By being a logistics service provider, we are not surprisingly behind the scenes when it comes to e-commerce. However, we have a unique perspective: one that stems from the fulfilling, shipping, and managing of online orders. E-commerce is the newer and exciting realm of commerce that does not require a storefront, although it has its own set of unique challenges. In fact, e-commerce is even more competitive than regular retail for a multitude of reasons. Substantial and varying competition, loyal brand followers, resource allotment, SEO, customer satisfaction, marketing, and of course, order fulfillment are all aspects of e-commerce that can hurt online businesses, especially those just opening their “doors”. So how can you combat these commerce hurdles? At Langham Logistics, we have curated a simple list of 8 things that all e-commerce small business owners and those thinking of starting one, should know and understand to both improve their business processes prior to jumping in and increase their chances of success.
1. Strategize for the Good, Bad, and the Ugly
Having a concrete yet flexible strategy is vitally important in business, whether online or not. Knowing how you will obtain your products by either drop-shipping or ordering in bulk and storing, photographing your products, writing product descriptions and what to include, how you will handle order fulfillment, are a few things you need to consider. Be sure to read up on business management, accounting, and supply chain tactics. Have an exit strategy, and know how you will approach disgruntled employees and customers. Just like a marriage, it is important to be confident that you have the strategy and passion to pull through the highs and lows of life and business.
2. Domain and Design
Choosing your domain address is crucial. Having an awkward, offensive, or non-memorable web address could easily kill your business before it even starts. Dedicate enough time choosing it, and solicit feedback from associates you trust. Once you have chosen the one you love, try to not change it, but at the very least, set up a redirect if you do change it so it doesn’t hurt your user experience or turn away past customers who may think you have gone out of business.
Design is a wide-open opportunity to really let your business shine. Invest in a great looking and extremely well functioning website design. With e-commerce being an extremely competitive field, it is much easier to find the product somewhere else than having to struggle through a poorly designed site. Site and customer information security is also a vital aspect of the design of your website. Simply said, people do not buy from sites that are not secure, nor do you want to have to spend time trying to mitigate the backlash if your website is breached and customer information is stolen.
3. Social Transparency
Social media is a fantastic way to engage with your customers, build trust, and market products and promotions with little to no money. However, it does require commitment… and a lot of it! Know where your customers frequent and build your business’s presence on those platforms. Pinterest and Facebook are some of the best places for e-commerce retailers because these sites allow for more play in visual aesthetics than Google Plus and Twitter.
4. Target Customers
We have rarely seen a successful business prosper by being unaware of whom they are selling to. Build a profile of the exact customer that you want to buy your products. Be specific because doing this will allow all marketing strategies to be aligned with sales and increase the opportunity for success. Understand the different characteristics of customers that could potentially visit your site. From moms, to teens, to other business owners, know who is viewing your site, buying from it, and aim to increase those numbers.
5. Be Realistic with your Resources
We all wish money grew from trees and that bills never came in the mail. Know exactly the amount of money coming in and where it is going. Too often business owners are unaware or in denial of how much they are in debt until they are closing up shop. Understand your limitations, grow with patience, and always have your eyes on the financials.
Be realistic with your service and product resources. If a supplier is unresponsive or repeatedly missing deadlines, ditch them. Dealing with a poor service provider is never worth the damage to your business. Always seek the best employees, services, and be proactive when things go array.
6. Managing Inventory and Fulfilling Orders
As a logistics provider, we know the importance of your e-commerce business. Often, order fulfillment and the managing of inventory can be afterthoughts when it comes to running your business. Why? They are not your core function. However, from our point of view, it should always be at the forefront of someone’s, if not your mind. Missing deadlines, sending damaged products or the wrong products, and delayed shipping are all hurtful to your bottom line and customer base. Do your research and speak with a competent logistics service provider. Most are always willing to help solve a logistics problem and improve your supply chain, thereby improving your customer satisfaction.
Regardless of e-commerce’s high-level of competition, it is a great opportunity to become a business owner at a significantly lower risk compared to opening a brick and mortar store. Whether you are considering taking the e-commerce plunge or are already knee-deep, get out there and put your strategy to work!