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13 Reasons Why Your E-Commerce Site Is Failing

By Stoney deGeyter

Let’s start with the givens. You have a legit business, you’ve done your product research, you understand your customers, and you have a compelling reason for customers to buy from you over your competitors. By all counts, your business should be thriving online.

But it’s not, and you want to know why.

You’re not alone. Many otherwise successful e-commerce sites find themselves in the same situation. Of the following 13 issues, any one of them can kill your business. And if they don’t, they can be a significant contributing factor hindering your business growth.

Luckily, all is not lost. Here we will help you identify and correct business-killing issues that you may not even know you have.

1. Lack of keyword optimization

Let’s start with the basics. If your site isn’t optimized for what people are searching for, you’re going to have a hard time getting found. Sure, you can advertise, but non-optimized sites still have a hard time performing, even with paid traffic.

Optimization is more than just showing up in rankings. It’s about providing content that your audience is looking for and then compelling them to click into your site.

2. Not understanding searcher intent

Understanding what the searcher really wants is critical to delivering a quality on-site experience. If you don’t understand the intent of a search query, you’ll optimize the wrong pages for what you think are relevant keywords, but ultimately won’t provide the visitor with what they were looking for.

Matching both keyword and URLs to the searchers’ intent, and making sure they land on the page that is the best representation of that intent, ensures customers find what they seek immediately, rather than forcing them to hunt around—which they often won’t do.

3. Lack of structure optimization

Aside from keyword optimization, you also need to optimize your site structure and code. This can have a profound impact on the findability and usability of the site. Optimized content won’t get the traction it needs if the code is holding it back.

4. Poor navigation and product findability

There are two main ways people get around on your site: The first is your navigation and the other is your search box. Both of these need to be in tip-top shape.

On the navigation front, keep your main navigation options streamlined. Show what you offer, and don’t load the visitor down with too many options. For product search, make sure that every search produces a quality result. If your search fails to provide links to the most related products, there will be an assumption that you simply don’t have what the shopper wants.

5. “Meh” content

Content is a huge business these days, but good content is hard to come by. It’s easy to pay a few pennies per word and crank out content. Unfortunately, most of that content is of little or no value—and I’m not just talking about blog content. Every paragraph of your site should be scrutinized for value. If anything is not delivering, delete it.

6. Low-quality images

It’s been said that the eyes are the gateway to the soul; I think they are also the gateway to the wallet. When you’re trying to sell a product, visuals matter. You may be selling the exact same product as the next guy, but the one with the better-looking images will almost always win.

Remember, when shopping online, your images are the closest customers will get to the product until it arrives. High-quality images are the next best thing to holding the product in their hand.

7. Slow site speed

A slow site can be the death knell for any e-commerce website. Imagine walking into a store and getting stuck behind slow-moving shoppers and checkout clerks. After no more than a few minutes of that, you’re ready to bail and drive 10 miles out of your way to shop at a store where you can get in and out quickly. Online shopping should go at lightning speed. If anything is slow, it should be the shopper, never the website.

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8. Lack of customer support

There are definitely some downsides of in-store shopping (getting dressed, leaving the house, etc.), but there is one thing that brick-and-mortar stores have that online stores do not: Immediate access to customer service. Okay, so maybe you have to hunt someone down from time to time, but you know that you’ll eventually get the help you want.

Online, customer support is almost entirely handled through content—which means you need to cover your bases. Contact information, shipping details, product returns, warranties, etc. should be super easy to find so no one has to hunt for help on your site.

9. No, or too many, calls-to-action

Most e-commerce sites suffer from not providing calls-to-action that lead shoppers through the buying cycle. Or they have too many calls-to-action on the product page. Either one of these can be catastrophic.

Without a call-to-action on a non-product page, there’s nothing to propel the customer to the next phase of making a purchase. Without it, they’ll just dawdle for a bit and are far more likely to leave your site without making a purchase.

On your product pages, you don’t want calls-to-action competing with each other; you should have one obvious, primary call-to-action to purchase the product. Any secondary calls-to-action (“add to wish list,” “save for later,” etc.) should not be as visually obvious.

10. Poor mobile and checkout experiences

Site usability matters both before and after visitors start checking out. I’ve addressed several these already (site speed, search, navigation, calls to action, etc.), so I want to address two others here: mobile and site checkout.

It’s time to start looking at usability on your mobile device first. No longer should it be secondary to desktop usability. And be sure to inspect your checkout experience with a fine-tooth comb. Look for any hurdles, roadblocks, or other annoyances if things are not done “just right.” Essentially you want to try to break it so you know where to fix it.

11. Lack of trust

When it comes to making purchases online, trust is paramount. If you can’t be trusted . . . well, would you do business with someone you don’t trust?

There are a lot of ways you can instill trust with your customers. Start by highlighting your connections with other trusted organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, chambers of commerce, and industry organizations. Then make sure that your site is secure. Lastly, be clear about your shipping and return policies. Make sure customers know exactly what to expect once they give you their money.

12. No brand building or engagement

Another way to build trust is through brand building and social engagement, but this warrants being a point all its own. More and more customers are connecting with brands they identify with. And the brands that build the highest loyalty are those that are actively engaging with their audience through social media and other channels. Don’t just use social media to broadcast content; use it to connect with your audience.

13. Your competition is doing it better

And finally, if you find that you just can’t get ahead with your e-commerce site, it may be because your competitors are already ahead. It’s not enough to do everything that’s been mentioned well. The absolute lowest bar is to be just as good as your competition, but even that isn’t a recipe for success. To be successful, you have to be better. You have to take the lead.

If your e-commerce site is floundering, ask yourself if it suffers from any of these issues. Some simple fixes could mean the difference between barely surviving and really thriving online.

About the Author

Post by: Stoney deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a results-driven digital marketing agency helping businesses establish their digital authority since 1998. Stoney is also a nationally recognized speaker and the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period! 2.0.

Company: Pole Position Marketing
Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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