Are you planning start your own online store? Avoid these mistakes if you want your online shop to be successful.
1. Poor navigation: Customers should be able to find products easily. Avoid something called 'mystery meat navigation' where customers are forced to guess what certain menu items mean since there are no text to tell them what a particular menu item is all about!
Stick with what works - most common menu layout schemes are to have the menu on the left, and/or at the top. Do not try any gimmicks or strange layouts that are not customary. You are just chasing visitors away if they cannot navigate around your site. This also happens on those websites that are cluttered. The aim should be to enable the customer to reach a product of his interest with the least number of clicks.
Websites should look professional and the look and feel of the site should fit with the particular focus or brand. For example, cute-sey little cats with big eyes would be out of place on a corporate website, but will fit in better with an online store that sells childrens products.
2. Low-key promotion: Many people who run online stores make the mistake of not advertising. They work on the principle of 'build it and they will come' and hope that people will find their website by accident. If you don't advertise, you are not likely to get customers. You don't have to spend much to advertise your website. Properly targeted keyword advertisements with Pay per Click engines such as Overture, Google and Momma; and email newsletters are an inexpensive way of reaching customers.
3. Poor communication: It is imperative to post contact information prominently on your website. People only buy from website that they trust. If you don't put your contact information on your website, you may give customers the impression that there is no way for them to get support and help when they need it. If you don't have an email address displayed (and you shouldn't - you address will get harvested by spammers!) you should have an email contact form. Even better is to have an online support ticket system to deal with customer enquiries formally.
4. Lack of updates: You need to update your website regularly. You need to add new products, remove obsolete or out of stock products, advertise free offers and change prices where and if necessary. There is nothing worse than to come to a website and realise that the prices and products were last updated 2 years ago.
5. Refusal to invest on SEO: Apart from other advertising as discussed above, you ARE going to need to invest in Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimisation. This investment could either be your own time and effort, or by paying a professional Search Engine Optimization company to do it for you. You can easily pay to get visitors to your site through Pay per click engines, but as soon as you stop paying for those the visitors will also dry up. Investment in SEO and Internet Marketing might seem expensive in the short run, but in the long run the visitors that will arrive at your site through these methods are 'organic' visitors and will keep on coming for years - long after your initial funds have been spent. Most of the best targeted search engine traffic come from natural results in the search engines.
6. Absence of return policy: Make sure that you have a friendly return policy, and that it is displayed prominently on the site. This gives the customers the confidence that if they don't like the product they can return it. Honor the return policies! Yes, you will get those people who take a chance by ordering the product, using it and then trying to return it, however, it is worth it in the long run to install confidence in your visitors. Clearly spell out your shipping policy with regards to returns - should the person returning the product pay for the shipping?