2020 was quite a year for online businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down to limited hours for retail businesses – and many consumers turned to online shopping. The e-commerce industry grew by 44% in 2020 alone as consumers spent over $860 billion.
This created incredible opportunities for online business owners with e-commerce stores. However, many entrepreneurs did not set themselves up for success when creating their e-commerce business.
Of course, this boost in online sales was certainly unexpected. But some online businesses were simply not set up to support such exponential growth. A sudden rise in website visitors, online orders, and customer service requests can be incredibly overwhelming. But the real problem is not just in scrambling to provide great service or even to ship out orders – it comes down to the actual structure of the e-commerce store as a whole.
Here’s how to set your online business up for incredible success that will grow with you.
1. Start with a Scalable Website
As an e-commerce business, your website is your storefront – and it needs to be able to support your customer’s experiences. One of the key issues that online stores experience during periods of growth is glitches that ruin the user experience.
The vast majority of your new visitors will leave if they run into any issues or annoyances, such as:
- Slow loading pages
- Unresponsive CTAs (item won’t be added to cart, error messages)
- Trouble navigating or searching for products
- No way to contact customer service
You need to be sure your site can scale to accommodate for growing traffic, expanded shop offerings, and additional features as you grow.
Start with a platform that is scalable, meaning that it will provide consistent performance even as you add more pages or its traffic spikes.
Many of the “quick” e-commerce website building platforms will start to slow down immensely if you expand it too much. Or they may require you to install tons of plugins and features to try to resolve issues like slow-loading pages. However, you can avoid this hassle altogether by partnering with a provider that offers scalable platforms – like Shopify, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce (for WordPress users).
2. Find Support that Grows with You
Most e-commerce stores start off with small teams – sometimes, even just one or two people. In the beginning, hiring IT support may seem impossible – and maybe unnecessary – but you will certainly need this support as you grow.
One solution is to look into IT services for cloud-based computing network support and data storage. Cloud-based computing is an affordable option for small companies to receive necessary IT support and keep data safe during the growth period.
Cloud-based computing helps to secure the safety of sensitive information, such as payment or customer data. Cloud storage can be encrypted – and with the help of the IT company, it can be monitored closely to prevent any malware breaches.
Using this kind of outsourced support allows you to focus on what’s most important: growing your brand. You don’t need to worry about cyberattacks or lost data when using a cloud computing network offered by an IT service.
3. Incorporate Automation Early
While you may be able to manually create content or respond to emails when you first launch your business, you will soon find that this eats up precious hours of your time. Creating marketing emails, digital ads, and responding to inquiries is time-consuming and it will distract you from other tasks that will help your store grow.
Automation is the obvious solution – and implementing it early into your processes can save you tons of time in the long run. Marketing automation is one of the best avenues to implement for tasks like automated email flows, personalized communication, offers, and chatbots.
Automation is incredibly scalable so you can change certain elements or implement new features as needed. Learning how to set up automated flows and integrating them early will set a foundation that your company can grow upon. It also supports a more consistent customer experience that will drive in new customers and ensure that older ones return.
4. Document Your Processes and Policies
As your e-commerce store grows, you will undoubtedly need to hire more employees to handle departments you cannot take on yourself. Hiring and training new team members is expensive, time-consuming, and stressful.
So, to avoid this hassle when the time comes, start by documenting all of your company policies and processes from the start. Although you (as the business owner) may have a solid concept of the brand image you want to portray, a new employee that is unfamiliar with your company might not. Be sure you write down important information that will be applicable once you expand, such as:
- Marketing messages that you want to include (use this type of verbiage, stick to a more casual or professional tone, etc.).
- Policies regarding common customer issues, such as refunds and return policy.
- Answers to common FAQs.
- Step-by-step processes for common tasks like creating customer service tickets, invoices, and so on.
- Internal company policies such as PTO, sick hours, hours of operation, and expectations.
This may seem mundane at first, but it will help you successfully grow your business when the time comes.
5. Outsource What You Can
Time is money – and sometimes, saving yourself the time it takes to complete certain projects is worth spending money on. Outsourcing tasks to freelancers or specialized agencies will allow you to focus on the aspects of your business that require your attention.
Plus, the outcome from the task itself will likely be much better when you let a professional handle it, rather than trying to do it yourself. Although you may be capable of designing a logo, writing web copy, or even manage accounting on your own, it may be best to outsource these jobs.
The good news is that outsourcing is extremely flexible and affordable. You can hire an agency for a single project, such as designing a website or app, or for ongoing assistance like accounting or content creation. This is also a great way to bring in additional help without hiring full-time employees before you are ready.
Whether you plan to make your e-commerce business a full-time gig or it’s a little side hustle, you have to be prepared for growth. An online store won’t scale naturally, so you need to implement these strategies from the very start to set yourself up for long-term success.