10 Most Common Mistakes When Creating an Online Store
Do you want to start selling your products online? This is undoubtedly a great idea – people are more and more willing to buy online. E-commerce in Poland alone is developing dynamically and having your own eStore simply pays off – especially now, in the coronavirus pandemic and with the restrictions it has brought. In 2019 the eCommerce in Poland alone was worth over 15 billion USD and accounted for 11 percent of its retail market. According to estimates, this year the Polish eCommerce will grow by as much as 26 percent compared to last year – but we can assume that the final increase may surprise even the experts (source: PMR and Bezprawnik.pl).
However, before you get excited and start planning your own online store, learn what mistakes to avoid. The quality and the wide range of products are not enough for a successful business. Neither is a ready-made technological solution for your online store – for the best results, it’s often worth investing in a custom solution created especially for your business.
But first things first. Why Are So Many Online Stores Not Bringing Expected Profits?
Mistake #1: The Store Has Been Designed ‘For Everyone’.
‘Everyone’ means ‘no one in particular’. And your products will not be bought by everyone. Therefore, before investing in your own online store, think about who will be your main customers. Women or men? What is their age range? Do they like to use mobile apps or do they prefer to shop in a traditional online store using their desktop computers? How much are they willing to spend and what – apart from the price – is primarily attracting them to a store? Are they eager to participate in loyalty programs? And what communication channels do they prefer and what prompts them to buy?
Answering these – and similar – questions will allow you to properly build your online store. By ‘properly’ we mean that it will take into account the characteristics, habits and needs of people who will buy from you most often. Because from the UX/UI side, an online wine store targeted at wealthier or aspiring men aged 30+ will be designed differently than, say, a clothing store for teenage girls.
A clear definition of the target group and marketing personas will also be necessary for your entire business concept, not only for the online store. Doing this homework – based on reliable data and market research – is an investment that will pay off for sure.
Mistake #2: The Online Store Is Not Data-Driven.
Let’s make it clear: data about your online users is the most valuable asset you have. Knowing their characteristics, preferences and purchasing behaviors is the key to a stable growth and development of your online store. Therefore, it is very important that you implement and configure appropriate analytical tools (e.g. Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, Hotjar) – you need to determine, among others things, what and how will be counted. Only then will you know how your customers actually behave and your decisions will be based on hard data instead of intuition. The assumption that your online customers behave just like you do are a common mistake made by the beginning online entrepreneurs.
But what if you have just started building your online store and you don't have any buyer data yet? Use the Facebook Audience Insights tool, which will allow you to view the preferences, interests and behavior of a group of Facebook users of your choosing. Also use data collected and compiled by industry experts. Use this data to get started, then constantly update your knowledge – an your business decisions – based on customer data that you will start collecting in your online store over time. Here you can read more about web analytics.
Mistake #3: The Online Store Is Not Optimized For Mobile Users.
More than half of the Internet sessions is carried out using smartphones and tablets – and this trend is constantly growing. Therefore, focusing only on the comfort of those using laptops or traditional desktop computers is a dead end. Mobile devices are the future of the Internet and an increasing percentage of traffic in your store will be coming from them. Therefore, when building an online store you should adopt a mobile-first attitude. It means designing with the mobile users in mind, and only then adapting it for the traditional computer users, treating it as an improvement.
Also, remember that having a mobile version of your online store will make Google place it higher in their search results. And isn't that exactly what you’re interested in?
Mistake #4: The Online Store Doesn't Care About Development, Security and Maintenance.
Creating an online store that is able to handle traffic, display products to customers without problems and finalize their transactions is just the beginning. Providing adequate server power and service stability is the necessary minimum, but in itself it won't get you far.
Once an online store is created, it requires constant care – it should be maintained and developed. The emerging errors require monitoring and ongoing repair. The bottlenecks should be cleared. Technical problems – analyzed and conclusions drawn from them. You also need to take care of the efficiency of the source code and back ups, and keep the technology used up-to-date. This approach will also allow you to better prepare for any peaks related to e.g. Black Friday or promotional campaigns.
The same applies to the UX – you should observe (for example with the help of heatmaps or recordings) how your customers behave – what they click on and what they don't, what works well and what prevents them from making purchases.
You should also take care of the security of your customers sensitive data and ensure the standards of personal data protection, as imposed by the provisions of the GDPR. It all requires a lot of resources – both time and money. If your eBusiness is to be successful, you need to secure it right at the beginning.
Mistake #5: The Online Store Ignores the ‘Less Is More’ Principle.
Some eCommerce businesses fall victims to their own ambitions. Your eStore doesn’t have to be a complicated website with a multitude of features and delightful solutions. Such a thing is difficult to design and implement effectively. Instead, start from the necessary minimum – basic features to be able to test your product on the market. Find out what your customers really need, and plan further development of your online store based on that data. This approach is called Minimum Viable Product (MVP), i.e. a product with the minimum necessary functionality.
When creating an eStore in the MVP approach, you focus on the actual online needs of your target group – the purchasing process must be simple, easy to follow, and free of surprises, so that users do not get frustrated and want to finalize the transaction. At the same time, keeping it simple benefits you from the technical side. Many features means many places where things can go wrong. It’s better to use fewer solutions that are bulletproof than a whole bunch of them that will crash. This does not mean, however, that you should go for a ready-made solution. It’s better to choose a stable and scalable open-source solution or a custom one tailored to your specific needs – but as simple as possible at the beginning.
Mistake #6: The Online Store Is Built on a Technology That Has Incurred a Technological Debt.
When building an online store, you can use various technologies – each has its own advantages and limitations you should be aware of. When creating an eStore, you basically have 3 types of solutions to choose from:
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – allowing you to make changes in your store without development skills, but your choice is limited to the options made available by the service provider.
Open Source – enabling the website to be adapted to your specific needs, but its configuration and customization requires work of a developer.
Dedicated solution - i.e. the platform is created completely from scratch, and the software structure is customized for the specific needs of a business.
Remember that poorly selected technology will block further development of your eStore – e.g. when you’ll want to upscale your business. All errors in the website architecture resulting from rush, taking shortcuts and making concessions will sooner or later result in a costly hiccup. This phenomenon is called technological debt. Sometimes it grows so big that the development of the online store is blocked, and migrating to another technology becomes your only option - and an expensive one at that.
Therefore, it’s worth outsourcing building of an online store to external professionals who will choose optimal technology and take care of the quality of the solutions used. In the long run, this choice will allow you to avoid ineffective investments and save your time and money.
Mistake #7: The eStore Provides Too Little Content or the Content Is of Poor Quality.
Buying remotely comes with a certain risk – we do not see the purchased item, we cannot pick it up or try it on. Therefore, it’s necessary to provide customers with complete information about its features:
Detailed specification, including a clear size chart.
Many high-quality photos that can be enlarged and show the product in context (e.g. a blouse on a model).
A video of the product.
Purchase reviews, i.e. what those who have already bought it from us think about a given product (social proof should never be neglected!).
This information should be properly displayed. But it’s as important to use simple language of benefits. The customer must learn directly what the purchase of a product will give him/her.
Mistake #8: The Online Store Lacks a Clear Value Proposition.
Why should a customer buy from you and not from your competitors? You have to answer this question when setting to creating your online store. This will be your unique value proposition (VP) or - ideally, but not always possible - unique selling proposition (USP). Examples? Shipping within 24 hours. Attractive loyalty program. Free returns that allow you to see the product or try it on. Whatever you choose, make sure you communicate it clearly at every step of the customer's journey – and actually deliver on that promise.
Your value proposition can be complemented by emphasizing the credibility of your store, building trust in it. How? By clearly informing that the transactions made in your online store are safe. Just add logos of your partners (e.g. payment operators, courier companies), solutions you use (e.g. SSL, Trusted Shops or Norton Security certificates) and selected opinions of satisfied customers.
Mistake #9: The Online Store Has No Technical Documentation.
Imagine your online store has been running for a while and you want to update it, or quickly fix an error. Meanwhile, when building it no coherent technical documentation was created. The developer responsible for the project parted ways with you and took all the knowledge about the solutions used with him or her. Working without documentation will now cost you a lot of time and money.
It should be your habit to create and update technical documentation for your online store. It should be built and organized in such a way that any developer entering your eStore’s back end for the first time will be able to find information quickly. It’s equally important to store it safely and back it up regularly.
Mistake #10: The Online Store Is Not Intuitive For Users.
Caring for the user experience, i.e. the overall experience related to the purchase of a product in your online store, should be your priority. When creating an online store take care not only of the technical side of the project, but also make sure it’s pleasant, and that the finalization of the purchase leaves your customers with a sense of satisfaction.
How can you achieve this? Navigating the store, browsing products and adding them to the cart should be intuitive. All the information that is important for the customer, i.e. product specifications, prices, delivery costs and time, payment methods and returns/complaints policies should be properly displayed.
When building an online store, it's easy to overdo it. Some businesses focus so much on the graphic interface that it makes it difficult to use the store. Avoid this mistake at all cost – remember that less is actually more.
As in any business, e-commerce also involves a lot of risk. There are many factors that influence the ultimate success or failure of such an endeavor. Fortunately, when you start building an online store, you can learn from mistakes repeatedly made by others. The 10 described above are among the most common – and the most expensive at the same time.
Want to create your own online store, but you don't know how to go about it? Let's talk!
Creating an online store is one of the key elements of building your own e-commerce business. To learn more about other steps leading you to selling online, read this article.