6 Stupid Ecommerce Startup Mistakes Most Business Owners Make (Are You?)
Ecommerce is the poster child of today’s online business.
With high-profit promises and a wildly low barrier to entry, it’s no wonder ecommerce is considered one of the best online business to start.
After all, almost anyone, anywhere - from your 11-year-old son to your 72-year-old grandmother - can quickly and easily set up a Shopify store and have a business up and running in about a day. Often, in as little as a few hours.
Unfortunately, most eComm startups vanish almost as quickly as they got started, because NO ONE has given them the cold, hard lowdown on what it takes to be successful at it.
The “goo-roos” and experts all loooove talking about their numbers - how many sales they made in a week, 24 hours or 30 days. How many impressions their Facebook ads got, how many shares, and so on.
All you need to do is take a peek on Upwork or similar freelance job boards and requests posted by hopeful business owners with good intentions...and totally unrealistic expectations.
The problem with most of the online programs out there is that they gloss over the sticking points and hurdles that keep most ecommerce store owners mired, frustrated and discouraged. And eventually...make them give up.
As an eCommerce store owner myself, I’ve also made most of these mistakes...and I want to help YOU avoid making them too.
Which is why I’m sharing 6 stupid mistakes almost NO ONE is talking about that will kill your ecommerce store, fast. And what you can do to sidestep them.
Ecommerce Mistake #1: Poor Product Selection
This one’s a two-parter.
First, the products you choose for your ecommerce store have NOTHING to do with you, your passions, hobbies, interests or likes.
The products you choose should be products that people want to buy. Nothing more, and definitely nothing less.
You can find popular products, ie. the stuff people will pay for - no matter how ridiculous it seems - by doing some basic product research (seriously, it's amazing what people will buy).
How? By finding out who your competitors are, and what their top-sellers (or potential top-sellers) are. The tools are readily available - some of the most helpful ones are free - and there for the taking. Yet it’s mind-blowing how few eCommerce store owners don’t know how to do this, or do it well.
As an ecommerce store owner, it’s imperative to your store’s survival that you get good at competitive research using Facebook, Google and other means.
The second part to this is: Too many products.
This was a mistake I made due to the well-intentioned but misguided advice from someone I was working with when I first got into eCommerce.
Apparently, the rationale behind loading the store with tons of products is that it increases the average customer order value by presenting them with more opportunities to purchase. Like a “one-stop shop” experience.
But of course...it doesn’t work.
Where this idea falls short is that:
A) It takes a ridiculous amount of time to research products and add them to your store, so you wind up spending DAYS doing nothing but that, and
B) Too many options confuse people.
If you’ve been around the online marketing space for any length of time, you already know that too many choices results in confusion. And confusion results in friction...and therefore inaction - the customer simply doesn’t know what to do...so they do nothing.
It’s been PROVEN over and over that you can have a successful 6- or 7-figure ecommerce store with just a handful of products. So why would it make sense to waste time and energy building out a full-service store in the early stages of building a business?
There are better ways to increase your average order value (like maybe implementing a sales funnel, or an effective retargeting campaign) than jam-packing a gazillion products into your store.
Ecommerce Mistake #2: Poor Audience Research
The secret sauce of ecommerce is finding the perfect match of product to audience.
And if you don’t know your audience, you’ll continue to plow through your ad budget with dismal results.
Facebook Audience Insights is an amazing (and slightly scary) tool for researching your audience, uncovering incredible opportunities for matching up products with a hungry population eager to buy.
But don’t stop there.
An excellent asset to your advertising and research efforts is an audience “matrix” and buyer “personas”, which you develop much like you’d do for a client avatar, only on steroids.
Understanding your audience including age, sex, education, what they do for a living, what their hobbies are (something you can determine from their page likes), and whether they click on ads or not, is an absolute MUST for any ecommerce store serious about making money.
Which leads me to the next mistake most people make when it comes to advertising their newly-minted ecommerce store...
Ecommerce Mistake #3: Underestimating Ad Spend
Okay...this one’s a doozy. And one I’ve personally made.
Here’s the thing:
You CAN make thousands of dollars in sales with a relatively small daily ad spend, say $5. But only if - and this is a GIANT if - your audience-product match is on-point.
Otherwise, you’ll be like the rest of us. Which means tweaking and testing. And testing some more. Then tweaking. Followed by more testing.
And I probably don’t have to tell you, that shit adds up, FAST.
Even at $5 a day, when you’re testing say, 5 products, that’s $25 a day.
So, after you’ve blown through a couple hunny over two weeks, you’ll be tempted to pull waaaay back, and try running ads on a smaller scale, at $2.50/day. Which is now too small to get the numbers you need for testing.
That’s why I advise my clients to follow a model like this for testing products and audiences:
- Budget = $15 a day
- Number of products = 1
- Number of ad sets = 1
- Number of ads = 5
Don’t let the $15/day budget lose you here. The reason why you want to go big or go home is because putting more money into your ads up front lets you ramp up your ad stats quicker and identify the winning ads vs. non-performers...and quit dicking around with measly numbers that keep you guessing.
After the first day, with a decent budget behind your campaign, you’ll have some solid stats that will allow you to make educated decisions about whether this product-audience match is a good one, or a dud you need to drop, pronto.
It does NOT however, mean you don’t need to keep testing.
Which brings me to THIS...
Ecommerce Mistake #4: Not Enough Testing
Have I done this one too? Yup. And lesson learned.
This one actually goes hand-in-hand with budgeting for ad spend, because ecommerce is 90% (or more) testing and tweaking and repeating until a winning audience AND product are found.
So...how long are you willing to keep testing new audiences and products?
Often, finding the winning combination takes weeks. Sure, you can sometimes find a winner in a short period of time (especially if you allocate enough $$ to your ads, or you already have an idea of what you’re doing).
But more often than not, it’s a process - one that can be tedious, costly and discouraging when you don’t see results right away.
For me, it took 8 looooong weeks to find my first winner, although it’s worth noting that I was working with a tiny budget and a completely different approach to what I now recommend.
Still, testing, testing and TESTING is the largest piece of the eCommerce puzzle.
How persistent are you willing to be if you don’t find your winning combo in the first few weeks?
If you're going to give up after a month and throw up your hands and declare that "Facebook ads don't work!", then you should probably reconsider the whole online business thang.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the elephant in the room...
Ecommerce Mistake #5: Not Leveraging Proven Online Marketing Tactics
I get it. Many ecommerce store owners are NOT online marketers. Or marketers of any kind. But that doesn’t preclude you (or them) from LEARNING the skills you need to know in order to grow and market your business.
The impact and value of which should not be underestimated.
Case in point:
Shopify has a built-in system for sending abandoned cart emails to people who were almost there but didn’t finalize their purchase for some reason. And MailChimp integrates beautifully - fo’ free - but the majority of store owners STILL don’t run an abandoned cart campaign.
If you’re one of those, do yourself a favor and get the MailChimp app for Shopify. For the investment of a few minutes, you could literally increase your store’s sales overnight.
Which leads me to the last silly mistake most people make when starting an ecommerce store...
Ecommerce Mistake #6: Thinking It’s A No-Brainer Moneymaker
I’ll admit it...THIS^^ is the reason I originally started an e commerce business.
The siren song of copious amounts of cash cha-chinging their way into my bank account, while I did as little as possible other than manage the ads and a couple of team members once it was set up.
Maybe you can relate...😉
As a service provider who was ready for a change, a dropshipping ecommerce business sounded like a no-brainer for my hubby and I, so we invested in a mentor to work with us one-on-one…
...Only to find out it wasn’t as easy as everyone made it sound.
Today, we couldn't imagine where we'd be if we tried to figure it all out ourselves.
A coach and mentor - someone to guide you step-by-step - will greatly slice the learning curve of getting set up, researching and finding that winning product for you.
But whether you start a print-on-demand ecommerce business, go the dropshipping route, or something else entirely, the truth is: Just like any business, there's no guarantee that your store will make you moolah quickly.
This post is intended to dispel some of the hype, untruths, myths and common mistakes most people make about eCommerce, not to be a "Debbie Downer" on your dream.
And let me be clear: ecommerce IS an extremely profitable business model if you avoid the common pitfalls I’ve mentioned here.
The big takeaway is to be reasonable with your expectations going in. It may take more time and money than you and your coach originally anticipated, and the key is being persistent if your bank balance doesn’t suddenly skyrocket once ads start running.
If you need help with your ecommerce business or figuring out Facebook ads to drive sales, then let’s talk.
Click here to book a no-charge, 30-minute coaching session now.
Over to you.
If you have an ecommerce business, what was your biggest hurdle and how did you overcome it?
Share in the comments below!