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In my time working as a Shopify designer and product design manager at Big Red Jelly, I have learned a thing or two about how to best present a product to the market on a platform. In that time, I have seen some successful e-commerce businesses and some unsuccessful e-commerce businesses. I have seen trends over time and noticed different methods that allow eCommerce websites to thrive over time. Unfortunately, this is a pretty rare trend. Most e-commerce websites and most startup websites will fail in their first year of being live on the internet. But I have found a few important details that stimulate sales and growth over time. So let’s talk today about how not to fail at eCommerce.

Create a Minimum Viable eCommerce Product

Often times, e-commerce businesses feel they have a revolutionary idea that will change the way the entire planet works day in and day out. But even the iPhone started out as an iPod. That’s right. Before there was an iPhone in everyone’s back pocket, there was an iPod that held “1000 songs in your pocket.” If the iPhone were the first phone to be released, it likely would have been a commercial failure because the cost of development was too high for the iPhone to be profitable.

So instead, Apple released the iPod first. A product with a minimal UI that allowed apple to refine the experience of navigating a digital interface with one hand over 5 years before they tried to make the first iPhone. Even with the first iPhone, there were much fewer features in the initial release than there are in our modern smartphones. Do you remember that the first iPhone didn’t even have a password to unlock the device?

That might seem ludicrous today, but the initial iPhone didn’t need a passcode. It was famously touted as a “phone, an iPod, and an internet communications device.” The primary selling feature was reducing the number of devices you carried around. It replaced your pager, it replaced your phone, and it replaced your iPod all in one swoop.

In eCommerce, your product needs t focus on solving an issue. Not many issues, but one. Once the minimal viable product is released, you then start to look for feedback from our customers on how to improve that product for the next product you release.

Start Gathering eCommerce Feedback Early

Though eCommerce is often considered a unique business, it’s actually very similar to other business strategies. You need leads, you need feedback, and you need to be dynamic in offering unique products that solve problems for people. Where eCommerce is truly unique though is in the methodology of bringing in leads, and users’ expectations for delivery.

Create Simple eCommerce Communication Channels

In the modern digital marketplace, users expect 2 days or even overnight delivery. You have Amazon to thank for this, unfortunately. They have made many users expect 2-day shipment as the minimum viable shipping time. If they don’t at least get an order confirmation within 2 days, they will be revisiting the site and looking for information or the option to cancel.

Canceled or refunded product orders are a huge strain on eCommerce businesses. Canceled products are a strain on your time (which you don’t have a lot, to begin with), and refunded products are often just costs that you have to eat as part of selling online and delivering online. So doing everything in your power to reduce canceled or refunded orders will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

The best way to mitigate these potential revenue losses is with very open and straightforward communication. How long should shipping take? Make sure you include information about shipping in your confirmation email. How does the refund process work? Include a FAQ’s page that details how or if people can expect refunds on product orders. By being open with your customers about how and when they can expect your product to arrive, you will become more profitable almost overnight!

Constantly Iterate your Minimum Viable Product

eCommerce is not just about getting a successful product out to market and reaping the rewards. In fact, it’s the fastest-changing business industry in the world. eCommerce stores are competing not only against their direct competition, but the search viability of every similar product at Walmart, every potential product on the Amazon Marketplace, and very local businesses that might offer a degree of competition.

Ecommerce Products that Diversify Are More Successful

Offering a minimum viable product is definitely the first step. Iterating on your minimum viable product comes next, but in my experience, the real e-commerce money is in getting customers who love your product to purchase on a recurring basis. At Big Red Jelly, we definitely love encouraging our e-commerce customers to consider having a recurring product offering. Whether its a consumable that is delivered on a monthly basis or a product that is “use and rebuy”, products that can be bought on a monthly, semi-monthly, or quarterly basis have the potential to bring in recurring revenue and serious potential for gaining loyal customers who are willing to put up with a bit more frustrating situations as long as they are still able to get your product every month.

Partner Up!

One very important growth strategy that can propel you forwards is partnering with industry adjacent companies.

Instead of competing on things that are hard for you to do, consider creating a referral program for things your business doesn’t want to do.

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Disclaimer: None of the information presented on this site constitutes legal, business, tax, or medical advice. In each scenario, it’s recommended to first chat with a medical, legal, business, or tax professional before making any decisions.

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