Six Small Business Online Sales Mishaps

Written by  //  February 7, 2013  //  Daily Juice  //  2 Comments

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Last year I decided to do my Christmas shopping at small businesses. As it turns out most of the stuff I bought was from home-based online-businesses (in the UK, US and Australia) which I had ‘found’ through Facebook, Etsy and friends’ recommendations.

(image myldstemple on etsty)

Everything I got was fabulous (including the presents I gifted to myself!) and most of it deliciously unique. In fact the whole experience has left me so hooked that I probably buy a little something (that I don’t strictly need) from a home-based (or studio/cakery/little shop) every week.

So the stuff was fabulous. But the selling/buying process? Well to be honest there were a few mishaps. I thought I’d share some of them with you because these little mistakes are so easy to make!

1. Making it difficult to order

I love customised stuff and small businesses do this so well. For Christmas the customised things I bought included little girl dresses, jewellery and some wooden art.

The tricky part was working out how to actually order it.

Some times I couldn’t work out which materials I could choose from, what designs were available and whether my choice of material worked for my choice of design. I know I was pretty hopeless at it because one item took me 15 emails to sort out!

My tip  – get your dumbest friend or family member to order a few things from your website or Facebook page. Ask them about the process. What did they find tricky? What would they have liked to know?

2. Making it complicated to pay for

Paypal and credit cards are easy for the customer. Most of us don’t like doing bank transfers because then we have no protection.

A couple of  ‘businesses’  asked for the Paypal payment to be done as a ‘gift’. That way the ‘business’ avoids paying Paypal charges. Naughty, naughty – but hey I’m not here to chastise. What I did find irritating was that the instructions telling me to do this weren’t very visible (surprise, surprise) so I did it wrong. One of the businesses was cool about it. The other sent me a nasty email demanding 45 cents. I paid it but won’t be shopping there again.

My tip  – be very straightforward about how to pay.

3. Misleading pricing

One business caught my eye because it advertised a body cream for $15 and was making a big hoo-hah about the fact that the very same product cost $30 in Myer.

I popped the cream into my (virtual) shopping trolley, registered as a customer (always tortuous) went to the checkout, recalculated my total and then discovered that the delivery fee was $16.

Look, I don’t mind paying delivery, but I do mind that the actual postage and packing cost was way less than $16 and that the ‘pricing’ was designed to be misleading.

My tip –  be honest about your pricing. Integrity is a big deal online.

4. Vague pricing

This one’s a bit tricky. I ordered a customised ‘something’ and the business asked me to pay for the ‘something’ upfront and the delivery later. Nothing wrong with that except they couldn’t give me much of an idea of what that delivery cost would be.

As it happens the delivery fee was fine. But I was pretty uncomfortable about leaving it open ended and if it hadn’t been for the fact that I really loved the item, I would have walked away.

My tip – if you can’t be precise with the shipping cost give the customer an upper limit so they aren’t terrified that you are going to charge them the earth.

5. Oops  – free shipping

I can’t complain about this one. I got free shipping. But it was by accident. I actually contacted the business later because I thought maybe I still needed to pay the delivery charge (see 4 above). Turns out they’d forgotten to charge shipping on all their Christmas orders. Ouch!

My tip – do a few ‘test’ sales through your system and make sure everything is being charged properly.

6. Not delivering

It’s really tricky to manage a small business when you’re not feeling well. Unfortunately one of my presents got caught up in a nasty bout of flu. As it happens my Mum didn’t give two hoots that her present arrived in 2013 but still!

My tip – have a back up plan. If you’ve taken a customer’s money you need to be able to deliver. Is there someone else who could make your stuff for you? Or is there another business who could do something similar?


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2 Comments on "Six Small Business Online Sales Mishaps"

  1. Patricia July 1, 2014 at 5:32 pm · Reply

    Thanks for the advise. I have recently started my own online craft shop. Its not big but its fun. I aim to give the best I can to people. I have decided to not use paypal to help keep fees down for people and to keep things simple for me. All your advice is good and gives me guidelines to make the process personal and easy for people.


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