Seemingly, the world of e-commerce is taking over retail shopping. These days it’s true for clothing, jewelry, everything from eye glasses to groceries. At the same time, we’re starting to see businesses that have been around for ages closing or going bankrupt, brands that were so successful ten years ago you never would have thought you’d see them gone forever.

But things change. Even companies that have a physical location still must have an online presence today in order to stay relevant. Today, if you have an idea, something to sell plus time and money to market and sell it, no matter who you are you can set up your very own online business. Sounds tempting, not to mention fun! But one thing to keep in mind is that opening up an online store is no easy task.

You should go into it knowing that building an online store doesn’t mean customers will come running. Being aware of this that will give you some incentive to put yourself in the shoes of the customer in order to figure out what you may need to do to draw customers in. According to a recent Forbes article, if you’re going to become an entrepreneur and start your own e-commerce business, now is the time to do it. But even if online sales are increasing every year, that doesn’t mean you will sell even one item without a lot of hard work and prep.

There are multiple reasons why online businesses struggle and ultimately fail. But there are a handful that are so common that if you can make sure you don’t make these mistakes, you’ll have a good shot at success.

Here are the top four reasons online businesses struggle:

  1. Your website navigation is too daunting.
  2. Potential customers don’t know how to use your site.
  3. There aren’t enough pictures of the product with good descriptions.
  4. There is no clear understanding of the product value.

Now, don’t lose heart. These factors aren’t meant to discourage you, they’re meant to give you a realistic look at the business. Those four reasons should get your wheels turning and help you avoid becoming a statistic.

After considering these things myself over the years, I came up with a few tips to mitigate the risk of failure. Here are my six big ones:

Tip 1. Do a reality check on how well you know your customer.

Your website looks beautiful, but if your customer struggles with navigation and has difficulty finding what they want, you’ve failed. Customers are simply going to your website to see if you can give them what they want, when they want it. They want to buy their way and on their terms. Don’t let the creative bells and whistles get in their way!

Tip 2. Don’t give customers too many shipping options.

Since customers want what they when they want right away, giving them too many shipping options can back fire. Don’t overwhelm them and make them not want to buy what you’re selling.

Tip 3. Make sure your website looks good and is responsive across multiple devices.

Especially mobile devices. When creating your website, you need to make sure it can be viewed by customers regardless of what device they use. You want to create an effortless user experience across all platforms. Smartphones have pretty much turned into shopping aides, and the majority of your customers will probably be viewing your website from their mobile phone. You want your website to utilize mobile optimization. What is mobile optimization, you ask? It’s how fast your website will load on a mobile device and how the text and pictures will look on a smaller screen. Don’t underestimate the importance of this to the success of your business.

Tip 4. Your website needs to feel trustworthy and credible.

One of the worst things you can do for your website is make it look like it can give a device a virus. First impressions are everything, and that logic isn’t only applied to dating and the housing market. It goes for your website, too. If a customer visits your site and it looks sketchy, you can be guaranteed they will immediately leave and never visit it again. So when designing pre-launch, take the time out to do it justice.

Tip 5. Never underestimate the power of networking and personal relationships.

When I say networking, I mean face-to-face networking, establishing and building a personal relationship through business development. Because we live in an era of high technology, too many entrepreneurs have been able to hide behind their websites and social media accounts. So much so that when face-to-face business meetings occur, they’re forced to socialize they can come off as socially awkward. If that sounds like you, work on ways to network on a daily basis. There are simple techniques you can do to improve your social skills without coming off weird or awkward. For instance, do you know one of the best things you can wear every day? A smile. Just as you put on your clothes each day, you need to make sure you’re wearing a smile too.

To go along with that smile, you need to make eye contact with people. Even if it’s something as simple as going to the grocery store and making eye contact with the store clerk. Working on your networking and social skills every day can take you really far with your business when it comes to making appearances or engaging in promotion.

Tip 6. Your website needs to be easy to navigate.

Potential customers need to be able to find what they’re looking for without too many clicks. How many times have you gone to a website and had to click here, there, and everywhere to find what you need? Today’s consumers aren’t going to waste too much time doing that. As mentioned earlier, customers want what they want, when they want it. Instant gratification. If your website is difficult to navigate, then they’re not going to spend time on there when your competitor has the same product right in their face as soon as you can say ‘click.’

All in all, there’s much more that goes into creating a successful online business, but these are a few of the really important factors to consider when starting the process. Adhere to them and they will get you off to the right start. And if you’d like to learn more, follow me @toprightpartner and grab a copy of my new book, Marketing, Interrupted, at our online store!