My first example is about over-economising on hosting. One company that I dealt with was a leader in its field, although not particularly on the E-Commerce side. It had a brilliant guy running the IT department, who also developed websites on the side. As part of this business, he was a reseller for a large hosting company noted more for cheapness than quality. He also supplied this hosting to his employer.
After hearing this I tried out the company site. The first two times it simply hung and the third time it brought up the home page, but very slowly. Obviously dead sites lose customers, and slow sites irritate them. With Google now de-ranking sites that perform slowly, they can also expect less visitors. So a multi-million pound business saves a few hundred pounds a year by economising on hosting. Madness.
Because search engine optimisation (SEO) is seen as a bit of a black art, some people seem to leave their brains behind when selecting a company to help. A couple of times my customers have told me how they have selected agencies that promised to get them "on the first page of Google". Of course, they got onto the first page, but for a phrase that no one is searching for. Selecting the right SEO consultants requires some background reading, so that you ask the right questions. Like any consultancy service, it's also good to get a personal recommendation. You need to apply the same business common sense here as everywhere else.
My final example of an E-Commerce howler is a personal pet hate. This is sites that force you to create an account. Accounts are to save customer's time, but if they never revisit they actually waste effort. I don't want to be forced to create an account, think of another password and keep a record. I was looking for some boating gear recently and having found the item, was forced to create an account. Needless to say I left without buying.
In my opinion, to avoid howlers simply requires common sense. Applying this lesson, then seeing things from the customer perspective is the best way to get it right.
Chris Barling, chief executive officer, co-founded E-Commerce and EPOS systems vendor, Sellerdeck in 1996. Originally published on Business Matters.