Practical Ecommerce

6 Common Ecommerce Mistakes

Ecommerce businesses can be founded by massive corporations or by families working out of a garage. It provides a relatively level field for everyone to compete. And, like so many businesses, ecommerce operations often find unique ways to succeed.

This article’s purpose is to help ecommerce entrepreneurs find success more easily by warning about six common ecommerce mistakes that may hurt a fledgling business. This list is based on my own experience, and is by no means definitive. Nonetheless, at least being aware of these potential problems may help you and your business.

Bad Customer Service

In my opinion, customer service can be an ecommerce company’s single best product. Online customers have dozens — if not hundreds — of stores to choose from when making a purchase. Those stores that provide the best customer experience before, during, and after the sale will win customer loyalty.

Zappos is, perhaps, the single best example of what happens to an ecommerce business when it makes outstanding customer service a priority. The company has gone from startup to more than $1 billion in annual sales in 11 years using a simple mantra: provide outstanding customer service.

“We’ve been asked by a lot of people how we’ve grown so quickly,” the Zappos website says, “and the answer is actually really simple… We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy.”

Don’t let your ecommerce business make the mistake of providing bad customer service. Be responsive to questions and concerns, and occasionally surprise customers with free shipping upgrades or other unexpected benefits. Also try to engage customers with informative or entertaining site content before they buy.

Zappos has a reputation for outstanding customer service. Be like Zappos.

Zappos has a reputation for outstanding customer service. Be like Zappos.

Worrying Too Much About Prices

You do not necessarily have to have the lowest prices to earn sales. Be willing to be a market leader. Focus on things like providing outstanding customer service instead of slashing prices. If your prices are reasonable and your business provides a better purchasing experience, customers won’t quibble over a buck or two.

As an example, Zappos, which I described above, was selling a Dansko Stefanie shoe for $125 at the time this article was written. I was able to locate more than a dozen other stores selling the identical shoes for less.

Zappos sells the Dansko Stefanie for $125.

Zappos sells the Dansko Stefanie for $125.

Bur-Mar's sells the Dansko Stefanie for $120.

Bur-Mar’s sells the Dansko Stefanie for $120.

Don’t let your ecommerce business make the mistake of focusing only on prices. Customers buy for many reasons. Price is just one.

Miniscule Product Images

Remember ecommerce is about selling things online. You’re not going to encourage consumers to make a purchase if all you provide them with is a thumbnail size photo of the product. Rather, go large and go professional.

As a positive example, Jinx, a hip purveyor of gaming-and-geek-themed T-shirts, uses relatively large images, and often allows those images to be zoomed for even more product detail.

Jinx uses large, zoomable images to show off its products.

Jinx uses large, zoomable images to show off its products.

Don’t let your ecommerce business fail for lack of photography, include big beautiful images for every product detail page.

Poor Product Descriptions

While a picture is worth a thousand words, some products do require detailed product descriptions, too. Items that are common — say a T-shirt — will probably be fine with just a couple of bullet points about the material or printing technique, but it never hurts to say a little about how great the product is. More complicated or less common products absolutely deserve a well-written explanation.

Columbia Sportswear Company uses two paragraphs (73 words) plus five bullet points to describe a fleece hat.

Columbia Sportswear Company is willing to invest in product descriptions.

Columbia Sportswear Company is willing to invest in product descriptions.

Another example of a well-done product description comes from Husqvarna, an outdoor equipment maker. Husqvarna provides a prose description for each of its products, plus a detailed specification with more than 20 specific entries.

Husqvarna goes out of its way to provide detailed product descriptions.

Husqvarna goes out of its way to provide detailed product descriptions.

Don’t let your ecommerce business make the mistake of not telling customers about the product. Always provide a well-written and sufficiently detailed product description.

Not Including Product Reviews

Many researchers and experts believe that customer-generated product reviews are among the best form of product promotion. So no wise ecommerce business should miss the opportunity to let customers promote products or services via reviews.

Newegg devotes a tab to customer generated product reviews on nearly every product detail page. In many cases, Newegg gets fifty or more reviews for each product.

Newegg does a good job of promoting customer created product reviews.

Newegg does a good job of promoting customer created product reviews.

Don’t let your ecommerce business miss out on the power of product reviews. Include product reviews for every product. Customers trust them, and you should trust customers to write them.

Not Having a Blog

Your store’s blog should be the central hub for all of your marketing. If you are posting videos on YouTube, blog about them. If you have a contest running on Facebook, blog about it. It you post product updates on Twitter, link them back to the blog. If you bring in new products, blog about it. If you are thinking of bringing in new products, preview them on your blog.

LemonStand uses its blog to describe new product features, praise its customers, and get feedback from customers.

LemonStand's blog serves as the center of the company's marketing and customer interaction.

LemonStand’s blog serves as the center of the company’s marketing and customer interaction.

REI’s blog provides product previews, human-interest stories, and first-person descriptions of outdoors adventure.

REI engages customers with excellent blog content.

REI engages customers with excellent blog content.

Summing Up

There is no surefire recipe for ecommerce success, but I believe avoiding the mistakes described here will help.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. Adrian Halley February 16, 2011 Reply

    Nice article Armando – all good points for any ecommerce site. Ultimately, it can be difficult to gauge what experience customers have with your website, or any barriers they may have faced in trying to achieve the ultimate goal of their visit. A good customer feedback tool can really help here, plus it demonstrates to your customers that you are listening to and are interested in what they have to say.

    Adrian Halley,
    CEO, Feedbackify

  2. mollygriffin February 16, 2011 Reply

    Well put. There are many challenges to running an ecommerce store, but these 6 are easily avoidable mistakes that could hinder the success of your site. Customers rely on what other customers say before purchasing a product so lack of this feature can cost you sales. This is one of the most popular features with our clients here at Dydacomp, along with the customer also bought feature. Having a company blog is a great way to share product information, industry news, open up communications with customers and offers SEO value; there is no excuse not to have one.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Molly Griffin

  3. Damon February 18, 2011 Reply

    I am amazed every day at quality of product pages of ecommerce sites, even supposedly major sites. One little picture, showing one color option of some product, often taken out of context, sliced out on a white background so most product pictures look OK on the websites whatever background color. They may sell some, but poor shopping experiences leave much money on the table that optimized sites can easily scoop up.

    Bottom line… shopping is an emotional experience. When shopping in person, you are able to touch the merchandise, feel the material, examine the workmanship and in many cases try it on, take a test drive or sleep in that Sleep Number Bed for 30 days.

    With ecommerce, you get none of those tactile experiences. We purchase online largely from a 2D picture on a small monitor, so we must rely on other ways to spark that emotional interest in our shoppers. You’re article has provided some great ways to lead customers down an emotional path towards the shopping cart.

    Having lots of great pictures with multiple color options and angles should be at the top of the list. Follow this up with great product content so that the customer can see themselves wearing the sweater or driving that shiny new automobile and you’re well on your way to putting your customers in that emotional buying nirvana.

  4. burak February 22, 2011 Reply

    thanks for your great article. I m thinking about open an online store after my blog and this article is gonna be valuable konwledge for me. but I d like to ask something about you know different store that has perfecgt customer service like zappos ?

  5. Alejandro Barquero Payo January 12, 2012 Reply

    Buen artículo. Sin duda muy acertado. Zappos es una buena referencia. La visité en Nevada y fue una gran experiencia. Espero poder poner en práctica sus principios en mi parafarmacia online

  6. Alicia May 21, 2015 Reply

    Very good stuff. I will be making some changes to my website tonight! Thanks.