5 Common Mistakes of E-Commerce Websites

I consult to a lot of companies running e-commerce websites. Usually it’s not performing as expected and they want me to tell them why. While each website is different 5 common mistakes come up time and time again. Perhaps it’s time for you to do a quick check of your e-commerce site and make sure you’ve covered the following:

No Physical Contact Details

Far too many e-commerce websites have no physical contact details. If you’re wanting people to hand over their credit card details you need to provide information about your company and how people can get in touch with you. This is how you establish trust between your site and your prospects.

A common argument against providing a phone number is communicating via email keeps costs lower. A fair point. An approach I recommend is to include your contact details as well as a message along the following lines:

“Our preferred method of contact is via email and we provide prompt replies, normally within a few hours. As an online business, communicating via email enables us to keep our prices low, so please use this as your first method to contact us. However, should you ever need to reach us via phone, fax or post you’ll find all our contact details below.”

Make sure you state how fast emails are replied to so your prospects have an idea of how quickly their issue will be dealt with.

In 98% of case there will be no need for people to contact you, but providing these details will make your prospects much more comfortable handing over their precious credit card details.

No Clear Shipping Locations or Prices

Nothing peeves me more than getting to the end of placing an order to discover you don’t ship to my location. In fact my fists are clenching as I write this!

Clearly state where you ship and the cost of shipping to each of those locations. Place this information where it can easily be seen and label it clearly.

No Returns Policy

Again, encouraging people to order at your website is all about gaining their trust. Sometimes, for whatever reason, someone may want to return what they have ordered from you.

Prospects will feel far more comfortable buying from your site if you clearly state what your return policy is and how items can be returned.

No Testimonials

One of the best ways to show prospects they can trust you, and feel comfortable doing business with you, is to show them what other happy customers have said about your company, service and products. After all, these are independent, 3rd party opinions of you!

If you currently don’t have any testimonials start collecting them from now. You could also approach some of your long time customers and ask for one. Keep in mind testimonials that address specifics are far more credible than ones that say something generic such as “great product, thanks”.

If you’re selling online include testimonials that cover areas such as: ease of ordering, fast shipping, prompt responses to questions and/or issues and how great your products are.

Complicated Checkout Process

A common complaint I hear is having to register before placing an order. The less data people have to enter the more likelihood they will complete their order. There is plenty of time to collect additional information at a later stage.

Many out of the box e-commerce packages make first time customers sign up for an account before ordering. If your website makes prospects register before ordering I highly recommend you modify your checkout process.

These 5 simple steps will go a long way in establishing trust between you and your prospective customers which in turn will boost the number of orders you receive. Win, win really. :)

4 thoughts on “5 Common Mistakes of E-Commerce Websites”

  1. That’s an excellent list, Sophie. One I would add to the list if the owner of the e-commerce website is comfortable with the idea is that the owner should be ‘visible’ on the website. Whether it’s to demonstrate that you will live up to your commitments or to give a little explanation as to why your store is the very best there is, I’m convinced it will increase the conversions markedly. This is not for everyone and there are downsides, but it’s a winner for the owner who can do it.

  2. > the owner should be ‘visible’ on the website.

    I do like this idea. I intially had 6 Common Mistakes of E-Commerce Websites and was going to include company information but decided it wasn’t quite as important as the 5 above.

    Having said that engaging company information and photos of owners and/or staff are a great way to increase conversions. I know personally about pages are some of the first I hit on a site these days. Who knows maybe I’m a voyeur. ;)

  3. >> the owner should be ‘visible’ on the website

    Visible… would a photo of the owner especially if its a small retail shop give rise to the idea that they are a small operation…?

    How easy would it be then to pitch your content to those who want the big name big brand feeling and another one that would give that warm fuzzy feeling when you find a small retailer that really knows his stuff?

    Could that be done on the same site or (as I think) would that just confuse the message to a site user?

    Question coming from a man who is not fond of big corporates because they offer cheap prices and teenage store operatives who have little understanding or knowledge of the products or services on offer!


  4. Good points Daz.

    At the end of the day you can’t be everything to everyone. Determining what image you want to present the world and who your target market is will go a long way in determining whether photos should be used.

    > warm fuzzy feeling

    I’ve seen (albeit in an offline catalog) a very large company seem more human by including images of “real” staff members in the catalog. Always gave me a nice feeling.

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