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《E-commerce》Why 99% of Online Shops Failed and How to Be the Top 1% That Succeeded

Note: This post is written for those who first started an online stop and experiencing difficulties in sales, or thinking more opening one soon.

With the ease of technology, the number of new online shops is getting overwhelming. While out of 100 attempters, 95% died out in silence (you do not know they even existed), 4% died in the noise (you watched them died), 1% still struggling.

There are a lot of articles out there talking about tactics, skills, channels, that claim to be able to help your online business. Why do you still fail, even if you applied all the tactics? Because you started off with the wrong mindset that sets you in the wrong direction. When you’re not in the right direction, doing more of what you’re doing will get you do more on the wrong things and keep you farer from where you want to be.

Before you try so hard to do things right, make sure you’re doing the right things. So how to set yourself with the right mindset to focus on the right things?

After observing many thousands of online merchants, below are 5 important principle that you’d like to master, together with suggested solutions and actions.

(1) – Lack of focused – Trying to go big before going well

“I’ve 3 business streams and sourced more than 100 products on my store. I’m excited to launch my store soon and get a lot of sales.”

This is quite a common strategy I’ve seen that turn out to be a disappointment.

Trying to go big before doing well is very risky. It’s a sign that you’re distracted and not being able to focus. Selling too many things at beginning before making your 1st sales on your primary winning product is likely not going to lead you to anymore.

“Do one thing and do it really well.” – Whatsapp Founder

Look at the successful companies today. Amazon started with selling books only, then expand. 京東 started with selling electronics only, then expand. Facebook started with Harvard school only, then expand. They are big today not because they have lots of money, they are big today because they were focused when they were small.

If even the bigger companies started with one thing, why should small business owners start with so many things and increase the chances of failing?

Selling more different product items doesn’t increase your chance of winning a sales. Instead, it dilute your limited resources on various baskets.

Think about it: selling 5 different types of products for 5 types of customers with different needs, compared to selling 1 key type of product for 1 primary stream of similar customers – which way is easier and more resource focused?

If you go after a wide set of customers, you need to split your marketing budget and your business attention.

When spreading your net too wide, you catch too many random people. Garbage in, garbage out. Turn out no one is buying and money wasted. It’s actually nothing wrong with having a wider net. The problem is you only have 1 net – like many of you who are just early starting off. You have a set limited budget to test out your business.

Same applies to your customers. Not only you as an owner is distracted, your customer is distracted too as they can’t relate to your brand when you try to sell so many things. Customers think you’re distracted too and won’t be able to provide high quality product and services. If you try to be everything, you’d likely be nothing to anyone.


Nailed down your product stream and be laser-focused to get the 1st sales first. Sell one thing really really well first before you expand. Nail doesn’t mean small, it means focused.

Look for the right traffic. Be very selective in the people who come into your funnel. Draw people who would potentially buy only. Test small and use your early capital wisely.

The 99% of people who failed often think marketing is about spending money, and the 1% succeeders tend to understand that right marketing is about knowing who your customers are and where to find them. They don’t spend a lot as they only pay for the right traffic.

Aim for the 1st sale. Once you made it, you’ll be able to get the 10th sales. And you’ll be able to get the 100th sales. Everything else is distraction.

Action Point

Is there anything that you’re currently doing do not contribute to making your first sale? Stop doing them and focus your energy on things that truly matter.

(2) – Not talking to your customers

“My store has some steady early traffic but I don’t know why they’re not buying.”

Do you really understand your potential customer and know who they are? Can your product really solve their problem and meet their need? Are you achieving product market fit? Anything you can improve? Are you selling the right products?

All the answers can likely come from your potential customers – the people you think would buy from you.

Too often when we run online shops, we keep everything online and stop interacting with our customers anymore. We expect people would just come through your store and buy from you and it’s often not happening.

“I look closely into my data, so I don’t really need to speak with customers.”

And for people who look at store data, data will never tell you why. Data alone can never tell you the full picture and the other half of the story lies with your customers.

If you don’t talk to your customers, you’re putting yourself in the dark.


Start talking to people who gave up on you – who came to your website and quit. Ask they why.

It’s not easy, because you know that you may hear things you don’t want to hear, especially from strangers. And no one said starting a new business is easy. And that’s why you need overcome the barrier and push yourself through the limits.

It’s doesn’t need to be a hour heart to heart survey, it can just be a 5 minutes supporting phone call see if there is anything you could help.

The sweetest thing about talking to your customers is learning. You learn about the market, the competitors, and most importantly your customers.

Trust me, you’d learn so much with this in how to grow your business further and sometimes, sadly, a wise decision could be stop running and turn to sell something else. You stop wasting resources earlier on something that’s just not going to work. All these lies with conversations with your customers.

Start reaching out and interacting with your store visitors. Understand and help them first, before thinking about closing your 1st deal and make money out of them.

Action Point

Set up abandonment recovery pop up to provide exit visitors proactive assistance and take the chance to ask them questions.

Provide easy way for interested visitors to ask questions – for example a hotline, whatsapp contact, email etc. whatever way you can think of.

Treat your customers as your business advisors and start talking to them.

(3) – Lack of long term farming vision and expect instant results

“I’ve been running my online store for 2 months already and I’m not getting any sales, perhaps I should stop and give up.”

Many people expect extraordinary results by making ordinary efforts. That’s just not going to happen. To achieve something that other people do not have, you need to be doing something that others are unwilling to do – stay persistent.

There is no straight line to success. Building a business requires a long term vision that you are investing for the future, not now.

Most people who first opening online store think and believe they only have one single chance and their first store must succeed. it’s not. Your first store could just be a stepping stone and you may be succeeding in your 2nd or 3rd or 4th stores.

If you do not carry such mindset and is ready to give up when you face the first challenge, you’re not going anywhere.


Be optimistic, and prepare for the worst. You need to expect the unexpected hurdles and difficulties coming up as you go.

If it’s your first time, treat it as part of the journey and focus on learnings. Don’t be afraid to close down when you have to and pull in your learning into your next try and keep it going.

Fail fast, learn fast.

Secondly, set up a realistic progress framework to visualise how to get to the economic level that you’re aiming for – traffic, conversion, revenue calculation projection sheet.

Action Point

Complete your own launching projection sheet here and review progress everyday.

(4) – Not looking at the root of problems you face

It’s very easy to say: “well the business has no sales, it’s just not working.”

If you’ve no orders or sales, It’s not because your business is bad, it’s because your ability to drive right traffic is bad. You is the problem, not your business. The business is just an extension of you.

Look at your online business like a funnel. You can’t have orders without traffic. Likewise, you can’t have right traffic without potential need on the broad market. So start worrying about getting right traffic first before thinking about getting orders.

Think of earlier parts of the funnels. Having orders is just a result, not the starting point.

If you can’t answer how much traffic you’re getting to your store on average per day, you’re in big trouble.


Education. Educate yourself. Invest in your mind first before you invest in your business. Your mind drive how you run your business. And investing in yourself will cost a lot less. For example, if you don’t know how to place a search ads properly, buy a book written by true expert and spend a few hours finish it.

You can’t solve a problem that’s bigger than you. So grow yourself and make yourself stronger so you can solve more bigger problems you encounter.

Solve issues at the root of the problem – yourself.

Action Point

List out things that you don’t know yet are critical to launching your online store, and start learning about them. Learning is part of your work too.

(5) – Taking advice from random average people and you get average results

“I did everything these experts say and my business still struggle.”

The internet is ramped with more and more random advice from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

Some people are even intentionally making simple matters complicated to confuse you so that you may want to get their services to resolve issues. This is dangerous.

We live in a world with cause and effect. If you take on an advice that’s inappropriate, you and your business will suffer.


Be more selective on whom you seek out for advice. Learn from the best people. Learn from people who have a tracked record of achieving similar success that you’re aiming for. Use your best judgement to decide what opinions you trust before you take any actions for your business (or even your life).

Avoid advice that sounds complicated and incomplete.

Action Point

Maybe read more on Shopline blog which is written by a group of true professionals / or join Shopline launching webinars?

Final Note

Any idea plus hard work over a long period of time with consistency equals success. Your online shop too.

Don’t take me wrong that I’m suggesting the 98% of attempters should stop trying. I actually have full respect in them – do not think the 98 people who failed attempts are losers, they are actually 1 step closer to success. When you failed, you are learning. Because the one major difference between the winners and losers is taking actions. These 98 people are the ones who took actions. There are perhaps 10000 others who who have been thinking and dreaming about open their online business and never ever took actions. These people will never ever succeed.

The path to success will take much longer than you expected, and it’d also be much shorter than you might expect. It’s not a straight line, but it’s also not unreachable. Stay focused and make small steps to get closer to it every single day. And one day, you’ll get there.

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