As an ecommerce entrepreneur, there are always new challenges popping up every day — and unfortunately, some of them are part of the game that is selling online.
As the famous “Friends” theme song by The Rembrandts goes, “Your mother warned you there'd be days like these,” but unfortunately, your mother probably didn’t warn you about some of the most common pitfalls Shopify store owners face.
Here’s a list of some of the more unpleasant things you’ll likely face as a store owner — and some ideas on how to either solve the problem or use it as a learning experience for moving forward.
Searching for a new Shopify theme is one of the most exciting things for store owners. However, there are numerous aspects to consider when purchasing your theme. so consider the following while shopping around:
Carefully review the demo stores for features you’re looking to include. Check all the available ‘styles’ for a theme though, as each one may demonstrate different available sections and features of that one theme. If the demo stores just don’t have it, then it really may not be included, and a quick follow up with the theme developer is in order to verify.
Keep in mind that themes are meant more for the visual layout of your store. While many themes do add simple features such as related products, recently viewed products and out of stock notification, often these features are not included or aren’t as full-featured as what an app can provide; so keep in mind you may need to budget for an app to get all the functionality you need, though it’s always good to avoid app overload.
Keep in mind that premade Shopify themes are typically designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of stores but highly specific needs may require customizations or even a completely custom Shopify theme. It’s always worth checking with the theme developer to see if they can help, but don’t be disappointed if you’re referred to a third party developer.
Whether you hire one to make some theme tweaks or add new features to your store, most store owners will cross paths with a Shopify Expert at some point.
Unfortunately, the moniker “Shopify Expert” can sometimes be a misnomer. While there are certainly numerous very qualified and very competent Shopify Experts out there, getting the title isn’t all that difficult — so it’s just as easy to find someone who is going to take your money and not complete the work to your satisfaction:
Be sure the scope of your project is clearly outlined with examples, mockups, feature lists or even hand sketches. This is a good thing to put together before you even start talking to experts since it not only will help them provide a more accurate quote, but it can serve as a jumping off point for an official SOW (statement of work).
Request work samples and testimonials from anyone you’re considering hiring and talk to those store owners.
Request a timeline of milestones and deliverables from your expert.
Be sure to hold up your end of the bargain, too — a good expert will also list what aspects of the project you’re responsible for and provide deadlines for those as well. These typically include providing feedback or approvals and missing them can often lead to delays.
Document all communication, especially changes to the project, so there is always a record of the inevitable modifications as the project moves along
Ask what happens if the work is not completed to the scope. Is there a refund for all or part of the cost?
Unfortunately, with the millions of dollars in ecommerce transactions made every day, there is also thousands of dollars in fraud. There’s no a lot that can be done about it and you may ultimately find yourself having to lose money if a fraudulent order is placed on your site.
Of course, use Shopify’s built in fraud tools and alerts to gauge the risk level of an order. If the risk is too great, especially for smaller value orders, you may want to just cancel the order.
If you sell particularly high dollar items and have concerns about the legitimacy of the order, try using your favorite search engine to search the customer’s name. Often pages such as phone listings, social media profiles and other listings can give you clues about the person that can be used to compare to the information provided in the order.
Another option, if you’re really in doubt about an order, is to ask the customer to send a photo of their driver’s license. Be sure your request doesn’t sound accusatory, but instead take the angle that you are just trying to protect them and that’s why you’re reaching out to verify.
At the end of the day, you’ll likely end up losing money to fraud at some point. You should consider this as a “cost of doing business” and, if possible, incorporate that into what you charge. For example, if certain items tend to attract large amounts of fraudulent orders you may want to add a small added cost to your price to cover the losses to fraud.
Like fraud, chargebacks can be equally frustrating — especially if you’ve done everything right and the credit card company ultimately rules in the customer’s favor. As a small business owner, even losing a relatively small amount to a chargeback can put a big dent in your pocket, but sometimes it’s simply unavoidable.
Be sure to document every action you take while processing and filling an order. Luckily Shopify does a lot of this for you, but there are other things to consider such as photographing orders as they are packed to prevent claims of missing items.
If you start communicating with a customer, be sure to save all of the emails or other communications with them in a single, easy to find location. You’ll want to make sure the time and date is clearly logged. If you talk to a customer on the phone, consider following up with an email that recaps your call and give them an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.
When considering whether it’s worth fighting a chargeback or not, consider the amount of time it could consume and if, ultimately, your time could be better spent elsewhere. Keep in mind that most payment gateways charge a flat fee per chargeback that is not refundable even if you win, so right off the bat you’re out that cost without investing any more of your valuable time.
Also, keep in mind that your process rate or eligibility for a gateway or merchant account can be affected by your chargeback rate. Stores with high chargeback rates can also sometimes have large chunks of funds held in reserve by the processor, so keep this in mind whenever you’re dealing with a customer service issue that could lead to a chargeback.
Ultimately, you inevitably may have to take a loss on a chargeback. While this is certainly disappointing, take some time to review what you could do differently next time.
Returns can be another frustrating part of running an online store, but it’s often necessary to have a generous return policy to incite buyer confidence. Unfortunately, while many returns will be legitimate and done by the book, there’s always the chance for questionable returns that will cost you.
The first defense to preventing returns (as well as chargebacks) is to make sure you’re doing everything you can to describe your products clearly and accurately. Be specific with details such as dimensions, colors, materials and other tangible properties rather than using vague language such as “large” or “fits all of your items.”
Have a clear and concise return policy that is easily viewable from various places on your site and to which you can refer back in case of a dispute.
If you receive a return that clearly violates your return policy — such as being outside the time limit or is obviously used — you, of course, have the option to refuse a refund. However, this can often lead to a chargeback or other undesirable reaction from the customer, so it’s often a game of weighing whether or not it’s worth it.
If an item is returned used but still sellable, clean and in safe condition, consider offering it for sale at a discount. You could also consider using it for a giveaway or include it as a “surprise gift” in a loyal customer’s next package. Depending on what you sell, it may also be possible to salvage parts of the item for use on another product or to keep handy in case a customer needs a replacement part.
Bad reviews and social posts
Whether left on your site’s product page or on social media, getting a bad review can be heartbreaking for a store owner, especially if you’ve put so much time and effort into your product and service.
First and foremost, try not to take the review personally. In most cases, if someone dislikes your product or customer service, this isn’t necessarily a direct reflection on you. It’s especially important to keep this in mind so you can avoid reacting in an emotional way that could just make the situation worse.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to try to “take the conversation offline” and contact the customer via email or phone. Try to think creatively and in a solution-oriented mindset in addition to being polite and calm.
If you are able to resolve the issue with the customer, consider circling back to the original post or review and explain how the situation was resolved if you don’t think this will trigger more negative reaction from the customer.
While most Shopify review apps also let you delete reviews, keep in mind that there is some research that says products with perfect or near-perfect ratings don’t pack as much believability with savvy shoppers. Also be sure to review all reviews for any constructive feedback that could help improve your product features or product descriptions.
Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.
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