How To Avoid Most Common eCommerce Store Fails (2021)

eCommerce can be a rough industry to work in, no matter what you’re selling. You probably see competitors go out of business all the time. Here are a few ways to ensure you don’t follow suit.

eCommerce can be a brutal, unforgiving industry, and estimates for how many stores actually survive for more than a few years range from 10% to a paltry 3%. And yet in spite of this failure rate, eCommerce is booming, with worldwide sales projected to top $4 trillion dollars by 2020.

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In other words, even though running your own online storefront can be grueling and challenging, it’s also immensely rewarding if you do things right. And believe it or not, that’s actually a lot easier than you’d expect. The mistakes that doom most storefronts are surprisingly common – and many of them are startlingly basic.

1. People Don’t Actually Know What You’re Trying To Sell (Or Can’t Buy It)

What’s The Problem?

Picture this – you walk off the street into a brick-and-mortar store, but the moment you get inside, you regret your decision. The lighting is so terrible you can’t even see the products on the shelves, and the whole place is laid out like a labyrinth of bad decisions. It doesn’t take you long to give up and leave – there are a hundred other stores you could go to that’d offer you a better experience than this.

What I just described above is basically the experience offered by way too many eCommerce startups. A messy, unappealing, website, poor-quality product photos, a lack of product descriptions, terrible website functionality…the list goes on, but ultimately each of these factors boils down to one thing. People aren’t able to find the products they’re looking for, and will ultimately give up and go elsewhere.

How Can I Fix This?

  • Keep your website simple and functional. Your site needs to be navigable via mobile with a low resource load. Do away with unnecessary elements like
  • Use product categories, and make them searchable.
  • Invest in high-quality product photos or demos. People can’t pick up and look at what you’re selling on your store, so you need to give them the next best thing. Include at least three high-quality photos of each product. Hire a professional photographer if you need to.
  • Write descriptive product copy. Appealing product descriptions are just as important as great photos. Again, if you don’t have the chops to write them yourself, hire a copywriter to handle it for you.
  • Don’t try to sell everything. Focus on a set of core products that appeal to your ideal consumer (whoever that may be). If you try to make your store a one-stop-shop for everything, people probably won’t want to buy anything.

2. Your Inventory Management Is An Unmitigated Disaster

What’s The Problem?

One of the biggest issues new stores face lies in inventory management. Buy too much, and you’ll have boxes upon boxes of unused, unsold products collecting dust in a warehouse, while you desperately try to balance the books. Too little, and you’ll miss out on sales.

Not only that, you need an adequate method of tracking your inventory. How long will it take to order supplies from each of your vendors? How will you account for differing delivery times? How can you track what you have and don’t have? How will you handle shipping costs?

How Can I Fix This?

Three words: inventory management software. Whether you’re using a plugin on Shopify or an extension on Magento, it’s imperative that you invest in a tool that allows you to easily track your stock and manage order fulfillment. Don’t try to handle it yourself – trust me.

3. No One’s Heard Of You

What’s The Problem?

Even if you’ve got a high-quality storefront with A+, SEO-optimized product descriptions, there’s still a chance your store might go out of business. See, it’s not enough to offer a great experience – you also have to figure out a means of telling people you offer it. simply because no one has ever heard of it. Bad marketing is one of the core reasons for startup failure in every industry, not just eCommerce.

How Can I Fix This?

Let’s assume you’re on a small budget, since your store is just getting off the ground. Even then, there are plenty of things you can do to get the word out. Here are a few tips, courtesy of marketing expert Neil Patel:

  • Make some how-to videos. These videos should be designed to both educate and impress – they should show what your product is capable of, and make people want to buy it. For that, they need to be both unique and interesting.
  • Study SEO. There’s a good chance most of the content on your storefront isn’t SEO-optimized. Do a bit of research on how you can change that – Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a good place to start. Most eCommerce platforms also have SEO optimization plugins, as well.
  • Build a community. It costs nothing to create a Facebook page or Twitter account, and all you need in order to interact with people through either is some spare time.
  • Seek influencers. Look for people with the same audience and interests as you who can drive traffic to your site. Reach out to them – but don’t be pushy when you do so.
  • Look into content marketing. It costs less than you’d think.

4. Your Purchasing And Post-Purchase Experience Are Both Awful

What’s The Problem?

Does your store have a helpdesk? What about 24/7 support? What’s your order fulfillment process like? Is your shopping cart intuitive and easy to use, or an absolute nightmare? These are all questions you need to ask yourself – and if you haven’t asked any of them, the answer is likely ‘no.’

And that’s a bad thing.

How Can I Fix This?

    • Invest in dedicated support staff. Think back to all your best, most memorable experiences as a customer. Now ask yourself – how many of those involved a company without a helpdesk or competent support professionals? None, right?
    • Evaluate your shopping cart. Imagine if, while at the supermarket, a monkey ran up and threw everything out of your cart every time you walked down a new isle.  That’s what shopping on a digital storefront with a bad shopping cart feels like. Look at how your order fulfillment process feels, and see where you can improve it.
  • Use Helpdesk software. Trust me. Just do it.

5. People Simply Don’t Trust You

What’s The Problem?

Maybe your site looks shoddy and unprofessional. Maybe you haven’t invested in trust badges or proper site security. Or maybe it’s just something about how your product descriptions are written. Either way, a lack of trust is one of the fastest ways to kill a sale.

How Can I Fix This?

Don’t Just Survive – Thrive

It can be difficult to succeed in eCommerce, but when you do, the results are more than worth it. By making yourself more aware of the ways you can fail, you’ll be well-equipped to avoid them. Now get out there and start selling – you’ve got this.

Author’s BIO: Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog,


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