Top 10 E-Commerce Startup Mistakes To Avoid

e-commerce-smlTo succeed in e-commerce, an entrepreneur has to do a lot of tasks right. Given the minimal barriers to entry — low cost e-commerce website platforms and low or no cost marketing through social media, to name two of the most significant — online stores continue to grow like weeds. Avoid these 10 mistakes and you have a greater chance of rising to the top.

 

  1. Technology

Selecting the right e-commerce platform is fundamental to success. The right platform gives you the functionality needed at launch, and for at least a few years to come. If you have to repeatedly start from scratch with a new platform as your business scales — the cost, time and disruption are likely to be more than your business can handle. Additionally, make sure your platform comes from a reputable, financially stable company that actively and robustly supports the product. And finally, make sure the platform has top-notch UX design (see #7).

 

  1. Marketing

Avoid the two extremes of focusing on one area, like social media marketing, and focusing on too many areas. Far more effective is to concentrate your financial and human resources on one or two campaigns such as SEO and PPC advertising. It takes several months for Internet marketing initiatives to evolve and be properly evaluated. After six months, you’ll have a good idea whether to stick with your initial plan or move on to other types of marketing.

 

  1. Finance

It’s dangerous to launch a business without adequate funding. Are you in a position to keep operating if your business incurs losses for the first year? Two years? There are many funding sources — bank loans, angel investors, Kickstarter, family, friends, personal savings, etc. Smart entrepreneurs spend months — whatever it takes — organizing funding before opening their doors.

 

  1. Structure

If the business is a partnership, make sure decision-making authority is well defined and agreeable to all parties. Companies with contentious partners cannot move their business forward. Additionally, implementing a clear buy-sell agreement can help keep a business from disintegrating down the road if one or more partners exit.

 

  1. Supply Chain

Many startups are at a competitive disadvantage because larger competitors have lower costs and more efficient processes. (This is often why initial operating losses occur.) To compensate, entrepreneurs must negotiate vigorously for lower costs and keep fulfillment procedures as simple as possible. No frills!

 

  1. Branding

A key branding element many e-commerce entrepreneurs miss is establishing credibility. Nobody wants to buy from a fly-by-night operation, so your website must ooze credibility. This is usually done by displaying customer testimonials, case studies, logos of recognizable customers and/or suppliers, industry affiliations and authoritatively written website and blog content.

 

  1. Website

Perhaps even more important than branding is ensuring your website delivers customers an outstanding user experience (UX). Websites with a strong UX design are easy to navigate and simple to use — minimizing the number of clicks it takes for users to find what they are looking for. Learn more.

 

  1. Strategy

A solid e-commerce strategy is scalable. If you are looking only at the “now” you may be stopped dead in your tracks when your business grows to a higher level of complexity and scope. It is crucial to have a plan for handling fulfillment, customer service, inventory, billing, and other business functions when the business reaches a point where your current procedures are inadequate. Otherwise, you will lose control of your business and it will implode.

 

  1. Human Resources

Entrepreneurs are highly susceptible to burnout. Working 70-hour weeks may seem necessary, but they are not sustainable. Entrepreneurs who make it over the long haul take vacations, find time to relax, and feel comfortable delegating. Although this tip may sound like the easiest one on the list, it is arguably the most difficult for entrepreneurs to embrace.

 

  1. Sales

The key word to remember is “nurture.” If you sell items or services people buy repeatedly, nurture customers — it’s far simpler and less costly to do business with an existing customer than find a new one. Loyalty programs, attentive customer service and ultra-high quality are often the keys to caring for your customers. For one-time only sales, feed prospects with consistent (but not overly intrusive) marketing, and encourage sources of leads through referral incentives, affiliate marketing, actively participating in lead-sharing networks and publishing articles on high-profile industry websites and blogs. Sustain these efforts and your customer list will grow.

 

About the author:

Don Amato is Vice-President, Sales of Chicago Tag & Label in Libertyville, IL. Chicago Tag & Label offers innovative print solutions to help e-commerce businesses streamline processes. Some of their products include integrated forms and labels, packing slips, tags and more.

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About Dequiana Jackson

Dequiana Jackson, Founder of Inspired Marketing, Inc., helps overachieving women entrepreneurs conquer limiting beliefs and create marketing plans that grow their businesses. This includes one-on-one marketing plan development, digital product creation, web design and content marketing. Dequiana is the author of Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More and runs the award-winning blog, Entrepreneur-Resources.net.

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