Digital Experience

9 Common Website Mistakes Holding Back Your Online Store

Digital Experience

9 Common Website Mistakes Holding Back Your Online Store

Ecommerce sales jumped 44% during the pandemic. As a result, few brick-and-mortar retailers are in any doubt about the need to have an online presence. Many discover, however, that simply moving things online is not enough. In a ruthlessly competitive ecommerce landscape, even big-brand stores need to fight hard to attract customer attention, turn browsers into buyers and deliver a customer experience that matches the physical store. Here are the nine most common website mistakes that brick-and-mortar retailers make — and how to solve them.

Poor On-Site Search

Brick-and-mortar stores are accustomed to having precise control over how their customers enter, navigate and experience the physical store. In ecommerce, however, 43% of shoppers start with the search bar, indicating that they have a specific purpose in mind. Mobile-first retailers understand this, and provide a search bar that is instantly visible and easy to locate, linked to granular product attributes and that are set up to customize using filters and facets. To compete, brick-and-mortar stores need to let go of conventional approaches to luring in customers (curb appeal, window displays, store frontage) and focus on answering questions as a priority.

Vague Product Descriptions

Physical retail is a visual, sensory experience, where bigger and bolder is better. Ecommerce, on the other hand, is won in the long tail. There is no online equivalent to piling the flagship brands high and waiting for customers to swoon. Instead of using generic descriptions, retailers need to use granular product descriptions that overcome buyer objections, acknowledge context and leverage insight about the customer journey. If that sounds like an uphill task, start with the best sellers that generate the most revenue, and use the analytics to inform product descriptions across lower-performing categories.

Lack of Buyer Persona

In terms of customer insight and behavior, the jump from physical to online retail is dramatic. No one simply wanders into an ecommerce store — not with 2.1 million to choose from — and every customer leaves a trace. As a result, online retailers have to take a proactive approach to attracting customers, starting with a clearly defined buyer persona, and use customer data to improve the experience. What does that look like on the landing page? The best-performing ecommerce stores have headlines, subheadings and product descriptions that call out pain points, champion values and resonate with an anticipated buyer, as well as imagery that represents the products accurately.

Insufficient Social Proof

In physical retail, social proof is a busy store. In ecommerce, it’s an integral part of the shopping experience. According to Trustpilot, 92% of customers read online reviews, and they’re not just looking for stars and superlatives. They want to know how other consumers are using the same product and what, if anything, the product description is hiding. If your ecommerce site doesn’t feature reviews prominently, it could be the reason why your customers are not completing checkout. Studies show that having at least five quality reviews can increase conversions by 270%.

Complicated Navigation

There may be a limited number of ways to enter a brick-and-mortar store, yet there are multiple ways to reach an online retailer, whether from an Instagram ad on mobile or an affiliate link on desktop. Retailers shouldn’t assume that customers always know what site they’ve landed on, or complicate matters with clumsy navigation for those who do. Start with a clear value proposition above the line so that customers know how your store stands out, followed by products clearly displayed in rows and simple navigation headers for customers to explore pages and return home. There’s work to do, given that 18% of ecommerce sites still don’t display product categories in the main navigation menu.

Frustrating Usability

The user experience can be a difficult feature for traditional retailers to grasp. Brick-and-mortar shoppers linger, whereas new visitors to an online store spend an average of only 2 minutes and 31 seconds. If there is any friction or frustration, they will leave (probably for good). Setting up an ecommerce site for a positive user experience means keeping the search bar, shopping-cart icon and contact details visible on each page, ideally without the user having to scroll back up to the top to find them. It means solving flickering issues with hovering menus, keeping pop-ups to a minimum and allowing shoppers to add and remove filters without having to return to the start.

Lack of Personalization

Personalization is the holy grail of ecommerce because it turns first-time visitors (the most expensive leads to attract) into repeat visitors. The tendency for brick-and-mortar stores, particularly when most of the budget is tied up in square footage, is to build a one-size-fits-all online presence. That won’t resonate with today’s customers, and it leaves a lot of revenue on the table.

Personalization Fundamentals

  • Offer a “recommended for you” selection based on previous purchases and searches.
  • Cut cart abandonment by allowing saved searches or an “add to wishlist” function for later.
  • Upsell while intent is still high through a “you may also like” selection. 
  • Reduce frustration with out-of-stock messages by showing stock availability before checkout.
  • Filter serial returners to offer them bespoke value-added perks (such as subscriptions) rather than discounts and free shipping that are more suited to first-time buyers.

Frustrating Checkout Experience

Physical stores often use mystery shoppers to refine their customer experience, but how many online retailers actually test a purchase on their own ecommerce store? Judging by the friction and frustration on many sites, the answer is too few. Let the statistic that cart-abandonment rates in fashion are 84.85% urge you to try the following tactics. 

Smoother Sales

  • Get rid of all the other navigation menus and distractions on the checkout page.
  • Be upfront about fees — it’s the most common reason shoppers abandon their cart.
  • Allow guest checkout (no account creation necessary) and form autofilling. If a customer has to go to another site to complete payment, they are often unlikely to return. 
  • Show progress. Every click a customer is required to make is a barrier, so show them how close they are to completion. 

Mobile Unfriendliness

Retailers who think in terms of desktop — usually because that’s how web designers will show concepts — are potentially missing out on the 62% of smartphone users who make purchases on mobile. In fact, mobile accounts for two-thirds of sales in fashion retail. Serve these customers well with a dynamic, responsive site that is set up for thumb-scrolling, free of clutter and fast to load.

Looking to take your brick-and-mortar store online? Find out how Lily AI's powerful suite of personalization, product-tagging and profile-enrichment tools can help you connect with your customers and convert.


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