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Nine Common E-Commerce Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Untitled (Shopping Cart) by Doug Aitken

The phrase “shopping cart abandonment” might make you think of a lonely cart sitting in the middle of a vast, empty parking lot.

And while that’s quite a sad thought, it’s not quite as sad as the real meaning of the phrase: when online shoppers add items to their carts but leave before they begin or finish checking out.

In other words, when they don’t buy the stuff they were interested in.

When that happens, you lose out on dollars — you know that. But you may not know how, exactly, that you’re losing your customers.

Here are 9 common e-commerce mistakes you could be making right this minute:

Ignoring mobile/tablet users.

I surf the web on my smartphone daily, and about half the sites I visit still load the desktop version in my little 480px-wide screen. To assume that shoppers are willing to pinch and zoom and scroll around just to browse your products — let alone take the effort to add them to the cart and then fumble through the miniaturized form during checkout — is placing way too much confidence in your products. Make sure your site is optimized to work on all screens, and you’ll optimize your opportunities for conversions.

Insecure checkout.

Most folks haven’t a clue what “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)” means, but they are savvy enough know what the little lock icon in front of the URL means. If your site isn’t rocking the security measures, shoppers will look elsewhere. No one wants their credit card information stolen!

Your site is too slow.

Sure, you could argue that those long seconds it takes your website to load provide quiet, contemplative meditation for harried shoppers, but the shoppers can’t hear you. They’ve already hit the “back” button and they’re on a competitor’s site. People don’t have patience for staring at a white screen: you simply must minimize page load time. And you can help reduce it by avoiding an…

Overly complicated design.

There’s a certain “wow” factor to slick graphics and fancy effects, but that good impression quickly fades when looks get in the way of functionality. If you’ve ever tried to navigate to a page only to have the menu disappear right as you were going to click, or if you’ve had a piece of important text covered by an annoying hover trick, you know what I’m talking about. Keep your layout clean and spacious, your buttons big, your text readable, and your menus basic. Which in turn leads us to not having…

Too much stuff.

Heard of information overload? Don’t bury your products in a sea of links and banners and widgets and feeds. Minimize clutter by focusing on providing the information that really matters to your customers.

Your site doesn’t agree with some browsers.

This goes for every website, but it goes double for e-commerce: check your site across all browsers. When conversions are on the line, you don’t want your site picking a fight with a potential shopper’s browser of choice.

Confusing check-out process.

Research shows shoppers can only tolerate so many steps in a checkout process before they get flaky. Compuware recommends these:

  • Welcome/cart contents page
  • Bill-to section
  • Ship-to section
  • Payment module
  • Confirmation/thank you page

Placing obstacles in customers’ paths.

Sure, you may have certain goals you want to grow, like increasing newsletter and account signups. But forcing shoppers through hoops just to buy your stuff is bad practice. The best practice? Give them a way out. Providing an option to checkout as a guest, for instance, can help persuade those who don’t want to or don’t have time to create an account to stick around until the transaction is finished.

Charging too much for shipping.

The most convincing price for shipping is, of course, free. And most shoppers understand that companies can’t afford to provide free shipping all the time. But what they have zero sympathy for is shipping that appears to costs too much. Mitigate your shipping costs by offering a flat table rate or a conditional rate (based on number of items purchased).

Come clean: how many of these mistakes are you guilty of?

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