We all make mistakes in business, but hopefully we learn from them. Here are five key mistakes that can quickly spell the end of your online store.
- A lack of advertising: Many e-tailers expect customers to find them by accident. But with millions of Web sites competing for a finite number of customers, this gets less and less likely with each passing day. If you don’t advertise your store, your chances of attracting new customers are slim.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to advertise your store effectively. Targeted e-newsletters and keyword ads are cost-effective ways to reach customers who are already interested in your products.
- A sloppy Web site: If your store looks like it was thrown together and is difficult to navigate, customers will look elsewhere. Your Web site is your link to customers; as such, it should look as professional as possible. It will inspire confidence in your users and assure them that you take your business seriously.
Even if you are not a Web design expert, you can use templates to build a sleek, simple site. Invest the time to make your site the best it can be. The reward will be a professional site that is appealing to consumers.
- Not optimizing your site for search engines: It’s been estimated that as many as 70 percent of all online purchases start with a Web search at one of the major search engines. If your site doesn’t appear within the first couple of pages of search results, you can say goodbye to that 70 percent of sales. Make sure your content reflects your product offerings and is rich in relevant keywords.
- Poor customer service: If you can’t keep your existing customers happy, you can forget about attracting new ones. Word travels quickly on the Internet, and it only takes one unhappy customer to start a snowball effect that can ruin your company.
This also applies to stores that don’t post their contact information prominently on their site. This can give customers the impression that there’s nowhere for them to turn if they have a problem, which can lead to a loss of sales. You don’t need to offer round-the-clock phone support — just post an e-mail address and let your customers know your response time.
- A stale site: If you have not updated your site in the last six months, you run the risk of looking like a dead company. Even if you only add new updates on your products, more information, or restructure your site even a little, it gives the impression that you are still there and interested in your company.
And just like in the offline world, you need to conduct market research and competitive assessment. Find out what your competitors offer that you do not; find out who beats your prices.
These five key mistakes can mean the difference between success and utter failure. Just because you have a Web site does not mean your work is done. Selling online requires commitment, just as running a brick-and-mortar store does. If you get complacent, there’s no shortage of competitors waiting to siphon off your customers.