From the outside, ecommerce can look like an easy enough industry to get a start in; there are plenty of tools you can call upon and a lot of the work in your web store is done by the CMS. All you need to do is turn up and have a vague idea of what you’re doing, and it should be a roaring success, right?
Well, tell that to the 90% of ecommerce businesses that don’t make it past four months before going bust. If you want to achieve success in ecommerce, you are going to need to perform better than nine out of every ten business owners that attempt it. It certainly isn’t easy to turn your efforts into a success, so if you have the chance to make it in ecommerce, it is a good idea to look into why so many don’t get past the first bend in the road.
Half-hearted SEO strategy
SEO is one of the eternal necessities of launching any kind of website in the present day; if you want to be in the higher reaches of Google and any other search engine, you’ll need to have incorporated SEO into your pages. However – and perhaps you can blame this on the availability of plug-and-play CMS platforms – a lot of store owners don’t put much thought into the content they write or commission for their sites, nor how it is displayed.
It’s simple. If you don’t understand SEO, learn. If you can’t learn, hire someone else to do it. It’s too important to just leave to chance, and if you’re not getting SEO right, your site simply won’t be seen.
There aren’t many businesses in the world that could weather a scandal over how they treat customers. We can all think of a few companies we consider to be bulletproof, but if we’re honest most of them are at least a century old. If you manage to pick up a poor reputation in your early days as an ecommerce business, it’s going to be all but impossible to turn that frown upside down. You simply won’t have the preceding reputation to fall back on, and first impressions count.
It’s normal for a business to come out of the gate with big promises, but you shouldn’t be promising anything you can’t be sure of delivering. It’s better to promise 48-hour delivery and manage it in 24 than the other way around. Also, even if you get things 95% right, it will be the 5% that sticks in people’s minds because you’re expected to get things right. If you then compound the mistakes you do make with slow customer service and unsatisfactory complaint handling, it’s a done deal – you don’t recover from that kind of reputational damage.
It’s a shame to caution businesses against being ambitious – that ambition is an essential quality in any company that hopes to become successful! – but if you don’t keep expectations under control it can sink your business. You always need to be across the numbers, never making a decision that goes along the lines of “if this gamble comes off, we’re going to be fine”. Speculation is essential at some points, but you can’t be speculative with the future of your business.
This means you need to be running cost-benefit analyses, SWOT analyses, checking a Break Even Point formula any time you’re looking to grow the business. Your confidence needs to be backed by data. If your instinct to push the envelope is backed by positive economic indicators, then by all means go for it. While it’s not uncommon for business owners to look at big-name, gun-slinging CEOs for their inspiration, you need to remember that there are hundreds of ex-business owners out there coming to terms with the fact that they’d be billionaires right now if they’d made one decision differently.
If you want your ecommerce business to be successful in the long term, then you will need to focus on all of the details early on. If your company grows as big as you are aiming to make it, you won’t be able to focus on all of the details further down the road, so right now it is your job to make sure it gets there. That means promoting it effectively so that there are always going to be customers ready to shop with you. It means making sure you build a positive reputation. And perhaps more than anything, it means making decisions with your head rather than your heart. If the business does as well as you are planning, you’ll have plenty of chances later to make more ambitious decisions.