Practical Ecommerce

4 Mistakes that Cost Online Stores

The process of capturing customers to your online store involves multiple steps, typically.

  • Getting shoppers to visit your store.
  • Helping them find what they are looking for quickly and efficiently.
  • Showing them the information they want about the products they are looking for.
  • Providing a fast, secure, and easy method to add items to a shopping cart and checkout.
  • Delivering the products the customer ordered in a timely manner.

This oversimplifies a bit, as shoppers frequently visit many stores and compare prices, products, features, and more. But, for the most part, these are the primary elements that you control as the storeowner.

For my recent online shopping experiences, the reason that I chose one store over another did not necessarily involve the products they sold or the prices. In fact, I didn’t get to that point in several stores because they failed to land me where I expected — from a pay-per-click ad — or because they did not provide good search or navigation. For other sites, I reached the product pages, but they didn’t provide adequate, descriptive content, and I ended up buying from another store. In a few cases, they failed to provide a shipping estimator in the shopping cart.

In this article, I’ll focus on the four mistakes those storeowners made that simply are not tolerated by most shoppers today.

1. Ineffective Landing Pages

Most ecommerce businesses spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to their stores from search engines, emails, and social media. To execute these campaigns well, merchants should ensure that the links provided for a given ad land the visitor on a page that is relevant to the ad or link they clicked on.

But, I am amazed at how many stores simply direct traffic to their home pages or to products unrelated to a given search or ad. If you are selling iPhone 5 covers and your ad features the word iPhone 5 covers, be sure to land your customer on a page that sells iPhone 5 covers. If you route traffic to your home page, you risk losing customers immediately who simply do not want to have to navigate through your store to find what they are looking for.

In the case of a newsletter promotion, if you are featuring a product or group of products at 30 percent off, then be sure to land your customer on a landing page that reinforces that promotion. Ideally, if you design an ad, try to represent the same messaging in your landing page. Most stores find that their conversion rates for product or category specific landing pages that are consistent with their promotional messaging have much higher conversion rates.

2. Poor Site Search

Because of search engines like Google and Bing, shoppers expect superior search tools in online stores. For the most part, the site search function included in most shopping carts do not meet the expectations of shoppers, who want a search experience that makes suggestions, handles plurals and typos, includes a thesaurus, determines relevancy, and delivers results in a user friendly manner.

Shoppers also look for guided navigation and filters to narrow their selections. You will find those types of features on virtually all of the top retail sites today.

There are several good third-party site-search tools. Google licenses its site-search function to smaller retail stores as well. Check out what your competitors are doing and upgrade if your search is lacking. Increasingly, shoppers use search as their primary method of navigation.

3. Poor Product Content

Even with an effective landing page and a useful search tool, you will also need to deliver rich content. Shoppers are demanding multiple images and zoom, reviews and ratings, original and detailed descriptions, technical specifications, and other details. Product-comparison features are widely used. Complementary products add both visual appeal and provide a reason for visitors to invest more time in your store. Videos are widely used for more complex products.

I go to Amazon for product information if a given store lacks the level of detail I am looking for. I may go back to the original store where I found a product, but frequently I will simply get lost in the Amazon.com maze of products and suppliers and one of them will get the deal.

4. No Shipping Estimator

This is a personal pet peeve. If I can’t tell what my shipping costs are in a shopping cart and a site forces me to fill out all my personal information before know my shipping costs, I will not buy from that store under any circumstance. If you are still doing that, you are losing more sales than you know. With the rise of free shipping, consumers simply will not tolerate sites that are not transparent in their shipping costs.

But even worse are those that add a handling fee without explaining it upfront. For example, I recently shopped online for spa chemicals that are bulky and heavy. I found a site that offered free shipping. When I arrived at the final approval screen, a “handling charge” suddenly appeared. The link next to it explained that although the shipping was free, all orders incurred this charge. I left, never to return.

Be sure that your shopping cart includes a shipping estimator. Ideally, it will offers the shipping options, allow shoppers to enter their shipping addresses or zip codes, and will consistently update the shipping costs as the shopper adds items to the cart. If you offer free shipping at some purchase level, be sure to let the shopper know they have achieved that level and that shipping is now free.

Dale Traxler

Dale Traxler

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  1. Mike Darnell March 17, 2013 Reply

    Also, we find that stores often do not invest in effective presentation of the products. A good slideshow, description and even product video can go a long way making or breaking that sale.