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Common Mistakes when Developing an eCommerce Site

Selling online is about more than collecting cash!While the wide array of tools available today make selling online easier than ever, that hasn’t taken away from the many pitfalls that a site owner can face. Especially so when the site is in its development stages.

If your eCommerce website isn’t all you hoped for, there’s a good chance that many of its shortcomings showed up during development (even if you didn’t realize it at the time).

Here are a few common mistakes that I’ve seen over the years:

1. Being Unclear About Functionality

This is where the communication gap between the technical and non-technical person can come into play. The biggest mistake here is not knowing what it is you want the customer experience of the website to be like. For example, do you want customers to have access to features like reward points or wish lists? What are your expectations in this area?

On the designer/developer’s side, it’s about not spelling out the limitations of the shopping cart software being used.

How to fix it: Take a look around at various eCommerce sites out there and see what it is you do and don’t like. Write down a list of things you want a customer to be able to accomplish while on your site. Think about what types of features you want to have to ensure customers have a great experience buying from you. That list of features is very important info for your web designer to know.

2. Picking the Wrong Software

This really has a lot to do with #1 above. The shopping cart software used for your site is as important of a decision as you can make. The problem is that they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

While it’s my job to find the perfect software, you also have to have some input in this area. Trust me, neither one of us wants to go through the arduous task of switching software in the middle of a project (even worse after the site has already launched).

How to fix it: One of my recommendations is to go with a shopping cart that has the ability to accept plugins that add new functionality. Carts like WooCommerce and MIVA Merchant are quite different, but both offer an excellent array of plugins that can add desired features. One caveat is that not every feature you’re looking for comes through an existing plugin. Sometimes, a developer may be needed to create a custom one specifically for your site.

3. Shipping Woes

If the products you’re selling will require shipping, then this is a big consideration. Failure to think this area through can either scare off potential customers or empty your wallet in a hurry. Small companies in particular seem to have trouble coming up with a method that works for them.

How to fix it: Work directly with a shipping company like UPS or FedEx, or the US Postal Service. Many shopping carts have either built-in support for these services or support is available through a plugin. Tapping into their services directly can help you charge a shipping cost that is fair for both you and your customers. Also take into account international rates if it applies to your business.

4. The Little Things

No matter how little they seem at the start, they can add up to something big. They are, in no particular order:

  • How to handle returns, refunds and other customer service issues
  • Getting nice photos of your products for display on the site
  • Integration of social media sharing
  • Figuring out whether you want to update the site yourself
  • Collecting taxes, if applicable
  • Constantly upgrading software as it becomes available
  • Securing customer data

How to fix it: Plan for as much as you can. Ask a lot of questions of your web designer. Don’t be afraid to talk to other folks who sell their products online. They might be able to help you avoid mistakes they have made themselves.

The bottom line is that a whole lot of planning goes into a successful eCommerce venture. For small businesses who don’t necessarily have a lot of resources, it can be an incredible challenge.

Still, that shouldn’t stop you from taking the plunge. Just make sure to think of the details BEFORE your site launches. That way, you’ll be able to focus more of your energy on selling products instead of fixing glitches.