What are the most common mistakes when launching an online store business? Originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Just imagine that one of your customers, let’s call her Jane, checks her email inbox only to find one mail from your online store informing her that a certain skinny jean, that she had admired for a long time, has been sold. She swiftly clicks on the link and enters your website in an attempt to find an alternative.
She browses and checks several alternatives, but after about 20 minutes, she gives up and leaves your website. Jane wanted to buy skinny jeans, so what made her leave your site? What went wrong?
All marketers, especially e-commerce marketers, can associate with this story. It is something they undergo almost every day of their lives. As a matter of fact, a study, called checkout usability study, conducted by Baymard Institute showed that of all shopping carts, 67.91% are abandoned. This is an outrageously huge number of prospective customers to be losing every day. So, why do you lose all these customers? What goes wrong? Here is a list of some of the most common mistakes online stores make and their fixes:
1. Poor Showcasing of Your Goods
The first impression is a very important way when trying to draw a potential customer to your store. Some of the leading retailers in the globe like Harrods and Macy are well known to spend some of their earnings on window dressing all their stores. Your website is your link to the world. It is how you reach the outside world. Your products may be the best in the market but if you do not display them well to potential buyers, you may not get a purchase, even from willing buyers.
Appealing visual display is very vital. Make sure you keep your website easy to surf and never overpower potential customers with disorderly merchandising.
If you have a variety in SKUs of every product, make sure you showcase them to your potential buyers in a sensible and easy-to-navigate way. Every customer wants to see what he or she is buying. In this regard, always employ high quality images, which allow space for zooming, so that your buyers can see even the minute details of what they are buying.
2. Not Employing Trust Building Measures
When new users visit your website for the very first time, they surely do not know whether to trust you or not. This is particularly common when it comes to your payment systems. After major security breaches, online shoppers are very cautious of what information they can share with businesses and where they can swipe their credit cards.
Make sure that your site is professional looking and it follows the latest trends in web designs as this helps increase customer confidence. A good site is a great way of showing that you are fully committed to the ecommerce enterprise.
Most websites use a variety of security services such as Norton, McAfee, Verisign, etc. Most online shoppers check for these logos on ecommerce websites to see the level of security you have employed. Well, it is good to give your customers what they want; display the logo of your security partner on your site.
If you have employed a customer protection program, make sure you highlight it. Successful ecommerce sites like eBay reinforce their customer protection messaging on the product listing pages, during checkout, the homepage, and on the emails they send to customers to strengthen their confidence in that brand.
It is also good to include customer reviews left by your existing customers, as this will go a long way to increase the confidence of new customers in your site.
3. Painful Navigation
Picture yourself walking onto an old basement that has old junk scattered everywhere. It would take you a lot of time to comb through that mess to find what you want. If your site does not have a clear navigation structure, your customers undergo a problem equal to this every time they try to shop on your site.
Keep your site simple. Avoid overpowering your users with needless flashing banners and pop ups. Spend your resources on creating reasonable and easy to understand product classes, sub classes, color choices, variants, and SKUs.
Additionally, add a prominent search bar on the homepage of your website so that even if you don’t have the best navigation, you buyers can still search and get the product they are looking for.
4. Problems with Inventory
Imagine one of your customers is buying one of the high selling Harry Porter novels by J.K. Rowling on your website. They search for the book and find it, but when they want to complete the transaction, a message pops up informing them that the item is out of stock. They get upset and leave your website, most likely never to come back.
This is an example of an inventory problem for all ecommerce retailers. It could occur because the last copy of that particular item got sold on another platform, such as a traditional store, that the retailer also owns or it could be a straightforward mistake from the retailer.
Make use of technology. If you have both an online and offline presence, never depend on fate. There are some smart tools, like Shopify’s online POS system, that can help you manage your inventory effortlessly. Inventory can also be used as a way of creating urgency. When you show the number of items of a particular product left in your store, you encourage customers to purchase now, rather than waiting, as the product could be out of stock the next time they enter your website.
Another smart tip is cross selling. If a certain product is running out of stock, cross-sell, to your customers, similar items that are in stock. Cross selling is a very important instrument, which, if applied correctly, can generate a lot of revenue. Figures released by Amazon show that in 2006, 35% of their total sales came from cross-selling products.
5. Not Having a Guest Checkout Option
How many sites have you ever shopped on to date? Out of these, how many passwords and login IDs can you recall? Very few, I guess.
Jared from User Interface Engineering tells of a client who, in one year, lost over $300 million in sales because he didn’t have a guest checkout option.
This is as simple as ABCD. Just allow guest checkouts. Guest checkouts prevent first time customers from being diverted into a new process. They also prevent returning customers, who can’t recall their passwords, from getting frustrated.
In the case study above, Jared and his group found that 40% of all returning shoppers requested password resets. Out of these, just a mere 25% did reset their password and only 20% of these completed the purchase.
6. Having a Long Checkout Process
Most people hate going to supermarkets and big retail stores as these shops usually have long queues at their checkout counters. That is why we opt to go online, right?
However, not all ecommerce websites realize how long checkout processes can frustrate customers. Some of them replicate that same problem, leaving customers very frustrated.
There are a lot of advantages of making your checkout process shorter and swifter. Baymard Institute conducted a study of the top ranking 100 ecommerce websites and found out that their average checkout process was only 5.08 steps long. It also showed that user satisfaction dropped as the process became longer.
Try to ask for only the important information that is needed to complete a purchase. Many sites do not even use the details they ask from buyers and hence customers find it extremely annoying when they are forced to give personal details that are not even relevant to the sites.
You can employ the use of auto-fill entries where possible as this helps shorten the checkout process. For example, after a buyer has given his or her zip code, use this to pre-fill his country.
Never request for the same information more than once. If the customers has already given you his or her shipping information, inquire if you can use the same for billing, instead of forcing the buyer to refill another form while essentially, he is giving the same details.
If your website’s checkout process is more than one page, you should put up a checkout progress indicator so that the customer can know the exact number of steps he is from completing the purchase.
Finally, your website should have a “Save for Later” option. This option works wonderfully for shoppers in a real hurry as it helps them save the items they are looking for and then come to buy them later. To ensure that a customer returns, send a follow-up email inside 48 hours of the shopper creating a cart.
7. Hidden Costs
How would you react if the price of the items you are buying increases by 5-10% by the time you reach the checkout page? You would not be happy at all, would you?
Research has revealed that hidden costs are the number one reason why people abandon shopping carts.
If not stated alongside the item’s price, hidden costs from a customer’s perspective may include:
- Shipping and handling costs
- Convenience fees
A study conducted by ComScore has found out that 61% of potential customers are likely to abandon their purchase if they find out that a site does not offer free shipping.
Try to reveal all the costs related to every purchase upfront. To avoid being ambiguous, include all additional costs and expenses on the product page. As you may recall, the online travel business was hard hit by unfavorable customer experiences sometimes back when they used to display just the base fare at the start, but as you start the checkout process, several other fees like the airport terminal user fee, airline fee, and fuel surcharge would be added to the original fare. This has changed as most airlines indicate the full fare at the start for clarity.
In the ecommerce industry, shipping is an inevitable cost. Therefore, if it is not possible to do free shipping all the time, it is good to put up a shipping cost calculator on your site so that customers can calculate and know the actual cost of the product plus shipping. A good example is eBay which, has a shipping calculator on all product pages.
8. Having Limited Payment Options
Imagine a shopper entering your website and finding exactly what he wanted, at the right place and time. Unfortunately, he cannot complete the purchase because your site did not offer his preferred payment mode.
You have done everything else right; from attracting customers to your site, guiding them through the shopping and checkout process, but you have failed at the final hurdle. This is a waste of marketing resources and should never be allowed to happen.
A research done by WorldPay as shown that by 2017, over 50% of all payments will be alternate payments. Currently, in the ecommerce sector, alternate payments account for 22% of all transactions worldwide.
With these statistics, it is advisable to try to add as many different payment modes to your website as you can.
You should also clearly display all the payment modes accepted by your website so that a shopper does not miss any of them and move on.
9. Not Having Live Help
What do you do when shopping for a shirt in your local department store but you cannot find the correct size? Definitely, you turn to the sales assistant.
While ecommerce sites cannot provide in-the-flesh help to a customer who is confused, most of them have email contact details or a call center number on their sites. Sadly, these modes of communication are time consuming and exhausting. Normally, sites take about 24 hours to reply to an email sent by a customer and call center numbers usually have long wait times. All this ends up ruining the shopper’s experience.
A good option is to offer Live Chat to customers. A study done by Forrester Research found out that of all online shoppers, 44% consider the live chat feature as one of the vital features of ecommerce sites. Another study by eMarketer found out that 63% of customers who use live chat are likely to come back to the website for another purchase.
In a nutshell, these are the major ways online retailers have been pushing potential customers off their ecommerce sites. Have you found one that you are guilty of? Kindly implement the proposed changes and you will not regret.