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7 E-Commerce Website Mistakes You Could Be Making (and How to Avoid Them)

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Jun 15, 2022

Nicole Hanson

A high-performing website is more important than ever for e-commerce companies. In order to capture conversions, you need to create a highly personalized experience that stands out from your competition. But before you can create a truly optimized website that compels your customers to convert, there are some mistakes to avoid making first. 

Let’s dive into 7 e-commerce website mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Complicated site navigation

Your navigation is one of the most important aspects of your website, therefore making it a considerable factor in whether or not a visitor will convert. This means if you have a complex navigation menu that is difficult to follow or has an overwhelming amount of options, a potential customer could bounce from your website and look for another brand with a better user experience. 

While we recognize some e-commerce sites have a lot of different product categories, consider ways that you can simplify your menu options instead of throwing the kitchen sink in there. For example, try using collapsible menu options for your main product categories (e.g. women’s tops) so a customer can either click to shop all tops or expand the product category to navigate to a more specific subcategory like blouses or t-shirts. You can also personalize your navigation options populating a customer's most visited category pages toward the top of your menu.

The main categories in Walmart's navigation menu expand to show subcategories when you roll over them with your cursor.

2. Poor mobile site experience

When optimizing your website, you need to ensure that your mobile site is just as accessible and easy to navigate as your desktop site is. Mobile device users accounted for 71% of e-commerce website visits and 58% of their online orders in 2021.

As a general best practice, make sure you are using appropriately sized images for mobile devices as too large of a file can take a long time to load and negatively impact the customer experience. You should also take into account what your website looks like “above the fold” on mobile vs. desktop. Given the limited real estate on mobile devices, you’ll likely need to adjust the sizing of headlines, images, or text to still get your main message across above the fold.

3. Lengthy copy

When a customer visits an online store, they’re not looking to read—they want to view your products and skim any basic information they need to know before they purchase something (e.g. material, care instructions, sizing information). This is why it’s important to keep your website copy short and simple.

As a rule of thumb, use clear, plain language that your customers know. Get your main point across in your headlines and use bullet points, bolded keywords, and collapsible sections for any longer text sections you may need to include (e.g. more in-depth descriptions or disclaimers) on your product detail page (PDP).

Nordstrom Rack keeps product details below their main visuals and lists everything out in concise bullet points for quick reading.

4. Unclear product availability

While a customer may prefer your products over a competitor’s, product availability plays a huge role in their purchase decision no matter how loyal they are to your brand. This is why it’s important to 1) clearly communicate product availability and 2) notify people when out-of-stock items will return. 

In order to make sure your website displays when an item is or isn’t available, you need to first ensure your website is properly linked to your inventory software that tracks all of this information. It is crucial to make sure that any inventory changes are communicated in real time, especially during busy times like the holiday season when products sell out almost instantly. Having to notify a customer after-the-fact that their product is no longer in stock is a surefire way to ruin their customer experience. 

When your website does clearly communicate when a product is out of stock, allow them to submit their email address so they can be notified when it’s back—if you can put an estimated date that it will be back, even better! Further, if a customer searches for a specific product that is out of stock, be sure to display an out-of-stock message right there in the search results and recommend similar items they may like.

5. Lack of product visuals

Without strong product images or videos, your customers won’t be able to get a true feel for your product and decide if it’s right for them. While product visuals are essential for any e-commerce business, they’re especially important for clothing brands.

To give your customers a true feel for what a specific product looks like, start with the basics: include high-quality visuals of an item from the front, the back, and close up so people can better see the material, color, and any patterns. The more you can incorporate video into your PDPs, the better people will be able to understand how your clothes look in action. Of course, it is paramount to help your customers envision what a certain item will look like on them, so use photos and/or videos of models of different sizes wearing your products whenever possible.

Old Navy shows models of different sizes wearing the same products and lists which sizes they’re wearing under fit and sizing information.

6. Complex checkout process

Checking out is one of the most important processes on an e-commerce site. The checkout flow should be as simple as possible (especially for mobile users!) so that customers can complete their orders quickly and efficiently.

One way to appeal to new and returning customers alike is to let users sign in or check out as a guest when they’re ready to make their purchase. If someone is shopping with you for the first time, they may not be ready to go through the hassle of creating an account; however, you should offer to let anyone who uses guest checkout to create a password for a quick 1-step account creation after they've completed their purchase. For returning customers who have agreed to keep their information on file, be sure to autofill their address, email, and payment information for a seamless checkout experience that keeps them coming back. 

7. Impersonal site experiences

Even if you optimize your website to avoid each of the previous 6 mistakes, all of your hard work could be undone if you provide your customers with a static, one-size-fits-all experience. Shoppers don’t just want but expect website personalization nowadays—in fact, 72% of customers say they will only engage with personalized messaging.

There are endless ways to personalize your website for both new and existing customers. For those who haven’t made a purchase yet, you can make personalized recommendations based on their browsing history thus far or display items that are popular within their demographic. For existing customers that you have more data on, incorporate a unique welcome message on your homepage and populate their rewards points if applicable. You should also populate their most recently viewed items on the homepage and PDP so they can easily pick up where they left off.

Target displays recently viewed items for returning customers right on the homepage.

Additional Resources to Help You Optimize Your E-Commerce Website

When you take the time to avoid (or correct!) these 7 e-commerce website mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to creating a website experience that drives people to convert. Even then, it’s important to remember that you should continuously optimize and personalize your website so it resonates with your customers as their preferences inevitably change.

For even more e-commerce website optimization tips, check out these resources: