The paradigm of purchasing is shifting. In 2010, e-commerce grew faster on a year-to-year percent change basis than total economic activity, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, despite its popularity, e-commerce success has proven elusive to many businesses, including successful big-box stores. Bill Leake, a former McKinsey & Company consultant and CEO of ApogeeResults, states, “Just about every multi-billion dollar traditional retailer teetering on the edge of insolvency has made massive nine and ten figure blunders trying to figure out e-commerce.”
Fortunately, Leake has also studied the problem enough to know what some of the most common (and most damaging) blunders are. Following are three of the most damaging pitfalls, as well as advice on how to avoid them.
1. Ignoring Search Trends and Social Validation
Modern businesses are beaten over the head with terms such as “SEO” and “social strategy” to the point that they are often discarded as useless buzzwords. While not all forms of social activity will apply to all businesses, the truth is that successful e-commerce requires your site (and product) to be easily found and trustworthy. That means taking the time to produce and deliver content that enhances the user experience and therefore increases page views and keeps customers happy.
The “4 P’s of Marketing” still stand, but their implementation has evolved for the digital age. Businesses should provide some sort of tool for connecting with their customer base in the form of an optimized social presence and possibly a blog. Use tools such as a one-page checkout and simple customer feedback form to ensure the impediments to buying are as minimal as possible. If a consumer has difficulty purchasing from your site, they probably won’t tell you about it. They will just shop elsewhere.
2. Failure to Track Projects and Manage Scope
While e-commerce differs in many ways from traditional commerce, the fundamentals still apply. Therefore, starting (or transitioning into) an e-commerce model without a clear idea of necessary resources, people, and money will result in an inefficient system that can bleed your profits over time. You might be able to gain basic insight into projects by simply using a paper-based system, but advanced time and resource tracking tools will quickly become necessary with business growth.
Many emerging e-commerce sites rely on a lean employee structure, optimizing efficiency and time-savings through an automated system which provides an immediate return on investment. For any method, you must know exactly what or who is available at any given time. Chasing the latest trends and investing money in unproven products can be disastrous unless you make those decisions in the context of the overall profitability of the business relative to their precise risk.
3. Choosing the Wrong E-commerce Software
Quality e-commerce software can greatly simplify the process of getting a store up and running. Conversely, poor software can cripple a company before it even gets off the ground. Unfortunately, many of the more damaging problems may not arise until after a store is already up and running. At that point, it can be incredibly difficult and costly to migrate to a new provider. Therefore, it is incredibly important to validate a software service before you buy.
Fortunately, the age of social media has made it relatively simple to determine user experiences with a software before you buy it. Check a company’s Facebook page, and if all of the comments detail significant issues, it’s probably best to steer clear. Another good rule of thumb is to call the software provider and schedule a demo or trial of the product. Usually, they will be happy to provide one. Finally, familiarize yourself with any service guarantees they have. A rock-solid guarantee is a good indicator that the business stands behind their software and offers a security blanket in case there is ever an issue.
While there are certainly other issues to avoid, failure to recognize any of these particular pitfalls can result in a catastrophe for any e-commerce focused business. Ultimately, a grasp of the fundamentals, an excellent product or service, and a little foresight when determining the tools you use will drastically increase your chances of e-commerce success.