Many small businesses have recently started selling online, in conjunction with their brick-and-mortar stores, to attract new consumers and grow their business. However, entering the eCommerce world poses new challenges as well as opportunities.
We've put together some common online business mistakes and solutions to give you the best start in the e-market.
Mistake 1: Not checking if your brand is original
You must ensure your branding and product photos are original to avoid a potentially costly business blunder. Remember that large corporations regularly monitor new websites to check for imitation logos, site design and brand names (whether intentionally similar, or not). If you are found to have copied any element of their website, you could be asked to take your site down and pay compensation.
To ensure your small business avoids a brand fiasco, research, research, research!
Search for trademarks, similar colours, designs and business names to see if anyone has beat you to it. You may be disappointed, but it's better than being out of pocket!
Mistake 2: Not being aware of customer rights
Consumers buying online have enhanced rights to return goods sold to them. When you sell online (known as 'distance selling'), customers might be able to cancel their order within 14 days of receiving their goods (better known as the 'cooling-off period') if the item is faulty, not as described or not fit for purpose. The customer then has 14 days to return the item(s) to you and, once received, you have 14 days to process an exchange/refund.
We offer a 'Return Parcel' action in our Shipping Manager, which will generate shipping labels at a click of a button. Paired with our 'Send Again' action, businesses can resend to the same recipient if they request exchanges without you having to re-enter parcel details and addresses.
Mistake 3: Sending incomplete receipts / order confirmations
Incorrect or incomplete order confirmation can appear unprofessional. It all comes down to knowing what needs to be included:
- A unique reference or order number
- Your company name, address and contact information
- The recipient's name and address
- Summary description of the item
- Date of supply
- Date of receipt
- Price of the item(s)
- Total amount paid
Typically, online businesses will send order confirmations to customers via email, so you must request an email address during checkout.
Mistake 4: Breaking data protection laws
Data protection applies to both online and high street businesses. This data can refer to customer names, addresses, photographs, card details, emails and phone numbers. Information of this kind is held under the Data Protection Act 2018 and must be stored in confidentiality. Failure to comply can lead to expensive fines and sometimes imprisonment.
If you intend to store any customer details on a computer, which most businesses do, you'll need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) as a 'data controller'. It takes around 15 minutes and the annual fee depends on the size and turnover of your business.
When it comes to using emails or telephone numbers for marketing purposes, you'll need to have notified the customer ahead of time that this is your intention, and they must explicitly agree to it. When you send marketing emails, you must also include a clear 'unsubscribe' button!
Mistake 5: Not getting the most from website builders
When creating an eCommerce website with the likes of Shopify, Squarespace or BigCommerce, new businesses often opt for a simple layout so they can start selling fast. Sellers can then become complacent with their design or aren't sure how to improve it.
However, these website-builders have many tools and features that could aid customer experience and overall reception. Shop around for a website builder that suits your branding and go from there. Most offer similar tools to help build fantastic websites but ensuring they offer mobile optimisation, marketing pop-ups and abandoned cart features is essential to providing an excellent all-around experience.
Mistake 6: Not checking marketplace terms and conditions
If you aren't looking to build your own website and would like to sell through an online marketplace like eBay or Etsy, you'll need to read up on their T&C's. Although sites like eBay provide sellers with a much wider pool of primed customers, you need to be aware that each marketplace has its own level of fees. These details may also outline what you can and can't sell and distribute, so it's better to be safe than sorry.
Keep in mind that most e-market terms and conditions can change rapidly. Often, they have strict guidelines for things like marketing output, communication with customers and shipping estimations, so avoid a business blunder and read up.
With Interparcel, you can easily integrate your eBay or Etsy store with our affordable parcel delivery services. Our booking system lets you select a preferred service and automatically fulfil all of your customer orders.
Integrating with Interparcel means you benefit from:
- Our advanced Shipping Manager: collate orders from multiple platforms in one place
- In-built address verification and correction, no more manual errors
- New branded tracking, create a seamless brand experience when customers track orders
- Despatch orders in a few clicks and carry on selling!
- Cheap UK and International shipping!
Integrating your online store with our Shipping Manager you only need tocreate an account with us and connect to your store. With our hassle-free order processing and discounted parcel delivery, you'll have more time to focus on selling!
Mistake 7: Not making your terms and conditions easily accessible
Your terms and conditions should be readily available for customers to view. Without these policies being visible, your brand risks appearing untrustworthy!
You don't need to overcomplicate it. Just make sure your customers know your regulations on policies like data protection, item returns and order cancellations to start. Then you'll need to provide a clear and accessible link to this information on your website.
As you'll have seen on nearly every website nowadays, cookie policies are essential and must be clearly accessible. You'll need to briefly explain what cookies are present and their purpose, and leave an unchecked box for customers to consent and tick themselves.
Mistake 8: Not offering reliable shipping
Shipping is a major factor in the reputation of a business, especially eCommerce stores. It's important to keep up a good brand reputation by offering reliable and low-cost delivery services for your customers.
Booking your deliveries through a third-party parcel booking and comparison website, like ourselves, gives you access to a wide range of discounted UK, Europe and worldwide shipping services from reputable carriers from the likes of FedEx, DPD and UPS. As a result, your company isn't tied to just one carrier and you have the flexibility to choose from Economy, Express, Next Day, Same Day and Timed Delivery.
We all make mistakes from time to time, so don't expect to never slip up!
At Interparcel, we want all budding brands to find their footing as fast as possible and knowing the typical small business mistakes to avoid is (hopefully) helpful! If you have questions about our cost-effective parcel delivery options, give us a call, email, or live chat seven days a week.