Debunking 7 of the Most Common E-Commerce Myths

Happy Friday the 13th! Today’s the ominous day that makes you think twice about breaking mirrors, walking under ladders, and opening umbrellas indoors (I’m assuming you run an ecommerce store that sells nothing but mirrors, ladders and umbrellas). Whether you’re superstitious or not, a few common myths about ecommerce are so foundational to the way you run your business that they can set off a chain of events that will feel a lot like bad luck. So in honor of Friday the 13th, here’s a lucky roundup of 7 spooky myths about ecommerce, and the information you’ll need to cast the perfect counter-spell.

Myth #1: Your Passion for Your Product is Your Best Tool

Like the stickiest of myths, this one’s half-true. If you opened Mirrors, Ladders & Umbrellas Unlimited because those are your three favorite things in the world, that’s going to be a huge asset when it’s time to communicate what’s great about them. But it can also hold you back. Sometimes having a passion for something leads to communication gaps wherein you assume that because you know or believe in something, it means your audience does too. This is the same thing that happens when someone tells a bad story; their memories and feelings about the event they’re describing can pave over the fact that they’ve accidentally left out key information that can help other people understand why to care.

The Counter-Spell:

Keep your product-oriented passion in there as a key ingredient, but add equal parts passion for business and passion for your audience. That last one is essential; don’t assume that your market research is done because you think you’re the target audience. Your target audience isn’t you, and their unique needs will drive decisions about your product line that may not line up with the choices you would have made for yourself.

Myth #2: Low Prices = Competitive Edge

Do you know a guy who can get you an amazing deal on wholesale mirrors, ladders and umbrellas? Perfect! So all you have to do is set your prices as low as possible and you’ll have a natural competitive edge, right? Not quite. The “set your prices low” myth branches off into three distinct problems: first, it devalues the work of your entire industry by setting off an out-pricing frenzy that will shift customer assumptions about what these products are supposed to cost. Second, it leads to extremely lazy marketing and differentiation because you’ve mixed up pricing and marketing strategy. And third, your wholesale supplier plays the field. Someone will always find a way to beat your price, making this an unsustainable way to fuel your business.

You may not ever be able to out-price Walmart, but there are still a lot of people out there who don’t shop at Walmart.

The Counter-Spell:

Think about what really sets your products apart, and then set a fair price. You may not ever be able to out-price Wamart, but there are still a lot of people out there who don’t shop at Walmart. Maybe they want something durable and high-quality, or unique and artisanal, or innovative and cutting-edge. Find what makes your products better, and don’t sell yourself short.

Myth #3: You Were Successful In Business Once, So You Can Do It Again

It’s really cool that you were a top-tier salesperson at a Fortune 500 company, or that you ran your first business out of your college dorm room, or that you operated a thriving brick-and-mortar 15 years ago. Those are all experiences that will help you out, and all the qualities that made you successful are still in you. But this is a different business, and ecommerce is a space that changes significantly by the day. If you assume that the way you used to do things is the way you should do them today, you’re going to start the race way behind.

The Counter-Spell:

Two parts curiosity, one part adaptability, and three parts finding the right people. Stay up to date on trends, strategies and industry developments, and flex your thinking to meet the needs of your new audience. But also remember that you don’t have to be the expert on everything; you just have to find the experts and empower them to do what they do best.

Myth #4: Measuring Performance Is All About Revenue

Revenue and profit may be your ultimate goal, but as a data point, it tells an incomplete story. You can run a campaign effectively and see low conversions, for example, but what does that really mean? Did the campaign fail? Does your site need conversion help? Did everything work perfectly in a way that will pay off later? You just can’t know until you set medium-specific goals and metrics. For example, a lot of people get frustrated when social media campaigns don’t drive revenue, because they assume social media (or any form of marketing) works in a “Point A to Point B” way. But if someone loves your social media presence and doesn’t need a ladder today, they might think about you when they need a ladder tomorrow. Or a year from now. Or they might recommend you to a friend who needs a ladder. Brand awareness is worth its weight in gold, and yet it can rarely be measured by revenue alone.

It’s not a marketer’s job to convert your audience; it’s their job to cast the net wide and strategically.

The Counter-Spell:

Consider the ultimate goal of each strategy, and find an appropriate way to measure it. High-funnel strategies in particular like PR, social media, and content strategy should usually be measured by engagement metrics, not revenue metrics. It’s not a marketer’s job to convert your audience; it’s their job to cast the net wide and strategically. Measuring each channel on the right metrics will drive better decisions and give your team the freedom to do what they do best.

Myth #5: Keep Your On-Page Content to a Minimum for Optimum UX

No, it’s probably not a great idea to write 4,000 words about your product on the product page itself. But a lot of people tend to take the “keep it simple; keep it clean” mantra and use it to hyper-correct themselves out of any decent content at all. It’s a common website myth that people don’t want to read, and given the logistics of shopping on a mobile device, it’s an understandable one. But books still exist, and so does long-form journalism, and so do editorials and lengthy Facebook diatribes and blog posts. It’s not that people don’t want to read; it’s that they don’t want to read the wrong content in the wrong places.

The Counter-Spell:

Good writing plus good design. If you want people to read, it helps to have engaging content. It also helps, however, to find a way a seamless and unobtrusive way to showcase that content, and here’s where designers step in to work miracles that I could never personally dream of. When I handed the copy of this How to Start an Online Store page over to my boss, we both looked at the length and took a gulp. But we couldn’t really find any information that needed to be cut, because it’s a complicated subject. So we put the work in the hands of a designer, who found a way to make the final page beautiful and digestible. How do we know we made the right choice? People have been reading it, and Google took notice of that. If your copy contains the information people need to know (and hopefully no more), they’ll read it.

Myth #6: You Have a Logo and a Color Palette, So You Have a Brand

Branding is an ephemeral concept to describe, so it’s normal to grasp onto the most tangible branding components you can. But your design isn’t your brand; it’s just another vessel for communicating your brand. If you decided to wear nothing but blue and green with yellow accents every day, would you really expect that to tell the whole story of who you are? No, because people still don’t understand why you’re doing that or how it expresses your identity (why are you doing that, by the way?).

People don’t become loyal to brands for the colors; they become loyal because they share your ethos.

The Counter-Spell:

You need several more ingredients, including the secret sauce. You’ll be mixing it all up in a way communicates your values, the heart and soul of your brand. People don’t become loyal to brands for the colors; they become loyal because they share your ethos. Start by thinking about what your brand stands for, and use copy, design, customer service, partnerships, products, outreach, people and photos as the tools to express that.

Myth #7: Your Online Business Will Be the Only Source of Income You Need

Did you step on a crack and break your mother’s back, and then you let a black cat cross your path so you lost your job? I’m really sorry about all that. It’s going to be okay. It’s not, however, a good time to start a business. A lot of people see events like this as the perfect time to set out and finally chase their dreams, and there’s a logic to that: the flexibility of running your own business means you can work while you help out your mom, for example, and being job-free can give you the time that you need to really focus on the business. Unfortunately, financial uncertainty doesn’t really create the type of hustle that leads to long-term success. It’s too easy to make poor decisions, take shortcuts, and aim for quick wins when you’re desperate. On top of all that, businesses cost a whole lot of money to start up and grow.

The Counter-Spell:

Set “quit my job” as one of your business goals, and design a plan that will get you there. Then work on it as much as you can in your free time, but keep your day job. It may take longer than you wanted, but you’ll make it - safely, intentionally and sustainably. And you won’t even need the help of a lucky penny! But it couldn’t hurt, so go find one.

Have any ecommerce myths you want to debunk? Let us know in the comments!