Why your eCommerce Site Sucks
A couple of days ago I was talking to my friend Jim, who is in the home renovation business. I mentioned that another friend of mine was looking to start a major renovation project on his house. As we got to talking about the project Jim asked where my friend lived and when I told him he said, “Oh, I don’t even quote flat fee projects in that neighborhood, everything in that neighborhood is time and materials.” Understanding that this neighborhood is an upper middle class suburb, I was curious to learn more about the statement. Jim told me that most of the houses in that part of town were built in the 1920s, and being an upper middle class neighborhood most of the houses have seen multiple renovations from multiple contactors over the years. Every time Jim started a new renovation project in this town, he would find that behind the walls were major issues. Projects would quickly go out of scope and his clients would become upset. It then struck me that this is exactly what many of our new ecommerce clients have in common.
In digital terms, the 1920s is five years ago. Over the past five years ecommerce websites have boomed on the Internet, leading to a massive industry and unfortunately, a lot of eCommerce developers that don’t know what they are doing. Website development agencies, freelancers and programmers have jumped on the bandwagon and claim to build ecommerce websites. Some know what they are doing and many do not. Unfortunately, small to medium sized companies are paying a hefty price.
Time after time, I talk to retailers about their eCommerce websites and hear of the significant investments they have made only to experience failure after failure. After years of disappointment, they are frustrated and rightfully so. Many times these small business owners have invested tens of thousands of dollars and experience very little online sales. They are skeptical about working with “another” agency but have to try as their competitors are kicking their butts online.
So Why does your eCommerce Site Suck?
When working with new ecommerce clients we see the “behind the walls” issue my friend Jim sees. Provided below are very common scenarios we see.
- Many etailers are driving strong traffic to their sites. Many have invested in SEO and marketing and are doing a decent job.
- The visitor to sale conversion rates are deplorable and well under ecommerce averages (2-3%). By the way, average sucks. Your goal should be above average.
- There are usually one or more major issues with the website which prevent customers from finding products or checking out.
- The previous website developer altered the core code of the ecommerce shopping cart platform, leading to long-term issues and maintenance nightmares.
- Most issues are easily remedied and you can start to see ROI in just couple weeks or months.
A common issue that we see, especially with popular shopping cart software, such as Magento Community, Xcart, Volution, etc is that programmers alter the core code to get a desired result. Sometimes this is a result of a client request and sometimes it is a lack of knowledge on the programmer’s part. Altering the shopping cart core can have major effects on various parts of the system, leading to instability and a domino affect of problems throughout the website. Many times it is best to implement a new installation of the cart software to remedy these persistent issues.
So What Can You Do To Improve Your eCommerce Sales?
- At a minimum set up Google Analytics to collect visitor data. You will need this data for many of the suggestions below.
- Hire an experienced agency that offers both development and strategy. eCommerce is complex and there is a science behind success. Look for certifications in both development platforms and online marketing.
- Have your website tested thoroughly in all browsers. We often see sites that a site works fine in one browser but not in others. Also, look at your Google Analytics and see what browsers your traffic is coming from and make sure you are optimized for that browser.
- Have an experienced agency, friends or family look at your site and provide honest feedback. You are probably too close to the site to see the glaring issues. Ask them to check out and purchase products to complete the experience.
- Find out your visitor-to-sale conversion rate: Total Sales / Unique Visitors for a specific timeframe. The industry average is 2-3%. But this varies greatly depending on industry. However, if you are well below the average you probably have issues.
- Look at your mobile visitors. We often see mobile visits over 40% of all website traffic. If you don’t have a mobile site, consider upgrading to a responsive design.
If you would like more ideas or would like a free consultation, please contact me directly.