you won’t even be able to cover your bases.  

Since the pandemic has triggered a boom in the ecommerce business and everyone wished for their own slice of the pie, new online stores have been popping up like mushrooms after rain. With such a crowded market there are more than enough competitors waiting to steal the spotlight at each corner, which makes your task all the more challenging.

One solution to this problem could be to find a specific niche for your online store and create it with that audience in mind. Mind you, this can be a small audience but one that has a strong interest in your products or services, which makes them ideal candidates for lifelong customers.

Or, you could take the opposite approach and choose one of the current trends and put a special twist on it by adding something none of your competitors can. In either case, it’s crucial to conduct audience research before making any major moves.

In addition to this, don’t forget to come up with a solid business plan and strategy. It doesn’t have to be a long-winded text going into every little detail about the next decade of your business trajectory, but an outline that’ll cover your target audience, the market you’re selling to, a selling system you’ll use, and the subject of the sale itself.

Also, try not to get ahead of yourself, and if you do go back to the beginning.

A person working on their ecommerce website.

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2. Picking out the wrong ecommerce solution

With new ecommerce solutions turning up all the time, picking out the right one can send your brain into panic mode and put your productivity on hold. Although analysis-paralysis may seem like an obvious overreaction, it is understandable considering that ecommerce solutions can make or break your business.

Simply because an ecommerce solution works for someone you know or for businesses you’re inspired by, it doesn’t mean it’s the correct choice for your startup. Also, only because something is trending these days, it won't automatically translate your passion project into a success story.

So, before you choose one solution over the other, make sure you understand your requirements in relation to the solution you’re considering for creating your ecommerce site. Some ecommerce solutions come packed with features while others are less feature-packed but can brag about offering more stability. In either case, you should ensure that the solution of your choice offers a solid combo of functionality, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.

If you don’t consider yourself a tech-savvy individual and you are searching for a simple way to start your online store, then proprietary ecommerce platforms (such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion) could be the best choice for you. These are out-of-the-box choices that combine user-friendliness with full ecommerce functionality without breaking the bank, so it’s no wonder they’re considered a go-to solution for startups and all sorts of small to mid-sized businesses.

In contrast, with open-source solutions (like WooCommerce, Magento, and OpenCart) you’ll get fabulous levels of flexibility, freedom, and pocket-friendliness, but you won’t be able to keep the body and soul of your business together without some technical know-how. Also, since these are non-hosted platforms as a rule, you’ll have to secure a web hosting service from another company (as well as a domain name).

Since all of these solutions come with sets of strengths and weaknesses, you should study each before making the ultimate choice. In addition to your budget, ease of use, and level of customizability, you should also keep an eye out for scalability, since an ecommerce solution that’s hard to scale can hinder the growth of your business and set it on a path to utter failure.

3. Chaotic site structure and dubious design decisions

Don’t ever (even in your dreams) downplay the role of user experience (UX) for it will have a powerful influence on the success (or failure) of your ecommerce site. Confusingly chaotic design and counterintuitive navigation are a combo that’ll certainly make any visitor to your site think twice before purchasing any of your products or services.

Therefore, while building your site pay special attention to navigation and take design decisions that’ll make it as smooth as possible. For instance, you want the menu on your landing page to be simple and convenient to use, particularly for pages that include the most important sections (such as product list, shopping cart, and account creation). If potential shoppers get confused while browsing your site, then chances are they'll simply go somewhere else to shop.

Although you don’t have to jump on every bandwagon in the industry, if your site’s design looks outdated, its visitors are more likely to find it unreliable. Now that more and more users are using their smartphones for shopping, having an up-to-date mobile-friendly site is also a must-have. Mind you, this doesn’t mean your site should look anything less impressive on desktops, laptops, or tablets as well.

If you want to get more sign-ups (and consequently more sales), make sure that sign-up and check-out processes are as simple as they can get. Most visitors won’t be thrilled to fill out tedious forms with their personal data, go through the verification process all while trying not to doze off waiting for the page to load. Therefore, focus on a form that includes the basics (name, email address, and a password).

You want to apply the same principle to the check-out procedure and make the concept of simplicity one of your closest friends. An online store with a comprehensive check-out might look professional at first, but it can quickly overwhelm your customers and make them abandon the purchase.

Also, remember to update the look of your online store regularly, to show that you’re serious about this business and ready to invest both time and money in making the UX better. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes, study your store with an objective eye (or as objective as it’s humanly possible), see if there is anything to correct, and correct it.

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4. Underestimating the power of SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is often overlooked as a critical part of an ecommerce store’s business strategy, although being visible in search engines is linked to traffic increase, better brand awareness, and a boost in sales. The more people catch sight of your site, the more people will visit it out of curiosity if nothing more, which will consequently increase your sales. However, upgrading your ecommerce site with SEO techniques isn’t exactly a piece of cake. 

Before starting to shape your site into something more SEO-friendly, you’ll have to pick up the right set of tools. Thankfully, there are plenty of SEO tools on the market, and most ecommerce platforms will equip you with the essential ones. You also have a choice to work with an SEO agency and avoid tackling SEO altogether, but that could be a big blow to a small budget.

So, if you’re going down the do-it-yourself route, here‘s some stuff you’ll want to keep in mind. First and foremost, before picking out the name for your business, registering a domain name, and starting to create content for your online store, you should check out the data and choose the most effective SEO keywords. Also, you want to write a detailed description of your products, while making sure that duplicate content is kept to an absolute minimum.

When it comes to URL structure, it should be short, simple, yet descriptive. Another thing you’ll want to do is to use alt text for all your images since search engines can’t really see them and thereby won’t be able to find them. Besides this, steer clear of broken links, speed up your site, test your targets via Google Ads, and you’re good to go.

Ultimately, from your site’s performance and mobile responsiveness to the homepage, product description, and utilizing the right keywords for your niche, every little choice should be made with SEO in mind and aimed at pointing your products or services to the target audience.

5. Failing to master marketing and promote your online store like a pro

Regardless of how strong your competition is, mastering digital marketing is critical for the success of your ecommerce business. That’s why chart-topping global giants (like Apple, Toyota Motor, and Coca-Cola) are spending millions of dollars on multi-channel marketing simply to make sure they stay at the top. As online shoppers have so many options at their disposal today, if someone else comes by that is superior, cheaper, or simply more convenient, they’ll forget all about you and your store in an instant.

In addition to overlooking marketing, less-experienced entrepreneurs tend to confine their marketing strategy to one form (let’s say social media marketing or SMM for short), or what's worse to one channel (like Facebook). This may seem like a small mistake to make, but using only one type of marketing (or a single marketing platform) will consequently decrease audience reach, bring in fewer customers, and slow down your business’ growth.

You can avoid this by creating a marketing strategy that comprises several types of digital marketing such as SMM, email marketing, affiliate marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, and content marketing. However, don’t stop at this but go exploring on your own and find other forms of marketing that’ll fit into your strategy.

Also, keep an eye out for ecommerce analytics tools, because they will provide you with powerful data-driven insights into your business and help you keep track of its development. By measuring the success of your marketing campaigns, analytics tools will also help you figure out whether your marketing strategy will pay off in the future or not.

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Avoid these mistakes and make your ecommerce business boom

To climb above your competitors and arrive at the top of the ecommerce industry, you’ll either have to make a few mistakes along the way or avoid them altogether by learning from the mistakes of others. We strongly suggest you take the second path since it will save you both time and money, as well as spare you from the stress of learning life lessons the hard way.

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Mirza Bahic is a freelance tech journalist and blogger from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. For the past four years, Mirza has been ghostwriting for a number of tech start-ups from various industries, including cloud, retail and B2B technology.