Last week, we looked at the 6 common ecommerce mistakes new business owners make with their website.

If you haven’t yet checked that out, I recommend you do that before you start on our topic for today: your product.

Specifically, we’ll look at the problems in your product offerings that can cause a visitor to leave your store without buying anything.

1. Introduction

The reason we started a series on low sales (but good traffic) with websites is easy—because your website is the first thing that a visitor sees.

Besides that, it’s also easier to fix issues with your website (change the theme, clean up the language, etc.) than to fix problems with your products.

Related Post: Make sure your website isn’t stopping you from getting sales. Check out Part 1: Your Website in our Low Sales series.

Of course, a website isn’t everything.

The ecommerce giant Amazon has a website that isn’t really modern or appealing. But they have brand recognition and a great deal on prices. They can easily stand out.

The Amazon site has some design problems, but it's brand name and product offerings are truly amazing

The Amazon site has some design problems, but it’s brand name and product offerings are truly amazing

But you can’t. Therefore, you need to take steps to make sure you’re covering your basics.

If your website has good quality images, clean text and a great theme or story, then it could be problems with your product.

Picking a product isn’t easy, and selling the product to strangers is even harder. There are many reasons your product may not be selling, and they range from easy fixes to much harder ones.

That’s why today, as part of our low ecommerce sales series, we’ll go over the most common ecommerce mistakes you’re making with your products and how to make sure they sell.

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2. Your prices don’t match your products

Even though I haven’t yet seen your store, the majority of people starting new ecommerce stores are probably doing so with dropshipping.

For the most part, that means getting your products manufactured in China and purchasing them through AliExpress and using Oberlo or something similar.

There is nothing wrong with that, and in fact it can be a very lucrative endeavor.

However, you have to make sure that you’ve set your prices right. But what is the right price?

The wrong price

Before we talk about the right price, we need to first discuss the wrong price.

The wrong price is, essentially, a price you’ve pulled out a hat and slapped on your products. The wrong price is a random price, a price based on nothing but intuition and dreams of profits.

A wrong price is a lazy price.

You need to do your research. Do you know why?

Because your visitors are researching too.

Nowadays, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to do comparison shopping. This is especially true if the items you’re selling isn’t unique.

When your visitors see something they like from your store and see the same item on another store for a cheaper price, they’ll most likely buy it from that other site.

One of the biggest and most common ecommerce mistakes is setting prices without researching your competitor's prices.

One of the biggest and most common ecommerce mistakes is setting prices without researching your competitor’s prices. Which one would you buy?

There are many pricing strategies you can employ in order to increase your conversions. However, you should make sure that your prices are not too low so that you won’t be able to make a profit.

One way to do that is to take your competitor’s prices and your own costs into consideration, and then place a minimum, competitive markup on top of that.

If you purchased something for $3.25, you can sell it for $6.50, for example, at minimum. That’s a 100% markup, but you can go lower to a 75% markup, which comes to $5.69.

When you're setting your prices, make sure you research your competitors and add in your minimum markup

When you’re setting your prices, make sure you research your competitors and add in your minimum markup

That way, you know what your price floor will be, and you can test it at a higher price and see the sales you get. If the sales are stagnant, go lower until you find an optimal price point.

One important thing to remember here is that the number of sales isn’t the most important thing here.

It’s about how much money you’ll leave with at the end of the day.

For example, if you’re selling 100 products at $5.69 but only 75 products at $8.50, which price point should you stick with?

At the lower price, you’ll have $569 in revenue, but at the higher price you’ll have $595. Sometimes it’s better to go for fewer sales with higher revenue (and fewer customers to deal with) than a lower price.

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3. You don’t have any (good) product descriptions

One of the most frustrating things that I’ve discovered in looking at literally hundreds, if not a thousand, new ecommerce shops is this:

No product descriptions.

Instead, what they have (if anything) are the product specifications copy and pasted over from their supplier, normally AliExpress here.

One of the most common ecommerce mistakes is to have no product descriptions, just specifications

One of the most common ecommerce mistakes is to have no product descriptions, just specifications

These product ‘descriptions’ are usually overly technical and they are not there for any purpose other than the fact that it’s something.

But product descriptions are important. You should treat your product descriptions as a sales page for that product.

In fact, it’s the final sales pitch you have to make to your visitor. Why should they buy it? What use will they get from it? What benefit?

Features vs. benefits

One problem that people have with sales is that they list their product’s features, but not its benefits.

Imagine you were the one who actually created the products you’re selling. How would you describe it to a stranger?

It wouldn’t just be a gold’ or ‘silver ring’ that weighs a certain amount. It would be the perfect ring for the perfect person for the perfect special occasion.

Notice how Shwoodshop uses the benefits of their product along with easy, digestible information on the specs to help sell its product (along with some other great features):

Shwoodshop has a great product description and great product page in general.

Shwoodshop has a great product description and great product page in general. 1 – close up of product; 2 – video to let users see product in action; 3 – the product description

The awesome parts of their product page include:

  1.  A close-up of their product so the visitor can get more familiar with the product
  2.  A video of the product on real people (man and woman) so the visitor can imagine it on themselves
  3.  The product description—short, sweet and discussing the idea/benefits—including great, easily-digestible specifications

As I said in Part 1, people don’t buy products, they buy ideas.

If you can convey your idea in your product description, you’ll be able to connect to your customers and convince them to buy.

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4. Too many (or not enough) products

The number of items you have in your store can also influence whether a visitor will decide to buy from you or not.

There are two types of thinking that are faulty to a certain degree.

The first is this:

More products = more likely to appeal to a visitor’s tastes, which means more sales

The second is this:

Fewer products = visitors will be more motivated to select from my offerings

Why are these faulty? After all, they seem to make sense right?

Wrong.

The reason they’re wrong is the same reason why your pricing may be wrong: research.

Or, to be more specific: a lack of research.

In order to successfully sell your products, you need to know who your ideal audience is and what they’re likely to want.

The number of products you have in your store must be adjusted according to your audience

Do they want a wide variety of choices, or do they prefer to have limited options?

For example, the way you’re approaching a witty, pop-culture t-shirt and coffee cup-loving audience should be different than the way you’re approaching a vintage sneaker audience.

Specifically, when your audience is shopping for a quote, witty saying or pop culture reference, they’d like the option to have it on hats, t-shirts, coffee cups, slippers, etc.

For them, more is better.

However, when you have a more elite, specific audience that hunts for rare, vintage or retro sneaker designs, they’ll have more limited tastes.

Therefore, less is better here.

Which audience are you going for?

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5. Hidden fees

According to a 2013 Statistia report, the biggest reason that visitors abandon carts is because of “unexpected costs.”

One of the most common ecommerce mistakes is in having hidden fees

One of the most common ecommerce mistakes is in having hidden fees. Image source

What do they mean by unexpected costs? Technically, it could be any added costs they didn’t anticipate throughout their shopping experience, although it’s most likely the shipping charges.

This is most often due to a lack of communication on the shop owner’s part.

The 2016 Statistia report shows something pretty similar:

In 2016, hidden fees and unexpected shipping costs are still the main reasons for abandoned cart

In 2016, hidden fees and unexpected shipping costs are still the main reasons for abandoned cart

Shipping costs and the ballooning prices of the goods causes them to abandon their carts en masse.

This is not something that’s going to be changing anytime soon, especially since the ecommerce landscape is getting more competitive year after year.

In order to remedy this, you need to be as transparent about your costs as possible. If you have a flat shipping rate, make sure you mention it on the product page or prominently at checkout.

However, if your shipping or other fees are dependent on the user’s address, you need to communicate this earlier.

You could add a ‘Calculate Shipping’ feature right into your shopping cart to avoid any surprises for the customer.

You can add a shipping calculator or estimator right into your shopping cart

You can add a shipping calculator or estimator right into your shopping cart. Image source

You may lose a few visitors with this method, but the ones that make it through to checkout won’t be surprised by any additional costs.

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6. Bad return policies

Another major reason for cart abandonment is actually your return policies.

Surprisingly (or not), not only do your customers read your return policies, those policies will also have a huge impact on their buying decision.

A 2014 comScore study found that 60% of shop visitors actually read a store’s return policies, and it ultimately influences 80% of the sale.

But this doesn’t just impact visitors before the sale. Even after you’ve successfully sold something to a customer, your return policy can impact any future sales.

A recent survey in the UK found that 83% of shoppers would not return to a store if they’d had a bad return experience.

Your return policies can have a huge impact on your overall sales

Your return policies can have a huge impact on your overall sales

To fix these things, you’ll have to update your return policies. You can offer flexible or free returns, if possible.

However, I should add a little note. I wouldn’t recommend going completely flexible with return policies. See, one important thing to note about ecommerce is that people are much more willing to return items than with shopping at brick and mortar shops.

According to the survey mentioned above, almost 90% of UK shoppers have returned items. This could be the nature of online shopping, which is that buyers don’t really know whether the item they buy will fit their body or tastes.

However, they also seem to have adopted a ‘buy to try’ attitude, meaning they’re not 100% committed to a product when they buy it.

Instead, they just want to try it out. Therefore, they treat online shops more like fitting rooms than actual, normal shops.

For that reason, you’ll have to balance a better return policy with your own profits at the end of the day.

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7. A lack of urgency or exclusivity

When your visitors come to your store, you want to do everything you can to get them to the purchase as quickly as possible.

You can do this in various ways, but the most important thing is that you do it.

Urgency is a means by which you try to override a person’s natural shopping habits to get them to make a decision to buy faster.

There are many ways you can do this, including:

  •  putting items on a limited-time sale
  •  free delivery for a limited time
  •  a limited number of items in stock
  •  a countdown timer
  •  a low stock warning
  •  notifications of other customers purchasing similar items

When you create that urgency, you will show activity on your store and get your customers to buy faster.

Too many sales

While urgency in the form of sales is a great strategy with lots of good payoff, you should remember not to overdo it. When you get to the ‘too much of a good thing’ level, it becomes a bad thing.

If you have every single item on your homepage on sale, you are killing your own exclusivity and your store’s perception of quality.

For example, what do visitors think when they see a sale sign on one or a few items?

“I really need to get this product now before the sale ends. Even though I wasn’t really planning on buying anything today, it’s such a great price that I absolutely can’t miss it!”

You’re bypassing their thinking process and using scarcity, urgency or FOMO (fear of missing out) to hit straight at their emotions.

What do visitors think instead when they see a sale sign on every single item on your homepage?

“Why is everything on sale? Are they going out of business? Maybe no one wants to buy these products…”

While sales can give you a good sense of urgency, too much will have the opposite effect

While sales can give you a good sense of urgency, too much will have the opposite effect

If everything’s on sale, always, then you’re really diluting your limited offerings and removing any sense of urgency.

Instead, change up your sales offerings based on the season or occasion. Of course, if it’s Christmas time, you should have more sales items than on a random day in February.

You should also do your own testing. See the best number of sales items on your homepage that brings in the most sales.

But I would start with an even 50/50 and adjust from there.

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8. You’ve never seen your products (or taken your own pictures)

I was doubting under which category to put this particular point: your website or your product?

While this is definitely related to the look of your website, it goes more to your experience with your own products.

Let’s start with how this impacts you visually.

Take your own pictures

In Part 1: Your Website, I talked about a unifying visual theme of your store. One great way to do that is to take your own high-quality, high-resolution pictures.

This doesn’t have to be a very complicated, expensive fashion shoot.

Esther shoots all its products on a live model in the same room. BlackOptical sells glasses and they simply take pictures of models with the same light-gray background.

Black Optical has simple photography to unify its products

Black Optical has simple photography to unify its products

That doesn’t just communicate consistency. It also communicates quality.

Get to know your products

Secondly, and most importantly, it goes with the knowledge you have of your own products.

If you’ve never seen the products you’re selling, how can you sell them confidently?

This is true for many dropshippers, but especially those who have a wide listing of products on their site.

Every single marketer and store owner wants to know the best way to sell products to customers. It’s a constant battle between competition, trends and offering.

However difficult it may be, it’s really difficult when you in fact don’t know what you’re selling at all.

How does the product look in real life? How does it feel? How big is the XL for this shirt? American sized, European or Asian?

If you can’t answer the basic questions about your products, then you won’t be able to convince anyone to buy them.

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9. Your product just isn’t good enough

This last point is both the most important but also possibly the most difficult for store owners.

It addresses the basic assumption you made before you started your store: that people actually wanted to buy your products.

This is particularly difficult problem to address because it may mean having to change the entire direction of your store.

The problem that many new ecommerce stores have is that they may not have done enough research in finding the best products to sell.

Finding the best product usually comes down to determining whether there is a market for it, whether you can fit into that market and, optimally, your enjoyment of the product itself.

If you love gaming, it’s easier to sell gaming; if you love dogs, it’s easier to sell products for dogs. This is most importantly true because you’ll have the necessary knowledge and experience to help you determine what’s needed, what works and how to sell it.

This is known as the product/market fit, or the moment when your product satisfies a need and finds its place within that market.

In the article where he coined that term, Marc Andreesen states:

“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast…

And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it…”

According to Andreesen then, if you’ve been going for a while and your store hasn’t kicked off yet, your product may not have a need, or there’s no place for it in the market.

For an example of a product that no longer has much of a need, you can find many expired Shopify domains related to the Pokemon Go trend. This year, many shops focused on fidget spinners may find themselves losing revenues as interest dies.

For a product that does have a need, there’s the wide variety of t-shirts with witty or pop-culture references.

These may either be completed shirts to be drop shipped or customizable Print On Demand (POD). However, that market is so saturated that it will take lots of creativity for you to find a place there.

If you find that you haven’t found that product/market fit yet, and you believe you wont, then you have some options.

Change your products

Swapping out products is not particularly difficult for dropshippers, but if you create your own goods then that’s a bigger issue.

In that case, it may be better to find a way to pivot to another related niche.

For example, while many visual artists would love to remain more ‘pure’ and sell unique, hand-painted items, they soon find that the real money is in printing their designs and images on cups, t-shirts and the like.

The validation board

One great way to go about ‘fixing’ or changing your products is to use what’s known as a validation board (now known as the Experiment Board) created by the Lean Startup Machine/Javelin.

The validation board is a great way to test whether your product is actually sellable

The validation board is a great way to test whether your product is actually sellable. Image source

The validation board allows you to quickly decide whether your niche and ecommerce idea in general is valid.

It works by having you design a controlled set of experiments for ideas that you will discover are either valid or invalid.

Then the board allows you to pivot as many times as you need to your new ecommerce idea/niche.

You start the work by getting a sketch of your ideal customer, finding out what their problem is and coming up with a solution to their problem.

After that, you’ll have to write down the assumptions about that niche, choose the riskiest assumption, and find out how to test that.

Here’s a great walkthrough of that idea from Trevor Owens, the founder of the Lean Startup Machine.

This is really inspirational if you want to learn how to test your assumptions quickly, getting real feedback from customers and would-be customers.

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The most common ecommerce mistakes

If you may have noticed, of the many common ecommerce mistakes I go over here related to your products, the number 1 problem is the lack of research.

In short, that’s also related to the lack of work on this particular aspect of your ecommerce business.

If you can put in the work, continuously, you can find ways to improve your product and its presentation more and more, until your product fits your market and you can scale up.

But it requires work, and lots of it.

Next week, in Part 3 of our series, we’ll look at the most common marketing mistakes you’re probably making with ecommerce.

This includes your Facebook ads, your custom audience, funnels and email marketing. Be sure to check back next week for that—or better yet sign up for our newsletter.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes new ecommerce shops make when it comes to their product? Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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