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June 4, 2019

10 common ecommerce mistakes made by fast growing retailers (by someone who’s been there)

Something stopping your online sales?

Here’s what we can do to help.

Pete Robertshaw spent 14 years at the retailer Better Bathrooms, beginning in IT and working his way up to oversee all aspects of the technology side of the business, including the ecommerce operation.

Pete shares what he learned during his time with Better Bathrooms, from working on the initial ecommerce website launch to responding to the technical challenges of providing a seamless multichannel experience.

1. Poor product data will stop your business growing to the next level

Product data provides the foundation for a host of site functionality that your customer will value, including:

  • Improved site navigation through filters
  • Improved site search results
  • Improved product data feeds for Google Shopping
  • Ability to create dedicated landing pages for Google Shopping

You’ll also benefit from getting more data for product sales analysis and the ability to perform accurate price comparisons against your competition.

Lesson: Spend as long as it takes to get your product data refined.

2. Too much customisation

It’s tempting and might seem like a good idea at the time, but save your creative enthusiasm to customise your Nikes, rather than getting too creative on your ecommerce operation.

If you get too carried away, you may find it harder to manage upgrades, and your whizzy additions could actually have a negative effect on site performance.  Keep it ‘vanilla’ where possible, using only well tested and supported modules or apps.

Lesson: Custom functionality is fine, just don’t over-do it!

Less is more

3. Choosing the wrong partner

Remember when KFC switched from Bidvest to DHL and had to close 600 of their 900 outlets? Or when a controversial no-deal Brexit ferry contract was awarded to a firm with no ships?

Choosing the wrong partner can be a costly mistake, especially on large scale projects where inevitable you end up working closely with that partner and their staff over a period of months, and in some cases years.

There’s a saying that you can’t choose your family. You can however choose your ecommerce agency, so make sure you choose an agency that understands you and has a similar ethos and approach to how you work. Big names can seem tempting, however they are likely to have a set way if working and a number of organisations competing for time.

Lesson: Do your research and trust your instincts – there will be bumpy patches with any large project, you need to find a partner that you trust to help you over those bumps.

Confused by your partner services?

4. Look at the whole journey, not just where the final purchase takes place.

Just because a purchase isn’t completed on a mobile phone, doesn’t mean it isn’t a hugely important channel in the purchasing experience. It’s never comfortable to admit when getting something wrong, however, when I was at Better Bathrooms, we got this one wrong. Even if people don’t convert on mobile, they will research!

In 2018, in Europe, 44% of all online transactions were completed on mobile device.

The lesson: Build mobile first experiences.

Mobile phone

5. Be a leader not a follower

Watch your competitors but don’t be led by them. Guess what – your competitors don’t know everything either! Your competitors will be testing ideas and not all will work.

Lesson: Know your brand and find your own USP to help you stand out from the crowd.

6. Become a data driven (not feelings driven) business

Yes, gut feel is important, but it really can’t compare with the actionable insights you can take if you’re measuring and reporting on the right data points.

Lesson: If you’re not measuring it, you can’t manage it.

Data has a better idea

7. Do not take development shortcuts – however tempting it seems at the time

I’ve learned from my own painful experiences that development shortcuts rarely work out well long term.

All too often a temporary workaround ends up becoming permanent, resulting in a negative user experience and poor site performance. A/B testing tools should be used to actually A/B test, not to take shortcuts!

Lesson: If you can’t make the changes you want on your website, speak to your agency.

Don't take development shortcuts

8. Invest in tech

Third-party tools can enhance your website performance, improving user experience, increasing conversions and ultimately revenue.

Tools to consider include enhanced site search tools, merchandising tools, personalisation and your email service provider tool (ESP). Before investing, make sure you have the resource to service the tools you work with. Great tools can very quickly start to gather dust if not properly planned for.

Lesson: Don’t spend money on technology if you can’t invest time and resources into properly utilising it.

9. Get in the room with your users

Have you ever shopped online and thought “Why the fudge would anyone set up an ecommerce site this way!?!” before swiftly shutting the website down and going to find something less frustrating to do instead? That’s because real life users – actual people, like your customers, see and experience a website in a very different way than the people building a website. The expression “you can’t see the wood for the trees” fits here.

And if you don’t see what your customers see, you won’t see them again!

Real-life user testing (or people testing!) will give you vital feedback into the things that turn people off your site. Session recording is ok but it’s no substitute for real people in a room actually having a conversation with you.

Lesson: Get your customers in a room and listen to them.

Talk to your users

10. Don’t make one person God of everything ecommerce (document everything!)

People come and go, to maintain consistency it’s essential that policies and processes are documented, shared and understood by more than the person who created them.

Lesson: Don’t leave knowledge in the hands of just one individual.

If you’d like to hear what else I learned during my time at Better Bathrooms, or would like to discuss your own ecommerce challenges, please get in touch on [email protected] .