13 mistakes e-merchants make too often (and cost them money)

Ready to get started in e-commerce, but afraid of the pitfalls that could trip you up? Dive into our comprehensive guide, which reveals the most common mistakes, as well as foolproof ways to avoid them.

November 27, 2023

You've finally launched your ecommerce site and you're excited. 

Your digital shelves are stocked, your site is online, and the dream of taking the lion's share of the ecommerce market is more alive than ever. 

But wait, it's not time to break out the champagne just yet. 

Ecommerce is littered with mistakes and missteps that even seasoned veterans sometimes stumble over.

Together, let's take a look at the mistakes that can derail your plans, and explore some practical tips to keep your ecommerce store running like a well-oiled machine.

What are the most common ecommerce mistakes ?

  1. Ignoring mobile optimization
  2. Overcomplicating checkout process
  3. Skimping on product descriptions
  4. Neglecting SEO strategies
  5. No trust signals
  6. Underestimating customer reviews
  7. Inadequate customer service
  8. Poor inventory management
  9. Overlooking analytics
  10. Lack of personalization
  11. Failing to retarget abandoned carts
  12. Missing out on Google Shopping
  13. Not offering loyalty programs

1. Ignoring mobile optimization

Your audience isn't just sitting at a desktop. They're scrolling through their phones at coffee shops, in transit, and even during TV commercials.

As proof, 59.8% of online purchases in 2022 were made via a cell phone (WeAreSocial & Meltwater, 2023).

Overview of consumer goods ecommerce by WeAreSocial and Meltwater

Ignoring mobile optimization is like organizing a welcome party and forgetting to send out the invitations. 

You'll sideline a large part of your potential clientele, leaving them frustrated by clunky interfaces and microscopic buttons. 

The user experience suffers and, by extension, so do your conversion rates.

So, if you don't want to turn your back on more than half of all online shoppers, here are a few practical tips to follow.

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Responsive design: Invest in a responsive website design that auto-adjusts to fit various screen sizes.
  • User testing: Conduct user tests to find out where your mobile experience may be lacking. Sometimes the devil is in the details—a button that's too small to tap, a form that's cumbersome to fill out, and so on.
  • Page speed: A slow website is a no-go, especially on mobile where users expect snappy load times. Use tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to get a read on your speed.
  • Simplified checkout: On a small screen, less is definitely more. Simplify the checkout process for mobile users by offering features like digital wallets, quick fill options, and a straightforward path to buy.

Speaking of checkout…

2. Overcomplicating checkout process

An overly complicated payment procedure can confuse customers and drive them away.

This leads to lost sales and a frustrating user experience.

Every additional step or unclear element increases the risk of your buyers abandoning their cart.

This not only affects immediate sales, but can also tarnish your brand's reputation over time.

So how do you streamline this crucial journey?

How to avoid this ecommerce pitfall?

  • Guest checkout: Offer a no-strings-attached option for those who don't want to create an account just to make a purchase.
  • Progress indicators: Use visual cues like a progress bar to let customers know how far they've come and what's left to do in the checkout process.
  • Transparent pricing: Show all costs upfront. No hidden fees or sudden surprises when it's time to pay.
  • Auto-fill options: Reduce manual entry by using auto-fill for information like addresses and credit card numbers, which can minimize user error and speed up the procedure.
  • Multiple payment options: Cater to a wide range of buyers by offering a variety of payment methods such as credit cards, digital wallets, and other alternative payment methods.
  • Validation messages: Promptly inform customers if they've missed a field or entered incorrect information, so they can correct it then and there, without going back and forth.
  • CTA clarity: Make your call-to-action buttons unambiguous and prominent, so there's no second-guessing what to click to finalize the purchase.

3. Skimping on product descriptions

A product description is more than just a block of text; think of it as your virtual salesperson.

If you don't, you risk leaving your customers in the dark, not knowing what they're buying or why they should care.

Unclear or insufficient product information can lead to missed sales, increased returns and frustrated consumers.

Think about it: if you're not sure what you're buying, will you press the "Buy" button? Probably not.

So how can you improve your product descriptions to make them not only informative, but irresistible?

How to avoid this ecommerce error?

  • Feature and benefit: Don't just list features; explain how each feature benefits the consumer. If a laptop has a long battery life, mention that it's perfect for all-day use without scrambling for a charger.
  • Know your audience: Tailor your language and information to fit the needs and wants of your specific customer base.
  • Use high-quality images: A picture is worth a thousand words. So accompany your stellar descriptions with equally stellar visuals.
  • Include specs: For tech products or other items where specifications matter, include a detailed spec sheet.
  • Clear CTAs: End your product description with a strong and clear call-to-action, guiding the shopper on what to do next.

4. Neglecting SEO strategies

Ignoring search engine optimization (SEO) is a surefire way to limit your online visibility. 

If you're not appearing in relevant search results, you're losing customers and potential revenue. 

A lack of SEO effort can also affect your brand's credibility and overall user experience, causing you to lose ground to more digitally savvy competitors.

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Keyword research: Knowing which keywords your target audience uses is foundational. Add these into your website, metadata, and product descriptions.
  • Quality content: Search engines favor sites that offer valuable and relevant information. Consider creating a blog that provides useful insights related to your products or industry.
  • Meta descriptions: These are the summaries that appear under your website title in search results. They should be clear and enticing to encourage clicks.
  • On-Page optimization: Organize your website with clear headings and subheadings to make it user-friendly and to help search engines understand your content.
  • Link building: Obtain backlinks from reputable external websites. This enhance your site's credibility and search engine ranking.
  • Technical SEO: Ensure your site performs well on the technical front, including speed, mobile optimization, and secure connections.

Woman making a mistake

5. No trust signals

The absence of trust signals can make potential buyers doubt the credibility of your ecommerce site. 

These days, when data security is a major concern, visitors may hesitate to enter their personal information or complete a purchase if they don't fully trust you.

No need to explain that this will have a negative impact on your conversion rates and long-term relationships with your customers.

Read this blog post to find out 8 more trust signals in ecommerce

How to avoid this ecommerce pitfall?

  • SSL certificate: Displaying a badge that your website is SSL-certified can provide reassurance that transactions are secure.
  • Clear policies: Make your policies on shipping, returns, and privacy easily accessible. Transparency helps build trust.
  • Payment badges: Use recognizable symbols for the payment methods you accept, such as Visa, Mastercard, or PayPal.
  • Contact information: Provide multiple methods for customers to reach out to you (such as email or a phone number). This adds another layer of trust.
  • Social proof: Highlight any partnerships, industry certifications, or awards that vouch for your business's credibility.

6. Underestimating customer reviews

Not displaying customer reviews is like playing an away game with no fans to cheer you on. 

Reviews are personal recommendations from people who have tried and tested your product. 

If there aren't enough of them, you risk losing conversion opportunities and even damaging your product's search engine ranking. 

People want to hear other people's opinions, not just your brand's marketing pitch. 

Without reviews, potential customers are likely to ignore your product in favor of another with verified testimonials, diminishing both sales and brand credibility.

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Encourage reviews: Offer incentives or simply request reviews post-purchase through follow-up emails or directly on your website.
  • Showcase reviews: Display them prominently on your product pages, ideally close to the buy button, to influence decision-making at a crucial moment.
  • Quality over quantity: Don't just aim for more reviews; aim for more useful reviews. Ask customers to provide specific feedback, both positive and negative.
  • Respond to reviews: Engage with reviewers by thanking them for positive reviews and addressing concerns raised in negative ones. This shows you value customer feedback.
  • User-generated content: Encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences on social media and use these posts as an additional form of review.
  • Aggregate ratings: Show an average rating for each product to give potential buyers a quick snapshot of how well it's been received.

Check this blog post to get our tips on how to ask for customer reviews

7. Inadequate customer service

Poor customer service can cause serious damage to an ecommerce business. 

When selling online, it is one of the few direct interactions consumers have with a brand. 

If you fail to meet their expectations, you don't just lose a sale, you risk losing a customer for life. 

Poor service can lead to negative reviews, lower retention rates and reduced customer lifetime value.

How to avoid this ecommerce shortcoming?

  • Accessibility: Offer multiple channels for customer support, such as email, phone, and chat, to cater to different preferences.
  • Quick response times: Aim to respond to customer queries and complaints as swiftly as possible. The faster the resolution, the better the impression you leave.
  • Knowledgeable staff: Train your team extensively on your products and policies so they can provide accurate and helpful information.
  • Proactive support: Anticipate common questions and provide answers in an FAQ section on your website, or consider using chatbots for basic queries.
  • Personalization: Use the consumer’s name and purchase history to offer a more personalized experience.
  • Feedback loop: Regularly ask for feedback on your customer service experience to continually improve and adapt.

Gordon Ramsay swearing

8. Poor inventory management

Inventory management mistakes can lead to chaos in ecommerce. 

Imagine a buyer getting to the checkout only to discover that the product is no longer in stock. Or worse still, they place an order and are informed that it cannot be fulfilled. 

This causes customer frustration, tarnishes your brand's reputation and impacts sales. 

On the other hand, it can also lead to excessive storage costs if you stock too many items that don't sell.

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Real-time tracking: Implement a system that allows for real-time inventory monitoring, giving you an accurate picture of stock levels at all times.
  • Demand forecasting: Utilize analytics to predict customer demand for different products. This will help you to place more precise stock orders.
  • Automated alerts: Set up notifications for when stock reaches a certain low or high threshold, allowing for timely action.
  • Regular audits: Periodically cross-check your inventory management system's data with actual stock to identify any discrepancies.
  • Transparent communication: Clearly communicate stock levels on the product page and provide back-in-stock notifications.

9. Overlooking analytics

Turning a blind eye to analytics is like driving without a GPS. You may keep going, but you don't know if you're heading in the right direction. 

Ignoring analytics means you miss out on valuable information about customer behavior, site performance and sales trends. 

This lack of data-driven decisions can result in wasted marketing spend, lost sales opportunities and an inability to adapt to changing consumer preferences.

How to avoid this ecommerce pitfall?

  • Use the right tools: Choose analytics tools that align with your specific business needs, whether it's Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or a specialized ecommerce analytics platform.
  • Set KPIs: Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) relevant to your business goals to guide your analysis.
  • Segmentation: Break down your analytics into customer segments to better understand different buying behaviors and preferences.
  • Actionable insights: Use the data to draw actionable insights. For instance, if you find that a product page has high traffic but low conversions, look into optimizing the page layout or improving product descriptions.
  • Regular monitoring: Make analytics a routine part of your business operations to quickly identify trends or issues that need attention.

10. Lack of personalization

People are always talking about personalization. And not for nothing. It's the key to unlocking deeper customer engagement.

Treating all visitors in the same way is akin to a bartender serving the same drink to all clients, whatever their preferences. 

The result? A generic experience that doesn't resonate and doesn't encourage loyalty. 

Lack of personalization leads to lower relevance, poorer conversion rates and missed up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

With a few touches of personalization, you create a more relevant, engaging and memorable experience for your customers. 

Not only does this foster loyalty, it also gives you a better chance of increasing average order value and CLV.

Ready to get closer to your audience?

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Customer segmentation: Divide your customer base into different segments based on factors like buying history, location, or behavior. Tailor your marketing and promotions accordingly.

To go further, read our article about RFM segmentation.

  • Personalized recommendations: Use algorithms to offer individualized product suggestions based on browsing history or past purchases.
  • Dynamic content: Implement dynamic content that adjusts based on user behavior or segment, such as tailored homepage banners or personalized email marketing.
  • Geo-targeting: Use geographical details to offer location-specific promotions or content.
  • Behavioral email triggers: Set up automated emails that are triggered by certain behaviors, like cart abandonment or browsing a particular product category.
  • A/B testing: Regularly test different personalization elements to see what resonates most with your audiences, and adjust your strategies accordingly.

An old man making a mistake

11. Failing to retarget abandoned carts

You're leaving money on the table if you ignore abandoned shopping carts.

Don't let them go away without making an effort to bring them back.

Those poor abandoned baskets deserve better. 

They represent a huge loss to your bottom line and a missed opportunity to convert a visitor into a paying customer. 

What's more, it's a missed opportunity to understand potential problems in your buying process.

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Retargeting emails: Set up automated emails triggered after a cart is abandoned. These should be time-sensitive and possibly offer an incentive to finalize the purchase.
  • Multi-channel approach: Use multiple channels like social media and display ads, in addition to email, to retarget potential customers.
  • Save the cart: Ensure that the abandoned cart is saved and easily accessible for a reasonable period so buyers can pick up where they left off.
  • Streamline checkout: As we spoke above, make it as easy as possible for the customer to complete their purchase upon return.
  • Analyze data: Examine abandoned cart data to identify patterns or issues that may be causing people to leave without buying.

12. Missing out on Google Shopping

Not displaying your products on Google Shopping is a missed opportunity for incredible visibility.

When people search for products on Google, Google Shopping results often appear at the very top of the search page, even before organic results.

This prime location increases the likelihood of clicks and conversions.

If you don't appear, you'll be ceding this prime territory to your competitors.

Needless to say, this means a drop in brand awareness and potential revenue.

How to avoid this ecommerce error?

  • Google Merchant Center: To get started, you'll need to create an account with Google Merchant Center. This is where you'll upload your product data.
  • Data feed: Create a product feed that complies with Google's guidelines. This feed should include essential details like product name, price, image, and availability status.
  • Product categories: Make sure to categorize your products correctly so they show up for the right search queries.
  • Link accounts: Once your Google Merchant Center account is set up and your feed is live, you need to link it with your Google Ads account.
  • Campaign creation: Go to your Google Ads account and create a new Shopping campaign. During this process, you'll set your budget, choose your target audience, and select the products you want to advertise.

13. Not offering loyalty programs

You've made a sale. Great! But what next? 

If you think the journey stops with the first transaction, you're missing a huge opportunity to grow your business. 

A customer loyalty program isn't just a gimmick.

It's a powerful tool for keeping customers coming back, encouraging repeat purchases, and cultivating long-term relationships. 

Not to offer such a program is to leave money on the table, as you lose the opportunity to retain your customers and increase their lifetime value.

Ready to turn one-time buyers into lifelong fans?

How to avoid this ecommerce mistake?

  • Program structure: Decide on the mechanics of your loyalty program, whether it's point-based, tier-based, or another format that suits your business model.
  • Easy onboarding: Make it as effortless as possible for customers to join your program. As for checkout, the more steps involved, the less likely they are to sign up.
  • Valuable rewards: Ensure the incentives are enticing and relevant. This could range from discounts and freebies to exclusive events or content.
  • Regular updates: Keep your loyalty program fresh by adding new rewards and features to keep your customers engaged and coming back for more.
  • Promote it: Use various marketing channels to let your customer base know about your loyalty program, including social media, email, and even packaging inserts.

Discover the best loyalty platform for Shopify

Infographic of the 13 most common ecommerce mistakes

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