There was a time when, for most businesses, having an e-Commerce website was almost something of a novelty. Sure, customers liked the ability to shop online from the comfort and convenience of their own homes. But the primary way they interacted with your business was still likely a brick-and-mortar location.

Having said that, it’s official: that time is definitely over.

According to one recent study, a significant 76% of all adults in the United States alone shop online. Over half of them say that they actually prefer the experience to shopping in a physical store. While these numbers were already on the rise, the pandemic formally acted as an accelerant – driving them higher than ever via a trend that shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Indeed, many studies show that there was a significant volume of people who shopped online for the first time during COVID-19 – 3% in the United States – who have no plans on going back.

Therefore, having an e-Commerce website for your business is no longer a recommendation. It seems to have become a requirement.

However, simply putting up an online storefront as quickly as you can isn’t enough to guarantee success. Don’t forget that people love shopping online because of the high quality, convenient experience. It would be a mistake to harm that by developing a site that is slow, difficult to use, and that doesn’t make the purchasing process as easy and as enjoyable as people want.

Therefore, if you want to make sure that you’re developing the most successful e-Commerce website that you can, there are five critical mistakes that you’ll want to avoid along the way. 

Mistake #1: Not Developing With a Specific Audience in Mind

By far, the biggest mistake that you can make when developing your e-Commerce website involves making decisions that aren’t firmly rooted in the wants and needs of the people you’re trying to serve.

Think about it like this: when you started your business in the first place, you did a tremendous amount of research before you opened your doors. You made sure there was a market for your product or service. You took the time to understand what these people like and don’t like. What they need and what they want.

Why, then, would you not put the same level of time into understanding what people are looking for out of the digital experience to put yourself in the best position to give it to them?

What is the demographic makeup of your audience? Where do they primarily live – are they local or will you be serving people from all across the country? How much income do they have on average? What types of devices are they using? Which social media networks do they spend the majority of their time on? All of these are critical questions to know to help you understand how to best reach these people with your e-Commerce site in a way that other people can’t match. 

Mistake #2: Failing to Focus on the User Experience

Another one of the most catastrophic mistakes that businesses sometimes make when developing an e-Commerce website involves failing to focus on the user experience itself.

In no uncertain terms, it should be just as enjoyable to interact with your business online as it is in-person – if not even more so. It should be effortless and enjoyable to make a purchase from your website. If it isn’t, people aren’t going to want to do it for very long – end of story.

It doesn’t matter how visually impressive your site is – if you’re making decisions in terms of things like layout and navigation that “look cool” but that make it harder to use your site, all you really have is window dressing. 

This is why developing a framework for your site’s navigation before you actually build the e-Commerce portal itself is crucial to long-term success. Think about how many steps someone has to go through in order to make a purchase. How can you make that process as easy as possible? Can someone quickly find what they’re looking for or will it take a lot of time?

Don’t make design choices at the expense of the user experience – make them in support of it. 

Mistake #3: Forgetting About Marketing Best Practices like SEO

One mistake that a lot of businesses that are new to the world of e-Commerce often make involves completely ignoring traditional best practices that have to do with digital marketing. They think that because an e-Commerce website isn’t a traditional “site” like their primary homepage is, they’re following a completely different set of rules. In reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Case in point: SEO. The vast majority of people who find your business online will do so via a search engine and the higher you rank on a site like Google, the more traffic you’re going to draw in. That’s why search engine optimization is important – it helps you rank well for your desired keywords.

On your e-Commerce site, you may have a lot of products that are similar or even identical with the small exception of something like SKU or color. You may want to save time by using the same product description for each one. This would be a huge mistake because it runs afoul of SEO best practices.

Not only will using an identical product description multiple times get you penalized by Google (and thus you’ll rank lower), but it also overlooks a major opportunity. Each unique product page and description is another chance to rank for your desired keywords, regardless of how similar the products may be.

An emphasis on responsiveness and mobile friendliness is another example. SEO tells us that your content needs to look and function well on any device – not just desktop and laptop computers. If someone wants to make a purchase from your site on their smartphone, it’s up to you to allow that to happen. Responsive web design is how you do it and it’s just as important on your e-Commerce site as it is on your homepage or your blog.

If you throw the best practices of things like SEO and other digital marketing techniques out the window, you’ll never be able to get to that point. That is not the position you want to find yourself in.

Mistake #4: Not Learning From Your Competitors

There are a lot of businesses out there who probably offer products and services similar to your own. They likely have their own e-Commerce websites and are even selling to a similar audience. It would be a mistake to put your head in the sand and pretend they don’t exist. Instead, you need to learn from them.

Head to the e-Commerce websites if your four or five biggest competitors and use it the same way that one of your customers would. What works really well that you can learn from? What navigation or other usability mistakes have they made that you can completely avoid?

There’s no shame in taking something that your competitors are already doing well, learning from it, and trying to do it better. You’d be kidding yourself to think that they aren’t thinking along the same lines when it comes to you. Likewise, if they’ve made a mistake that cost them ground in the world of e-Commerce, why allow yourself to repeat it?

Mistake #5: Going at it Alone When You Don’t Have To

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes of all involves attempting to develop the perfect e-Commerce website totally in-house if you don’t have the capability to do so.

Everything under discussion here – from market research to user experience testing and beyond – takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to get right. Yes, there are platforms out there that will use things like pre-made templates to help you get an e-Commerce site off the ground as quickly as possible. But you need a site that will continue to grow and evolve as your business does the same. You need advanced features like shipping and inventory management that those platforms might not come with. None of these things are going to come into existence overnight.

That’s why finding the right development partner is always recommended – one that understands your business, your target audience, and how to bring those two things together. They can help not only with the development process, but also the day-to-day operations like maintenance that will be necessary from that point on. Because of that, you can focus all of your attention where it belongs: on your business itself. 

In the End

Overall, it’s important to remember that “developing” your e-Commerce website isn’t something that you “do once and forget about.” You’ve done the research, you’ve put in the time, the site has gone live – it would be the biggest mistake of all to assume that this is where the story ends.

Instead, this is the beginning of something much larger and more important – the development of long-term relationships with your target audience members. You’ll always need to identify and capitalize on ways to improve your site. You’ll always need to add new products and features. Market trends will change, and your e-Commerce site needs to change with them, all in service of the most important benefit of all: creating the type of exceptional experience for your audience that they won’t be able to find anywhere else.

At Pineapple Digital, our team has years of combined experience developing successful websites for many types of businesses – including e-Commerce websites. More than anything, we want to use our tools and our talent to your advantage, developing the successful e-Commerce presence you need while avoiding mistakes like those outlined above. At that point, you can rest easy knowing that your online storefront is taken care of – exactly the way it should be.

To find out more information about the types of mistakes that you should focus on avoiding when developing your e-Commerce website, or to talk to a professional about your own vision in a bit more detail, please don’t hesitate to contact Pineapple Digital today.