01/10/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

5 Common Mistakes That Can Doom Your E-Commerce Startup

Retro flat style design vector illustration. E-commerce, shopping & delivery.
pulsar75 via Getty Images
Retro flat style design vector illustration. E-commerce, shopping & delivery.

According to a recent survey conducted by UPS, 70% consumers prefer to shop online, a clear indicator among others of the growing affinity for e-commerce stores. In India, the number of online shoppers is expected to grow from 40 million in 2014 to 65 million this year, with better infrastructure in terms of logistics, broadband and internet-ready devices.

Traditional businesses that we never imagined seeing online have set up e-commerce stores selling everything from shaving kits to carpets to art to anything else that you can think of. However, only a few businesses survive in the long run, and up to 75% of them fail.

For e-commerce startups, the challenge is tougher because you have to handle multiple aspects, ranging from technical, marketing to growth hacking and acquiring new users. There are bound to be pitfalls.

Here are the five most common mistakes made by e-commerce startups. Avoid these and you'll stand a fighting chance.

1. Failing to optimise the e-commerce store's navigation

An e-commerce store has to be easy to navigate, intuitive and frictionless right from the homepage to the checkout page and all other pages in between. If a visitor needs time to think about what action to take next, they'll be hugely turned off. Search (for visitors looking for a particular item), labels (avoid jargon) and visual appeal should be the highlights of an e-commerce store.

"[O]nly a few businesses survive in the long run, and up to 75% of them fail."

The navigation should be frictionless so that there is no hindrance when the buyer is making a purchase. Make the checkout form appear familiar, include autofill to make the process effortless and with the least number of steps. The shopping cart abandonment rate is 67%, the key reason being a complicated checkout procedure.

2. Prioritising features over strategy

E-commerce entrepreneurs spend a long time over minute feature details. if you have a strong e-commerce development partner, then leave the bells and whistles to them. Things such as optimising market strategy, finding loopholes in competitor strategies and other larger aspects need equal or more attention.

To start with, make a 12-week schedule, list down all the tasks and finish them by the end of the mentioned period. If a week passes by when you've merely focused on iterating trivial features, you'll end up being stuck in an endless cycle. To scale up quickly, concentrate on the critical features and strategies that move the wheel forward.

3. Neglecting to collect customer information

If you're wondering when to start collecting the audience contact information, here's the answer: start from day one of the launch. The best way to convey a message (thought leadership, discounts or new arrivals) is via e-mails and newsletters. A well designed website with no way to reach their target audience is of no use. You'll only land up promoting paid campaigns every time you need to shout a message to the audience!

If your content is interesting and adds value to the existing knowledge of the target audience, then the majority of your audience will come via e-mails. Don't spam your audience's inbox; if you are asking for their contact details provide something of value, such as a free coupon code.

4. Relying on the wrong marketing channels

The most common mistake made by amateur e-commerce entrepreneurs is pouring their efforts and time to the wrong marketing channels. Or even towards all marketing channels. As a startup, there are multiple things in your plate, and time and manpower constrictions are also daunting.

The marketing channels that work for one industry might not yield similar leads and results for yours. So test out each of the marketing channels before zeroing in on the two or three main ones. Optimise these channels to convey your brand message and capture more leads, using one as the primary platform and the other one/two as the next in importance.

"The most common mistake made by amateur e-commerce entrepreneurs is pouring their efforts and time to the wrong marketing channels. Or even towards all marketing channels."

5. Not giving enough importance to analytics

Being a startup in the e-commerce field, you need to keep a tab on both the time and the burnout rate to measure success. In absence of knowledge about the marketing channels that are working, there are all chances that you are wasting your time and efforts behind the wrong ones or not giving sufficient attention to the right channels.

To start with, Google Analytics will cover the basic requirements while a more detailed report on multiple aspects is shown by KISSmetrics. If content marketing is a part of your strategy, then the e-mail marketing funnel, such as the sent mail, delivered, unique opens and visits to the landing page, should be measured. For social media, Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics measure the performance of posts. While running PPC campaigns, measure the CPM (cost per impression), CPC (cost per click), CPA (cost per action) and CTR (click through rate). Create a consolidated excel sheet and track it religiously from the first day of your store launch.

Launching and running an e-commerce store can be an adventurous as well as daunting journey. It's filled with landmines which should be avoided right from the beginning. Avoid these common mistakes and you'll be among the lucky few whose startups touch success.

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