#001 10 common basic mistakes we see from online retailers

Wonderful tips from Jeremy Vernon and Paul Burns to avoid pitfalls when starting an online retail business or integrating with other online retail businesses. Years of business failures and techniques can help you avoid these pitfalls and anticipate for shortcomings with your clients.

The Ecommerce Uncovered Podcast is a behind-the-scenes look at what makes ecommerce a success in today’s ever-growing and continually changing online world.

The podcasts look to uncover the secrets of ecommerce success, so you can learn and apply to your own online business.

Brought you by the Co-founders of Core Fulfilment, one of the UK’s leading ecommerce fulfilment service providers, Paul Burns and Jeremy Vernon.

Jeremy Vernon: Hi, and welcome to the very first Ecommerce Uncovered Podcast with me, Jeremy Vernon.

Paul Burns: And me, Paul Burns.

Jeremy Vernon: Before we get into today’s topic of the 10 common basic mistakes we see from online retailers, you probably want to know a little bit about us. So, who are we? Who are we, Paul?

Paul Burns: I don’t know, it’s a really good question. Jeremy and I started Core Fulfilment 4 years ago. I’d love to think there was some big…

Jeremy Vernon: Grand plan.

Paul Burns: Grand plan. But the reality was we ended up running a fulfilment company that wasn’t doing great. I think we looked at each other over a beer one night and said, we need to go in a bit of a different direction. We wanted to aggressively target SMEs. It wasn’t even that specific, was it? It was we wanted to start telling people that we’re here, because we were doing none of it.

Jeremy Vernon: No, we weren’t. So, 4 years ago, back in 2014, we took what was a very poorly performing business and we founded Core Fulfilment. So, just a little bit about our journey over the last 4 years. We started with a handful of clients.

Paul Burns: 5.

Jeremy Vernon: With the business that we took on. We built that business up over the last 4 years. We’re currently at.

Paul Burns: 73 last week.

Jeremy Vernon: Okay, so 73 clients. These range from startup ecommerce retailers all the way through to sort of quite established big brands.

Paul Burns: In their fields. So, anyone that sells product on product online, a physical product online, effectively, we can work with them. As a business, we’re growing very quickly as well. So, we stared over the last 4 years really to market ourselves. Things are going well from a growth perspective. So, yeah, it’s a very interesting business and it’s a very interesting space to be in ecommerce. We felt really, we want to add something, some further value to what we’re doing. So, really, we came up with this idea of a podcast.

So, the podcast will be anything to do with ecommerce. Ecommerce Uncovered obviously being the title. Really, we want to touch on all the different elements that is relevant to ecommerce. So, obviously, what we do, fulfilment through to marketing, through to the carriers, through to the shopping experience, and just to pass on anything that we’ve learned over the last 4 or 5 years, because although we kind of work in the sector for a long time, I think the last 4 years have shown us that we didn’t know all that much about it. We had a shed. We knew how to send stuff over. But I think now we’ve worked with so many customers across so many different areas that we’ve got a little bit to give back. If anyone’s got any questions, or if you want to give us a call, please feel free to do that. We’re happy to help anytime.

Jeremy Vernon: I think every business owner, they know more than they think they know. Certainly, their experience is valuable to other people. So, again really this idea of the podcast is to bring various people in through interviews. Obviously, we’ll do our talks, and just try and get underneath the various of elements that makes ecommerce happen, and really just give you some value. Hopefully, you can take something away from each episode to help you either grow or start an ecommerce business. Let’s get started with today’s topic. The 10 common basic mistakes we see from online retailers in no particular order. Number 1, developing a bespoke ecommerce platform from the very start.

Paul Burns: If we look back across the years on how people would start with an idea for an ecommerce website, this has changed so much in the last 5, 6, 7 years. Previously, it would have been a custom build that would have taken time, a lot of money, a lot of effort. Then you would have been challenged with, how do we then connect this piece of my business to all the other pieces that need to be linked together like your SEO, PPC, your warehousing facility, your carrier companies, how does it communicate to your customers further down the line? That really has changed a lot in the last 3 to 4 years with an explosion of platforms that can take a lot of that headache away.

Jeremy Vernon: The cost alone of commissioning a bespoke site these days must be in the tens of thousands to get anything that’s comparable to any other platforms out there. In terms of startup platforms, there’s quite a choice depending on what level of development you actually want to do as a business. Obviously, you’ve got things like hosting platforms. So, Shopify, BigCommerce, slightly more technical with commerce.

Paul Burns: Magento.

Jeremy Vernon: On the WordPress platform. As you say, more developer focused, Magento. Now, why anyone in today’s world, where you’ve got all of these platforms out there, why anyone would go down the bespoke route? It’s probably in the minority now really.

Paul Burns: Yeah, I mean my theory behind this is unless you’ve got money coming out your ears, and what startup business does, there’s no point jumping at a couple levels here. I would say, 8 out of 10 enquiries that we get, people are talking about ecommerce, Shopify and Magento. For anyone that was starting a business, my personal advice will always be, if you took a platform like Shopify, and in 12 months, you don’t feel it has the capacity to do with the volume of business that you’re doing, then you’ve encountered a brilliant problem.

Jeremy Vernon: I think people get a bit too excited I suppose about what they’re going to be in 6, 12, 18 months’ time. So, they all go, well, this is going to be big, I need something that can sell very quickly. My offering is slightly different to everybody else’s. So, I need a unique functionality of the website. But to be honest, certainly from the very beginning, that’s probably not required. It may need further developments further down the line. But to go from zero to something, really any of the major platforms out there will probably suffice for anyone that wants to just start.

Paul Burns: I totally agree. What Shopify used to do in the early days, if you look at the build cost from Magento, I would think to get a decent development done in the UK, you would be working anywhere between 10 to 25 grand. I think most startups could use that money elsewhere in terms of generating traffic to your website, properly backing your product, photography, content, all that I feel has more value at that stage than an all bells and whistles website that as of yet doesn’t really have any traffic on to it.

Jeremy Vernon: I also think one of the mistakes is that maybe someone’s got the idea of an ecommerce business. They might approach a developer. Now, that developer may or may not have a specialism in Magento or Shopify or Woocommerce. They may just have their own coding skills. That’s why they sort of really divert or sort of lead a customer down the route of a bespoke platform. Now, there’s so much involved in those platforms. Speed of the platform, how easy it is to check out. There’s a whole host of different aspects that is part of that customer experience. To go from scratch and build a bespoke platform these days is a massive task.

Paul Burns: I think also it’s the speed of change, the agility that a small business wants and needs to have. We just started work with a customer who is working with a big player in Earth sector. Their big complaint was the lack of agility and the lack of flexibility from that provider. What you get with a Magento solution, is one, you’ve got to find a developer and a good one. Then every time you want to make a change or an update or put a promo on, whatever it might be, you’re engaging that developer then every time. The other platform, Shopify in particular, I know we talk about that a lot. What Shopify will actually do is google how to do these things, and actually implement them yourself. I’ve done it myself.

Jeremy Vernon: How easy is it to build a Shopify?

Paul Burns: It’s easy. I mean I can assure everyone that’s listening that I have little or no technical background, and yet I’ve built 2 websites on Shopify. You could easily do it in a weekend, easily do it in a weekend. The stuff out there, as ours evolved, we were building actually more of a B to B platform. The company that we were working with all of a sudden wanted different pricing. I mean it’s easy as going out and finding an app that plugs into Shopify to say, oh I want to customer A to pay this. I want customer X to pay this. You’ve got your credit card merchant. It’s all in there. That used to take a month to get a merchant ID from a bank. So, all that is in there. No way is this pushing Shopify. This is purely our experience so far. I wouldn’t have started anywhere else.

Jeremy Vernon: It just seems mad that, I mean we get businesses that even today they come to us with their bespoke platforms. They are having challenges at that point, and they haven’t even launched their business. You think well, how are you going to scale with it? How is it going to cope with scale, and more traffic, and more transactions? It’s just certainly from the beginning, certainly, it’s a relatively low level of volume. I don’t see why anyone would do anything other than take a platform that’s already written and developed specifically to do that job.

Paul Burns: Absolutely. Also, I think it gives you an element of control. You can make these changes yourself. As much as people might talk about how a Magento site can be designed, Shopify and these other platforms have hundreds of themes out there. There’s very little that is unique about websites nowadays. They tend to have a bar across the top, a menu down the side. If you look at the websites that we all use most commonly, I think probably the best feature about them is probably simplicity, easy checkouts, quick process. That’s what these prebuilt platforms give you. Fully admit that products like Magento give you great scale, but you don’t need it from day one.

Jeremy Vernon: You can always upgrade to Magento some other time.

Paul Burns: Absolutely, yeah, best problem you’ll have.

Jeremy Vernon: Okay, number 2, not using good quality website developers. Touched on this a little bit now. But obviously, one of the things, once you’ve got your platform developed, now there may be some customisation that you’ve had done to it. So, even if it is for example, a Shopify, a WooCommerce, a BigCommerce. Some of those still need some personalisation or customisation to suit your exact business. But obviously, if you don’t work with a decent developer, you’re looking for trouble further down the line.

Paul Burns: Yeah, how many times have we heard people say, we’re working with a new development agency for Magento platform or another platform. The story is nearly always, do you know what guys? It would be easier to start again, because we don’t know how these other chaps have built it. It feels to me then that you’ll face potentially, unless you’re developing in house with this constant rebirth of your website, well, we don’t know how they have coded this bit or the impact you’ll have. It just seems to present more headaches than it can be worth. Again, in the early days, if you have a long term strategy, and you’ve got a long term partnership with a good developer, then I’m sure you won’t come up against those problems.

Jeremy Vernon: Here’s an example that we come across all the time that causes a massive headache for these brands. So, we were in an ecommerce fulfilment warehouse. Typically, that’s outsourcing all of the physical side of these ecommerce businesses to us that is based on an integration between their platform, our customer’s platform and our internal WMS, our warehouse management system. Now, if you haven’t got a decent API for example, open API on their platform, it’s an absolute nightmare for us to integrate. That means we can’t pass order information through from their system to our system. It becomes a massive headache. Certainly, for scaling, people will have trouble linking with any other external system.

Paul Burns: Yeah, not like before we had this current WMS that we used, integration was a bespoke build, for us essentially. We talk about it now. But it was getting a custom build with a new platform or a bespoke website, it would take weeks if not longer, including testing, and probably cost thousands. Again, that is money that businesses like us and startups can ill afford. It’s money that gets you nothing back, simple integration between your fulfilment facility, whoever that may be or even if you’re doing it yourself, it’s money down the drain.

Jeremy Vernon: I mean typically, what would a Shopify integration be time wise now?

Paul Burns: 15 minutes, 20 minutes. It depends on the size of your school range. I mean we’ve spoken to people that they agree to go with us today, they want to send products in tomorrow, and we’re shipping orders for them within 24 hour period. 4 years ago, if you would have said that to me, I would not have believed it.

Jeremy Vernon: I think also one element of this is no website developer wants to turn business down. So, if someone comes and approaches them saying, I’ve got this idea of an ecommerce business, I’d like you to build me a website. Chances are they are not going to say no. They will go, yeah, yeah, I can do that, no problem. This is where if they don’t know what they are doing or not really specialist in what they are doing, this all will fold, especially when you’re either scaling or looking to integrate into other systems.

Paul Burns: I totally agree. I think the other thing that you see with a lot of developers are they become very focused on the ecstatics of a website. It’s very easy to get it looking great and feeling great. But how many times have we seen that there is no call to action or no prominence on websites that these guys are actually trying to sell stuff. They need click here, buy now, whatever it might be to entice that purchase is a good web developer. Again, web developing a content site to an ecommerce site is two totally different things. You need minimal clicks to get it. You don’t want through 3 or 4 pages before you can actually see and buy the product. These guys are skilled and know what they are doing.

Jeremy Vernon: So, choose your developer very carefully.

Paul Burns: Absolutely, yeah.

Jeremy Vernon: Ask for references, ask for sites that they have already developed. Go on those sites.

Paul Burns: Shop on them, return the product, whatever it is.

Jeremy Vernon: Experience how that site works. Is it what you would expect? Is it as quick as what you are normally used to? Is there a book? Is the experience clunky?

Paul Burns: Another Magento point, clunky. You need dedicated service for Magento. Again, further down the line, that might not be a problem for you. But at the start, you’ve got long load times. That is your biggest turn offer for any customer. Nowadays if we’re waiting on a website 3 seconds, we’ve clicked back before we see the homepage load.

Jeremy Vernon: Okay, number 3 of 10 common basic mistakes is having a high social media following is not necessarily guarantee of high sales and high growth.

Paul Burns: We’ve seen this a couple of times. This will be a brief point on my part I think. Social media and places like Facebook and Instagram are undoubtedly a way of generating business. However, it is not a given. The number of times we’ve spoken to people that say, I’ve got 50,000 followers on Instagram or Facebook, whichever platform it may be. In our experience, that doesn’t translate to order of volume.

Jeremy Vernon: Liking a photograph and following that.

Paul Burns: Handing over money.

Jeremy Vernon: Is two very different things. We’ve worked with businesses who, for example they might be famous, they might be a sports personality. They may be a TV personality or well known in a particular niche or something like that. There is certainly, not everyone, but certainly this preconception I suppose because they’ve got this big social media following. They got loads of Facebook likes. Once they’ve launched the products, it’s going to be big. It doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen at all. I think people need to be realistic that as you say, going from a Facebook like or an Instagram like gets you, here’s my money is a very different journey for some people. It’s free to like something, obviously you departing from cash is different.

Paul Burns: Habitual as well. You see something come up. You just click on it before you even know it.

Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, so this is really from experience that we’ve seen. So, I’m sure there’s exceptions to every rule here. But these are just sort of common things we keep seeing with businesses that work with us or look to work with us. Okay, number 4. Just because you’re a global brand doesn’t guarantee ecommerce success.

Paul Burns: Again, something we’ve seen a number of times. We’ve been frequently excited about the opportunity to work with big brands. We won’t mention any names, but businesses out there that are huge. On the face of it, we think have huge capacity to go and generate, one, a lot of traffic, and therefore a lot of orders. But that is not our experience. We have a bit of a theory to it, that when you’re dealing with these big bluechip companies, very often ecommerce transactions are not their centre focus for their business. If you’re dealing with the small guys, who’s full of beans, want to get started, have been working on this for months. Those guys have got vested interest in making their ecommerce platform work. Very often, with the big guys, this is seen as a bit of sideline that they think, we should definitely have our own ecommerce store. Everybody’s got them. And that simply by opening, people will come and shop on it. It’s just not the case. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.

Jeremy Vernon: You also got to remember these companies, what they are good at is developing brands, developing products. A lot of them, certainly the bigger sort of household brands, let’s call them, just acquired brands, and they’ve got hundreds and hundreds of brands within their portfolio. Their expertise is creating those brands and selling them to the retailers, so your Tesco’s and people like that in this world. Just because they can do that doesn’t mean they can go and then sell that product online.

Paul Burns: Well, we’ve got people, there might be 1 or 2 or 3 within the business that are doing 10 times the volume of some of our big customers, because they are an online ecommerce retailer. That’s what they do week in week out. We actually see a huge opportunity for bigger brands going direct to their customers, because there is so many upsides from it. Firstly, if you’re looking from a purely financial opportunity, you’re getting retail margins, very often from a manufacturer or a wholesaler even. But the biggest thing is that you’re getting direct interaction with your consumers. Most big brands, their only interaction is with high street chain.

Jeremy Vernon: They never have that customer relationship.

Paul Burns: Absolutely, it’s their dealing with buyers that control what is on the shelves in the stores. If you look at the guys who have done a great job at getting their brand online, we talk about it all the time without name dropping, John Lewis. They do a great job of giving the experience you would have got in a John Lewis store online. They really value that, especially the stuff they have done with dropping it in their Waitrose stores as well. That can only have increased the sales for food. You walk in to pick up your parcel, you get a loaf of bread and a pint of milk.

Jeremy Vernon: We’ve also worked with some very, very big global brands. The product they are trying to sell online is probably not something you would specifically go to a particular website and buy on its own. It’s something you would do as whatever, a bigger shop. I think this really is where Amazon has really done with the dash buttons that they do. Because they tend to be low value, more consumable.

Paul Burns: Washing powder, toilet paper, those types of things.

Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, stuff you’re not going to go to andrex.com or co.uk to go and buy your toilet paper. You’re just going to do it as part of either a shop, an online shop of your supermarket. So, there’s some products that just won’t lend themselves to selling online as a separate brand.

Paul Burns: Absolutely.

Jeremy Vernon: Okay, let’s move onto number 5. A big upfront investments means guaranteed success. This is…

Paul Burns: A myth.

Jeremy Vernon: A common myth that we see a lot. Again, entrepreneurs, businesses get very excited about the next big thing that they are going to develop. Whilst we don’t want to diminish what these guys are doing, because ultimately, our business is about working with these sorts of people. The more successful they are, the more successful we are. We see time and time again, people making tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment before they have sold anything. They feel that just by making that level of investment, that it’s going to be a success. Again, it’s just a myth.

Paul Burns: Yeah, I mean how comprehensive can your website user experience be for that amount of money, especially when you’re starting out. People just want to be able to get the product quickly and easily delivered to them when they want it. Just because you’ve got a lot of money upfront doesn’t mean anything. Again, we’ve seen this first hand with major big brands that we know they have a number internally, that before they even hit it, it would be considered a waste of time.

Jeremy Vernon: They just made it far too complex. I think they try to do far too much too quickly. They created a monster that just didn’t work. It wasn’t simple. There was too much choice. They didn’t really know what they wanted to be. Are they leading on price? Are they leading on quality? Are they leading on service?

Paul Burns: Are they rewarding existing customers that buy other things from them?

Jeremy Vernon: It was just a mess, wasn’t it?

Paul Burns: Yeah.

Jeremy Vernon: Because they pumped all this money into something, all of these different products.

Paul Burns: They didn’t know what they were.

Jeremy Vernon: They didn’t. It didn’t mean anything to the customers.

Paul Burns: Absolutely.

Jeremy Vernon: I don’t think the customer understood what they stood for, and therefore got confused, didn’t really have a great experience, and left. It didn’t do what it was expected to do. Okay, number 6. Something that we see a lot and we tend to get involved sort of towards the end of certainly a launch is not planning enough time to set up, test and launch.

Paul Burns: Yes, we talked about earlier how quick and easy it can be to set up a store and integrate with a business like ours. But if we were to pin our hopes on a launch date that a customer gave us when we signed up and agreed to start working with them, I’m not sure what percentage would start on time. But these things always taking longer. Before it gets to us, you’ve got your product development. You’ve got all that sort of QC stuff. We’ve just had products arrive here that when our customers actually then decide and look through it, it’s not how they thought it would be. So, that inevitably pushes everything back from there. Mixed into that, you’ve got website development, the guys that are building your website for you or if you’re doing it for yourself. I think the amount of time you need to spend trolling through that website. It’s a bit like when you’re writing an email, when you know what you meant to write, and you keep reading it again, but you don’t actually know certain mistakes in there. You know grammar, content. Have you thought about everything a customer will want to see on that website? That takes time and effort unfortunately. Getting other people to help out with it as well is always a big thing. Fresh pair of eyes always really helps.

Jeremy Vernon: Testing is a big thing. It’s obviously very near to where everyone wants to get going with it, wants to get it live, very impatient to get it out to the world. It’s a big thing. Of course, it is. But the testing is so important. If it doesn’t work or things don’t convert properly, or there’s a technical glitch, or those orders don’t pass through to your fulfilment warehouse, or your payment gateway has got a problem, it’s just a disaster.

Paul Burns: We actually have that day. So, something that’s done a subscription model, they spoke briefly with our guy here. They turned on the subscription model, and he coincidentally contacted me last night to say, oh, this guy’s ordered to many. Don’t ship the order out. I was having a look at home. I was like, I can’t see where this order is. On one of the selection boxes, he chose an option that automatically fulfilled that order. So, it never hit us. So, without him noticing this, we could have done this for weeks. That subscriber, one of his first experience, they haven’t got the product when they thought they would get it. Also, it could lead to them cancelling their subscription. Now, for their business, their subscription model is the whole point. That free repeat business in a way once you’ve signed those guys up. So, that should have been tested far more thoroughly.

Jeremy Vernon: We had another thing this week as well regarding testing. Being able to order a limited number of any item. So, if you’re doing a promo.

Paul Burns: Oh yeah.

Jeremy Vernon: Obviously, one of our customers is running a free sample pack. You pay for the shipping. But obviously the sample pack is then free. So, obviously it’s given a bit of taste into their products. But people are ordering a hundred sample packs. It’s a basic test that they should have gone, how do we restrict it? It says restricted to I think 2 items or 2 free sample packs.

Paul Burns: But technically, you could put anything in there.

Jeremy Vernon: Well, people will push their luck. Of course, they will. Because if they think they can get something for free, then they will. It’s so faceless online that people will do it. So, testing is really, really important. Yes, it might delay, it might delay the launch of your business. It will pay dividends on the long run.

Paul Burns: Absolutely, yeah. Totally agree.

Jeremy Vernon: Number 7, underestimating how hard it is to drive relevant traffic to a website. Now it’s a biggie, this one. Relevant traffic I think is the point here. Again, people, very emotional, very exciting, very encouraging when they’ve got an idea when they are going to launch their business. We’ve talked about people how high social media followings, well I’ve got 10,000 Instagram followers. So, it’s going to be dead easy, because I just put a post out there and suddenly all these people are going to be on my site buying. It’s really quite difficult. There’s obviously lots of businesses out there specialising this thing. Alone, it’s quite difficult to drive relevant converting traffic to a website. It’s something we see again a lot. Things will launch. We’ll have a hype of, this is going to be big guys. You need to be aware, here’s my plans and then nothing.

Paul Burns: Yeah, I mean there’s been a big push in terms of organic and wellness stuff. I think good quality content, that doesn’t mean words, and words, and words. It just means relevant content about your product, telling customers. So, you click on the product, and all that information is there. So, if it’s clothing, good sizing information. If it’s protein products, giving them all that relevant information about when to take it, what else you should take it with, how much per day, all that information being there will lead to a conversion at that point. Because if they don’t get all the data they want, chances are your product or something similar to it is available somewhere else that will have that. So, driving relevant traffic to website. So, it’s like having your shop in a Traffic Centre, isn’t it? You want that footfall. Another thing that we’ve experienced is people generating traffic for you. So, an SEO or a PPC company become obsessed with how many people they get to your website. That in some ways, although it’s not relevant, conversion is what everybody is after. You could have a million people land on your website today. If only 2 people buy something, then 999,000, whatever it is didn’t need to be there, weren’t interested in your product. So, that is really the key.

Jeremy Vernon: We’ve seen adverts for one of our other customers, a Facebook advert, great looking advert, no call to action, no really clear what do I do next.

Paul Burns: Or they have advertise a specific product, and then the link takes you to the homepage. So, they’re already going, where’s that product? I want it. They want to go straight into it, and one quicker click away from buying it.

Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, it’s something we see all the time. Getting it right can be very fruitful and very good for a successful business. But certainly I think there’s obviously certain people out there saying, how easy it is to have an ecommerce business, and the whole lifestyle that it can generate, which is fine. But there’s a lot of work that goes into these things to really get the right traffic, and obviously ultimately then those conversions.

Paul Burns: Again, I think finding the right partner for stuff like that is key. A good company will weigh you down. I mean you do it yourself. We do our own adverts, PPC in house. I say we, you do it.

Jeremy Vernon: I do it, yes.

Paul Burns: We find a little bit of a niche there. But I think you’ll be rocked to let it go to anybody else.

Jeremy Vernon: It’s an important part of our business. I think for anyone growing a business online, knowing that it’s been managed properly is a big thing. The cost per click and ultimately, the cost per conversion is key to making sure a business works. As you said, hand it over to someone else who not necessarily have the same mentality or the same priority with that money.

Paul Burns: Very often, I don’t know how it is anymore. We haven’t spoke to them for quite a while. But it tended to be they got paid a percentage of what you spent as opposed to a percentage of converted clicks. It felt it was, we call it a dark hour, don’t we, SEO and PPC? But it always felt it a kind of weighted in their favour, and that their measure of success was perhaps different from what we see.

Jeremy Vernon: Okay, number 8 of 10 common basic mistakes we see is people’s forecast for volumes and growth. I think we’ve obviously covered a little bit here with the stuff we’ve covered in terms of social media followings, and also how hard it is to drive relevant traffic to sites. But again, for example, a customer comes to us. We start partnering with that business. We need to know how to plan our business. We need to know what our business looks like. You ramp that up over hundreds of other businesses that we work with, suddenly we need to know what sort of volumes we’ll be dealing with in a month, 2 months, 2 months, 12 months’ time. The forecast we get from, not necessarily just startups, but from people that are relatively new sometimes aren’t anywhere near the reality, are they?

Paul Burns: No, I mean one of the things we love about working with SMEs and businesses of that size is that everyone is so enthusiastic. Who wouldn’t be excited? If you made that decision to go and start your own business, why wouldn’t you be excited and optimistic about what it’s going to do? But I think there is a realism there that says, you know what? When you open the door for the first time, they are not going to run through. I think that’s one of the most important things at that point is getting those first customer experiences right, because really at that level, there’s a lot of stuff around reviews on your website at the minute. They are related to two things generally, service, how quickly you can get it to them and what condition it arrives in and the quality of the product itself. I also think people get obsessed with buying. How much stuff they are going to buy? Will they have enough to meet the demand? I also think there’s a little bit in it that you know what? If you can say that it’s sold out so quickly, people can like that, people will preorder it.

Jeremy Vernon: There’s interest.

Paul Burns: Yeah. I mean look, there’s plenty of people doing stuff out there on places like Kickstarter, Indigo, Goware. It’s all preorder essentially. People want to be a part of it. You get that as well with new sites as well, talking to a customer that had such a big Black Friday, they sold out of products. They leap time to get that replaced was another two weeks. But that just created more demand for them in some ways.

Jeremy Vernon: We actually worked with a retailer now that they are commonly selling the products prior to them actually having it. They do very well out of that. I think it just generates quite a buzz about the place, sort of a scarcity thing going, exclusivity thing to think, actually I don’t mind waiting for it. Because it has to be good quality. No doubt about that. But I think it actually generates like a level of goodwill. You know it’s not a mass market product as such, which I think adds value to the proposition.

Paul Burns: I think we’ve got a couple of clients, who do phone cases. So, a new iPhone or a new Samsung comes out, he puts a preorder in these items well in advance, getting the phone or getting the product, because one, they might get a little discount. But also, they just want to make sure they get it as soon as they can.

Jeremy Vernon: One thing that we want to sort of stress here is that there’s very, very few businesses that are an overnight success. Even though people may perceive them to be, very few go from sort of zero to hero overnight. It’s about having patience really. Obviously talking about forecast of volumes and growth, things like that. Again, not diminishing what people are trying to achieve here, it’s just again I think you need to be a bit more realistic about when that growth happens. Traction takes time. As we say, you can’t just sort of put a post ad to all of your Facebook or your Instagram or your Twitter followers and suddenly they are buying product. It just doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to build credibility. You’ve got to build value, and that’s where obviously you start seeing the traction, certainly from a volume perspective.

Okay, let’s move onto the penultimate one, number 9, not offering customers choice. Now, this is relevant to both shipping methods, and also, I think contact us type methods as well on the site.

Paul Burns: This is as much me personal as anything we’ve learned from our client based is that I’ve got a real big thing at the moment. I think people are far more willing and eager to actually try out brands and products that they maybe not heard of before. I think people are far more individual than they used to be. But if you go onto a website and you’ve never heard of that brand or seen that product anywhere else, it would put my mind at ease to see a phone number, email address, a live chat, so that I can interact with these guys.

Jeremy Vernon: However, you might consider doing it as well.

Paul Burns: Exactly, yeah. I just think it adds a bit of credibility to the purchase you’re about to make, because you might be about to spend 50 quid, 100 quid, whatever it is. I know it’s pretty safe shopping online now. If you’re using your credit card, and it does prove to be fraudulent, but you do get your money back anyway. So, it’s not the end of the world. But I just think the fact that if something did go wrong with the order that you can call them up, speak to somebody about it. I think that puts a lot of people’s minds at ease. Shipping as well. We see this all the time. 50 percent of the stuff we talk to customers about is shipping and given choice and variety for that both in terms of level of service and cost again is key. Cheap, free, economy deliveries to people up to, I want it on Saturday before 10:30 am. Now there are two extremes there. But depending on what you’re shipping as well, whether is it small enough to go through a letterbox. If it is, well actually we see good hit rates with the cheapest services out there with Royal Mail, and this works. If it goes through the letterbox, you won’t have a lot of bother.

But I’m a big believer in customers really do want choice when it comes to shipping. We’ve seen it both ways with some of the products that we worked with. If somebody runs out of their protein, and they are on the website at 6 o’clock at night. They will pay for the upgrade, because they need it tomorrow to go to the gym. If somebody is ordering, I don’t know, a jacket for skiing, well actually they are not going skiing for a month. So, the fact that they get free delivery and it’s there in 3 to 4 days, then it’s no big deal.

Jeremy Vernon: I think free deliveries, you need to have that as an option. Now, we also realise not every retailer possibly have the margins in the product to offer free shipping.

Paul Burns: But a threshold.

Jeremy Vernon: But a free or low cost option really needs to be at least one option, call it the economy option for your customers, and then as you say, a premium option. For example, a lot of customers we worked with might offer something like DPD as the premium option. Now DPD typically is the most expensive or one of the most expensive couriers out there, but also probably the best service and best experience. So, I think a customer would, if they want to pay for that experience, they will be more than happy to. But I think it’s giving that choice. So, as you say, if someone is not desperate for it tomorrow and not desperate to know a particular time frame when it will be deliver, because obviously with DPD, you can get that two hour, one hour window, then a free or economy option would help drive traffic for that.

Paul Burns: And conversion.

Jeremy Vernon: And conversion, yeah. You may offer various different options. There could be a sort of low cost, a medium cost, and a high cost depending on the level of service or time that it takes to deliver.

Paul Burns: But let them make that choice.

Jeremy Vernon: Yeah, the customers want that option. So, really one of the things as I said, we see a lot is just not offering that choice to customers. Okay, final point of our 10 common basic mistakes. Number 10, this is a big one really that is quite difficult. But here we go. It’s removing the emotion when outsourcing. It’s a really, really tough one for any business owner to hand over their business or part of their business to someone else.

Paul Burns: I think when you’ve spent so much time building something perhaps from the ground up, which is how a lot people end up doing their own fulfilment, if we want to call it. You don’t have the money at the start to engage with the company or your clients perhaps. So, you’re doing it out of your garage, out of your bedroom, whatever it might be. There’s loads of great stories about people that start in that sense.

Jeremy Vernon: Amazon started in a garage, didn’t it?

Paul Burns: Yeah, we see other brands like the Gymshark guy.

Jeremy Vernon: Oh, fantastic.

Paul Burns: God knows how much space now. But I think it becomes a real challenge for people to say, oh I’m going to hand this over and put it in your building. I won’t be touching the product anymore. I think they know the reasons behind why they are doing it. I often say to customers, very rarely do people start an online ecommerce business to be laden down with all the stuff that me and you love, big warehouse and long term commitments, staff, dealing with packaging, dealing with carrier companies, getting a WMS perhaps, inventory control, all those kind of things. Generally, you started your online ecommerce business to sell a product that you wanted to sell.

Jeremy Vernon: And potentially a lifestyle choice as well.

Paul Burns: Absolutely.

Jeremy Vernon: The laptop lifestyle, sort of wants or at least aspires to be able to run their business from a laptop in a coffee shop on holiday, on the train, wherever they are. That’s not something you can do if you’ve got overheads, warehousing, all those things.

Paul Burns: Staff.

Jeremy Vernon: And staff.

Paul Burns: All those kind of things, waiting for carriers to turn up because there’s an accident on the motorway, whatever it might be. So, all those things can come as a bit of a byproduct of the success of your ecommerce business in many ways. We’ve just had a client recently. I have to say the majority of our customers move very quickly. They decide who they are going to go with, whether it’s us or someone else. They decide, look, we’re going to go with you guys and then move quickly. We’ve had a couple recently who have been burned by experience they’ve had by other fulfilment companies. Those people might ask 20 times the questions that somebody that’s never used a fulfilment company would ask. Because they have been through the pain of somebody that’s not got it right.

We’ve seen it damage a guy’s business to the extent where he felt he went back 18 months to 2 years, because his fulfilment partner wasn’t able to do what he felt he said he’ll do. I can totally understand why somebody would say, we’re going to end degree of detail to say, I’m going to give you this bit of business. It might be a bit flippant for us to say, hold on a minute. Just get your stuff here, what we do all day every day is pick it, pack it, and send it out. But they have good reason to want to be thorough about who they end up working with.

Jeremy Vernon: Ultimately with a specialist in our field, as with a sort of digital agency being specialists in what they do, ASEO consultants, etc. It is that emotional tie that they’ve got to break when they hand this over. It’s a little bit like handing their baby over, isn’t it? It’s a very, very big decision for them, and we completely understand why it’s such a big decision. But it sometimes ends up in trying to micromanage every order. Certainly, when you’re smaller, you can check up with every order. Every order is very important. It is to any business. But to micromanage every order, it’s not scaleable and it’s not a long term thing. So, we see quite a lot that these business owners just, whilst it’s very difficult, just need to take that emotion out of that decision, and ultimately leave the people who are the experts to what they do.

Paul Burns: It’s a huge leap of faith. All this stuff we’ve talked about before this point. So, getting a good website on the right platform for you. Finding the right products that you want to sell. Having a good imagery, driving your relevant traffic to your website. You could do all that brilliantly. People could buy your product. Either if it’s yourself or a fulfilment partner, not getting those orders out in time and getting them to your customer, all the other bits are undone. You’ve spent all that time, money and effort. Then the last link in the chain has let you down.

Jeremy Vernon: Huge amount of trust.

Paul Burns: All about trust, all about trust.

Jeremy Vernon: Huge amount of trust. Okay, well that’s it. That’s our 10 common basic mistakes we see from online retailers. So, thank you very much for subscribing and listening. Please do stay subscribed. Other things that we’ll be doing with the podcast, sort of other areas that we want to really cover, things like the technology in ecommerce, systems and processes, marketing, meeting the entrepreneurs and the people actually making ecommerce happen, and the carriers. We’ve mentioned that a little bit. Obviously, things like what we do, where we specialise, the order fulfilment side of things. All of these elements go into making ecommerce happen. Really the idea during this whole series of this podcast are for us to meet the people, talk about the different elements, and bring you some insights into effectively what makes ecommerce happen. So, thank you for joining us, and until next time, goodbye.

Paul Burns: Goodbye.

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