5 common ecommerce mistakes

James Greenwood

In the first of a series of guest posts James Greenwood shares some common ecommerce mistakes.

Ecommerce has revolutionised the way trading is being carried out, has created completely new enterprises and has provided existing retailers with a platform to trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

However, having developed and worked with retailers over the last 10 years to help them create their ecommerce offering, there are still critical mistakes being made.

Given this article has been written for Boagworld, and that Paul in particular loves a “top five” list, here’s my top five mistakes being made by e-retailers:

Mistake 1: Poor checkout Procedure


Unless you’re one of the “big boys”, forcing shoppers to register an account with you is likely to be a big mistake. There are very few online shops which get our repeat purchases and so warrant an account. On a big name site, I’m happy to sign up for an account as I’m more than likely going to use you again. Think Amazon.

However, for most eCommerce sites, I’d recommend the following:

  • From the basket screen, collect the customer details (Billing Address, Delivery Address etc). This should all be on one page, and not the “Step 1 of 5” method of 10 years ago!
  • Once this data has been collected, ask the user if they’d like to store their details with a password. Inform them that by doing so, it would enable them to retrieve their details when they next purchase, that they’ll be able to track their order or that they’ll be added to a mailing list. The key is to offer them something in return!
  • Take the order regardless of account creation or not.

You’ve not put anyone off from purchasing with you and also tidied up your mailing list to one of genuinely interested contacts.

Mistake 2: Failing to analyse all of your data

And, no, I don’t just mean check Google Analytics (although of course, you should be doing).

Every visitor to your site, whether they purchase from you or not, is revealing a wealth of information which if used properly, can improve your offer to the e-shopper. In fact, visitors who are not purchasing from you are almost more important to you than those that are….

Firstly, a good eCommerce platform should store lots of data about your shoppers. Basket data should be stored in the database, and any free text searches that are made on your site should also be stored too.

Get in to the habit of checking to see what items are being put into baskets versus the items being sold – you may well find that an offer on a particular line means you sell more. It might highlight that you need to reduce the price on a particular line, or it may highlight an issue with UI. Either way, using basket data allows you to react – this data is gold.

The same principal applies for free text search – knowing what people are searching for on your site allows you to cater for their needs.

Mistake 3: Confusing shoppers with categories

We’ve all seen them – categories with nothing in, categories with one product in or multiple categories on an eCommerce platform with a handful of products.

Screenshot showing lots of catagories

Don’t die by category overload – arrange them logically and simply, and provide your shoppers with means of filtering their results so they can find what they are looking for without having to rummage around surplus categories.

Mistake 4: Not being aware of how users are shopping

The advent of the tabbed browser has caused a problem for many e-retailers. Shoppers can now compare products side by side more easily now. Even less experienced Web users who only use the browser that came with their machine are now being encouraged by Internet Explorer to browse using tabs.

Screenshot showing tabbed browsing

Ensure pictures are sharp and informative, ensure descriptions are complete and full (there’s an SEO benefit in this too) and ensure that your prices are competitive. Oh, and don’t milk delivery charges!

Following this advice should mean than when side by side with a competitor, your store is the one which gets the cash.

Mistake 5: Not looking after your hard earned shoppers

It is easier to look after an existing shopper than it is to attract a new one. Don’t hide telephone numbers or email addresses on your site; always ensure that they are prominent. It might be that I want to ask a question before purchasing – encourage me to do so!

Once I’ve purchased, keep me informed with what’s happening with my order – if it’s on backorder unexpectedly, let me know. The chances are that I’ll understand, but by not informing me, my reaction is likely to be different. Don’t make me chase you to find out about my order – get in first!

So, selling online is as easy as that then?

To ensure a high percentage of visitors purchase, is it really as easy as making your checkout procedure easy, analysing data to find out what it is that I want to buy, ensuring I can find the product I want easily and then offering me a great deal on price and customer service values?

Well, yes, actually it is.

However, a great looking site that’s easy to find in the search engines, is marketed well online and offline and is easy to navigate also helps. That’s another article….

About the Author: James Greenwood

James is a director at media agency Strawberry and keeps a blog with articles and site portfolio. You can also follow him on twitter.