6 Steps to Managing and Growing a Successful Ecommerce Business
Ecommerce presents massive opportunities—not just for retailers, but also for budding entrepreneurs. Selling products online has never been easier. Lower costs, combined with more accessible tools, have significantly lowered the barrier to entry.
A domain name and hosting can each cost anywhere from $10 to $20 a year. There are plenty of ecommerce store builders that you can get started with, and you don’t necessarily need to stock products, either.
Dropshipping allows you to act as a middleman. Customers order from your website, and the manufacturer or wholesaler handles the fulfillment.
Zappos, the largest online shoe retailer with yearly revenues of $2 billion, actually started with dropshipping. They relied on manufacturers to ship products directly to their customers. But eventually, they ran into problems.
Here’s what Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) says about dropshipping:
“That system [dropshipping] never worked very well. We didn’t have 100% accurate information about our vendors’ inventory, and because their warehouses were all over the country, delivery times weren’t predictable.”
Had Zappos not decided to invest in their warehousing operations, their business likely wouldn’t be as successful as it is today.
The same principle applies to your ecommerce business as well. To grow your business, you’ll need to put in the time and effort to scale. That includes making key changes to operations and workflow processes.
Before we dive into specifics, let’s first examine the current state of ecommerce.
Current State of Ecommerce
More consumers are shifting more of their spending online than ever before. It’s not hard to see why, given the convenience of online shopping.
You can simply search online to find a store, add a product to your shopping cart, and have it mailed right to your doorstep—all just with a few clicks and in less time than it takes to make a cup of coffee.
Just how big is ecommerce?
Global ecommerce is estimated to make up 18.1% of global retail sales in 2021. And that figure is only projected to grow.
Retail ecommerce sales are exploding worldwide. And businesses are indeed taking steps to adapt to this trend. 48% of B2B organizations now offer their full product lines online.
Starting any kind of business (even dropshipping) is by no means easy. An estimated 9 out of 10 start-ups fail. But it can also be incredibly rewarding as you watch your efforts start to materialize.
However, there’s only so much you can do on your own. Scaling an ecommerce business requires human capital. You’ll need to start thinking of adding new members to your team to oversee certain operations and streamline processes.
Here we’ll take a look at how to build your ecommerce team and provide tips for managing a successful ecommerce business.
Building Your Ecommerce Team
Managing an ecommerce business on your own just isn’t sustainable. There are simply too many roles to fill and not enough time in the day. With a strong team, you’ll be able to multiply your efforts and grow your business to new heights.
Here are the roles you’ll need to build a capable ecommerce team:
1. Director of ecommerce
The director of ecommerce oversees entire operations and handles core tasks that are vital to a company’s development. Their responsibilities include developing strategic plans, managing partnerships, and making key decisions. They may also have a part in planning and overseeing promotional campaigns.
2. Web developer
3. IT Technician
IT technicians typically work behind the scenes, but their contributions are no less important. Their responsibilities include diagnosing computer problems, setting up new equipment, and performing maintenance. Additional tasks include configuring backups and implementing security measures. They may also train new employees on how to utilize the digital infrastructure properly.
4. Inventory manager
Inventory managers keep a close eye on stock levels and place orders when inventories dwindle. This individual is also in charge of stocking products and ensuring they get to their destination on time. The inventory manager frequently coordinates with the director of ecommerce on approving orders and the IT technician to keep the data synced with the inventory system.
5. Digital marketing manager
Digital marketing managers play a crucial role in enhancing brand awareness and increasing traffic to product pages. They are in charge of managing digital marketing campaigns on channels like search, email, and social media. This individual frequently coordinates with the director of ecommerce to plan and develop marketing campaigns based on current objectives. They may also have other associates to help with these tasks.
6. Customer service representatives
In a perfect world, customers would order from your site and be completely satisfied with their purchase. However, problems inevitably arise. Ecommerce brands often employ customer service representatives to answer phone calls and process orders and issue refunds. Additional tasks include handling customer complaints and responding in a timely manner.
7. Accountants and finance
It’s important to have a clear understanding of your business’ financial health. 82% of companies fail due to poor cash flow management. Accountants are tasked with tracking funds that flow in and out. They also work closely with the director of ecommerce and inventory manager to control costs and budget accordingly.
8. Business analyst
Business analysts gather data and work closely with the director of ecommerce on key strategy decisions like determining which markets to enter. These individuals also work to identify and address any bottlenecks that could be hindering growth. Their contribution helps ecommerce businesses implement new processes that can improve their overall efficiency.
Steps Towards a Productive Ecommerce Business
A productive business is ultimately more profitable. Even a single change to current workflow processes can have a more positive impact on your bottom line.
Here are some steps towards creating a more productive ecommerce business:
1. Optimize relationships with vendors.
Building relationships with your vendors takes time. But it can have a lasting positive impact on your business. Good vendors understand that mutual relationships benefit their business as well.
Regularly check in with your vendors and even meet them in person at their offices, if at all possible. Ask if there is anything on your side that you can do to make things easier for them. Doing so can improve workflow processes and result in reduced operating expenses. Be sure to maintain communications, even if problems arise. Vendors will want to know if customers are having issues with their products.
2. Create a meeting policy.
Meetings allow you to discuss important issues with your team and define objectives for the coming months. But they can also cost your business big time if you don’t create a meeting policy. The key to having more productive meetings is to establish an agenda that outlines all the items to be discussed and desired outcomes.
Avoid wasting time on back and forth email scheduling by using a Google Calendar integration with the work management software you use. That way, you can easily schedule meetings and send invites to your team.
3. Leverage employee feedback.
Giving constructive feedback is crucial to your teams’ ongoing development. It provides them with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and prevents any possible misunderstandings. But feedback also works both ways.
Encourage your employees to leave feedback and listen to what they have to say. Here’s what Brian Tracy says about active listening, “Every time you fail to use listening skills and withhold your close attention from another person when they are talking, you make them feel valueless and unimportant.”
If your team is remote, use collaboration tools like Slack or GoToMeeting to facilitate communication with your team and LastPass to share passwords with your employees easily.
4. Know where your team’s time goes.
Gone are the days of simply clocking in and out, or noting down an 8-hour workday. That kind of data doesn’t tell you much anyway. Instead, opt for an online time tracking tool that allows you to track projects, budgets and more, giving you business intelligence that helps you make smarter decisions daily. With the right time tracking tool, ensure your projects remain within budget, your team stays on track, and see real-time data on the work being done.
Tips for Managing a Successful Ecommerce Business
Ecommerce is poised for significant growth in the years to come. But just creating an online store is no guarantee that revenues will grow. You need to put in the effort to scale your business.
Here are some tips for managing a successful ecommerce business:
1. Test everything.
Testing is the only way to find out whether any changes you make are working. One popular method is A/B testing — splitting traffic to two variants of a page and comparing the results.
Let’s look at an example to show just how effective A/B testing is. Grene, a Polish ecommerce company that sells agricultural products, redesigned their mini cart, and doubled their sales as a result.
Here’s the control:
And here’s the variation:
Some of the changes they made included adding a call to action (CTA) button at the top of the mini cart and increasing its size.
Testing isn’t just a one-time thing. Run tests on everything from layout changes to product descriptions and images to see what works and what doesn’t.
2. Email marketing
Email marketing is simply a must-have for any growth strategy. It’s a form of direct marketing that allows you to reach and build relationships with your audience. It’s also extremely cost-effective compared to other marketing channels.
Email marketing isn’t limited to sending promotional messages though. It can also reduce cart abandonment, which occurs when a visitor adds a product to their shopping cart but leaves without completing their purchase.
With a follow-up email, you can bring these shoppers back to your site and entice them to complete their purchase (e.g., offering a discount). You can set up email templates to facilitate this process or to create outreach campaigns:
3. Optimize product listings.
Online shopping doesn’t have the same in-store experience. Visitors to your website can’t physically hold your products in their hands. So they have to rely on the product description to help with their decision.
Include detailed descriptions and optimize your listing with SEO in mind to improve their rankings in the search results. A great example of this is Zoma, who dedicates an entire landing page to their sports mattress:
Visitors to this page are treated to gorgeous imagery of the product along with detailed descriptions of each feature.
This helps both search engines and real users understand the product value, fast.
4. Have a comprehensive content marketing strategy.
To increase traffic and grow your sales, you’ll need a content marketing strategy.
Content strategy involves creating and distributing content like blog posts, guides, and videos across various channels.
For instance, creating long-form content on your blog related to products you sell. As an example, Adventure For Less creates content in their travel niche, like city guides, to promote their business:
Content strategy examples can include your website, Facebook, YouTube, and other blogs through outreach campaigns. Another great content strategy is to make a podcast. You don’t need fancy equipment either as you can get started with a simple setup.
You can even create store coupons to get listed on popular sites like Swagbucks and get direct sales as a result. Using different content types and channels allows your business to reach a wider audience and drive more targeted traffic. But it’s essential to define your goals and conduct market research to identify where your audience is.
5. Stay on top of SEO.
SEO is vital as high visibility in the search results means more targeted traffic to your pages. But the industry is also continually changing. If you don’t stay on top of the latest development, you risk losing a competitive advantage online if you’re too slow to adapt to any significant changes.
You can either hire an in-house team or outsource SEO to manage your campaigns. You can outsource monotonous tasks like building links and optimizing your content to experts in the field while you focus on growing your business.
SEO is dynamic now, with requirements in content, link building, on-page optimization, and more. Staying on top of it is a full-time job.
6. Work closely with social media.
The number of social media users is staggering. Social media is so ubiquitous that you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have an account on at least one of the major platforms.
Social media users don’t just use these platforms to share updates and interact with their friends — more than half (54%) use them for product research.
The point here is that social media is an important marketing channel that your business can’t afford to ignore. Start with some of the more popular platforms like Facebook or Instagram, and fill out your profile with links back to your store. Regular post relevant content and engage your users to build a following.
Every ecommerce business has the potential for massive growth. We’ve seen this with companies like Zappos, which now has yearly revenues in the billions.
To build and grow a successful ecommerce business, follow and implement some of the tips outlined here. These include developing your team, optimizing vendor relationships, implementing a content strategy, and staying on top of SEO.
Start slowly and gradually ramp up your efforts. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment with your online store. Some changes may not always work, but each “failure” can be a valuable learning experience.
Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash
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