Four Mistakes to Avoid when Starting an eCommerce Business.

This is a guest post written by eCommerce Experts.

We have helped many people set up their eCommerce businesses over the last few years and we’ve learned a lot about the right way to do it.  We’ve also seen the common pitfalls many make.  Here are our top 4 things to avoid, when you’re starting out online.

1. Don’t be intimidated.

You make jewellery, sell gadgets or run a salon. You use your hands and are creative, but you ‘don’t do’ tech.  Sorry to tell you this, but you do now.  Either that or you need to find someone who does because you are not going to make it work (or have any fun along the way) unless you embrace it.

We’ll lay our cards on the table.  We are massive fans of Shopify.  We believe it is by some distance the best eCommerce option in SA. This is not just because of Shopify itself, but because of how easy they make it to set up the various elements such as shipping, payment gateways as well as integrations with big local shopping hubs like bidorbuy.  Having said that, the first time you open your Store Manager can be very intimidating. How do I actually see my shop? What is a theme? How do I change colours?  How do I add shipping?

Here are a few tips we think will help you to cut the clutter and translate the techy talk:

  • At first you only really need to worry about 3 sections: Products, Online Store and Settings.
  • Your products and your shopfront (what is known as a “theme” and is basically a pre-built template) are managed separately.  This is so you can change your shopfront and your products independently of each other.
  • To change your shopfront, go to Online Store > Customize Theme.  Although this section is quite hidden, this is where you’re going to spend most of your time initially, so make friends with it.  Each theme is different, but play around with the menu items on the left to get comfortable.  Don’t be scared to click buttons to find out what they do, you can always undo it (you can undo things by typing Ctrl+Z on Windows or Cmd+Z on a Mac).

2. Don’t (only!) select a theme because it’s pretty.

Visiting the theme store (Go to Online Store, then select the button in the top right corner) can be very exciting. You’re probably thinking “Wow!!  Someone else has already done all the hard work to make my site look jacked!” Even the USD paid themes look like good value.  Just remember, selecting a theme based on its look alone can send you down the wrong path, for example, “Ooh, I also have a jewellery store, that must be the right one!”

Looks can be deceiving:

  • You can customise colours, the type of sections you see on your homepage (for example sliding image banners or product collections) and in what order they appear on the page.
  • Think about your product range.  How do they need to be grouped?  Can the theme handle this?  For example, if you have a lot of products you might need several levels of navigation, such as a mega menu, or the ability to filter based on product variants.
  • Check it out on a cell phone.  We’ll say it again because it’s super important. CHECK IT OUT ON A CELL PHONE.  You will probably select themes from a desktop.  Your customers (at least 75% of them in SA) will be visiting your site on a phone.  The most important button when previewing a demo of a theme is very small and at the top of the page, and it allows you to view it as if you’re on a small screen. All Shopify themes are responsive, meaning that they’re optimised to adapt depending on what device your site is being viewed on, but some are better than others – that fancy nancy theme you love might just show white space over most of the small screen of a phone.  

3. Get your basic site housekeeping right.

Once you’ve launched your shiny, new site and waited a few weeks (or hours!) for that first order, it’s tempting to think, “well we need to spend money on advertising because that is what risk-taking entrepreneurs like me do”.  We know, we did the same.  But before you do, get some basics things in place first:

  • Optimise for search engines!  This is the infamous ‘SEO’ and is a science in its own right.  Essentially, it boils down to this:  Have you made it easy for Google to know what you are selling?  Have you used keywords, not just at product level but also in the site description and even the domain name if/where possible?  Do you have a custom .co.za domain?  Have you submitted your sitemap to Google and checked for any problems?
  • Sign up for Google Analytics and see how people are behaving on your site.  Is your bounce rate very high?  What are the most viewed pages and products?  Should you put these to the top of the home page?  Are people adding to cart but not checking out (you’ll need to set up conversions for this)?

If all of this seems a bit daunting, don’t worry, everyone who’s new to the online space will feel this way.  

4. When you finally decide to pay for marketing, there’s no silver bullet. Plan, Do, Review!

Your site looks great and people seem to like it.  Now it’s time to crank it up and spend the big bucks.  Not necessarily a bad idea, but beware…

  • Start with a small budget and optimise it every 2nd day for a month before increasing it.  Try different combinations and media formats.
  • You don’t make money out of window-shoppers, you need buyers, so start small and focus on the campaigns and platforms that are driving conversions.  With Google AdWords you can (it’s complicated, but possible) set up your campaigns so that they optimise all of this for you over time.
  • You can buy friends, on Facebook at least.  But they might not be buyers and this is not a popularity contest, so concentrate you spend on selling rather than collecting likes.  Many people think that when they post something on their business Facebook page, all their “friends” see it in their stream.  Sorry but it doesn’t work like that anymore.  As a business, you have to pay for eyeballs.  So rather send them straight to your store or specific product and not just to your Facebook page.

The marketing side of things is one area where you may well save a lot of money by getting help to get you set up and running.  We know a thing or two about getting SEO, AdWords and Social Media marketing right, so get in touch if you have any questions.