7 E-Commerce Challenges and How to Solve Them

To be successful, an e-commerce business needs the right formula. This includes a number of elements like a solid USP, engaging content that matches what your audience is looking for, and a lead generation strategy, among others.

Without this formula, your business lacks a reliable (and repeatable) system that both generates interest and converts this interest into new customers.

The result? A company that is hoping to strike it rich while tragically basing their strategy on shots in the dark.

With that in mind , we have gathered the most common e-commerce challenges. These are problems that most e-commerce businesses will face at one point or another. Implement the tips and advice we share and you will be one step closer to your own formula for success.

7 common e-commerce challenges

  1. Clever competition
  2. Being data privacy-compliant
  3. Customer experience
  4. Lead generation and conversion
  5. Long support waiting times
  6. Cart abandonment
  7. Content marketing

Clever competition

There are competitors in every industry. Taking into account how the internet has changed the dynamics of the game and massively lowered the barriers to entry (your 14-year-old neighbor with an iPhone has never seemed so threatening), almost anybody can give you a run for your money. This means your customers have more options than ever before.

This competition has very real effects on e-commerce businesses: rising costs, the need for more buying options, and a heightened demand for personalization. To adapt, your most serious competition in recent years has gotten clever. They are more creative in appealing to consumers’ modern habits and actively avoid outdated marketing practices.

This all makes differentiation essential. So many businesses fail because they drown in a saturated market. What makes you different? What sets you apart from everybody else, and how can you make sure potential customers know it?

Screenshot of Dollar Shave Club's website
By positioning themselves as a ”no hassle” service that delivered quality blades at a cheaper prices, Dollar Shave Club went up against a billion dollar industry… and won.

Here are some ways you can try to differentiate yourself:

  • Identify and publicize your unique selling point (USP). By highlighting the things you do better (or at least different) than your competitors, you have a decent chance at converting site visitors into customers.
  • Speak confidently about your product. You should be ready with evidence to answer the question, "Why should I choose your product over your competitors?" Focus on your strengths when writing about your company, not things you’d improve or are missing.
  • Read reviews about your company. This gives you a good idea of your audience’s honest and unfiltered opinions. Be sure to act on feedback where it fits your business best. For example, we added the “calls” feature to our product after hearing repeated requests for it.
  • Surprise your customers with special gifts. Everybody likes to feel appreciated. Check out American Marketing Association’s tips for doing it most effectively.

Being data privacy-compliant

Without a data privacy guarantee, many potential customers will think twice before doing business with you. If you don’t prioritize data privacy / protection, you could also be subject to fines from laws like the GDPR.

Here are some other reasons why data privacy is so important:

  • Global reach. The larger your market is, the more you will be subject to laws all around the world. It pays here to take the topic seriously.
  • Respect for customers. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being treated as a commodity. As the report “Corporate data responsibility: Bridging the trust chasm” points out, data privacy is a topic that more and more people prioritize.
  • Security for your business. Let’s face it: your customers aren’t the only ones that can be negatively affected by data breaches. By establishing a culture of data protection, you set yourself up for long-term security and trust in your company.

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Data compliance laws are subject to change and you should always try to stay updated on the topic. That said, here are some of the most important actions to work toward being compliant.

  • Have an honest privacy policy. Data collection to a certain extent is expected, but you need to let customers know which data you collect - and why.
  • Only collect data you need. As effective as data can be to grow your business, gathering too much looks suspicious and risks trust.
  • Encrypt your data. As for the data that you do collect, encryption is the name of the game. Check out G2’s list of best encryption software.
  • Keep your software updated. This applies not only to the tools that you invest in, but the apps that you use at your business, as well. For example, here’s our article on GDPR compliance with WhatsApp as an up-to-date reference for what you should know.

Customer experience

When it comes to customer service in e-commerce, we have it all wrong. That’s because (as Harvard Business Review points out) we are too busy trying to delight our customers. The first goal shouldn’t be “exceptional” service. Instead, focus on providing a product that is kept updated, works as it should and meets your customer’s expectations.

Customers have a tendency to criticize a poor experience far more than they praise a good one. You’ll stand out from your competition and improve your lead generation efforts if you remove obstacles for the customer and create a seamless experience.

With all of this in mind, here are some ways you can avoid this e-commerce challenge:

  • Keep your design clean. Your web visitors don’t want to feel overwhelmed when they interact with your site. Follow these five simple UX principles to stand above the competition.
  • Implement quizzes on your site. Quizzes appeal to your site visitor’s natural curiosity, which makes them great as lead magnets. However, they are also a fun and engaging way of ensuring your visitors get the exact recommendation they are looking for.
  • Use simple and direct copy. The reading experience is an important part of the web user’s journey. Nobody wants to scan pages to find what they’re looking for. Opt for lean pages with text that gets the message across quickly.
Image of an old confusing parking sign and a designer's new version
Designer Nikki Sylianteng’s proposal to simplify confusing Los Angeles parking signs. A testament to the power of keeping things simple and clear.

If you want even more CX recommendations, check out our CEO’s article on improving customer experience.

Lead generation and conversion

Leads are the lifeblood of any business. Underperform here and your email list will stagnate, you’ll have less interest in your product and services, and your stream of new customers will eventually dry up. That’s why it’s important to invest as much time and resources as you can into lead generation (and conversion) processes that work.

infographic of a lead generation funnel

Still, not every e-commerce business has the luxury of putting their lead generation on autopilot with a CRM tool. For some things, you simply have to put in the work yourself. Here’s a list of our best content that will help you do just that:

Long support waiting times

Nobody likes to wait. In fact, customers report “long hold times” as their number one frustration. If you want to cut down on long support waiting times, you need to transition away from the phone to something more in line with your customers’ communication habits — a tool like live chat.

Live chat/messaging is a popular solution that is here to stay. One of the biggest reasons is how much it cuts down on average customer wait time. In 2020, for example, the average wait time globally was only 35 seconds!

Userlike on Titus' website
Titus uses our live chat solution to stay close to their website visitors.

Userlike was designed to end waiting times for customers. WIth our tool, for example, a single agent can help up to five people at once. Plus you can intelligently route the customer to the best agent for their specific problem. Compare this to calling where your agents are tied to one customer at a time with varying resolution times.

Live chat and messaging is more discrete and accessible, making support possible at any time at the customer’s convenience. This speed and ease is one of the hallmarks of customer service in e-commerce and will set your business apart.

Cart abandonment

Every year, millions of people visit businesses like yours, put an item in their online shopping cart, but abandon it before checking out. This is an e-commerce problem that affects over 80% of businesses worldwide and is a major frustration.

A clever strategy will help you convince people to go through with a purchase, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, live chat simulates what good sales people do: create desires and nudge people to buy. These features will send your cart abandonment rates plummeting:

  • Proactive chat. Approach website visitors that have shown interest in your product before they directly contact you. ( Pro tip: time your proactive chat to trigger just as your website visitor is likely to have a question. This is typically 30 seconds on a checkout page, 2-3 minutes on a product page and 10-30 seconds on a support page.)
  • Chatbots. Because they work 24/7, chatbots are capable of answering simple questions and fulfilling common requests at all hours of the day. This makes them your secret weapon for battling cart abandonment around the clock.
  • Advanced data. This information allows you to precisely target customers based on their stage in your lead generation funnel. Customized support (and its positive effect on an e-commerce challenge like cart abandonment) has never been easier.
  • Persistent shopping cart. By enabling the right cookies on your site, your customer’s online cart is saved for when they resume their browsing session. This makes the buying process easier for your customer and avoids any frustration of starting over if they exit your site before purchasing.

Content marketing

Quality content (not shallow blog posts bought from content mills) is the key to long-term growth. Too many businesses skip on this because it’s tedious work with high competition. But it’s undeniable — blog posts, whitepapers and other written materials are incredibly useful for selling your product and convincing customers. It drives long-term traffic and pivots your business as a valuable, trustworthy source.

Even if your content writing is slow, make it valuable. Publish keyword-rich posts and speak directly to your customer’s pain points. Evergreen e-commerce content will help your audience in the long-term. In doing so, you establish a relationship of trust that leads to more sales.

Screenshot of the Userlike blog
Just a few of the topics we cover on the Userlike blog based on SEO research.

This is what we do at Userlike. Our keyword research has shown us that lead generation, chatbots, and WhatsApp are some of the topics that our audience care most about…so this is the e-commerce content that we create. SEO might seem complicated on the surface but it’s essential to a business’s growth. For more information on doing the process the right way, check out our post on SEO for lead generation.

Grow your e-commerce business with these quick tips

E-commerce challenges are common for every business. However, keep these key takeaways in mind and you’re on the right track:

  1. Make your product stand out. No matter what you are selling as an e-commerce business, there is competition trying to take your customers. Be different.
  2. Take your marketing seriously. This is how you communicate with your customers and convince them of your product’s usefulness in their life. Here are six tips for boosting your sales power with effective team product knowledge training.
  3. Prioritize data privacy. This not only wins you respect, but in a world where data protection is increasingly becoming a priority, you’ll encourage people to be repeat customers because of the security you offer.
  4. Reduce waiting times with live chat. People want answers to their questions fast. Live chat is one of the best possible ways to make that happen.
  5. Invest time and effort into your website design. The impression you create with a site that is clean and easy to understand will pay dividends. Here’s how to design a website with customer experience in mind.

Good luck! Remember: e-commerce challenges will always exist, but a good plan and a healthy dose of action is how you build your own formula for success.