E-commerce Failures Are Okay If You Learn Your Lessons

a bar graph depicting a down trend
••• traffic_analyzer / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

Before you start reading, this is not a piece about avoiding e-commerce failures. It is also not about common reasons why e-commerce businesses fail. Instead, it is about the importance of failure in e-commerce. So, if you are expecting to read a new-age business article that glorifies failure, you are on the right page. 

Avoiding Failure Will Require the Highest Order of Risk Aversion

Look at how fast things are changing in e-commerce. No one can have the kind of foresight required to set on a business course that can predict all that is changing in the environment. Here are a few of the things that are changing:


Policy makers are still trying to wrap their heads around this strange beast called e-commerce. There is no clarity, especially in legislation pertaining to jurisdiction and taxation. For instance, there are many governments that would regard the location of your e-commerce business to be the same as the location of your hosting. There are some, such as the Texas legislature, that have proved wiser.


It was not too long ago that every piece of e-commerce website design advice would invariably mention that you should use small file sizes; otherwise, visitors would have to wait inordinately for your pages to load. In principle, that is true even today, but the acceptable page sizes have shot up, owing to the massive upswing in bandwidth.

Not Just E-commerce

S-commerce stands for social commerce. It is not an oft-used term, but it does reflect a tidal wave that is sweeping e-commerce. The amount of time that customers are spending on social sites makes it necessary for e-commerce businesses to set up shop on those very social destinations.

A similar argument could be made about F-commerce (Facebook commerce: a special form of social commerce), m-commerce (commerce on mobile devices), and t-commerce (tablet commerce, a special form of mobile commerce).

The point here is not to make you aware of the latest variants of e-commerce. Instead, it is about encouraging you to be ready to have some of your plans fail in light of the shifting paradigms in the e-commerce space.

How to Succeed at Failing

Ok, that was a pretty lame play on words. But there are some invaluable points to keep in mind when you accept that failure in e-commerce is necessary for success.

  • Fail Fast: Slow failure will prevent you from being able to bounce back. When you are testing your hypothesis, it is best to set up your test cases to rapidly lead to a conclusion. Being slow should not sound like a virtue or seem like an indicator of being thorough.
  • Fail Cheap: Maybe you are trying out a new form of marketing, a new top-level hire, or a new partnership. In all of these initiatives, it is necessary for you to be ready to fail. And that readiness must manifest in your ability to bounce back from that failure. And that will happen only if you can afford to fail.
  • But Learn Your Lessons: The point of this entire exercise is that you learn your lessons from failure.