Ecommerce Marketing: 11 Ways to Alienate Your Customers and Scare Them Away

“I don’t appreciate your business.”

“I’m lazy”

“You’re just a number on my sales report”

“My store is just like any other.”

Are those the messages you want your ecommerce stores to convey?

Ecommerce marketers are guilty of doing things on a regular basis that kill their own business. With so many new tools available to ecommerce marketing teams, it’s easy to pile them onto your customers in an attempt to drive more sales, but inadvertently alienating them instead.

Here are 11 ways ecommerce sites are shooting themselves in the foot, and pushing away perfectly good customers.

1. Untargeted Email Marketing

Nothing makes me believe a brand is carpet bombing me more than getting email campaigns meant for a demographic I don’t fit into based on my shopping habits on their site. If I buy nothing but Jordans and sporting gear from Amazon and they keep emailing me discounts on tea kettles and doilies, I’m likely to just click unsubscribe out of pure spite.

And for God’s sake, if I already bought a product from you once, why would you offer it to me again in the next campaign? Hit me with some cross-sells that make sense instead of remarketing the exact same product on all channels.

2. Careless Statements on Social Media

I don’t want to know anything about the political leanings of social media managers at brands I buy from online. Ever.

We all get that current events and opinions can drive engagement, but it’s almost always ecommerce suicide to alienate 50% of your customers by using your brand to enter into politically driven conversations. Typically, the people in charge of a company’s social media are not equipped with the experience or the wherewithal to know they’re about to offend someone, or make your brand the laughing stock of the internet. Social media publishing should be a team effort that is always signed off on by a senior member of the team who will take the blame if something goes wrong.

Below is a good example of how things can go wrong, when the Seattle Seahawks likened their playoff struggles to civil rights struggles with this errant tweet on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (The Tweet has since been deleted but the internet is forever.) Avoid the temptation of relating to controversial or political holidays and events. We’re following your brand because we like your products, so let’s keep it that way.

seahawks mlk tweet

3. Poor Mobile Experience

We’re fast approaching a world where the overwhelming majority of ecommerce shopping will now take place on mobile devices. If your site is not optimized for customers to make quick, easy, and seamless checkouts, you’re going to lose out on customers that probably genuinely like your products, but don’t want to bother with the poor user experience they get in your store.

Shopping on mobile should be an even better experience than it is on desktops, because the people shopping on mobile are most likely going to be less patient as well. Ask your web developer why your site is not responsive, and if they are not up for the challenge feel free to email us for a quote.

4. One-Dimensional Personalization

This is essentially the antithesis of #1 above because you do want to glean intelligence from your data and target people accordingly, rather than treating everyone the same, but it has to be done correctly. The purpose of personalization in ecommerce marketing is to give shoppers the feel of a custom tailored shopping experience and that can be lost easily when you pigeonhole shoppers into lazily defined groups or make your automation too obvious.

Segmentation should be based on shopping history and by history I mean more than taking one action or buying one thing.  The segmentation rules you create should be carefully and cleverly crafted to provide a unique engagement with people. Just because someone browsed a line of watches for 5 mins, does not mean they should be hammered with watches every where the look. Retargeting can be effective a certain percentage of the time, but you’re not fooling customers, they know what’s happening, and if you don’t have limits, or you’re not creating the rules intelligently, then you’re just harassing people.

At the very least, put some remarketing caps on your ads so you’re not driving your potential customers into madness, and over-saturating them with something they’re not ready to buy.

5. Poor Customer Service

I want to make one thing very clear:  the customer has all the power.  If you don’t treat them right, they can open a new browser and replace you in 4 seconds.  They can’t walk up to a store manager to discuss issues,  so the customer service you do provide is even more important.

sprint facebook complaints

Respond to  Complaints on Social Media

We realize some complaints are more valid than others, but all complaints on social media should be responded to in a timely manner to avoid losing an engaged customer who wants to be salvaged because it’s one of the only outlets online shoppers have to be heard.

I once had a major issue with AT&T failing to get our internet installed over the course of 4 days of cancelled appointments and miscommunications. Hours of being on hold for customer service turned into one lengthy Facebook complaint, that was quickly picked up by their Facebook social media manager. I was ready to blast AT&T for the atrocious customer service, and all it took was a simple response to stop me.

Free Shipping on Returns is an Absolute Must

This is basic. People on the web can’t try things out like they can in the store, so they need to be allowed to return things without it costing them.  It’s like charging someone $10.00 to try something on.  It’s ridiculous and one of the fastest ways I can think of to lose a customer.

Offer Gift Wrapping

Letting your customers purchase gift wrapping for an additional $5 can mean extra money in your pocket, and more seasonal shoppers who are too lazy to have gifts shipped to themselves for the wrapping stage, and then shipped to their giftee.

I bought 80% of my Christmas gifts for family on Amazon this year, and some presents I even swapped out of the cart when I realized they did not offer gift wrapping. I even bought some gifts at a premium just to get the gift wrap option.Let’s be honest, it’s a nice touch and the profit margin on gift wrapping for ecommerce stores is somewhere in the neighborhood of 90%, so why would you not want to offer that?

6.  Poor Customer Loyalty

If you shop at a store a lot, or frequent a restaurant, you’ll notice something start to happen:  the employees will start to recognize you.  They learn your name, they remember your ordering tendencies, the manager comes out from the back to say hi and often gives you “the hook ups”.  It makes a customer feel wanted and appreciated.  If you don’t recognize a customer for being a regular on your site,  you’re failing to build relationships and all that money and effort you’ve invested in acquiring new customers isn’t being retained.

7. Blurry Product Photos

I feel like if I have to tell you this one, you should pack up your store and call it quits, but you’d be surprised by how many small business ecommerce stores still fail to put the effort necessary to have high quality product shots on their site. Blame it on under-budgeting for photography, poor web design by the developer who uploaded the wrong resolution, or a collective fail by the entire ecommerce team to know the importance of high quality product photos in ecommerce. Wherever the blame falls, fix it immediately to avoid watching your site fade into inevitable bankruptcy.

8. Outdated Site Design

There was a store not far from my house that had great furniture.  It also had no customers because the paint on the outside was pealing and the sign wasn’t appealing.  On the inside the displays (if you could even call them that) did the furniture zero justice and there was no logic to the way the store was organized.  The store went out of business recently.

If you don’t want your online store to suffer the same fate, plan to invest annually in the design and maintenance of your ecommerce store the same as you would in your physical store, or even your own home. Obviously people don’t want to shop on a site that’s ugly and run down, but just like the organization of the store above, the functionality of a site is crucial.  If commonly used tools and functions of a site (like the navigation, filtering or site search) are disorganized or buggy, customers can’t find what they’re looking for and it feels just like a shopping in a cluttered old furniture store.

9. Shady SEO

I’m a fashion buff, so I’m often searching for obscure designers and brands.  Too often, I search for items and name brands that stores don’t have because they manipulated keyword marketing.  Sure, I may stumble onto stores that I wouldn’t have otherwise, but when I land there I’m pissed off that they wasted my time and don’t have what I want, so I flick off my computer and exit the site.  With SEO it’s always best to just use honest practices.  Keyword marketing is a great thing to utilize, but the keywords you use should compliment the products and services you’re offering.

10. Only Emailing Sales Offers and Nothing Useful

If the only thing you’re ever emailing to your customers is sale prices, specials, and coupons for stuff they may have already purchased, you’re missing out on huge opportunities to really speak to your customers. We all love getting deals in our inbox, but we also want to buy from brands that want to connect to us with quality content, and reasons for us to visit the site other than 20% off sales.

11.  Inconsistant Branding

There are no daily, realtime metrics and reports that support this, but having a strong brand can be one your biggest sales tools.  If you tell a great story, people will relate to your brand and champion for it. If your brand and messaging are all over the place, your story becomes confusing and less cohesive.  People may still buy your products, but they won’t necessarily want to associate themselves with you.

People buy products on Amazon because they are cheaper, it is a heartless, business transaction.  Their products have no story and their product pictures all have a white background and no soul.  If there is anywhere ecommerce stores can compete with Amazon, it’s here.  You can add story lines about how you came up with a product and why it’s meaningful or tell a story with lifestyle photography and quirky headlines that can make a shopper think,  “I want to be that cool guy with the skinny tie and no sox under his dress shoes, drinking an expresso with his sleeves rolled up on a concrete wall in the city. Where can I buy that stuff?”  Maybe that one is just me, but something like that ;).