How to Fail at E-commerce Without Even Trying

Failing at e-commerce

Failure IS an option

There are a lot of articles floating around about how to ensure success in e-commerce, some here and some on my blog.

So rather than repeating myself, I thought that it would be more interesting to write about the quickest ways to kill your e-commerce business.

E-commerce is a $1.5 trillion global economy, but it’s constantly changing and growing. You have to stay on top of tech and markets, and honestly, who wants to bother with that? Half of US small businesses don’t even have a website; why not join them?

So without further ado, I present:

The top seven ways to fly your e-commerce business into the ground


  1. e-commerce research-who needs it?

    Research is boring

    Don’t waste your time researching your target audience: There are lots of people out there on the internet. Whatever you’re selling, some of them are bound to want it, enough to pay you whatever you’re asking.

    Testing and analyzing the market, examining precise metrics and algorithms to find out what people want, how many of them want it, how much they’re willing to pay and what they’re using right now — all that stuff is hard and takes time and money.  Sure, you have to spend money to make money, but the more your sales dwindle due to lack of research, the more appealing it is to hang on to every last cent.

    But I digress. The real reason failing to research your demographic will guarantee your e-commerce site fails is that it will help you to avoid a product-market fit. This means that nobody will feel like your e-commerce store is a perfect fit for their needs. As a result, your company will become just as irrelevant as you thought those algorithms were when you decided not to do your research.

  1. Visitor contact-why bother?

    Why bother talking to visitors?

    Don’t worry about answering customer questions promptly: If a visitor has come across your site, they should be able to figure out the answers to their questions on their own, just by looking at your descriptions of your products and services.

    They can read, right?

    And if they really need a question answered, they can look for your contact form all the way at the bottom menu. Or better yet, set up a Live Chat option, but keep your staff so busy that nobody is there to help. Or maybe that require’s too much effort, and you can just bury a link to an email somewhere in the site.

    If the visitor really wants what you’re selling, they’ll find that link and then wait for however long it takes you to get back to them. Hopefully, in the meantime they will Google their questions.

    If they come to your competitors’ site in the process and end up buying from them, well, at least it saves you the hassle of having to talk to them. By not giving your users instant contact options beyond email, by making them dig for a contact option and wait for an email to turn around, you can drive all but the most dedicated ones off to your competition.

    So always make it difficult for customers to get in touch. It saves you time on answering their questions and processing their orders!

  1. Conversion optimization tools for e-commerce

    Who wants to mess with a bunch of optimization tools?

    Don’t worry about conversion optimization: This goes with tip #2 above. Visitors show up to your site, look at some stuff, do some stuff, and some of them buy some of the stuff you’re selling.

    So, what else do you want? Sure, there are tons of tools and services that help you analyze where the visitors who don’t leave their contact information or buy from you are falling off. Some companies will straight up offer to turn your website into a sales funnel designed to conversion rates. Many of the tools are simple and easy to use, allowing you to examine purchasing patterns or watch videos of your visitors interacting with your site.

    Stay away from them. Since you pay for visitors but only make money from the ones who convert to buyers, low conversion rates are crucial for killing your e-commerce business!

  1. mobile ecommerce

    Gotcha mobile e-commerce right here, buddy

    Don’t worry about making your site responsive: Sure, half of e-commerce visitors come from mobile devices. But half of them don’t. And you know a lot of Luddites who still insist on using flip phones. They wouldn’t even know what to do if your website automatically adjusted to fit their screen.

    And even if the proportion of e-commerce customers coming from mobile devices has grown steadily for years, it will take some time for them to become a majority…wait, nevermind. Still, regardless of how other websites try to hook mobile buyers, if your site doesn’t work well on a mobile device, don’t take the time or effort to make it responsive.

    Alienating more than half of your potential visitors is a remarkably efficient way to kill an e-commerce site. Keep the mobile shoppers off your site, and they won’t waste your time with their purchases!

  1. Don’t offer holiday promotions: Sure, people’s shopping habits change around the holidays, and you could take advantage of that by timing promotions and publishing them on the appropriate social media networks, creating a sense of urgency with limited-time offers, customizing landing pages for those offers, etc. But what for? It’s not like what you’re selling has changed drastically. And besides, maintaining one social media account, let alone several,  is a huge hassle. Which brings us to:
  1. Don’t interact with actual or potential customers on social media: Just like a good way to go out of business in a brick and mortar store is by keeping a low profile and not engaging customers in unnecessary conversation, you can do the same in e-commerce. Don’t worry about figuring out which social media channels your customers spend time on, creating an appealing profile and content there, following them, and so on.

Under no circumstances should you pro-actively follow or friend people who fit your customer profile or people within their network they contact frequently.

This can only get them to check out your business’ page and end up becoming customers, or recommending you to other potential clients, which will set you back on the journey to e-commerce failure.

  1. Don’t worry about abandoned cart recovery. 2/3rds of e-commerce shopping carts get abandoned before checkout. Sometimes, checkout is complicated or doesn’t work properly. Sometimes the customer gets to the payment page and is surprised by unexpected charges like taxes and shipping. Sometimes, questions arise to which the customer can’t get immediate answers, so they leave the page to Google.

If they want to leave, let them! Don’t install any abandoned cart recovery automation apps, especially not the kind that email customers who abandoned their cart and reminds them about the items they wanted to purchase. If those guys don’t want what you’re selling bad enough to finish the checkout process, let them go. They’re only 2/3 of your potential buyers!

Stable e-commerce business

Get your business humming right along

Summary:  This has been a (tongue in cheek) bit of advice on the best ways to kill an e-commerce business. I hope you never use any of these tips, and take no responsibility for the outcome if you do.

It’s important to know what to do when you’re embarking on a business venture through the competitive and rapidly evolving world of e-commerce, but it can be even more important to know what not to do.

With that in mind, let me know in the comments below if I missed any tips on how to kill an e-commerce site.



Face PicBaruch Kogan is the marketing director at Bontact, a company making multichannel ecommerce contact widgets, letting website visitors contact the site owner through chat, SMS, callback or email. Bontact focuses on giving online business owners the tools they need to turn visitors into buyers. Hit him up on Twitter @bontact

Back to posts
Read previous post:
How to Make a Quiz for Lead Generation

In the last 10 years we’ve seen a platform shift like none other in the history of the internet. I’m...