Congratulations! You have launched your own e-commerce store. You chose a niche, found manufacturers, suppliers and packaging experts, and got a website designed. The store is live and your excitement is skyrocketing! You can finally call yourself an e-commerce entrepreneur.
The effort required to plan and launch an e-commerce store is commendable, but the real work begins now. Getting everything ready for the launch was the easy part. The real challenge is bringing in enough customers to get the ball rolling.
As you stare at the computer screen, waiting for orders to drop in, some thoughts arise in your mind: “What if nobody visits my store?” “What if customers don’t like the interface?” Naturally, you will worry about the future of your business and hope to bring it to breakeven within the first few years.
Here is a concise guide on “50 ways to make your first sale.” Analyze the guide and adopt strategies, depending on the products you advertise on your store. However, as a beginner, you should be aware of some of the most common problems faced by entrepreneurs when they launch their store.
These are some of the most common problems you may face, and their solutions:
Any seasoned e-commerce entrepreneur will tell you that the most common problem with running a store is math. People launch a store as a hobby, so they don’t pay a lot of attention to business mathematics. It will land you with a good niche, but not enough revenue potential to make both ends meet. If the products in your niche are very cheap, you may be exhausting your energy trying to sell more than what you predicted to make some decent money.
Business math is actually very simple. Look at this formula:
Profit = Demand * (Revenue-Expense)
Imagine that 20,000 people are searching for your product (using main keywords and long-tail keywords). Let’s assume that your product clicks with these people and 10,000 of them are potentially buying it. With the average conversion rate being 1 to 2 percent, that’s 100 to 200 sales.
If your order’s average value is $100 and your profit margin is 30 percent, your profit will be $3,000 to $6,000.
In reality, the numbers may be more or less, but once you have done the math, you will be prepared for what’s to come. You need to know your margins or your venture will fail due to lack of revenue support.
Too many competitors
If you do not conduct thorough research beforehand, you may be up against many other people selling the same product or service as you, regardless of whether you use the drop-shipping model or traditional business model. Unless you have a great strategy to differentiate yourself from others, your store will be a “me too” store which sells nothing extraordinary.
Research your competitors first. What if there are some big players in your niche and surpassing them might take years? Put some time to work on a plan which enables you to outshine other people in your niche. Make a comprehensive blog, press and social strategy which works well for the publicity of your products. Invest in free samples and promotional offers; they are the best way to get the word across.
In the case of obsolete items, plan and pivot your strategy to find out which new products can take the place of old and unwanted items.
Lack of web content
A content strategy is a step you must not leave to chance. People do not like looking at the same photo on the website for months. Anne Greaves, a digital communications officer, says:
“I’ve had some bad experiences with restrictive website designs where the site has looked good with sample content but in reality when you’ve got double the amount of words to fit in the space or the wrong size image, it becomes a nightmare to maintain. Of course a website needs a design that looks good but make sure you give the designers real examples of content to work with and think about the kind of content you’ll be adding to the site in the future.”
Chris Knowles, former Project Manager at Heinz, adds:
“It happens far too often that too much time and attention is spent on the application rather than the content and user experience. The best CMS cannot compensate for poor visual design or lackluster content.”
Chris suggests that you “Include a content plan that covers the first 12 months of the new presence’s lifespan.”
Keep making new content and churning up the old to make your store look active and happening! Customize content according to events and seasons so that every visitor feels those vibes.
Some issues with shipping can be quite challenging. Imagine a situation in which you have paid for the products and had them shipped from the supplier’s location to your warehouse. Any damages done to the product will be your responsibility.
Sean Dineen, founder of Iron Age Office Furniture, says that one of their biggest challenges is to package products and ship them to customer locations. No matter how amazing the customer experience is, the shipping process can totally damage it.
Be in constant contact with the shipping company if you have outsourced shipping. Make sure that you are working with the best people in the business. Don’t let minor flaws go unnoticed, and make your subordinates accountable if they make mistakes in shipping. Put research and effort into good packaging if you ship the products yourself. In some businesses, colorful packages lead to those packages being stolen from mail boxes. Make sure your shipping department is aware of these hurdles and makes the process smoother.
Low web traffic
This is a common problem in e-commerce. For a week after the launch, you will feel happy and content. After the first week, the numbers may stop rising and get lower and lower. The sales may go down subsequently and you will have no idea what’s causing the damage. Business analyst John Bixby says:
“Far too often I’ve seen companies design great sites, have a copywriter write brilliant copy, and then after everything is done and launched, try to pull in an SEO consultant and tell them ‘now help us rank well. It doesn’t work that way. SEO considerations need to be an integral part of the site design process.”
You may also have to deal with an overwhelming number of people asking you about your product. People will use email, chat and messages. It’s good to be a wanted business, but the audience may need help sometimes.
First and foremost, make sure that Google Analytics and Webmaster tools are integrated with your site. If you already have them, then wait for two weeks.
According to sempost:
“Almost 95% of the time, if you do a new website and sales tank, it is due to a poorly managed website migration with search engine optimization in mind. The other 5% is poorly managed conversion rate optimization due to checkout times or some other technical errors. For the purpose of this post we will focus on the first, which is poor search engine optimization management in the website build.”
Run audits on your products and categories. Check if you have removed or added new categories, which can lead to lower rankings. If the rankings don’t improve after all of these efforts and waiting for two weeks, visit an SEO professional. Read the “common SEO problems after site launch” for a detailed guide on site optimization.
Hire a team of customer service representatives as soon as possible. The team doesn’t have to be huge; even two people dedicated to responding to queries will do. Also, find a content management system that will help combine all support outlets into one. It is easier to reply to Facebook queries and emails in one window rather than shifting to multiple windows.
No budget for upgrades
You become so excited about the whole deal of launching a store that the technical details don’t matter to you – until they take a toll on your website. All of a sudden, there might be a new update for the website and you won’t be prepared. More importantly, you might not have the budget to afford an upgrade and the site may have to go down. Developers are always writing new code, and new versions of plugins are released every now and then. Developers may not have the resources to give support for older versions, and your site will need an upgrade that will cost a few thousand dollars.
Plan and budget in advance. You haven’t invested in an e-commerce store to watch it turn to dust solely due to update issues. You might as well outsource the tech to a decent company that deals with the maintenance of sites for other renowned names and can do backups.
If you are unable to find a feature in e-commerce solutions like Shopify or Magento, start looking for plugins. There is always a plugin to save the day. If many features are missing, migrate your shop from that service provider to a more suitable option.
Data security issues
Security issues can be a nightmare. The internet is a nasty place. A lot of people only want to meddle with websites and post a lot of spam for fun. They might attack the web host server and infect all sites with dangerous viruses. And what’s worse? They can gain access to your confidential data and your customers’ phone and credit card numbers. Any website can get hacked. It is very important to keep these miscreants at bay at all times.
Most content management systems store their data in a database. Developers know how to keep scheduled backups and how to restore data if it is stolen. All social networks take steps to limit the amount of personal information.
Manage your own servers and outsource to companies that do not use the common FTP for file transfer. FTP is prone to theft. Any developer who copies one file using an open Wi-Fi network can lose the password to a thief and land the whole database in jeopardy.
Being an e-commerce entrepreneur means your decision-making skills and expertise will be tried often. Make sure you stay strong in times of challenges and employ the best minds available to solve your problems.
Everything from marketing plans to packaging and shipping must work together to help your store thrive. If you stay on top of all areas and keep them under check, your business has the potential to earn you huge ROIs.