By 2021 approximately 1 in every 4 people on the planet will shop online. For ecommerce entrepreneurs that’s a huge opportunity. But the competition for those online buyers will be fierce.
To be on the winning side you need to be on top of your ecommerce game. There are common mistakes that can undermine even the best ecommerce marketing strategies. Avoid these and you’ll be well positioned for success.
#1 Unsegmented email lists
Imagine that you are running a fast-fashion website. The majority of your customer base is women in their early 20’s but you also have a sizeable male market as well. If everyone on your email list receives the same email newsletter, you shouldn’t be surprised if it is not incredibly responsive. In general male and female customers will want to be presented with very different offers.
And this is only a very obvious example of the need for segmentation. Your customer base can be split by far more than by gender. The more tightly you can define and segment audience the more your newsletter content and offers will connect with that audience. Having a segmented email list will increase open rate, click throughs and decrease unsubscribes.
Segmentation also allows you to target the frequency of your emails appropriately. A portion of your customers will be avid buyers who are highly engaged with your brand. For this segment you should be mailing and presenting offers frequently. For those that are less engaged you should decrease the frequency.
#2 Unpersuasive product descriptions
John E Kennedy, a pioneer of modern advertising, once remarked that:
“copywriting is salesmanship in print”
Your product descriptions accomplish the same objective as a salesperson in a store. They persuasively describe the unique features and benefits of that product. Without a properly written product description, it is like having a retail store with no salesperson. Despite this many eCommerce stores fail to include descriptive copy that actually sells the product.
Writing a good product description begins with thinking about who the ideal buyer for that product is. If you are able to “speak the same language” as your prospect you will be on a solid path to building rapport and ultimately making a sale.
Next think about the benefits of your product. Most eCommerce websites are pretty good at listing the features of their product. It is benefits that they frequently fail to include.
A feature is a factual description of the product. Features of a smartphone might include 4.7 inch display, 64GB of storage and a single lens, rear camera. The benefit is the result that the product delivers. It’s the “what’s in it for me”. To use our smartphone example; the phone might include an integrated email application. That is the feature. The benefit is that people can check their email no matter where they are. It’s benefits that will convince the prospect to open their wallets.
Another common mistake is to avoid “me too” statements. Customers have seen countless products described as “excellent quality” – you are hardly going to say otherwise! What’s more excellent quality doesn’t really tell the prospective buyer anything about the product. If you were selling shoes, instead of describing them as being great quality, you might go into detail about the specific type of leather used, the small Italian workshop where the are designed, the history of the family of artisans who crafted them. Create a story which sells that product.
#3 Reinventing the wheel
Trying to “reinvent the wheel” can be incredibly costly in both time and money. Of course, there are areas where you want to differentiate between your brand and your competitors. But, there are also plenty of areas where it makes sense to use a pre-existing solution.
Perhaps most importantly is the platform you are using. There are plenty of well established platforms such as Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce that you can use to setup your online store. You don’t need to build a custom solution. These solutions are well tested and robust.
What’s more customers like a predictable shopping experience. Remember that predictability makes customers feel reassured. And a customer that feels comfortable with their shopping experience is far less likely to abandon their cart.
#4 Failing to get help
Along with re-inventing the wheel a similar problem is not getting help when needed. There are dozens of different tasks that need to be performed to run an eCommerce website. From design to copywriting to SEO to paid advertising to coding to product fulfillment. No one person can do all of these well.
Especially when you are starting out with your eCommerce website it can be tempting to try and do as much as possible yourself. While it is good to have an understanding of how each of the elements of your eCommerce website, eventually you will hit a wall if you fail to get help. There are only so many hours in the day. Leveraging other people’s expertise and time is the secret sauce to scaling your eCommerce store.
Identify where your own strengths and skills are. For anything that falls outside of those areas you should look for help. If you aren’t already a trained graphic designer or programmer, then it doesn’t make sense to develop these skills and run the other aspects of your website.
#5 Copy-cat product descriptions
Copying description provided the manufacturer will reduce the amount of organic traffic that your website will receive. Google is less likely to rank your product listing if it has exactly the same descriptive text as other websites. In contrast, a uniquely written product description is far more likely to rank well in the SERPs.
The compounding effect of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of unique product descriptions, can be a ton of free visitors to your website. All it takes is time and a little creativity.
#6 Lack of responsive design
It is predicted that by 2021 more than half (53.9%) of all eCommerce sales will take place on mobile devices. (2) The need to have a website which is responsive to a range of devices; desktop, mobile and tablet is well known. Despite this there are still a surprisingly large number of eCommerce websites that fail to use responsive design.
If your eCommerce has a poorly designed UX for mobile, then you can be relatively confident that it will be costing you sales. If a difficult is difficult to navigate or purchase from, customers will simply go to a competitor that makes this easier.
#7 Not testing price points
Failing to price your products correctly can be a fast road to business failure. You need to be sure your pricing accounts for all of your costs including marketing, platform fees and fulfilment. Incorrectly priced products mean that you can actually lose more money the more products that you sell.
A common benchmark in retail is to double the cost of goods, providing a 50% markup. this is known as keystone pricing. In some cases applying some variation of keystone pricing, tweaking up or down, may be appropriate. But pricing is also a much more flexible concept than many online store owners realise. Consumers faced with incomplete information about a product will often use price as a guide for quality. A high price can signal that a product is higher quality.
The actual figure itself can also influence whether someone buys your product. In a study by MIT researchers titled “Effects of $9 Price Endings on Retail Sales” the same piece of women’s clothing was sold at price points of $34, $39 and $44. The $39 price tag outsold both $34 for $44. Keep in mind that this was for exactly the same item.
Don’t be afraid to test your pricing. You may find that increasing your pricing, actually increases your sales volume.
Eleanor Roosevelt once remarked “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” In the darwinian environment of online sales it’s advice that is well worth taking to heart.