Running An Efficient, Profitable Ecommerce Business
Keeping track of orders, maintaining the correct levels of stock, replying to your customer support queries… Running an ecommerce business can quickly become a time-consuming enterprise. As we build our brands, there’s a lot to consider, keep track of, and balance. Store owners can end up wearing a lot of hats, and at times, the process can feel overwhelming.
In this article, we’ll explore three key areas where improvements can help you see positive results:
- Automating your ecommerce business
- Boosting your personal and business-wide productivity
- Smart use of outsourcing and expert assistance
What’s the best way to keep ecommerce an enjoyable (as well as profitable) endeavor? Working smarter, not harder. As an industry built upon rapidly evolving technology, there are already many brilliant solutions on the market to help lighten your load and make the day-to-day running of your store easier.
So, should you run to the app store and start downloading every free trial you can get your hands on? We’d suggest that you hold back. Installing too many “time-saving” applications can actually have the opposite of your intended effect. Swamped with notifications, additional emails, and onboarding, you’ll be sinking before you can start to swim.
The trick to harnessing true ecommerce efficiency comes in selecting the right app for your level of business.
By putting a little thought into exactly where your time is currently getting wasted, you can invest in smart solutions and new routines that get you the best results for the minimum investment (of your time, as well as resources).
Let’s run through some of the main areas of your business that you might like to consider, when planning to bring the power of automation and new working practices to your ecommerce business - lightening your load, while still improving your store’s outcomes.
1. Automating Your Ecommerce Business
Ecommerce Automation Checklist
When it comes to gaining quick efficiency wins, many turn to automation as the first port of call. Here’s a quick overview of some of the areas of your ecommerce business that could potentially benefit from smart application of automation.
- Customer Research: find out what customers really think of your brand via automated social listening.
- Accounting: automate your invoicing process for a better customer experience.
- Inventory Updates: keep your inventory in sync to avoid frustration and missed conversions - automate the process to rule out human error.
- Recapturing Lost Sales: send automated “back in stock” alerts or abandoned cart emails.
- Customer Support: lean on the power of chatbots, or triage tickets more efficiently by automating the response to common problems.
- Data Collection: save time trying to piece together your store analytics by unlocking the power of interpretive dashboards.
- Review Admin: automate your response to reviews based on the star rating they receive.
- Organic Marketing: spread your message effectively, leveraging pre-scheduling tools that automate your social media output.
- Paid Marketing: automate your PPC process with programmatic buying.
- Email Marketing: set up flows based on smart segmentation and triggers to ensure the right messages reach the right people at the perfect time - without you having to lift a finger.
Now that you’ve seen a small snapshot of the wide-ranging potential that automation holds, let’s dig into some of the ways it can help your ecommerce business become more profitable and efficient.
Ecommerce Automation: How Essential Is It?
Ecommerce automation comes in many guises and can prove useful for ecommerce businesses of any size. We caught up with Leigh Mardon, Chief Operating Officer at blubolt, a specialist Shopify Plus agency based in Bath, UK, and asked about the importance and potential of automation for ecommerce brands.
“Time drain, risk of human error, missed opportunities to drive growth, not to mention the cost and inefficiency of trying to handle certain processes manually. Automation has a lot to offer ecommerce businesses, and we’re always happy to help ensure our own clients are making the best use of the opportunities out there.”
Let’s explore some of the main benefits that automation offers, beyond simply removing a few jobs from your daily task list.
Gain Better Control Of Your Ecommerce Data
Third-party solutions are a fantastic (and often essential) addition to the modern ecommerce industry. But when a business runs their operations in a manner that relies on many different inputs and information sources, they run the risk of creating data silos.
This means that certain data is at risk of being kept in isolation, contained within the application that generates it. What’s the issue here? Missed opportunity for the fullest analysis. Unexamined data means untapped potential.
By taking various sources of data in their fuller context, you can get insight into many aspects of your store’s performance. For example, find out where your customer journey is hemorrhaging conversions or learn more about effective segmentation for your marketing campaigns.
Best Use Of Ecommerce Integrations
The best way to enable optimized automation with regard to data is to look into your apps’ ability to integrate. By leveraging established integrations, apps can “play nicely” together, sharing information, getting you the best results from your workflows. Many apps have established partnerships with complementary technologies – you can explore some of Sufio’s integrations here – automatically add beautifully designed to your emails and more.
Automate Your Ecommerce Data Compliance
2. Boost Your Productivity
Of course, one of the main reasons people turn to automation is to save time. But using automation does more than just save you time by taking jobs off your plate. It can also help you make the tasks you do perform more efficient, boosting your productivity.
By streamlining and automating certain processes, you’ll see real return on interest. This isn’t just about having more time, it’s about making better use of the time that you have.
Remember, you don’t have to automate entire workflows if that seems untenable - sometimes, just tackling a couple of the stages within the process could be a real timesaver.
A simple checklist to ascertain the best areas of your work to automate: ask yourself these questions.
- Do I repeat this task on a regular basis?
- Are multiple stages or steps involved in the completion of this task?
- Is a personal or unique human touch required at any point for this task to be performed perfectly?
- If yes, could another stage of this task be automated - and what impact would that have?
Boosting your productivity goes beyond simple automation. There are many ways that you can help simplify your workflows to maximize your output. Let’s take a look at some of the actions you can take to see improvements as an individual and a business.
Personal Productivity Vs. Business Productivity
When it comes to making improvements to your ecommerce efficiency, look at things on a personal and a business-wide level. What small tweaks could you make to your own daily processes? Where do you currently get bogged down or distracted? By taking some time to clearly identify these stumbling blocks, you can start to take steps to remove them from your path and get some new good habits established. Remember to be honest with yourself - it's the only way to get real results here!
When it comes to hacking your business for a more streamlined, efficient operation, you need to roll up your sleeves and get under the hood with your team. Ask them where they struggle, which processes currently take up the most of their time?
The high level of products, variants, and repetitive tasks within ecommerce means that all too often, we get stuck on a hamster wheel - so take a step back from the frontline of your business, gather your team, and have an honest discussion about what would enable them to make better use of their time, day to day.
More Productive Team Communication
One thing to consider when you’re looking to boost productivity within your ecommerce business is the way that your team’s requirements for communication and associated workflows might have changed in light of the pandemic. How is your team talking to each other and accomplishing tasks? If there’s less face-to-face connection, are your current practices serving you well?
Slack (and a range of other team collaboration tools) has plenty of great additional functionality to automate daily check-ins, top-level oversight of who’s working which hours, and what shared tasks are outstanding or becoming a priority. Check out tools such as Status Hero and get thinking about the ways you could get your team better connected without resorting to inefficient meetings.
Tools For Better Productivity
When it comes to equipping yourself and your ecommerce business with the tools needed for better productivity, we can divide things into two categories: process-related tools and practical tools.
Process-related tools include the kind of techniques you can put into practice without any additional infrastructure. Time batching is a great example of this. Instead of jumping from one task to another in a constant state of “fire fighting,” take control of your productivity by “batching” your work into set time periods. Ring fence time to write those product descriptions, deal with your inbox, address your inventory, etc. By keeping the focus tight, you’ll accomplish more in the same time frame.
Practical tools are external aids that can help you boost your productivity. For example, custom dashboards that give you a quicker snapshot of your store’s performance. Whether they’re operational (helping you make informed decisions about the running of your business day to day) or analytical (giving you more context about the general direction that your business is taking), dashboards are a great way to make complex data instantly accessible, leading to better choices and more successful outcomes.
3. Getting In On Outsourcing
What happens when you run into a task that’s taking up time which could be more productively spent elsewhere — and automation is not an option? In cases such as this, for maximum business efficiency, sometimes the smartest choice is often to outsource.
Seeking assistance from a third party might seem like a last resort – an option we turn to when we feel overwhelmed or overstretched. But by reframing outsourcing as a means to stop us from getting to that point, as opposed to something more reactionary, our ecommerce businesses can perform with much more efficiency.
Recognizing when you don’t have the experience you need to perform a task efficiently is a great skill to develop.
Ask yourself how long it will take you to gain the experience or context you need to perform the task well. Will the task be repeated frequently enough to make that investment worthwhile? If the answer is no, it’s time to outsource to someone who can do a better job at a faster pace!
Questions To Ask When Deciding To Outsource An Ecommerce Task
- If the task repeats, could this task be automated?
- If the task is not suited to automation, how much of my time, or my team’s time, will it take to perform?
- Do we have the internal experience to perform this task to its fullest function?
- What will the cost of outsourcing this task be?
- How time-consuming will it be to find someone suitable for outsourcing?
Thankfully, within the ecommerce sector, and especially within the Shopify ecosystem, plenty of external experts exist - and they’re ready and waiting to lend a hand.
A great place to start is StoreTasker. They bring together experts from across the globe to provide speedy, practical assistance that’s quick and simple to find and commission.
Ready To Run A More Efficient, Profitable Ecommerce Business?
Ecommerce goes from strength to strength, and there’s so much to be gained when working in this dynamic and ever-evolving industry. Not only has the commercial opportunity of ecommerce never been greater, but there’s also never been more choice and variety when it comes to the technology and help that’s available to help lighten your load.
Remember these three key takeaways:
- Lean on (well-considered) automation
- Tackle productivity at an individual and business-wide level
- Don’t wait for the crisis to benefit from outsource
When it comes to maximizing the efficiency of your business, invoice automation is a great place to start. A highly repetitive action with the potential to take up a lot of time when processed manually, automated invoicing can be handled seamlessly and with total compliance.
Sufio enables everything to run like clockwork, delivering beautifully branded, perfectly translated invoices that meet all legal requirements and add real polish to your customer experience.
Take your first step to removing admin and compliance worries from every transaction. See how your automated invoices could look.