Speak to any successful online store owner and they will tell you they have faced eCommerce challenges along the way. However, it’s how you move through these challenges that can help propel you to success.
We chatted to some of the most successful online stores in their niche to find out what their biggest struggles have been on the way to 8-figure success – struggles that almost every eCommerce entrepreneur will face. In this post, we’ll give you our top tips on how to overcome them.
Get ready for an inspiration bomb!
1. Staying Dedicated in the Face of Failure
One of the biggest challenges that eCommerce entrepreneurs face on their way to success is staying motivated when things aren’t going well. The thing is, failure is a part of almost every eCommerce superstar store’s backstory. As Bleacher Creatures owner Matthew Hoffman puts it,
“Everybody experiences failure; it’s important to understand that 99% of successful businesses don’t happen overnight. You will encounter some failures along the way, so be prepared to weather the storm.”
The thing is, the road to eCommerce success isn’t a sprint – it’s a marathon.
So how does Matthew suggest overcoming this challenge?
Celebrate all of your wins daily; even the little ones. This will help you stay positive and keep your momentum going when your business goes through periods of low sales or a product line bombs. Ask yourself each day what you did well and what you could do better the next day.
He also reminds entrepreneurs that things will happen that are out of your control, such as weather delays or factory issues. The secret is being able to concentrate on the things you can control, doing everything in your power to win, and rolling with the punches you can’t control. Here are some ways you can prevent failure:
5 Ways to Avoid eCommerce Failure
1. Be realistic about investments and cash flows from day one. Starting an online store can take very little financial investment; however, it’s going to take more than a couple of hundred dollars to build a winning eCommerce business.
2. Invest well in your traffic streams. This includes finding the best traffic sources and capitalizing on them to bring constant, targeted traffic.
3. Choose a niche where competition is lower or where you have a way to stand out. One of the biggest reasons eCommerce businesses fail is that owners have chosen a highly-saturated niche where they are either unable to compete financially (price), or due to not setting their store apart from better-known stores.
4. Plan your fulfillment strategies and costs meticulously. Make sure you have solid inventory management and fulfillment strategies. This means budging for inventory and shipping costs while having clear delivery times. Outsourcing? Check out this full list of eCommerce fulfillment services.
5. Invest in a user-friendly site and top-notch product photography. The look and feel of your website and product photos can make or break a business. Lacking in both areas will not instill trust in your brand or products, resulting in little to no sales.
Want to see how your online store currently compares to leading 7-figure stores in your industry? The free app Benchmark Hero will assess your store and offer actionable tips in minutes.
Bonus Content: List of Top Motivational Speeches for eCommerce Entrepreneurs
But when things go wrong, Slava Furman, owner of million-dollar legging store Noli Yoga, recommends that eCommerce entrepreneurs never give up if they believe in their products.
“It is a roller coaster; there are times when you don’t have sales/conversions; a lot can and will go wrong; but if you believe in your product, you will succeed.”
2. Dealing With Massive Product Fails
As we mentioned above, product fails can be a big challenge for growing eCommerce can face and if you can’t see your way through them, they can break your business. Here are some of the top reasons why a new product category or type may crash and burn:
- You didn’t have a solid product launch strategy
- Launching a popular, trending product too late when the market is already saturated
- Your new product lines don’t match up with your target shopper
- You’ve priced yourself out of the market
So, what do you do if a product line fails? Christina DuVarney, the owner of the multi-million dollar store Beautiful Disaster, has the perfect strategy. Here’s her take on overcoming this eCommerce challenge:
“Our customer feedback is the most valuable asset we have. In the rare case that we launch something and it bombs, we listen to why it bombed. We assess where we went wrong, what we could have done better, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and carry on. We don’t let it stop us or slow us down; if anything, it’s an opportunity for growth.”
She goes on to say,
“Every failure and misstep along the way has taught me so much. I wouldn’t change a thing because I would not be where I am today without overcoming every hurdle or doubt. If I hadn’t failed and picked myself up again, to do every single thing the way that I did it, the brand wouldn’t be what it is.”
In short, instead of letting your failures defeat you, you can use them as valuable lessons that will help you grow your business to the 8-figure mark. Which brings us to the next challenge…
3. Knowing When to Pivot
In the face of significant failure or big drops in sales, how long do you wait before you pivot? The short answer is – be ready to pivot at any moment. To really succeed in your niche, you need to pay constant attention to your numbers, your market and your shoppers, so that you can make the quick changes need to ensure these things are merely speed bumps and not complete roadblocks to your success.
Even the most successful online store owners can relate to coming face-to-face with this challenge. Here’s an example of how the owners of the popular eCommerce brand One Kid hung on to a non-performing business model for longer than they should have:
“We would have changed our company to an eCommerce business back in 2008 when we first noticed the decline. At the time, our retailers didn’t want us to go online and we were scared to lose them.”
But when they finally did make the change, they shot to success, making over half a million dollars in sales in their first year. And what is their number one piece of advice for overcoming this challenge?
“You have to always go by your own intuition and not listen to people who aren’t invested in your business like you are. Show up every single day to do the work. We can see our sales drop when we haven’t been present online, so keep at it consistently.”
These changes can be anything from dropping an underperforming Facebook ad that is eating up your budget, to breaking into a whole new niche to satisfy your customers’ needs. To get you started, here are some top things you can quickly change on your store alone to boost sales and success:
- Make sure all the relevant info pages, such as eCommerce FAQs and T&Cs, are easy to find and access
- Follow this SEO for eCommerce guide to ensure your website is optimized for search engines and shoppers
- Optimize your home and product pages
- Upgrade your customer service to pro level
- Hand over your traffic and optimization for more targeted traffic
4. Being Tech Savvy Enough
When looking back at their journey to success, many successful eCommerce business owners we work with, admit that if they could go back and change one thing along the way, they would get more tech-savvy sooner.
The thing is, even if you are outsourcing some of the more complicated tasks, having a good understanding of the nitty gritty from the start of your online store journey can help prevent you from making ill-informed decisions that could become your biggest challenges to overcome. Here’s an example of how a lack of tech understanding can waste time and money, from Glam Guru’s co-owner Amir:
“In the beginning, we didn’t really know much about the tech side of eCommerce, so we chose WooCommerce. Although it’s a popular platform, we found that it didn’t suit our brand and needs. When we were designing our second site, we chose a development team who again built it on WordPress, which meant we continued to spend unnecessary time on technical issues, working twice as hard on ensuring we maintained a good user experience. It was only when we eventually moved to Magento that things ran a lot more smoothly, which in turn gave us more time to work on marketing and customer service.”
To help overcome this challenge, here are tech skills every online store owner should brush up on or learn before they jump in.
Tech Skills Every Online Store Owner Should Have
- Basic User Experience and web design concepts and skills
- Basic HTML coding
- Email marketing platforms and metrics
- Google Analytics and other data analysis
- DIY SEO hacks
- Product design and development
- PPC setup, metrics and optimization
- Basic understanding of top eCommerce apps and tools, such as Photoshop
There is a host of places you can learn the valuable tech skills you need to streamline your business and decision making, including this very blog. Sign up here for guides to be sent straight to your inbox.
5. The Pressure of Wearing Too Many Hats
If you’re trying to run a successful, lean business, then there is a 99% chance you are being challenged with having to cover every aspect of your online store. This is a common challenge that eCommerce entrepreneurs face on their journey to success, but there are ways to overcome this. Here is an example from the owner of the 6-figure online store Impact Mouthguards, Frank Rabinovitch, on the kind of pressure that can build up.
“Because you wear so many hats as a business owner, the focus is on getting to the things that drive new business to come in. Being able to put aside all the other problems or challenges that are secondary. If you’ve got the business coming in, then you can figure everything else out – it gives you time. The challenge is just keeping enough time available for that effort.”
So, how do you overcome this eCommerce challenge to grow your business?
Outsource those critical things you’re not an expert on, to free up time for focusing on what’s important. This doesn’t mean compromising your lean business model; there are loads of tools and apps out there to do some of the heavy lifting so that you can put 100% into elements of your business you’re responsible for. How does Frank do this?
“Having folks like StoreYa [Traffic Booster] working with folks like me helps tremendously with being able to focus. Because you keep your eyes on the ball for us with regards to one aspect of marketing, I can put my focus fully on other marketing channels.”
6. Being Prepared for Growth Without Spinning Out of Control
Another eCommerce business aspect that many new or growing owners struggle with is, surprisingly, business growth. A business taking off should be cause to celebrate; however, if you’re not prepared, it can be super challenging.
Let’s say you are a smaller, growing fashion eCommerce brand designing and white labeling your own products. If your manufacturing, fulfillment and inventory management systems aren’t ready for booming sales, you run the risk of running out of stock, delivery delays or fulfillment mess-ups that could tarnish your reputation with potential shoppers and ultimately send you back to square one. Something the owner of Bleacher Creatures knows all about…
“The biggest challenge we have – because our business has grown so much – is staying on top of quick inventory replenishment. We now use a third-party warehouse and fulfillment company for Bleachers and our other brands, so that all our stock is in one place and we can offer competitive shipping options and value to our customers.”
So how do you face this eCommerce challenge head-on to ensure you are not only ready for growth but can turn it into a thriving business?
How to Set Up Your Online Store so it’s Ready for Big Growth
- Always have one eye on your customers and what they need
- Don’t sit on dead stock; get creative with your promotions
- Have clear, decisive eCommerce business goals from the start
- Set up a customer support system that is easy to scale up with your business
- Focus on creating a streamlined shopping experience for your customers
- Outsource tasks such as fulfillment, product photography, content writing and more to keep you efficient
- Investigate marketplace options for multichannel selling
7. Driving Highly-Targeted Traffic to Your Store
And the most challenging aspect of growing a successful online store? Driving juicy, highly-targeted traffic that not only converts first-time shoppers but continuously brings your customers back for more. There are several struggles that even the most experienced eCommerce entrepreneurs have with traffic. However, the two main struggle-related themes that consistently come up with our merchant interviews are:
- Knowing how much traffic you should be aiming for
- Understanding the top traffic streams you should be investing your time and money in
With regards to how much traffic you should be getting, the secret is concentrating on the quality of the traffic. Why? Because quality traffic is targeted traffic, which has a better chance of converting. Here’s how successful eCommerce entrepreneur and founder of Shopify Brand Academy and Social Sales Girls, Susan Bradley, puts it:
“The number one thing I see in the forums is that people ask for input on their site because they’re not getting sales. But when you ask about traffic, it turns out that they’re only getting 20 or 30 visits a day. Frankly, that’s not enough. They will thank themselves if they take the time to understand eCommerce conversion rates and run the numbers. At 1% conversion, you need 1,000 qualified visitors to get ten orders. And most of these people aren’t getting 1,000 visits in a month.”
So how did she overcome this eCommerce challenge? Like with any online store that’s risen to the top, the trick is learning from all the mistakes you make and optimizing your streams to suit your unique niche and target market to build a money-making superstar – outsourcing your optimization if you can’t keep up. Susan says it’s not easy, but advises that you stick with it. And she isn’t wrong.
Here are some of the biggest names in eCommerce who understand the importance of quality traffic and the ROIs of having automatically optimized campaigns:
- Military Hippie generated more than $1 million in sales during one year of using Traffic Booster
- Old Guys Rule managed to increase their sales by a minimum of 500%
- GearBunch is generating a return on ad spend of 4-8X
- Beautiful Disaster is making up to 10X ROAS
- Impact Mouthguards is getting 6X higher ROIs
- Nava Zahavi managed to increase the sales on her site by $30,000 in just one month
And that’s just to name a few! And what traffic streams do they suggest for maximum results? Google and Facebook campaigns, email marketing and on-site optimization. Here is an example of a mistake one well-known eCommerce brand made with channel investment and the owner’s advice on how to drill down the right channel.
“We spent $10k on a TV advertising spot. This was hands-down the biggest waste of money spent and I hope the sales guy who got me on that put the money to good use. I get at least a call or email per day of someone wanting us to spend money on something; you will too, so be careful. Really drill down and cross-check with others who have used whatever medium it is, to see whether there is a positive ROI.” – Josh Sprague, owner of Orange Mud
Josh also says that his number one recommendation for new store owners is that they get an email pop up on their sites ASAP to collect email contacts.
“I see so many brands dump money into advertising, but then they don’t collect the email addresses of those they are driving to their site. A crazy thing! Email is the #1 tool that you own. We love Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., but as you know, we just lease and borrow followers there.”
Head over to our full eCommerce traffic guide to find out the only five traffic streams you should be investing in to maximize growth!
There you have it; the biggest eCommerce challenges every growing online store business faces and how to get ahead of them! Do you have something you’re specifically struggling with? Post it in the comments below and I will do what I can to help you solve it.
Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa with over sixteen years experience and flair for storytelling. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she's not researching the next content trend or creating informative small business content, she's an avid beachgoer, coffee shop junkie and hangs out on LinkedIn.
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