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Debunking eCommerce Myths

In the world of eCommerce everyone has an opinion on what works, what doesn’t work, and what the next big thing will be. From retailers to analysts and across multiple industries, you’d be hard-pressed to find two eCommerce experts who have the same opinions about most topics. Due to this wide array of opinions within the industry some aspects of selling online can become as “clear as mud” and fact can quickly turn to fiction. In this post, I’ll go over a few eCommerce myths and why in an evolving industry sometimes believing everything you hear or read isn’t exactly a best practice.

“Price is the main purchasing driver for online sales” – This is a classic response from consumers because price is something quantifiable that they can relate to. For the most part it’s a general statement and usually applies to mass-produced goods such as video games or books and even then, price may not necessarily be the key driver when it comes to purchasing. In a study done recently by American Express consumers stated they will actually spend more with companies that provide great customer service. So while a promotional offer may entice consumers to make that key initial purchase, it’s up to the rest of the eCommerce team to make the overall experience an enjoyable one and keep consumers coming back even after the deals are over.

“My customers speak English so I only need an English site” – Just because someone can speak and understand the language of a site doesn’t mean they necessarily want to place an order. A recent study by Eurobarometer of almost 14,000 internet users in 27 European countries found that only 58% of consumers will purchase from a site that’s different than their native tongue. However, this doesn’t mean that just throwing your site into a translation service like Babel Fish will allow you to capture that additional 42% of consumers. Site translation can be a sensitive issue – if a translation is done poorly it can reflect that the retailer doesn’t care about the consumer’s language and thus doesn’t care about the consumer. Retailers should focus on true localization which considers cultural context, unique geographic challenges such as transportation options and unique payment options for each country in addition to language. Investing in your consumer in this way can generate huge returns in your conversion rates.

“Professional photography isn’t worth the time or investment” – Quite simply photos are not just photos; when done properly they can be a huge boost to any eCommerce site. What product photography really boils down to is how good the person behind the camera is at getting the best shot while utilizing the proper resources. An “eye-tracking” study completed last year by design and UI expert Jakob Nielsen showed that traditional “stock” shots were far less effective than detailed photography because “stock” shots failed to help in differentiating the products. The study also showed that big photos, multiple views, and information-carrying photos can really help to drive sales.

Above is an example from Jakob’s site comparing TV photos to home décor – clearly the home décor photos were much more engaging to potential customers as TV shoppers focused on links and product reviews.

“Having an innovative eCommerce site will lead to tons of sales” – While taking the time to make an innovative and “fresh” eCommerce site will certainly create buzz around the industry, a retailer needs more than just a great site to succeed after the buzz dies down. Simply put, eCommerce is so much more than just a website. Thinking back to our last blog article on Transitioning Brick and Mortar Concepts to eCommerce focusing on a site alone is like building a new store in the middle of nowhere and just expecting people to show up. You’ll need to get the word out about your store (SEO/SEM, blog, social media), be able to handle fluctuations in volume with flexible fulfillment and customer care options, deal with product returns, and protect your customers with secure payment processing techniques. Building the site and being creative is the fun part, but there’s a whole lot of behind the scenes work that needs to be done to keep the creative aspects afloat.

What other eCommerce myths are you tired of hearing about that quite simply need to be squashed? Feel free to leave a comment below if you can think of any…