4 Big Mistakes Small Businesses Make in Ecommerce

ecommerce mistakes

Whether you run a brick-and-mortar location or operate exclusively online, eCommerce can help your small business expand your customer base, increase visibility, and boost profits. But there’s more to eCommerce than setting up an online storefront and hoping that people will buy.

Many small businesses fail to consider their eCommerce operations from a customer point of view. As a result, they see little to no online sales. You don’t have to be Amazon to succeed with eCommerce, but you should still emulate the aspects of successful eTailers that keep customers flocking to them for online purchases.

Is your small business making any of these big eCommerce mistakes?

1. Not Telling Customers Why They Should Shop Your Online Store

One of the most common and often overlooked mistakes on small business eCommerce sites is the failure to communicate a clear value proposition. With more than 200,000 eCommerce sites in the United States alone, it’s easy for yours to get lost in a sea of competition. You need a way to stand out from the crowd.

Your eCommerce website should give customers a reason to shop with you online, right from the start. Consider what makes you better than the competition:

  • Do you have a better selection?
  • Excellent customer service?
  • Guaranteed low prices?
  • A loyalty or reward program?

Pinpoint what makes your eCommerce store unique, and highlight that value with compelling headlines and concise copy throughout your site.

2. Displaying Sloppy or Low Quality Product Images

In an online shopping environment, images are central to success. Great product images can close a sale, while poor product images can drive potential customers away, never to return. Visitors to your storefront can’t pick up your products and look at them, so your images have to do all the selling.

Investing in professional, high quality product images is the best thing you can do for your small business eCommerce site. The best product images are high resolution and offer customers the ability to enlarge, as well as view your products from multiple angles.

In addition, your product descriptions should contain all the information your customers need, but can’t get from a photo:

  • Dimensions
  • Materials
  • Available colors and sizes
  • Anything unique or beneficial

3. Failing to Win Customer Trust

Security is important to online shoppers. Just about everyone knows and trusts Amazon, which means they won’t hesitate to click the buy button when they find a product they like. But as a small business, you need to give customers clear reasons to trust that buying online from you is safe.

The most important factor in eCommerce security is payment authentication. Most online shoppers are savvy enough to look for signs that you’re using a secure payment gateway, including a padlock icon and https URL prefix, and recognizable authentication logos from a trusted SSL certificate authentication provider like VeriSign, Comodo, or Go Daddy.

If your site isn’t verified through a trusted authentication source, customers are unlikely to entrust their credit card or bank account details to you.

Other factors that can convey consumer trustworthiness include a modern, clean site design and a customer review system that lets shoppers read and leave reviews of your products and services.

4. Dropping the Ball at the Checkout

The final customer test of your eCommerce site arrives when it’s time to make the purchase. You might have a stunning website filled with great products, compelling descriptions, and advanced security. But if your checkout process is confusing, complex, or irritating, you’ll end up with a lot of abandoned carts.

Make sure your checkout solution is smooth, streamlined, and simple for your customers. Once again, consider Amazon as an example. The retail giant’s one-click ordering system makes it easy to buy and encourages repeat business. Requiring your customers to jump through hoops to make a purchase will only send them to your competition.

In addition to a smooth checkout, make sure you have clear and easy to find shipping rates and policies, as well as defined return policies and customer service contact information for as many channels as possible—phone, email, or even instant chat.

By implementing best practices for your online store, your small business can achieve big gains in eCommerce.

Frustrated Shopping Online Photo via Shutterstock


Megan Totka Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for Chamber of Commerce. Chamber specializes in helping SMB's grow their business on the Web while facilitating the connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan specializes in reporting the latest business news, helpful tips and reliable resources and provides advice through her column on the Chamber blog.

20 Reactions
  1. And it does not help if you keep doing a bad job in meeting their needs. You should always make it a point to go another mile just to satisfy your customers.

    • So true, Aira! Customers will always remember the companies that go above and beyond to meet/exceed their needs and expectations.

  2. I recently purchased a gift certificate from the website of a store near my sister (one location, so I couldn’t purchase in-store) and they’ve bungled it so badly it’s amazing. I purchased without registering (it’s a women’s clothing store) and then they applied the gift certificate amount to my account. First, I didn’t create an account and secondly, it’s a gift. I don’t want it in MY account. Ugh. Sometimes SMBs would be better staying old school if they’ll just mess us worse online.

    • That’s frustrating, Robert. Hopefully you sent your feedback to the store so they can learn from that bungled experience and work on improving their processes. (And thanks for reading!)

  3. I think an easy way to contact a business is important. I’ve been to some sites where I have to really search to find out how to do so. Those aren’t the kind of sites I’d want to buy from.

    • Agreed, Ebele. To gain the credibility of customers (and prospective customers), an e-commerce site should make it immediately apparent how to get in touch, whether it’s by phone, email, or live chat.

      • Yes, it should be very clear where it is, Megan. I’ve never actually looked for a Contact link on this very blog, but I literally just did a quick scroll and found it!

        It almost always puts me off when it’s like an Easter egg hunt on some sites to find a way of contacting someone. It makes me think that thought hasn’t been put into it, or that it’s been considered but not implemented, and then I wonder why.

  4. Totally agree with no. 3 – many web shop owners do not secure their site with an SSL certificate and lose potential customers that are aware of security and data protection.

    SSL is a MUST for every web site that receive personal data – especially ecommerce sites…

    • True, Peter. Today’s customers are more tech-savvy, and when they don’t see that secure URL, they get nervous (rightfully so) and click on to more secure pastures.

  5. Can I also add that every commerce site should have a compelling customer offer and an opt-in box. They won’t buy the first time – you must get them on your list so that you can develop their trust.

    • I agree that having an opt-in box is a must. If you want to develop a good relationship with potential customers, you have to show them that you first respect them. Nothing is more annoying them receiving emails from a company that you didn’t opt-in for. Having a compelling customer offer is a great start to developing their trust.

  6. Point No 2nd and No 3 is very interesting, a good Quality product image is the first attraction, and site URL without https, I mean SSL certified. many e-commerce owners don’t know about SSL certificate. so customers don’t fully trust and hesitate to pay online, SSL is a must for every e-commerce owner .

  7. For ecommerce development, yes – images are your central to success. Great product images can close a sale, while poor product images can drive potential customers away, never to return.

  8. What i’ve read the reason number 1 losing a customer during checkout is shipping costs. People would rather pay a few bucks more for the product but not “waste” it on shipping costs. You might want to subsidise shipping prices with (slightly) increased product prices. Even better, offer “free shipping”. !!!