When I started my first business, I dedicated several months to work on my D2C website. I was very proud of having my own website with my own products for sale. It was only when I thought my website was good enough that I created my Amazon Seller account. I was surprised to see that it barely took me two weeks to create my Amazon listings and secure my very first sale. If only I had created my Amazon before working on my website, I could have made six months’ worth of sales before opening my D2C channel. I didn’t have a good idea of what sales channel to prioritize at the time, and this was a costly mistake.
If you’re following my content, you probably already know a lot more about ecommerce than I did in my early days. We all make mistakes in business, but the wisdom is in learning from other people’s missteps. In this post, I’d like to go over what I think are the eleven biggest mistakes people make in ecommerce, so you can be sure you avoid them.
All action – No planning
We all love a good story of an entrepreneur with a life-changing idea who immediately gets to work and becomes an instant success. In reality, starting a business or pursuing new growth opportunities is taking a risk. Not only financially but also in terms of opportunity cost. While having an idea for a business is a great start, performing market research and developing a solid plan is key. Many newbie entrepreneurs are too eager to start, and they ignore the research part, which causes them a lot of trouble down the road.
All planning – No action
This one is, in my opinion, even worse. We all have that one friend who always has a new business idea but doesn’t act on it because they “need to do more research,” “the timing isn’t right,” “money is tight,” or any other excuse. These “wantrepreneurs” are all talk and no action and will never become successful. There are, of course, less extreme cases, such as entrepreneurs who take too long to take action or react to the market. Given the complexity and perpetual evolution of the ecommerce world, finding the right balance between research/planning, and taking action is vital.
No clear value proposition
A strong value proposition is what sets your business apart from your competitors, gives your customers a reason to choose you, and gives you a shot at being successful. Without a clear and distinct value proposition, customers will be confused about what you have to offer and what the unique benefits are of your products. A weak value proposition will only attract a few customers and/or will severely limit your business potential for healthy profit margins.
No brand identity
Why do some people get Harley Davidson tattoos, but no one gets a Honda tattoo? A well-crafted brand identity defines your brand’s personality, values, and the emotional connection it forms with customers. When a brand lacks identity, a business may struggle to differentiate itself from its competitors, making it difficult for customers to relate and stay loyal. This is especially true for emotionally driven purchases, where the brand identity matters even more. But even when the decision process is more rational, brand identity plays an important role. Ecommerce entrepreneurs must prioritize the development of a compelling brand identity to succeed and thrive.
Lack of Scalability
Ensuring your business is scalable is a fundamental requirement for growth. For example, if you are a talented painter, you can only make a limited number of pieces in a given year, making it difficult to scale your business. However, if you sell prints of your art, your business becomes a lot more scalable, and your income does not depend as much on the time spent painting. A business that lacks scalability will face limitations in its capacity to grow, expand, and take advantage of new opportunities. It is also important that a business can keep provisioning the same standard of quality to its customers, no matter the output.
Not addressing the right sales channels
In ecommerce, new channels appear all the time, and we often see some channels become irrelevant. Who knows what will be the top five channels ten years from now. Identifying the right sales channel and understanding the pros and cons of each option is key to maximizing sales, profit, and resource allocation. It is important to sell where the right audience shops. A D2C website customer and an Amazon customer may have completely different needs and priorities. Finally, an efficient omnichannel strategy can really make a difference in the customers’ experiences and is something entrepreneurs should think of.
If you visit entrepreneurship online forums, you’ve probably seen newbies wondering why they can’t profit from their business. Quite often, the reason is that they are underestimating costs. For example, Amazon clearly tells you that selling fees are 15% of your sale price. But they don’t tell you that in order to be successful, you’ll most likely also have to spend on PPC advertising. Logistics expenses are another example of an expense difficult to estimate, as there are a million small pieces involved: pick and pack, inbound shipping, packing materials, labels, storage, and much more. Entrepreneurs should have a clear idea of their costs and profitability to make the right strategic decisions.
Over Expanding Too Quickly
It can be tempting to be ambitious and expand the business as fast as possible. While it can work in some cases, it can often cause issues. For example, scaling too fast may cause quality control issues and make the company lose valuable customers. It is also important to stay focused on the company’s value proposition and respect brand identities in order to avoid confusing customers and stay on the right course. Growing a business is complex and costly. I am not saying businesses should not grow fast, but careful planning is necessary.
Overlooking Customer Retention
I believe that the customer retention rate is one of the most important KPIs. You’ve probably heard that keeping an existing customer is ten times cheaper than acquiring a new customer. Besides acquisition costs, existing customers can be invaluable for growing the brand. For instance, they can create content on social media, refer new customers, or give you ideas for improvements. Additionally, customers who stop buying from you may have a good reason to do so. If they have a problem with your offer, they’ll be quick to tell the world on social media and post negative reviews. Businesses should certainly have a customer retention strategy if they want to maintain and increase their revenues over time.
Failure to Adapt to Changing Trends
One thing I like about ecommerce is that the environment is always changing, and new opportunities arise every year. If you don’t take advantage of new opportunities, your competitors will. No one wants to run an outdated business; ask the thousands of people who got stuck with unsellable fidget spinners in 2017. Customers’ needs are also always evolving. That’s why it is important to maintain a good relationship with them and ensure your offer stays relevant over time.
Ignoring Data and Analytics
Every business manager claims to be making “data-driven decisions”. In reality, many ignore data and make decisions based on their feelings. I’m not saying that feelings don’t have a place in business—and sometimes it makes sense to go with your gut—but completely disregarding data and analytics is a recipe for disaster. The abundance of available data has never been this vast, and data analytics continues to be more efficient. With businesses having limited resources, using data can help them allocate them in the most efficient way. Running a business without monitoring key KPIs is like playing basketball with a blindfold on.
Every seasoned entrepreneur has made mistakes in their career. However, some are more costly than others, and not wasting too many resources is crucial. In the fast-paced world of ecommerce, success is all about finding the right balance. Whether it’s the rush to take action, the need to define your unique value, or understanding your customers’ preferences, it is a complex field with a million challenges. There are many more mistakes that can be made, but these are, in my opinion, the eleven most important.