Back in the day, becoming a store owner was a pretty big deal. You had to rent/buy a suitable place, set up a storefront, deal with suppliers, employees, clients - more than enough to keep you busy every day.
But then the World Wide Web happened...
The internet didn't take long to open an ocean of opportunities for entrepreneurs from all over the world. Setting up an online shop eliminated most of the hassle and investments associated with traditional brick-and-mortar stores. What's more, you were no longer bound to your physical location - anyone across the world could become your client if you wanted to.
It's no surprise that so many people jumped on the ecommerce bandwagon. But much fewer took the time to really understand the market before they dipped their toes into it.
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The ecommerce market
Let's start with popularity. We are undoubtedly talking about an industry that is generating much interest. Wondering how much exactly? Recent statistics reveal that over 27% of the world's population are already shopping online. We are talking about 2.14+ billion potential clients for your product or service.
Even when people make in-store purchases - over 87% of them have already researched the offer online.
Surprisingly enough, in terms of geolocation, the US market is only 5th when it comes to the percentage of retail sales. China is leading the pack with 15.9%, followed by the UK (14.5%), South Korea (9.8%), and Germany (8.4%).
2020 saw a global pandemic hit us. This gave a massive boost to ecommerce. Locked in our homes, we naturally resorted to online purchases, and the whole industry marked an amazing 44% rise in sales.
If there is ever a perfect moment to ride the wave - no better time than now!
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Top five ways you are killing your ecommerce website
Understanding the ecommerce market will give you a good head start, but there are other essential things to consider before you start.
Having a well-thought plan helps you see the big picture - how do you envision your brand, who will you target, what would your website need, what will be your competitive advantages?
Analogically, if you don't focus enough on the essentials - meeting the growing customer demand and fighting off the competition will be next to impossible.
Here are the top five ways you can easily kill your ecommerce website project before it takes off:
1. Choosing the wrong hosting plan
Many startups go for shared web hosting, allured by its affordability and thinking their project is just starting anyways. In reality, the shared environment carries some inherent disadvantages, which can badly damage for-profit projects like online shops.
Shared servers often accommodate over a hundred users, all draining the same pool of system resources. As a result, even if your website is lightweight enough, it might still suffer from a lack of processing power or RAM. Same goes with security - you can follow all website safety guidelines and utilize the best security plugins, but it wouldn't matter if another client on the same server left some vulnerabilities unpatched.
As dedicated servers might be a bit costly for startups and SMBs, VPS hosting is often a good starting point for ecommerce projects. Virtual server clients benefit from an isolated environment, dedicated system resources, and greater control over all aspects of their service.
The ability to scale resources up and down can prove extremely useful, especially in cases of special promotions and marketing campaigns.
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2. Choosing the wrong web building platform
Another thing to consider from the get-go is the choice of a web building platform. There are more than a hundred ecommerce site builders out there, both hosted and self-hosted. They seemingly have the same end goal - creating an appealing online store.
But the devil is in the details, and that's why you have to do some preliminary research.
Take Magento, for example. One of the most popular ecommerce solutions out there, the open-source platform is powering some of the biggest retail and wholesale companies on the market. But when it comes to small online shops that offer just a handful of products - Magento can be a bit of an overkill because of its overcomplexity and server resource demands.
When choosing your potential ecommerce building app, consider areas like the range of features, system requirements, theme and plugin variety, growth opportunities, and ease of use.
3. Slow or unresponsive website
Once equipped with the right hosting and website builder, you have to put all efforts into optimizing your website to perfection. The online competition is fierce, and clients are naturally looking to get the best bang for their buck.
According to statistics, slow and unresponsive websites are one of the biggest turn-offs when navigating online. If your pages take more than 3-5 seconds to load, three out of four visitors will leave and probably never come back.
What's more, site speed is now proven to be an essential part of Google's ranking algorithms, so your search engine rankings highly depend on how well you optimize your shop.
It's a race for every millisecond.
Be it image optimization, browser caching, or performance plugins - webmasters are doing everything they can to cut the loading times down to a minimum.
4. Difficult checkout process
You have to ensure your website navigation and checkout process are as clear and straightforward as possible. Obstacles during the final steps of the purchase are one of the prime reasons potential clients are leaving your page.
Here are some of the top culprits that hinder your checkout process:
- Too many steps
- Too many fields
- Forced account creation
- Unnecessary popups and questionnaires
- No inline validation (validity check after each field is filled in)
Ideally, your checkout process should be 1-3 steps maximum, requiring only the essential information you need to complete the order on your end.
- This is the best shopping cart software for your website
5. Not optimized for mobile
Any ecommerce store owner in the last few years will probably tell you the same story - traffic and sales from mobile devices are on a constant rise, and they have already exceeded those from desktop computers. In some niches, the difference is already 3:1 in favor of smartphone and tablet visitors.
Failing to optimize your ecommerce shop for mobile browsing is like shooting yourself in the foot.
There are two ways you can go about that:
- Individual theme and design - creating an entirely different version of your website, available for mobile users only.
- Responsive design - creating a layout and design that automatically adapts to the size of the screen it's viewed on.
It doesn't even matter what percentage of your visitors are currently coming from smartphones. The sooner you optimize your ecommerce store for mobile - the better.
Finding the right hosting provider
As you can see, apart from your own efforts, the success of your online shop highly depends on your hosting provider. Thousands of hosts are fighting for the same pool of clients, each offering different lucrative benefits.
But what should you be looking for in particular as an ecommerce store owner?
- Features - don't just look for the broadest set of features - consider which one of them can carry real value. Ensure you are well-covered when it comes to CMS choice, security solutions, SEO options, and an easy-to-use environment.
- Added Value - check if your potential host offers unique characteristics that can really boost an ecommerce project. For example, some providers rely on extremely low prices while others, like ScalaHosting, bet on in-house developed hosting solutions.
- Server Power - whether you go for a shared server or a VPS hosting plan, make sure you have enough CPU, RAM, and disk space not just to accommodate your website but to allow it room for growth as well.
- Security - online shops are dealing with sensitive client data. Personal and billing details are exchanged daily, and it's your responsibility to establish a safe environment for this process. Hosting providers can be a great help in that department.
Preparation is key
Sure, there might be a lot of ways to kill your ecommerce website before it even takes off. But there's nothing a little preparation can't overcome. Some careful planning and the right hosting choice will give you a solid foundation you can build upon. How tall your ecommerce tower grows from there is limited only by your ingenuity.
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