10 Ecommerce Mistakes You Need to Avoid: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last Updated: April 6, 2021

Creating and maintaining a successful e-commerce store is not an easy task. The Internet is a dog-eat-dog world, and your store can easily be eaten alive before it even has a chance to stand up. While it is not easy to predict all of the issues that may arise, there are several common mistakes both large and small e-commerce businesses make.

Learn from the experiences of others: avoid making the same mistakes and fix any existing problems your e-commerce site may have.

10 Common e-commerce mistakes to avoid:

Related: How HappyFox can help with E-Commerce customer support

1. Confusing checkout process.

You can be offering the best products and have a fantastic site design, but what’s the point if the customer can’t make it through the checkout process? A confusing checkout ultimately causes a loss of potential sales. Often times an e-commerce site will assume that all shopping carts are the same; they are not!

Even large e-commerce sites are guilty of complicated checkouts. For example, take a look at the well-established Buy.com checkout page. It includes everything under the sun: enter your email, check out as a guest, enter your password if you are registered, check out with PayPal, Google, Amazon. Even if you are not new to the online shopping world, this can be overwhelming! Each option creates a barrier between the customer and their ultimate goal – making a purchase.

Instead of bombarding your potential customer, make a few easy adjustments to your checkout page.

Offer returning or registered customers a way to check out, without interrupting a new customer with registration (a whopping 30% of customers abandoned their cart when asked to register upfront). Same goes for payment options – while it is important to offer several for convenience, keep them on a separate page (such as Billing) in an organized fashion that is clear and simple.

Be sure to double-check your checkout and ensure it is easy to understand, quick to complete, and is capable of handling your business’s order volume.

2. Neglecting mobile.

In today’s phone-based society, customers expect an online store to be mobile-friendly so they can shop whenever and wherever they want. Having a mobile-friendly presence allows for convenience and easier customer browsing.

If that isn’t motivation enough, Google search results give priority to sites that are mobile-friendly, meaning if your brand isn’t mobile, you will be pushed down under your competitors and lose a large amount of potential traffic. When Google first made this update, sites that were not mobile, such as American Apparel, suffered a significant loss in traffic. It comes as no surprise that many of these sites (including American Apparel) have made the necessary changes into mobile-compatibility.

According to Google itself, 50% of searches are carried out on mobile devices, and 65% of e-commerce traffic comes from an iPhone or iPad. Don’t set yourself up for losing money! Use Google’s “Mobile-Friendly Test” to see if your site meets the criteria. The goal is to have a site that will still look nice and be easy to navigate on a small screen.

3. Poor usability.

The bottom line: keep it simple. Fancy designs, too many images, and confusing navigation are sale killers. The customer wants to find the product and make a purchase; if they can’t find their way around your site or are too distracted by its appearance, they won’t buy from you. Period. Even worse – a page with too many unnecessary embellishments will take forever to load, and customers will click off before your site has finished downloading.

Take the site MSY, an e-commerce IT business. The overload of graphics on the homepage paired with bright colors, a moving image banner, and the need for horizontal scrolling makes this site very difficult and frustrating to use. It even secured a spot on the Worst Websites of 2014 list. Less is more!

4. Not enough security.

When you are selling people products and asking for personal information (credit/debit card numbers, addresses, etc.), you have to make sure your site is secure. Customers need to establish the trust to do business with you; if your site pops up with a message saying the connection is untrusted, your customers are surely running in the opposite direction. In fact, studies show that up to 25% of users have stopped an online purchase because of security concerns. Remember to renew your SSL certificate to keep your site safe and to let your customers know their information is secure.

Smaller e-commerce businesses are more likely to forget to renew their SSL certificate. This is unacceptable, as running a site without an updated SSL puts all transactions, credit card information, and contact information in plain, unencrypted, easily obtainable text.

5. Neglecting content marketing.

Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with a consistent content marketing plan, especially if your business focuses on a very specific product or service. However, content marketing is crucial if you want to generate organic traffic to your site.

The key to producing content is not to focus solely on your products but on your customers. Who are your customers? What might they be interested in, based on their interest in your specific product? Build your content marketing around your ideal customer, rather than around a product.

6. A bad domain name.

Your domain name is one of the first things customers will see when they visit your site. If the name is hard to remember, awkward to type, too long, too similar to another domain name or has nothing to do with your brand, chances are you will lose potential customers to your competitors.

For instance, consider Barnes & Noble. Although they are a large and popular business, they make less money through online book sales than their biggest competitor, Amazon. Though there are many reasons for this, one of them can be chalked up to their domain name: barnesandnoble.com. It is awkward to spell out and much less convenient than its competitor’s.

Generally speaking, having no domain name is the worst option, so get one! Try to get a .com if you can, and keep the name short, memorable, and focused.

7. Vague search results.

One of the most important tools for navigation on your site is a search bar. This allows customers to type in keywords regarding their specific needs and get immediate results. If your search tool does not show relevant results quickly, it’s time to upgrade.

Even some of the biggest are guilty of faulty search engines. For example, Apple – you’d think a huge corporation would have a refined, working search. However, search results often did not come up with relevant products for purchase and more often than not lacked images, ratings, and refinable filters. There is a disconnect between the main site search, which shows content, and the Apple Store website, which shows products, resulting in an ineffective and frustrating customer experience. These sites should share a search engine that gives all the available results at the same time.

As Andy Eades, e-commerce consultant for Elevate Web, states, customers who “use on-site search to find products are more than three times more likely to convert than customers who don’t,” so having a usable, efficient search engine is crucial for business.

8. Low-quality images.

Online shopping is all about the visuals. Customers want to see, in as much detail as possible, what they are going to receive if they purchase your products. Images that are blurry or too small will not encourage customers to make a purchase.

Since customers can’t physically pick up an item to inspect it, professional, high-resolution photos with the option to enlarge and view from different angles are a must. If you want to know what not to do, check out the website for Ling’s Cars; not only do the images make it nearly impossible to navigate, they often are only thumbnail-sized and show just one angle.

9. Losing focus.

One of the biggest mistakes many e-commerce stores make is trying to sell too many different types of products to too many different kinds customers. With over 200,000 e-commerce sites in the US alone, it is crucial to the success of your business to find your niche and know your target customer. Rather than selling a wide variety of general products, get specific. Cater to the enthusiasts and hobbyists that are looking for very specific products; sites like Amazon are often too focused on the general customer and lack the products a very in-depth enthusiast is looking for.

By having a niche, you are giving customers a reason to buy from you (rather than the thousands of other online stores). Offering unique products or services that are not commonly offered gives you an edge over your competition.

10. Not knowing your customer.

To maximize sales, you have to know where your customer hangs out online. Not all platforms will be ideal for your products; if your focus is electronics, selling on Etsy will get you nowhere. If handmade crafts are your thing, Etsy would be perfect whereas a site like Amazon wouldn’t do you justice.
Before you start, look for products similar to yours online, take note of where they are being sold, and decide if you can see your customers there.

Once you’ve made sure that these mistakes are not going to be yours as well, check out the next step in keeping customers happy and sales up, a full-service customer support solution like HappyFox! With integration to apps like SalesForce and even with social media, you can’t go wrong!

Check out HappyFox’s E-Commerce Customer Support Features.

Do you have experience with one of these common mistakes? See anything important we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!


  • Tabitha Naylor

    Tabitha Jean Naylor is the Founder of Successful Startup 101, a digital magazine that provides answers to today's most pertinent questions facing startup founders, and the Owner of TabithaNaylor.com. Her intimate knowledge of how sales and marketing go hand-in-hand has resulted in a variety of successful campaigns for start-ups through publicly traded companies, including Adobe and Microsoft. Ms. Naylor holds a dual bachelor degree in Political Science and International Business from West Virginia University, where she graduated magna cum laude.