4 Things to Avoid When Launching an Ecommerce Website

Starting any kind of business comes with risk and these days, since it’s actually quite simple to use online resources to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, lots of people are doing it. That’s not to say that they’re doing it well, though, businesses fail every day online and the reason is usually down to one thing – a lack of decent planning.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional, with your fingers in several business pies, or you’re completely new to it, planning is something that has to be completed thoroughly if your business idea is to reach fruition. It’s necessary to find out if there’s actually a demand for your products in the first place, and how much competition is out there, and how the finances are going to work. Do all of this right and really, you shouldn’t have any problems launching your ecommerce site and starting to make money – although of course there’s no guarantee – don’t make any plans and it’s almost certain that you’ll fail.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the most common issues that entrepreneurs encounter when it comes to launching their ecommerce site.

#1: Not Setting Up Excellent Communications

A far-reaching term I know, but one that is essential to get right, especially with ecommerce. Customers demand a good service these days and if they don’t get it, they’re quite willing to let the whole world know via social media. It still amazes me that some business owners are willing to be out and out rude and nasty when they receive poor feedback. Don’t these people know that they could completely destroy their business reputation and with it, the business itself?

photograph picture of woman shouting into megaphone

Apparently not, just last week the news flew around social media that a restaurant owner in Manchester, UK had reacted to a poor review online by insulting the party that complained.

The above wasn’t even the worst of it and whilst it’s not nice to hope that the owner gets his just desserts, the arrogance and stupidity of his comments will surely come back to haunt him – and rightly so. Whilst the customer may not always be right, they do deserve your respect and for you to do everything that you can to ensure that they have a good experience, or you may come to regret it.

So when planning your ecommerce site, think about how you’re going to communicate with customers across a variety of platforms, such as:

  • Instant chat - this is highly useful for communicating with customers when they are actually on your site. Reps can answer customer queries instantly and as such, the customer will be more likely to buy there and then.

  • Email – building your list is vital if you’re to effectively market your products to both existing and new customers.

  • Telephone – some consumers do still use the phone to contact customer services, so do allow for yours to be manned during business hours at the least.

  • Social media – you should allow for social media to be manned on a constant basis during working hours too, ideally. Responses made to queries on social media should really be made within a couple of hours.
screenshot of facebook comment on a manchester 47 king street west restaurant's facebook page

These may all sound very obvious but it’s surprising how many sites still get it very wrong. If you’re going to offer IM for example, then never having it manned is counterproductive. I’m sure that you’ve come across sites where no matter what time of the day you’re accessing the site, there’s nobody answering the instant chat, so it’s effectively useless and worse, giving the customer the wrong impression of your company. Effective communication on all platforms requires people – excellent customer service reps – and will help you to build your online reputation and your brand.

#2: Creating a Feature-packed Site

Whilst it would be nice to have a site as powerful as Amazon, it’s not often possible within a limited budget. Ecommerce websites can run into the tens of thousands or they can be built for very little with a resource such as Shopify. Most people don’t understand the sheer amount of work and testing that a site that allows logins and purchases takes, so you should research a good development team and get plenty of quotes.

screenshot of shopify landing page

The price will depend on:

  • Customer base – if you have a large customer base then it’s likely that you will get a lot of traffic and this will require dedicated servers at the hosting end, and will dictate the size and experience of the development team.
  • Software – it’s very likely that you will need software to manage shipping, stock, invoicing and more and this can be expensive, depending on your needs. It’s possible to get off-the-shelf software if you’re a small company, but you may need specialist ERP solutions in which case you could be paying a lot more for thatand the extra work that the developers undertake in coding it.
  • Functionality – try to stay away from unnecessary features as these will add to the price considerably at times.
  • SEO – you may need to get an SEO professional in to carry out technical SEO for the site and ensure that you get picked up by the search engines.
  • Content – all websites need content so when planning, consider how much it’s going to cost to hire a good copywriter to take care of it.
  • UX – for an ecommerce site, user experience is everything and with this in mind, you may need to hire a UX designer to take care of the front end.

Whilst planning, research all of your costs and make sure that you have everything covered. Bear in mind that if you use a site builder, then it could limit what you can do with the site in the future. I would personally always recommend getting a good web development team in and having your site professionally hosted on a dedicated server for ecommerce sites.

photograph picture of a swarm of fishes

On all social platforms, make sure that you engage with everyone and you can also carry out the following:

  • Create offers for fans to win products so that you can essentially get them reviewed.
  • Create a static landing page for your site with an email form and instant chat so that people can register their interest and you can answer any initial questions about your products.
  • Ask editors in your niche if you can create guest posts to gain further exposure. These should be non-promotional when it comes to products, but you can promote your brand this way by positioning yourself as a thought leader.
  • Get creative! WOM (Word of Mouth) advertising is hugely effective and so should be taken full advantage of. Reach out to bloggers and YouTube stars to ask for their help promoting your products, you will of course have to pay them so look for those with a great social following in your niche.

I would recommend that you read up on growth hacking and influencer marketing in order to understand how you can effectively create such a great buzz and grow your email list so that your site is a winner as soon as it’s launched.

#3: Not Knowing the Customer

OK, so this is again something that should be done in the planning stage, but too many businesses don’t bother getting together one or more buyer personas. If you’re selling something then you need to know who you’re selling it to or it’s very likely that your business will fail.

photograph picture of a man covering his face aluminium foliage anonymous

Of course, you may be selling to a cross-section of people in different demographics, so it’s useful to get together a picture of who your ideal buyer is.

Think about:

  • Age
  • Level of education
  • Sex
  • Income
  • Geographical location
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Marital status

If it helps, you can get a stock image of a person to look at and help you to decide exactly who that ideal customer is in your head. You should have researched the market and identified that there’s a gap for your products to fill. You should also have looked into your potential competitors and decided what you can do to ensure that customers come to your site instead. You can also create a buyer persona for your worst imaginable customer – some find this helpful – in order to cover all of your bases.

Launching an ecommerce site is a big deal and can be expensive. It’s necessary to carry out a lot of planning well before you intend to launch the site as it’s this that will allow you to really test the viability of your idea. Many people find profit and loss and forecasting a problem and get hung up on the financials so ideally, you should meet with an accountant or business support professional to go through all of this before you begin building the site and the buzz. Social media is ideal for getting yourself out there, but you can also test reception to your products well in advance to ensure that it fits the market that you’re aiming for and there’s a demand for it.