Full access to Entrepreneur for $5

Seven mistakes to avoid in e-commerce

If you are going to start in the world of electronic commerce, take note of these mistakes that you should avoid at all costs.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Since the network constitutes the new communication mechanism, every time an entrepreneur decides to enter the cyber world, they must go through a learning period. Nowadays quite a few entrepreneurs have made the leap, so we present you with information about what does work and what to avoid in e-commerce . Since any mistake can be costly, it makes sense to learn from past experience and avoid the most common mistakes. According to the authors of Making Money in Cyberspace , Paul and Sarah Edwards and Linda Rohrbough, seven mistakes people make most often that can have serious consequences for your business are:


1. Lack of coordination within the business. It is necessary to designate a person or a team within the company who is in charge of coordinating the process of development and administration of the website. Even when an external provider is hired to design, develop and manage the page, there must be a person within the company in charge of supervising the provider. If no one fulfills this function, problems can be generated, including common ignorance about the final purpose of the page, duplication of tasks and lack of responsibility.

2. Lack of market research. It is important to know what competitors are doing on the web. If a competitor is offering a similar product or service, it is essential to rethink the idea to offer it with certain unique and distinctive characteristics that will ensure greater chances of success.

3. Lack of planning in promoting the page. There is no point in designing a formidable ad if it is going to be put in the wrong magazine, or putting up a spectacular poster that is obstructed by trees. Similarly, a page without a promotion plan is a waste of resources. The existence of a plan that defines the promotion of the page is essential to ensure that the people you want to attract will access the information you want to promote. The plan to generate traffic must incorporate elements as simple as the address of the electronic page in all the printed material of the company (business cards, stationery and receipts, etc.). Other more technical and sophisticated elements have to do with the development of the page itself. Here are some tips within this category:

* List your page with the most popular search engines, such as Adnet, Starmedia, Infoseek, Yahoo !, Excite and Lycos.

Include the keywords that identify your business in the introductory paragraph of your page, so that search engines will show your information when someone is using these words in their search parameter. Use distinctive and particular terms that draw attention to the type of customer you are trying to attract.

* Use links to other pages on the net. This system allows access to various references included in other pages that allow automatic access to them with the simple click of the mouse. Although this increases the cost of maintaining the page as it is continually necessary to ensure that the links remain valid, it attracts customers who are looking for information related to your business.

4. Lack of clear objectives. It is important to understand why you are penetrating the cyber world. For example, do you want to increase sales, decrease costs, or promote your business? The answer will define how much to invest in the page. It may be that you simply want to provide information about your business; or its objectives go further and aims to create automatic email responses or even receive requests by this means. Whatever the objective, it is important to decide it from the beginning in order to develop the necessary tools to measure whether that objective is being met or not. Defining the company's objective when entering the world of e-commerce involves strategic points of great importance such as the following:

* Look for specialization, that is, offer a unique product or service to a specific and well-defined market segment.

* Answer all your emails. Also, do it early, in an organized manner, and reflecting the professionalism of your company. It goes without saying that successful online entrepreneurs generally spend several hours a day simply answering their email.

* Try to create repeat traffic, which helps build a relationship and credibility with the customer.

5. Misallocation of resources. Building and maintaining a page can be costly both financially and in terms of time. When the network began to be used for re-commerce, many businesses invested heavily in the development of large sophisticated pages and later claimed that the number of orders received through their site did not pay production costs. Do not fall into this mistake, carry out a cost benefit analysis from the beginning, building different response scenarios, to make sure that the initial investment is really worth it. Also, remember that if you don't, you will need to pay someone to oversee the maintenance of the page.

6. Inadequate screen design. The cyber world is a visual space, so images are extremely important. These images need to be professional and reflect the vision of the company, but at the same time simple enough that they take little time to be uploaded and viewed by the client. If you sell products, the images are even more important, as most customers do not buy tangible goods without seeing them first. Remember that first impressions are always the longest lasting; In the case of e-commerce, the customer will form an opinion of your business based on the perception derived from those first ten seconds of contact with your page. So build a friendly, attractive, professional page with several menu options relevant to your business.

7. Lack of planning to respond to an international market. People tend to forget that e-commerce is basically an international market and that as such, problems associated with doing business abroad may arise, even when the entrepreneur is not specifically trying to attract customers from other latitudes. It is necessary to be prepared for this contingency (or this opportunity), so try to investigate (with enough time to make a good decision), among others, if there are laws against the export of your products, if there are applicable export tariffs , which companies might transport your products, and where you will find translators who answer e-mails in other languages.

Entrepreneurs who have made the leap into web commerce have learned through trial and error. You will probably do the same, but you have a long way to go if you focus your resources and energy on avoiding these seven mistakes, which are often the most common and above all the most costly.