With the future of brick-and-mortar retail in flux, more and more prospective small business owners are forgoing costly leases and going all-in on e-commerce. E-commerce can be an exciting and rewarding pursuit, but the comparatively low barrier of entry means a crowded marketplace full of strong competitors and the remnants of those who couldn’t compete. To survive, thrive, and avoid becoming a cautionary tale, think about these five e-commerce mistakes to avoid as you go forward.
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Not Doing the Math
If this is your first small-business enterprise, you may not realize how much number-crunching goes into running a business under the surface. With its dueling approaches to accounting for moving units, inventory management has tripped up many would-be entrepreneurs. Make sure you’re keeping immaculate books and staying on top of all the numbers.
Too Much, Too Soon
As you launch a new business, it’s perilously easy to lose yourself in excitement and the need for growth. Ambition is beneficial—even necessary—but getting too ambitious for your own good can be dangerous in the early days of your business. Plot out a trajectory for smart and measured growth. Stick to offerings that lie within your area of expertise, and limit your shop to what you know will sell well. As you grow, you can move beyond mastery and start to expand the brand.
Obviously, the quality of your goods will matter the most, and we’ve all memorized the admonition not to judge a book by its cover. Nevertheless, the cover is still part of the book, and ugly or inadequate packaging will affect not only perception but reality for your small business. Make sure your packaging is scaled, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Audit your packaging regularly, and consider whether you can make improvements.
“If you build it, they will come.” “Good products sell themselves.” Banish these phrases from your mind forever. These are among the many business bromides that don’t work in the modern marketplace. With the infinite horizons of e-commerce, mere existence does not guarantee patronage, nor do even great products sell themselves without savvy marketing. Take a creative and energetic approach to marketing your product and maximizing exposure.
Any e-retailer knows well enough not to put a weak foot forward with a website that looks like a relic of Geocities circa 1998. But a maximalist approach to web design can be as off-putting to shoppers as a minimalist one, making overstimulating design a critical e-commerce mistake to avoid making. Remember that, just like in bookkeeping, margins matter—but in this case, it’s a matter of sufficient white space and layout making your site easy to read and easy to navigate.