Nine Common E-commerce Mistakes—and How To Avoid Them
By David Johnson
Whether you're new to e-commerce or have a well-established site, you should be aware of
nine mistakes that will cost you money:
Making Hasty—and Costly—Decisions
Who will build and/or host your site? Who will process your online credit-card orders? You
don't need to be able to do all these tasks yourself, but you should learn the basics so you can
evaluate vendors. Contact at least five before signing a contract.
Neglecting Customer Service
The lack of personal contact in e-commerce transactions often translates into an impersonal
experience for your customers. You can deliver quality online customer service by:
Sending email to customers when an order is received and when it is shipped. Your
messages should encourage customers to contact you if the products don't meet their
Answering email promptly (and adding a personal touch, such as using the customer's
Listing your physical business address and phone number on your site.
Forgetting to Use "Meta" and "Title" Tags
Most e-commerce sites receive 30 percent to 50 percent of their traffic from search engines.
Meta and title tags in your site's HTML code help search engines identify and categorize your
Even if you don't know HTML, you can write text for the "keywords" and "description" meta
tags and have your Web developer insert it in your Web pages. Keywords are the terms
customers might type into a search engine to find your site. The description tag determines
how search engines categorize your site, and the title tag determines how your page will be
labeled in customers' browsers and online bookmark lists.
Here's an example of some effective tags:
<TITLE>BabyZone — Pregnancy and Baby Care Center</TITLE>
<META Name="description" Content="BabyZone offers resources for pregnancy and baby
care, including articles, news, a baby name index, parent chat rooms, and more.">
<META Name="keywords" Content="babies, baby, baby items, baby names, baby naming,
baby products, birth, child, children, expecting, infant [etc.]">
Forgetting to Integrate Your Web Site with Your Traditional Business
Don't forget to include your Web site address in your traditional print advertising, press
releases, and other business documents, including:
Direct marketing materials (mailers, point-of-sale packaging, trade show displays).
Advertising (classifieds, resource guides, Yellow Pages).
Collateral material (company brochures and stationery).
Neglecting to Test Your Site
You don't want customers to leave your site because of an error-prone ordering process. Test
your site frequently to see what sort of experience your customers are having.
Test your order form and view your pages while using different versions of Internet Explorer
and Netscape Navigator.
Cancel and restart an order to see what happens in both the customer's browser and your
Failing to Prepare for Success
Successful online businesses grow at phenomenal rates. When success arrives, you'll face far
greater expansion costs if you neglect to do some planning now. Consider in advance how
you'll add additional capacity to your site to avoid:
Traffic jams. Consider contracting for additional bandwidth from your Web hosting service
(to ensure your Web pages load quickly no matter how many users are accessing your site),
or buying your own server and getting a high-speed connection.
E-commerce overload. Installing high-capacity hardware and e-commerce software now
may be expensive, but it can save money by delaying or eliminating expansion costs later
Slow/faulty fulfillment. Have a contingency fulfillment plan for holiday seasons and future
Underestimating Marketing Needs
Getting your site listed with search engines is the best way to drive traffic to your site, but
here are some other suggestions for your marketing campaign:
Participate in banner ad exchange networks. It's free, and organizations such
as LinkExchange help their members trade banner ads with other sites.
Pursue linking opportunities. Seek out sites aimed at your target market (but not direct
competitors) and ask them to link to your site.
Submitting Customers to Overlong Download Times
To keep your site speedy and efficient, set a maximum file size for your pages, such as 30
kilobytes (users with outdated browsers and/or low-bandwidth Internet connections will
experience long download times on pages with file sizes larger than this).
Serving Up Aging and Out-of-Date Content
Update your content periodically. Customers are put off by outdated content, which gives the
impression that your site is stale and no one's "minding the store."
David Johnson is president of workz.com, a small-business Web site designed to help small
businesses grow and prosper online. For a free trial, go to www.workz.com.