9 Rookie Mistakes Retailers Make With Their Online Presence

Woman holding credit card purchasing something on her phone.

Guest post from Money Crashers

Congratulations! You’re online with a web-based store and sales are starting to come in. That’s great, but it’s not good enough. If your online store isn’t optimized, you’re losing sales every day. That’s money out of your pocket and into the pockets of your competition.

Make no mistake. They’ll use some of that money to double-down on their own marketing and online presence, so next month they’ll get a bigger piece of the pie. As a business owner, you surely don’t want that to happen. If you want to reverse that flow and make your slice the biggest, check your online store for the following nine all-too-common rookie errors:

9 Rookie Mistakes Retailers Make Online

1. Invisible Calls to Action

A good retail website never leaves a visitor wondering how to buy a product. The bad ones force potential customers to click through multiple pages. Or, they leave customers to hunt on a single page for a poorly positioned or hidden button. This costs sales and hurts site traffic in the form of return buyers. It is not for you.

Put a strong call to action in at least two places on every page on your website. One should be “above the fold” plainly visible when the page loads, without the reader having to scroll down. The second should be at the bottom of the page’s main content. Not below the bottom matter, but right next to the last words they read in the article, blog post, or product description.

Bonus Pro Tip: Create multiple landing pages — complete with calls to action — for individual products. Build them to attract and convince different buyer profiles, or test two ideas and see which one results in the most sales over a couple of months.

2. No Data Collection

We don’t have to teach you the statistics of how much more profitable repeat customers are than new customers. If you don’t collect data about who buys from you, your ability to foster repeat business is severely compromised because you don’t know how to contact them directly.

Create a newsletter or subscription model for new buyers to opt-in when they are the most excited about your product — when they first make the purchase. Use it as the backbone of your customer retention model by sending free information, bonuses, and promotions just often enough to stay on their minds.

Bonus Pro Tip: Also use your contact list to ask customers what you can do differently. Nothing turns a client into a fan and friend like listening to them and acting on what they tell you.

3. Confusing Checkout System

Retailers lose sales every day because a committed buyer gave up during checkout. You’ve done this yourself — tapping out during checkout — because the interface was confusing, loaded too slowly, or made you worry about whether or not the transaction was successful.

Beat this by installing simple, easy, reliable checkout systems on your website, just like the ones offered by Fattmerchant for businesses of every size and budget.

Bonus Pro Tip: Test your checkout system on a desktop, laptop, tablet, and phone. Just because it’s simple and clean-looking on one device doesn’t mean it isn’t buggy and unattractive on another.

online shopping

4. Poor Image Quality

Whoever originally said “don’t judge a book by the cover” never bought a book, or designed their covers. People judge products by their appearance all the time. Depending on who you ask, it’s either the most important or the second-most important factor in a potential customer’s decision to buy or not to buy.

Make certain every image of what you sell is sharp, high-quality, high-definition photography that shows your product in the best possible angles, lighting, and positioning. It’s worth the investment to hire a professional to do this for you.

Bonus Pro Tip: Make sure the images match your products exactly. If you have blue and red versions of otherwise identical products, that means you need two pictures.

5. No Dedicated Team

It’s true that the core concepts of retail apply no matter where you do your selling. This doesn’t change just because your store goes online. Beyond that, though, the best practices of online retail differ greatly from those of physical selling in a brick-and-mortar space. Worse, physical retail teams also assigned to mind an online store often maintain the website-side of the shop “when they have time.” It becomes an afterthought when it could be a low-cost, 24/7 sales force.

Put at least one person in charge of your retail store and nothing else. If you have a small shop or if you’re on your own, make that a portion of each day or week. For example, a couple running an Etsy shop on their own could dedicate Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to the management of their online presence. Assign this responsibility to someone so that at least one person is making it a priority.

Bonus Pro Tip: Look into hiring freelance professionals for a lot of this work. It can free you up to focus on the parts of the business you love, and when done right, it pays for itself.

6. Going for the Big Reboot

No matter what your web guy tells you, or your “shoulder devil” suggests, the chances are that you don’t need to spring for a full redesign of your website to boost your online retail sales. This is true even if you haven’t made any major changes since the Clinton administration.

Most of the time, the desire to make big, sweeping changes is actually procrastination in disguise. It allows you to delay seeing if your retail shop can really work. Instead, bite the bullet. Make your shop as awesome as possible in its current environment. You can redesign it later — after it has made enough money to pay for the redesign on its own.

Bonus Pro Tip: For most retail websites, just a little extra attention to small details like font choice, image quality, and spacing can make all the difference you need.

'using computer to put in credit card info'

7. Skimping on the Copy

Yes, we know writing product descriptions isn’t the most exciting thing you’ve done this week. It isn’t even the most interesting thing you’ve done in an hour you spend writing product descriptions. And no, it’s not an excuse for writing bad product descriptions.

After the reviews and images, product descriptions are the most important factor in deciding to buy. Make your product descriptions informative, comprehensive, and easy to read. The more potential buyers can learn about what you offer, the more of them become actual buyers.

Bonus Pro Tip: For a model of how to do it right, go look at the Amazon listings for the best-selling products in the categories where you sell. Amazon is ferociously competitive, and only the best-written copy rises to the top.

8. Going Too Big With Video

Consumers love online video, but they won’t love it on your retail pages. By the time they get there, anything between them and the buy button is a chance to lose their interest. Some items call for video, especially complicated devices that need a how-to explanation or items that are simply stunning when they’re in motion, but for most, some good still images are sufficient.

Instead, use videos for your content marketing — the reports, how-to’s, instructions, and other informative pieces you send to your leads and repeat customer newsletter. That’s where those should be; where they meet the audience is where they can do the most good.

Bonus Pro Tip: Every video you ever make should also go on your YouTube channel. There, they serve as support for your social media and draw in leads from the power of Google’s own algorithms.

9. Passing on Customer Service

Somebody with enough Internet savvy to buy your product has enough Internet savvy to leave a scathing review, and tell all their friends about it on every social media channel they can find. And yet, too many businesses leave the online shop unattended while focusing on in-person service.

Avoid this mistake. Use alerts, online chat, social media monitoring, and good old-fashioned customer service phone numbers to catch an unhappy customer before they can start to unload. Then, use that opportunity to wow them with your accountability and honesty.

Bonus Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to have one person responsible for customer interactions. That means everybody knows whose job it is, and that person can be there for every stage of a complex, multi-step interaction. Once your business grows large enough that one employee isn’t enough, that’s a good sign you’re doing a lot of things right.

cheerful man in customer service wearing phone headset at computer.

Final Thought

This could be an intimidating list, especially for people who happen to be making many of the mistakes on it. But don’t panic. That describes the majority of online retail businesses operating today.

Start small. Choose the one mistake you think will be the easiest to reverse. Then, use the extra money and time from correcting it to tackle the next easiest tip. Repeat this process until you’ve built the online retail empire your business deserves.

What tips have helped you build a strong online presence? Of the mistakes you’ve made, which ones have taught you the most?

Nick Peterson is a freelance writer and editor with over 10 years of experience. He writes about business management and social media for several websites. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.


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