Low Sales? You are Probably Making These 23 Common Ecommerce Mistakes (Part 1: Your Website)

In Part 1 of Low sales? You're probably making these 23 ecommerce mistakes, we'll look at your website

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Bernard Meyer
Bernard Meyer
Content Marketer
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Opening up your first ecommerce store can be a very exciting moment. However, keeping it open can be a real problem as you soon find yourself spending money on ads but not really seeing any results.

You have good traffic, but no sales, or only low sales. This can be really frustrating, especially when you don’t know exactly what’s causing your low sales.

That’s why we spent countless hours going through hundreds, if not a thousand, new ecommerce shops to find the 23 most common mistakes in the store website, its products and marketing.

Today, we’ll look at the most common ecommerce mistakes you’re probably making on your website.

1. Introduction 

Before you looked up how to build a website for your store, you probably read all the statistics about the trends in ecommerce and case studies of how people are making money.

It’s also probably worth taking the time to research the best ecommerce platform to host your online store.

And that’s true. According to eMarketer, worldwide retail ecommerce sales was set to hit more than $1.9 trillion in 2016 alone.  And the numbers are expected to go up to $4 trillion by 2020.

However, these things should be taken with a grain of salt. For the most part, ecommerce stats usually include the big players like Amazon, Walmart, Target and more.

When it comes to small business ecommerce, it’s a different story. In fact, it’s quite sobering.

According to some reports, roughly 80 – 97% of all small business online stores shut their virtual doors within 2 years, many within the first 6 months. If you want to be a part of bad statistics, check Shopify courses.

For more eCommerce Marketing Strategies read the article.

Even within a few weeks, new ecommerce store owners are seeing one of the first signs of trouble:

Lots of traffic, but no sales

But what does that mean? How can you have a good amount of traffic but people are just not buying your products?

Good traffic but low sales is one of the most common ecommerce issues

The answer, most obviously, is that you’re not converting your traffic. In fact, if you have have good traffic but low or no sales, then your conversion rate is probably close to 0.

For any new store (ecommerce or brick & mortar) this can be difficult. But it’s even worse for ecommerce because you’ve probably been spending money on PPC ads, most likely through Facebook.

Your expenses are adding up and it seems you won’t be making enough sales today, tomorrow, or ever. But what’s the problem? What aspect about your ecommerce business is not converting?

The answer could be a wide range of things, depending on your store. However, we’ve tracked down the most likely culprits of why your online store is not converting related to your website, your product, and your marketing.

We’ve counted the 23 most likely reasons why you’re seeing low sales on your ecommerce business.

In Part 1 today, we’ll look at the 6 most important reasons your website could be causing these low sales, and how you can fix them.
Part 2 covers your product, and Part 3 looks at mistakes in your marketing.

2. Low-quality images

One of the first things that your visitors will be seeing when they come to your store is your images. After all, images are crucial in giving your visitors a sense of what they may potentially be buying.

According to BigCommerce, the #1 thing shoppers want from an online store is a product image.

Images are the most necessary component of your ecommerce store
Images are the most necessary component of your ecommerce store. Image source

If your images are beautiful, clear, crisp and attractive, then your visitors will be more willing to buy from you.

However, if your picture (especially your main, hero image) looks like this, then that’s not good:

If your images are of low quality, that could be one of the reasons for low sales on your ecommerce store
If your images are of low quality, that could be one of the reasons for low sales on your ecommerce store

You see that? That picture has a low resolution and is unappealing. Even more than that, it’s an image of a product, whereas your main image should reflect what your store is about.

Sometimes a lot of ecommerce stores even have stretched out images—which doesn’t give your visitors a lot of confidence in your business.

3. An unattractive design

Overall, your store should look pleasing to the eye.

This doesn’t mean you need to have advanced graphics or the best, most cutting-edge web design features.

No. It simply needs to have a good appearance –meaning your colors, fonts, and images need to work well together.

Unlike Penny Juice here:

Penny Juice is an ecommerce store selling kids juice that has a very unpleasant design
Penny Juice is an ecommerce store selling kids juice that has a very unpleasant design. Image source

One important thing to note about your design is that it helps to create, in the visitor’s mind, an idea of who you are as a brand.

It’s understandable that you are a shop selling goods. But what is your perspective? Your attitude?

Remember, Apple doesn’t sell electronics, and Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee. They sell an image, even a lifestyle.

You don’t have to go that grand, but you can start building up an image of your brand by showing off your brand’s personality.

The images are unified, the colors have been chosen well. It is a relaxed, retro brand with pale/black and white colors interspersed with strong accents.

EmrickClothing has a good design with a common theme
EmrickClothing has a good design with a common theme. Image source

To get started on designing the ultimate, beautiful ecommerce website can take a lot of time, including yours, your designer, and the coder/developer.

The cost of building such a website could be well in the thousands of dollars.

Alternatively, you can use one of the many amazing website template designs (for instance, one of these Shopify templates) for your online store. Website builder apps like PageCloud can also be integrated with Shopify.

Here's one example of a great-looking website template you can use for your ecommerce store
Here’s one example of a great-looking website template you can use for your ecommerce store

That way, if you combine beautiful design with all issues mentioned above you will get much better most customer exposure.

But now, looking at your shop: what is your brand? Besides your products, what are you selling?

Answer this and you could help tremendously increase your conversions. You may opt to hire a professional ecommerce website development company in order to make the process even more smooth. 

4. Not mobile-responsive

You may not know it, but mobile is a huge factor in the success or failure of your store. In 2015, one-third of all online holiday purchases were made with a smartphone.

US shoppers spend 59% of their time on mobile and only 41% on desktop, and 30% of mobile shoppers will abandon stores that aren’t mobile-optimized.

Even if they are purchasing using a desktop, many shoppers do the initial research with their smartphones.

This means that if your shop is not mobile responsive, then you could be losing a lot of sales right off the bat.  And seeing as you have only about 5 seconds to impress an ecommerce visitor, you should make mobile responsiveness a top priority.

So what do we mean by a site that is mobile optimized vs. one that is not?

Due to the increase of mobile usage, your ecommerce store should be mobile-responsive to avoid low sales
Due to the increase of mobile usage, your ecommerce store should be mobile-responsive to avoid low sales. Image source

As you can see above on the right, a site that is mobile optimized will make it easier for a reader to read and navigate the site.
One that isn’t mobile responsive will simply shrink the site to fit the reader’s screen, making for a terrible user experience.
For an example of that, go to gatesnfences.com on your mobile phone.

If your ecommerce store isn't mobile responsive, it could look as bad as this one - a major cause for low sales
If your ecommerce store isn’t mobile responsive, it could look as bad as this one – a major cause for low sales. Image source

5. Bad user experience (UX)

This will be a larger point to make, but user experience (UX) in general is important for either frustrating your visitors or helping them navigate your site.

UX is not focused on the look of the site, but more on creating a good experience for visitors.

There are many aspects to UX design, but the most important is: does the site make it easy for the visitor to find what he or she needs?

Specifically for ecommerce stores, you need to look at the following:

How complex or easy are the menus?

If you have a lot of uncategorized or unrelated items on your menu, it can be difficult for your visitors to easily navigate your site.

What is the structure of the site?

Does the site logically go from general to specific? For example:

Home > Category (Men’s) > Subcategory (Men’s Watches) > Product (Seiko XXL).

Unfortunately, many sites simply go from general to specific in one step, such as: Home > Product, which makes it more difficult for user to navigate.

How complicated or easy is the checkout process?

If you’re seeing lots of abandoned carts and therefore low sales for the amount of traffic, there could be a problem with your checkout process.

Essentially, you want to remove the friction points that make it difficult for a visitor to purchase. There are many ways to make your checkout process better and faster, including getting location information from the zip code, getting the credit card type from the number, etc.

How easy do you make it for your user to buy products from you?
How easy do you make it for your user to buy products from you? If its difficult, they will abandon your shop. Image source

In order to check your user experience, you need to think like a user. Go through your site as if you were one of your visitors and see how easy or difficult it is to search for or buy something.

Alternatively, you can ask your friends and family to give honest feedback on the ease-of-use of your site.

6. Spelling and grammar mistakes

As a former teacher and proofreader/editor, there’s nothing that puts me off more than bad spelling and grammar on a professional site.

And, if you’re setting up an ecommerce shop, your site should be professional. If you’re a native English speaker, there’s no reason to have glaring spelling and grammar mistakes.

What I would term bad spelling and grammar is this:

“Shop Name buy watches jewelry ring phone cases everything you need today !!”

Hopefully, yours is not as bad as that, but (foregoing a grammar lesson) it should be:

“Shop Name – buy watches, jewelry, rings, phone cases, and everything else you need today!”

That is only marginally better. At least the spelling and grammar have been fixed. But optimally, it would be better to change it to:

“Shop Name – your number one source for fine watches, bracelets, rings and everything else you need to be your most elegant everyday.”

This is now a copy issue, but deeply connected to your language, spelling and grammar. Essentially, what do phone cases have to do with jewelry?

Why are you using an exclamation mark for fine goods?

We’ll look at these issues more in Part 2 – Your Products in the next blog post.

The second thing to look at is your consistency in branding. Is it shop name? Shop name? Shop Name or SHOP NAME? Choose one style and use it consistently.

It’s a small detail when you think about it, but because your visitors are giving you only about 3 seconds to convince them, it can become a big, subconscious detail.

Do you want to buy from a store that can’t even spell right or know how to write its own name? If they can’t do that right, what else will they mess up?

These are honestly the questions your visitors are asking themselves, and if you’re not covering your details, these could be the reasons they’re not buying from you.

7. No story or unifying theme

Lastly, you have to ask yourself a big question: what is your story, what is your idea?

What are you selling? If you want to stand out from the crowd, this question is important.

Yes, I know—you’re selling products. But that’s not really what you’re selling. Apple doesn’t sell iPhones and Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee.

They sell an idea, a lifestyle.

Remember this: people don’t buy products, they buy ideas.

If I were selling dog accessories, I wouldn’t focus on the dog products. I would focus on the dog.

More specifically, I would focus on the relationship between the dog and the owner, the bonds that bind them. The lengths the dog would go through to be loyal to his or her owner. The lifelong friendship and trust.

The actual products I’m selling would be secondary.

So how do you create this story? How do you do all that within the short amount of time the visitor will give you?

You can do it with a focus on videos, on stories, in your blog posts. Through Youtube (your marketing doesn’t have to be contained to Facebook ads and your homepage). You can prime the customer before they even land on your store.

At the very least, if you’re selling dog accessories, show me the dog. If you’re selling beach items, show me the beach. If you’re selling home accessories, show me the home.

This is the background—the setting—in your online store that needs to be there in order for you to tell (or continue) your story.  

If you don’t have this story, you’ll just have an ecommerce shop with items.

These are all items in my store, but there is no common theme, which will lead to low sales
These are all items in my store, but there is no common theme, which will lead to low sales

Just random, loosely connected products that you hope your visitors will buy from you.

Ask your visitors what products your store is selling, they’ll know. Ask them what your store is about, and they’ll have no idea.

One great example of storytelling I’ve seen (without knowing any of the sales numbers) comes from Arcane Supply.

Arcane Supply has a really great story and unifying theme in their ecommerce store
Arcane Supply has a really great story and unifying theme in their ecommerce store. Image source

Their entire shop is connected by a theme: the outdoors. The hero image is a man physically connecting with nature (the fact that he’s wearing Arcane Supply products is secondary). Everything else flows from that one image.

The products have one color group: dark brown, dark green, blues, browns—natural colors. The story is continued in the products and product images, and the store looks united.

Everything else flows from that story, including the solution to their customers’ pain points, which their products solve.

Arcane Supply helps you to get in touch with nature—that much we can see. That is the problem they’re solving. Unfortunately they skipped over that idea in their copy, but visually the themes are united by that story.

Before anything else, get your story. Before you’ve figured out your USP (unique selling point), before you’ve solved your customers’ problems.

Before you’ve even identified those problems.

Ask yourself: what is your idea? What is the story you’re telling to your visitors?

Show me an ecommerce store with a good story, and I’ll show you a success.

Because you’ll have shown me a brand and an ecommerce shop customers can trust and come back to.

Can we say the same about your store?

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Bernard Meyer
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is a content marketer with a passion for good research and helping ecommerce businesses with their email marketing needs.


Further Reading:

In Part 1 of Low sales? You're probably making these 23 ecommerce mistakes, we'll look at your website
Low Sales? You are Probably Making These 23 Common Ecommerce Mistakes (Part 1: Your Website)
In part 3 of our 'Low Sales' series, we look at common ecommerce mistakes in marketing
Low Sales? You’re Probably Making These 23 Common Ecommerce Mistakes (Part 3: Your Marketing)
9 Best Email Automation Flows to Increase Ecommerce Revenue

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26 Comments

  1. This was an interesting read. It’s sad that so many small business e-commerce sites end so quickly. One of my biggest annoyances is when sites are not mobile compatible because I do almost everything on my phone, and I’m sure most people are that way now.

    1. Hi Brittany – thanks for your comment. Yes, it is really annoying when a site isn’t mobile-responsive, which is one of the reasons it can lead to low sales for shop owners. Here’s to hoping everything in 2017 will be responsive!

    1. It’s true – traffic really is a struggle.
      There are generally three ways to get traffic:
      1 – PPC (pay per click ads) on FB or Google, although FB is more popular/less expensive
      2 – SEO (optimizing your site for search engines), but this takes time
      3 – promotion – this includes through your Instagram, FB, G+, Pinterest, on forums, in groups, etc.
      #2 and #3 are free, but they take time. For that reason, people choose to just pay around (at minimum) $5/day to get customers, although you can set different daily budgets. One important thing, though, is to make sure you have your audience well-defined or else you’ll be throwing money away by advertising to people who aren’t even interested in your products.

    2. I believe I have a good website that covers all the points in this article. I don’t have a lot of traffic. Anywhere from 2-15 visits per day. That’s pretty low! I’m pretty aggressive on Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, & Facebook. I’ve been running ads lately too on Facebook and Instagram. I send out a newsletter each month through Soundest. I have my products on Ebay and Etsy also. Any advice?
      Thanks,
      Holly
      Reel Fishy Apparel

      1. Hi Holly,
        It’s difficult to say without seeing your website. However, this is only part 1 of the “Low Sales” series–if you already have good traffic. We’ve just published Part 2 which focuses on common mistakes in your product/product offerings. You can find it here: https://www.soundest.com/blog/low-sales-23-common-ecommerce-mistakes-pt-2-your-products/
        However, if you have no traffic/low traffic, then Part 3, which focuses on good marketing practices should help you. That will be released next week.
        I’ll take a look at your site now and get back to you soon.

          1. Hi Holly, just checked your site again.
            I think your theme is pleasant and goes with that casual fishing feeling.
            However, I really recommend you add some urgency to your site. At the moment, there’s nothing pressuring the buyer into…buying NOW, rather than simply bookmarking your page.
            Add in a sale or two. Put a limited time ‘free shipping’ or ‘15% discount’ on your site–the one you have now isn’t limited. (I go over more ways to create urgency in Part 2: https://www.soundest.com/blog/low-sales-23-common-ecommerce-mistakes-pt-2-your-products/)
            I would also rearrange your homepage a bit. I would remove the slider/carousel. It’s been shown to not be effective and can in fact hurt your conversions a bit.
            (For more info: https://econsultancy.com/blog/66371-how-does-carousel-banner-blindness-damage-customer-experience/ + https://yoast.com/opinion-on-sliders/)
            Instead, get a beautiful, high-resolution static image. Even better, use that space to feature your best sellers/featured (or, if no best sellers, what you believe your best sellers would be). Put a sale sign on at least 1 of these items.
            In part 3 of our ‘Low Sales’ series, I’ll be looking at the marketing things you can do (push notifications, email marketing, FB ads/perfect audience, ‘free promo’) to get not just visitors to your shop, but the right visitors who are ready to buy.
            Even if they don’t buy, you should be grabbing their emails so that you can send them offers later on.
            Hope that helps!
            Bernard

  2. Hi,
    I read this article and it’s really informative and interesting. Could you please look at my store and give some feedback what’s wrong to get sells since I have visitors through Facebook ads and organic traffic as well? I appreciate your feedback.
    Thanks
    Kamrul

  3. Hi,
    Could you please give some feedback on my store.
    I really appreciate your valuable feedback.
    Thanks
    Kamrul

  4. I found this information when doing some research for an assignment. The assignment is about a fictional barbecue and outdoor furniture store. The company recently ventured into e-commerce, but sales have not met the goals that were set.
    I have to advise some contingency measures. This information was extremely useful.

  5. I read your both article part 1 and part 2 I thing this is real fact which is face every ecommerce store owner.

    1. Thanks John! Little things like unifying an overall look to the big things like mobile responsiveness really make all the difference. It’s awesome when you’re shopping on mobile for example and you just find the best UX. A breath of fresh air.
      Thanks again for your comment!
      -Whitney

  6. We sell digital invitations and party packages. We can’t seem to convert either. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Clarissa,
      Well, I wanted to go on your site to see if there were any glaring issues, but it won’t load for me. Reach back out once it’s up again, and maybe I can take another look.
      Alternatively, social media is really good for this kind of niche. Have you tried getting traction with a giveaway or contest? It might be a good place to start.
      Thanks again!
      Whitney

  7. thanks for sharing this awesome post of low sales common ecommerce mistakes. looking for more blogs.

  8. First of all thank you for this great article. This information here are true and can help changed your ecom business drastically. Loved this article..

  9. In my opinion, the #1 reason for eCommerce business failure is a low barrier to entry. This leads to many other mistakes like poor planning. Poor planning leads to undercapitalization, no brand identity, lackluster marketing strategies and a copycat template eCommerce website mistake that fails to impress.

  10. Most e-commerce & retail brands put up announcement videos on dedicated landing pages on their own website.

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