I can’t count the number of e-commerce stores I’ve seen come and go. They start with abundant enthusiasm, commitment, and excitement, but many don’t last to reap the rewards of a successful e-commerce business.
What’s different about the store’s that make it? A dedication to detail and to crafting the best possible experience for their shoppers. In practical terms, that means taking the time to avoid these five common e-commerce mistakes.
1. Slow Hosting
Performance is of critical importance for any website, but e-commerce shoppers are particularly sensitive to latency. No one wants to wait several seconds for product pages to load and slow checkout interfaces are a major cause of abandoned shopping carts. Performance is even more important on mobile, where the frustrations of slow networks are compounded by poorly optimized sites.
There are many reasons an e-commerce store might be slow, and both the back-end and front-end are targets for optimization. But without fast, responsive, low-latency hosting, most performance optimizations won’t be effective.
E-commerce is resource intensive, and low-end hosting is unlikely to be able to cope with the demands of an e-commerce store, especially as its traffic grows. It’s tempting for new e-commerce merchants to opt for the cheapest hosting they can find, but investing in performance-optimized managed hosting will save money in the long-run. Shoppers benefit from the improved performance, and retailers avoid the problems associated with having to migrate to better hosting later.
2. Poor Security
Most e-commerce retailers are not security experts. They’re in the business of selling products, and focus all their energy on creating a site that sells. As a consequence, updates aren’t applied and simple security best practices aren’t followed.
Online criminals love e-commerce stores with lax security. Their aim is often to inject credit card scraping malware, and poor password practices, failing to update, and not securely sourcing extensions and plugins are akin to opening the door.
Shockingly, it was revealed last year that many thousands of e-commerce stores were infected with credit card scraping malware that wasn’t found for several months, putting millions of shoppers at risk. If, as an e-commerce merchant, you’re unsure whether you’re capable of properly handling security on your store, hire someone who is or use a managed e-commerce hosting product that can help with the basics.
3. Ineffective Search
Most e-commerce shoppers use search to find products of interest. Retail giants like Amazon offer sophisticated faceted search that makes it easy for shoppers to filter thousands of products to find exactly what they need.
Smaller e-commerce stores that can’t match the search experience of the giants are at a huge disadvantage. Where e-commerce user interfaces are concerned, effective search and navigation should be a priority.
4. Frustrating Checkouts
A poor checkout experience is the number one killer of e-commerce conversions.
My advice for creating the perfect checkout experience: make it as quick and easy as possible. If you don’t need a piece of information to complete a transaction, don’t ask for it. The aim is to get users through the checkout process as quickly and painlessly as possible, in as few steps as is practical.
Social sign-ons are an e-commerce merchant’s friend here: leverage the information available on shoppers’ social media channels to reduce the amount of information they need to enter manually when they make a purchase.
5. Generic Product Pages
Building compelling and unique product pages takes time and money, so many smaller e-commerce stores don’t bother — opting instead to use generic product descriptions and images, often lifted from suppliers.
That’s a mistake: product pages are a central part of an e-commerce store’s brand. Why should a shopper buy from you rather than your competitor (or your supplier)? Often the only differentiation is the brand image of a store: the presentation of products on pages and the personality expressed in unique images, original design, and imaginative copy.
Unique, thoughtful branding is often the only differentiating factor between a store that flourishes and a competitor that goes nowhere.
If I were to condense everything I’ve said in this article into a single piece of advice, it would be this: invest everything you can into creating a unique retail experience that puts the security and happiness of your customers first.