As a business owner, common mistakes can cost your store big time, especially during the busy seasons. Yet, with so much to do as it is, knowing where to focus your efforts can be challenging.
Sources expect holiday sales to reach $221.8 billion in 2023, a 4.8% year-over-year increase from 2022's $211.7 billion. If you want to boost ecommerce profits, setting your store up for success for the holiday season is crucial.
Like our list of common accounting mistakes, we’ve compiled a quick guide to help you understand what ecommerce mistakes to avoid and what to do instead.
What are the common issues in ecommerce?
There are many areas where ecommerce sellers face issues and risk sales, including:
- User experiences
- Website optimization
- Website security
- Checkout processes
- Flexible payment options
- Product pages and product descriptions
- Market research
- Sales funnels
- Copywriting and web design
- Shipping options
- Inventory management
- Ecommerce platform selection
- Marketplace fees
- Sales trends and forecasts
- Email marketing
- Manual tasks and data entry
- Social proof
- Customer service
1. Neglecting the user experience
One of the most damaging mistakes an online seller can make is neglecting the user experience. A poor user experience can deter potential customers, leading to increased bounce rates and abandoned shopping carts.
In the heat of the holiday season, when online competition is fierce, a site that's difficult to navigate and slow to load will send shoppers to your competitors. And poor user experiences can reach far beyond a single buyer.
Word of mouth and online reviews can amplify a shopper's bad experience, tarnishing your brand reputation and impacting long-term sales. Prioritizing the experience is a crucial component of your holiday sales strategy and a vital part of your store's success year-round.
2. A poorly optimized website
Not having a properly optimized website before the holiday season starts can be disastrous for your ecommerce business. A poorly optimized website can lead to slow loading speeds, difficult navigation, and high bounce rates.
These effects can cost you potential customers and ultimately lead to a decrease in sales during the busiest time of the year. To avoid this mistake, optimize your website for speed and usability, and invest some time in search engine optimization (SEO) before the holiday season.
Conduct a thorough site audit to ensure your site can handle heavier-than-usual traffic on peak shopping days, load quickly, and function over mobile devices.
3. Overlooking website security
Overlooking website security can be a catastrophic error for ecommerce sellers, especially during the bustling holiday season. Ecommerce sites handle sensitive data such as personal information and credit card details, which are attractive targets for cybercriminals.
Fraudsters are constantly mining for vulnerable websites. Failing to secure yours can result in devastating data breaches, immediate financial loss from fraudulent transactions, and distrust among your customers, which is far more damaging in the long run.
Consumers put a high price on their security and privacy. They will likely take their business elsewhere if they believe their data is at risk. Moreover, data breaches can lead to hefty fines and legal consequences for violating data protection laws.
Investing in robust website or payment processor security measures, including secure payment gateways, SSL certificates, and regular security audits, is more than a best practice. It's a necessity for the sustainable success of your ecommerce business.
4. Grueling checkout processes
As technology makes online shopping more convenient, shoppers have become impatient with lengthy checkout flows.
When your website forces a customer to create an account or provide unnecessary information during checkout, it can lead to cart abandonment. 18% of shoppers said checkout processes were directly responsible for them abandoning their carts in a 2021 Baymard Institute survey.
To reduce cart abandonment due to your checkout process, allow guest checkouts and minimize the steps involved. Additionally, display all accepted payment methods on the checkout page and throughout your site. Being upfront about payment helps ensure a smooth buying experience and encourages them to complete the checkout process.
In 2021, the average checkout flow had 11.8 form fields (first name, last name, address, etc.) and five steps (billing, shipping, etc.). Consolidating form fields and delaying prompts to create an account can get your customers through the process faster and with less friction.
5. Not enough payment options
Limiting payment options can significantly hinder your business' success in a space where customers appreciate payment versatility and convenience.
When you only offer a few payment methods, customers may abandon their carts — or not fill them — in favor of a more flexible merchant. Customers may use several payment methods throughout the holiday season, depending on their budgets, an item's price, or the cards or wallets they have within reach or on certain devices.
Certain demographics or buyer personas may prefer specific payment methods. For instance, younger buyers might choose mobile payment solutions or providers like Venmo or PayPal, while older customers might lean toward traditional credit card transactions.
A lack of payment options can inadvertently limit your customer base, negatively impacting your holiday sales and overall ecommerce success. Expanding your payment methods is key in choosing the best payment processing solutions for the holiday rush.
6. Inaccurate product pages and product descriptions
Incorrectly listing your products can lead to substantial setbacks for ecommerce sellers. An effective product listing comprises clear, detailed, and accurate information supplemented with high-quality images.
Poorly written descriptions, missing or inaccurate details like product attributes, or low-quality images make your products less appealing and can lead to customer dissatisfaction and increased return rates when products don't match their online representation.
Additionally, search engines may overlook your products if certain SEO elements are incorrect or missing, preventing traffic and sales. During the holiday season, when customers are actively searching for specific gifts, a poorly listed product can mean a missed opportunity for a sale.
In ecommerce, your product listing serves as your sales pitch. Therefore, investing the time to carefully craft your listings with accurate information, quality images, and targeted SEO keywords can improve your online store's performance and things like your Amazon sales rank.
7. No product or target audience research
Failing to research your products and target customers adequately can prove a costly ecommerce mistake. Knowledge is power, and in the context of ecommerce, understanding your products and their market demand is essential.
With proper research, you avoid stocking items with little to no interest among your target audience and holding on to stagnant inventory and unsold goods. Research can help you stock high-demand products that can significantly boost your sales, especially during the holiday season.
Product research also extends to understanding your competitor's offerings and prices. In essence, neglecting product research can lead to poor product selection and pricing decisions that can negatively impact your sales and overall profitability.
Investing time and resources in thorough product research is critical in setting your ecommerce store up for success.
8. Poorly optimized sales funnels
Sales funnels refer to the series of actions customers take before completing a purchase. A poorly optimized sales funnel can significantly hinder your ecommerce success, particularly during the holiday season when competition is high.
A common mistake among ecommerce sellers is not optimizing their sales funnels for mobile users. With more people using their smartphones to make purchases, ensuring that your website and checkout process are mobile-friendly through responsive website design, mobile payment options, and quick loading times is essential.
Additionally, not optimizing for cross-selling and upselling opportunities can also negatively impact your sales. Showcasing related products or offering bundle deals during the checkout process can increase the average order value and revenue.
9. Uninspired copywriting and website design
Audiences connect with brands through words, images, and feelings, so it’s pivotal to implement the right messaging approach when producing your sales and marketing copy.
Inspiring copy uses language that:
- Is tailored to your audience segments.
- Is clear, casual, and accessible to a variety of reading levels.
- Answers your audience's key questions or provide solutions to known problems.
- Includes a call to action to buy a product or progress through the sales funnel.
Audit your landing page design, website pages, and ad campaigns for places where you need to replace or update words or images to reflect your target audience's needs and values. Then, adjust your messaging with clear, concise language that resonates with them and motivates action.
10. Poor inventory management
The right inventory management tactics can save money and be a game-changer for online sellers. It can prevent you from overstocking or understocking certain items, negatively impacting profitability.
Overstocking ties up capital in unsold products, raises storage costs, and risks spoilage of perishable goods. On the other hand, understocking or stocking out can result in missed sales opportunities and dissatisfied customers.
Mismanaging inventory can also hamper your reputation as a reliable supplier, leading customers to seek alternatives and discouraging customer loyalty. Effective inventory management becomes even more critical during high-volume sales periods like the holiday season.
A real-time understanding of your inventory levels allows you to reorder stock on time, minimizes your risk of overselling, and ensures you meet customer expectations.
11. Limited shipping options
Limited shipping options can be a major pitfall for ecommerce sellers where customers expect different shipping options to cater to their needs. Some may need expedited shipping for last-minute purchases, while others prioritize cost-effective or free shipping over speed.
By providing a range of options, you cater to a more diverse customer base and increase your chances of securing a sale. Additionally, flexibility in shipping methods is particularly valuable when shipping networks and supply chains can be exceptionally busy during the holiday season.
Customers will choose the option that best ensures their orders arrive on time based on their circumstances. In contrast, a lack of shipping options may drive customers to competitors who can better accommodate their needs, leading to lost sales and potential damage to your brand reputation.
Offering various shipping options is a critical component of optimizing your ecommerce platform, particularly during peak shopping seasons.
12. Choosing the wrong ecommerce platform
Choosing the wrong ecommerce platform can be a costly mistake for ecommerce sellers, both in terms of time and money spent. The ecommerce platform is the backbone of your online business, affecting everything from the appearance of your online store to its functionality.
If the platform doesn't offer a user-friendly interface or the essential features your business needs, it can lead to lost sales and decreased customer satisfaction. Compatibility issues with third-party applications and poor SEO performance are other possible pitfalls that can hinder visibility and growth.
Moreover, if the platform is not scalable, it may not keep pace with your business growth, forcing an expensive and time-consuming platform switch down the line. Therefore, making an informed decision and choosing the right ecommerce platform is critical for your online store's long-term success and profitability.
13. Underestimating marketplace fees
Not comprehending the intricacies of online marketplace fees is a critical mistake for online sellers. Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay may charge fees for listing, selling, and even promotional services, which can dramatically affect profitability if ignored or misunderstood.
A misjudgment in fees can lead to pricing products too low, thus eroding margins, or pricing them too high, causing potential customers to seek more affordable alternatives.
Additionally, unexpected fees, such as those related to returns or dispute resolution, can strain an ecommerce seller's finances if not correctly accounted for.
As these platforms often serve as a significant source of sales, understanding and accurately factoring in all associated fees is crucial for effective cost management and profit optimization.
Online sellers should take the time to thoroughly understand the fee structures of the online marketplaces they use to ensure healthy profit margins.
14. Not analyzing sales and trends
Failing to analyze ecommerce business analytics like sales trends and inventory forecasts is a critical error for ecommerce sellers, as it can lead to missed opportunities and reduced profitability.
The holiday season often brings shifts in consumer behavior and market trends. Without analyzing these changes, ecommerce businesses may fail to adapt their strategies, potentially resulting in decreased sales.
Analyzing sales data provides insight into which products are in high demand, enabling sellers to stock these items more effectively and create targeted marketing campaigns. Similarly, understanding seasonal trends can guide businesses in refining their product offerings, pricing strategies, and promotional efforts.
For example, if a particular style or category of products is trending, featuring these in your store and promotions can significantly boost your sales. Conversely, a decline in a product's popularity might indicate that it would be prudent to reduce stock or withdraw it from promotion.
15. Communicating too much or too little through email marketing
Email marketing is one of many underrated tactics that can yield impressive results and drive brand awareness during the holiday season. Unfortunately, many online businesses make the mistake of not using this marketing strategy effectively, resulting in missed opportunities and lost sales.
Ecommerce brands can use emails to re-engage past customers, inform subscribers of promotions and new products, inspire prospects to make a purchase, and provide personalized recommendations based on past purchases or browsing behavior.
They're also an effective way to communicate shipping deadlines, delivery times, and special holiday offers.
However, sending too many emails or not personalizing them can lead to customers unsubscribing from your email list. Therefore, it's crucial to strike a balance and tailor email marketing campaigns appropriately to avoid overwhelming or irritating potential customers.
16. Spending too much time on manual tasks
Spending excessive time on manual tasks, such as accounting, can be a significant pitfall for ecommerce sellers. This practice is time-consuming and prone to human error, resulting in accounting discrepancies, late payments, or inaccurate financial forecasting.
Furthermore, it can detract from valuable time better spent on tasks that directly contribute to business growth, like marketing, customer service, or strategic planning.
You'll need to consider which tasks you want automation to take off your plate, but there are many options. For example, accounting automation can download and post new orders to your accounting software in real time.
Meanwhile, marketing and email automation can help you schedule social media posts or send quick replies to customer inquiries.
Automation completes tasks quickly and accurately, saves time, and allows for real-time financial tracking. Not automating puts sellers at risk of expensive clerical errors, fulfillment errors, lower productivity, and reduced profitability.
17. Forgetting about social proof
When it comes to content marketing, let social proof lead the way. After all, a positive review is worth as much as a great product listing. Bolster your ecommerce website or marketplace listings with customer reviews. Take it a step further and incentivize reviews as part of your loyalty program.
And it's not just those five stars you want. Give greater rewards to customers who submit photos of them wearing or using your products.
Get ahead of the game and make space in your purchase confirmations or other communications for instructions on how to tag your social media accounts in unboxing videos. The bigger the media, the better the reward.
18. Poor customer service
It's impossible to overstate the value of quality customer service, but one of the most common mistakes online sellers can make is thinking poor or minimal customer service is enough. With prices and shrink-flation on the rise, customer expectations are at an all-time high.
95% of consumers say communication that makes them feel valued directly affects their decision to do business with a brand. Just as many say excellent customer service builds trust. Overall, too much evidence suggests excellence is the only option.
Top ecommerce trends and automation hacks for the holiday season
Online sellers need to be proactive and stay updated on the latest automation trends that can streamline daily operations and drive sales. Luckily, the experts at Webgility recognize the importance of staying ahead of the curve during the busy holiday season.
“This holiday season is going to be bumpy, as consumers are facing high prices, depleted savings, and incredibly high interest rates," says Webgility CEO Parag Mamnani. "Brands and retailers have to get really creative with pricing and find ways to cut costs, entice repeat buyers, and experiment with marketing strategies to make the most of their holiday sales.”
Webgility automation simplifies complex processes around inventory management, accounting automation, payment processing, sales tax, and product listings, streamlining operations to save you valuable time.
To help online sellers navigate the holiday season successfully, we've compiled the top ecommerce trends and automation hacks that can help avoid costly mistakes. Allow automation to work in your favor and give yourself the best chance of achieving ecommerce success this holiday season.
A previous version of this article was written by guest contributor Shane Barker.