Some so-called ecommerce experts would have you believe that you can operate your online stores from the lazy comfort of a sunny beach, working only minutes a day to enable the continuous flow of large sums of money. As attractive as this prospect might be, the reality is that you will need to put a great deal of ongoing time, financial resources, and thought into launching and maintaining your footprint in cyberspace. Fortunately, there are concrete steps you can take to smooth and ease the flow of the processes that will make your store succeed.
Identify your goals.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but many an enthusiastic entrepreneur has set off to make improvements, without having a concrete idea of exactly what needs to be changed or upgraded. To jog your thought processes, get together with other employees and stakeholders to contemplate the answers to the following questions:
- What are your goals for the business? What do you need to do to succeed on your current platform? Do you want to expand to additional platforms?
- Is your ecommerce business your main focus, or are you interested in balancing its operations with other stores such as a physical location?
- What types of expertise can you and your staff bring to the business? What tasks can and should be outsourced or subcontracted?
Once you have even preliminary answers in hand, you will have a better sense of the direction and focus of your streamlining plans.
Come up with workflow routines.
The activities necessary to run successful online stores are numerous.
- Choosing and maintaining inventory of the best products to sell online.
- Establishing and maintaining your social media presence.
- Processing transactions.
- Handling disputes and performing other customer service functions.
- Staying on top of bookkeeping/accounting tasks.
- Updating software and backing up data.
- Regularly checking web analytics to determine traffic trends.
This is just the beginning. If you are going to maintain some sort of sanity, you need to come up with ways to prioritize and control these activities to prevent them from controlling you. Once you have devised a workable routine, stick to it.
Cut the frills.
Sometimes, bells and whistles only lead to confusion and frustration for your customers and extra work for you. If you or your staff are short on time and energy, consider simplifying wherever you can – without compromising your brand or the integrity of your ecommerce stores, of course. To that end, consider doing the following:
- Cut out unnecessary text, excess graphics, and confusing links on your website.
- Instead of reinventing the wheel, consider using prefabricated templates and stock photos to enhance the ecommerce experience.
- Transform your newsletter from a complex novel into bullet-pointed how-to guides or compelling but short articles.
- Examine your payment gateway and shopping cart software to ensure that they provide customers with an easy and secure checkout experience.
The truth is that sometimes less really is more.
Automate when possible.
While technology is not always your friend, it certainly can endear itself to you by taking over the completion of time-specific, high-quantity, or repetitive tasks. There is no reason to pore over a database to manually send out emails when your customer management software can do in seconds what could take you hours. Automation can also extend to other necessary jobs that include:
- Sending out social media posts, tweets, or blogs on a set schedule.
- Monitoring inventory to track what is selling, what is not, and what needs to be reordered.
- Reordering stock before it is depleted in keeping with customer demand.
- Updating software on a regular schedule.
- Checking digital perimeters for chinks in your data security armor.
When you delegate these jobs to your automated systems, you and your staff have more time to devote to the work that only human beings can do.
Protect your data.
The employee and customer information you store, manage, and transmit is one of your business’s most valuable assets. Should it be compromised by a data breach, you will have no choice but to drop all but the most essential tasks in order to strengthen your cybersecurity fortress. Streamlining your systems now before a problem arises is a piece of preventive medicine that you cannot afford to bypass.
Your best strategy is to make updating your systems a priority, including installing patches and plugins as they become available, and ensuring that all of your back-end software is current. The truth is that staff can be careless, and hackers never sleep. You’d be well-served to never let your guard down or pinch pennies when it comes to your information security.
Solicit feedback from customers.
If you’re wondering how to make things less complicated for your ecommerce company, look no further for suggestions than the people who are most affected by what you do and how you do it: Your customers! In many cases, you need only reach out and request their opinions, and they will reward you with all manner of suggestions. While you may not use every piece of advice and might even be a tiny bit offended by some of it, you are guaranteed to gain tidbits of knowledge that you can use to improve your operations.
For instance, you might get tons of constructive criticism about the length and overly complex nature of your newsletter – the very same one that you hate to write and agonize over for hours. Learning that people want snappier articles with less verbiage takes a huge burden off of your shoulders while simultaneously giving readers what they want.
Pay attention to analytics.
Making regular examinations of your online traffic will give you invaluable clues about who is visiting your website, making purchases, clicking away, abandoning their shopping cart, and so forth. It will also tell you what products are selling and when, as well as a host of other precious pieces of intelligence. Once you are armed with this knowledge, you can work to replicate what you are doing right while changing what is failing. In tandem with cutting-edge marketing strategies that you can implement yourself or outsource, taking this step helps to give you that all-important edge over your competition.
Enhancing the functioning of your ecommerce stores is a never-ending goal that requires commitment and resources. Even so, the rewards for both you and your customers will quickly become apparent. After all, an efficient, well-run enterprise leads to happy customers who come back again and again.