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Today, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t — at the very least — played with the idea of launching an ecommerce business. The U.S. is the global leader with an estimated 14 million ecommerce sites, and that number will only keep going up as selling online continues to gain traction among everyone from established brick-and-mortar businesses to individuals taking their first entrepreneurial steps.

While, yes, setting up an ecommerce store is easier than ever before, unfortunately, getting sales and succeeding is as difficult as it ever was. Perhaps even more, given the growing competition. As the CEO of an on-demand consumer goods platform, I have a front-row seat to the trials and triumphs of today’s digital businesses. I’ve witnessed first-time entrepreneurs attain life-changing success, and I’ve seen great ideas fizzle out due to poor execution and everything in between.

What I’ve noticed is that people succeed in many different ways, but they often fail in the same ones. It’s hard to spot a success story before it happens, yet it’s easy to tell if a business will struggle. With that in mind, here are the four most common mistakes people make that you should avoid when starting an ecommerce business.

Related: Business Owners: Are You Making These 10 Mistakes?

Succumbing to perfection paralysis

Some great products have never seen the light of day just because the business owner couldn’t find the perfect button color for their website. This sounds ridiculous – until it’s you who’s in that position, losing countless hours sweating the small stuff trying to make everything perfect.

Perfectionism is a common vice among first-time entrepreneurs in particular, as they have no grasp of what constitutes “good enough.” People go to great lengths to imitate the industry’s best examples while forgetting that the bigger companies often have entire teams of developers, designers and copywriters doing what the entrepreneur is trying to manage alone. “Doing things right” is simply unrealistic.

Instead, it may be wise to take a page out of a product developer’s book and focus on an MVP – a minimum viable product. The idea behind an MVP is that you do the minimum required to get a functional product or, in our case, a store. And then, once it’s up and running, you can iterate, improve and polish it to your heart’s content. This will help overcome perfection paralysis and focus on what really moves the needle.

Selling to everyone

Speaking of moving needles, building a brand without understanding your customer is like navigating without a compass. Sure, you may be moving, but in what direction? What challenges will you encounter? Should you have brought hiking boots or a boat?

The ABCs of entrepreneurship will tell you that for your business to be successful, it must answer a real need. But it falls on your shoulders to identify who exactly has that need. More often than not, it’s a small subsection of people. (And if it’s not – that’s a red flag signaling you might be biting off more than you can chew.)

This audience will have unique characteristics, including demographics, preferences, pain points and more. Successful businesses leverage these factors to craft tailored messages, to choose the best advertising platforms and to further develop their offering. Conversely, unsuccessful companies aren’t aware of who these high-potential customers are and instead opt for blanket messaging that’s aimed at everyone and no one in particular.

Experience shows that a laser-focused approach beats a broad net every time.

Related: I Accidentally Became a Successful Entrepreneur. Here Are 5 Mistakes I Learned to Avoid When Starting a Business

Refusing to adapt or admit mistakes

Failure is an inevitable part of early entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, it is also at this early stage that people are most idealistic. They have resolute expectations of how everything will work, and they become tunnel-visioned on bringing this specific idea to life rather than building a successful business.

As you might expect, this initial vision is usually misguided. Do you want to stand out with a super distinct brand voice? There is a reason why nobody else is doing it. Do you want to bring a product to a new audience? There is a reason why this audience hasn’t been interested in that product.

The hallmark of a high-potential business is the ability to recognize when their idea doesn’t work and pivot toward an alternative. Yes, it’s hard to kill your darlings, but unless you do, you’ll find yourself banging your head against the wall, bleeding resources on a failed concept.

Note that this isn’t only about your business idea but all your business activities, including design, marketing, product, etc. If something doesn’t work, adapt.

Trying to juggle everything alone

To go from idea to first sale requires a wide variety of skills, meaning solo entrepreneurs must wear many hats. They need to be designers, copywriters, website developers, user experience experts, accountants, partnership managers, and marketers—and all of this without even mentioning the product itself, which includes design, sourcing, logistics, photography and more.

Some people manage, and it’s admirable. But you don’t have to go at it alone.

For example, I repeatedly see aspiring entrepreneurs get sucked into learning peripheral skills, e.g., graphic design, when, in reality, they need little more than a logo, which would cost $5 to get from a freelancer on a job site. Worse yet, people get burned out from the constant learning and abandon their business ideas just because they can’t manage something that they could have paid someone else a few dollars to do.

Sure, those who struggle through like to wear their adversity as a badge of honor. Taking pride in doing things the hard way is human nature. But it’s not necessarily good business.


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