Here is Where eCommerce Falls Short

Source: Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

eCommerce sites fail every single day. It’s the hard truth of online business and one that is frequently overlooked by eager entrepreneurs hoping to start the next giant.

Afterall, a common practice in the eCommerce and startup community is to only discuss the winners — big players like Amazon, Zappos, Alibaba, Taobao, and Tmall. While focusing on the industry’s big successes makes for some great stories, it is not offering aspiring entrepreneurs a realistic perspective of eCommerce.

Because of this glorification of the eCommerce pipe dream, many have spent thousands of dollars building an eCommerce store, in hopes of creating a 4-hour workweek business that allows them to sit on the beach and sip a Corona, only to find their hopes squashed and pockets dwindled.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this dream, it is important to be cautious and well-informed of the pitfalls of eCommerce before making the choice to start an online business.

Shortcoming #1: It’s Missing The Human Touch

eCommerce is missing the warm human touch that all of us long for and that we have traditionally only found in physical retail stores. In the years to come, artificial intelligence may have a shot at filling this void, but as of right now, it is a difficult task to make something virtual feel physical.

Scott Wyden Kivowitz, a photographer and digital marketer out of New Jersey, was quoted sharing some wisdom on the subject: “Build relationships, not links.”

In eCommerce, it is easy to get caught up in SEO, content marketing, site development and link building — but you should be spending just as much time building relationships as you do building links.

How to Overcome The Lack of Human Connection

Make your site feels warm by filling it with comfortable and relatable copy. Remember, warm copy takes the place of the warm conversation that customers would normally find in a physical store.

Also, remember the little things. After a customer orders one of your products, consider giving them a call and letting them know you appreciate their business. Take the time to wish you customers a happy birthday by sending them a special offer or discount. This has worked pretty well for Starbucks.

Shortcoming #2: Online Shopping May Encourage Impulsive Buying & High Return Rates

You’re walking through the mall when you notice an awesome pair of shoes on display in a store window. Before you know it, you are in the store trying them on, loving the way they look and feel — not taking into consideration the $100 price tag glued to their soles. Moments later, you are on your way home, new shoes in hand, the dopamine of the purchase lifting your mood and spirit. The next morning when you wake up, you try on the shoes again and then scratch your head… did I really need these?

Impulsive buying is something we have all been guilty of. In fact, a recent study from CreditCards.com found that one out of every five Americans has spent $1,000 on an impulse buy.

Unfortunately, it is a habit that is only becoming more prominent as shoppers are making more purchases on the internet. But, here is the trouble: when a customer impulsively buys a $100 pair of shoes on your site and then has to wait for 2-weeks to receive their purchase, oftentimes they have forgotten about the shoes entirely.

This, in turn, has caused an increase in return rates on eCommerce sites.

How to Overcome Impulsive Buying and High Return Rates

The number one way to cut back on returns is to offer exceptional products, complete with product information like photos and descriptions. Being more detailed in your product descriptions allows the customer to get a better idea of what they are spending their money on.

Customers generally return products they are not happy with or ones that are not as described — in other words when they are disappointed. So, an obvious way to mitigate this is by creating products that exceed customer expectations. Sure, this may sound rudimentary, but you would be surprised how often businesses are dumbfounded to find customers returning sub-par products.

Another way to cut back on returns from impulsive buying is by speeding up shipping to 1–2 day delivery. While yes, this may be more expensive, it allows the customer less time to forget about the purchase they made.

Nobody likes bad surprises, even if they were the ones who asked for them.

Shortcoming #3: It Relies Heavily on the Website

A big difference between eCommerce sites and physical stores is the free advertising physical stores get simply for existing.

Take Starbucks for example: their stores can be seen by anyone driving by or visiting another store adjacent to their location.

Websites, on the other hand, don’t have a 50-foot pole they can erect from the ground to catch people’s attention. If they don’t rank highly in SEO, they can go unseen for months at a time. In which case, no visitors means no sales — and no sales means out of business.

Ecommerce sites rely heavily on the success of their website. It’s like the old adage, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?”

How to Overcome Reliance on your Website:

Online stores need to put themselves in a position where they can be less reliant on their sites to garner attention. Generally speaking, most internet marketers will tell you, this can only be done through SEO, or, essentially, ranking your site higher in search results.

I would argue that brand building on Instagram, blogging, and guest posting on other sites within your niche are just as effective.

Go to where your customer is, and then try to capture some of that audience.

With All that Said, I Love eCommerce

At times, I would say I am guilty of focusing strictly on the pros of eCommerce… and that’s why today, I wanted to write a post about the areas where eCommerce falls short, to be able to:

  1. paint a realistic perspective of the eCommerce world,

2. help individuals, contemplating starting an eCommerce business, gage whether it is right for them, and

3. make them aware of the obstacles they may encounter along the way.

The bottom line: eCommerce is not easy. It’s not foolproof. And, it certainly can’t be done in under 4 hours per week.

But, with that said, I firmly believe that if you are willing to put in the work, then most people can find some success in eCommerce. If you decide to take the plunge, just be sure you are looking out for the pitfalls I mentioned in this post.

No online store owner is immune to the absence of the human element, high return rates, and heavy website reliance that comes with this industry. So, if you figure out ways to overcome these obstacles, you will gain a huge advantage over your competitors, who might fall victim to these common shortcomings.

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