How to Increase Your Ecommerce Business’s Productivity
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Ecommerce is continuing to proliferate, with sales increasing from $2.3 trillion in 2017 to a projected $4.88 trillion in 2021. It has quickly become the preferred method of shopping for many American consumers. While this demand is good news for ecommerce businesses, it can also create problems, especially for smaller companies.
It’s not unusual for ecommerce organizations to hit a point where demand is growing so fast, it seems like they can’t keep up. They may struggle to fill orders and maintain a high standard of service. Fortunately, it’s possible to navigate most demand spikes with the right operational changes.
These 10 simple tips can help any ecommerce business boost productivity and manage surges in demand.
1. Use Productivity Tools
You can simplify most of the tedious tasks needed to keep an ecommerce business running with the right tools. Marketing automation platforms, like MailChimp, can help you manage communication with customers. Web testing equipment like Optimizely can streamline A/B testing. Customer support products, such as Zendesk and Groove, simplify the management of customer support tickets and track the massive amounts of data generated.
2. Use an Omnichannel Experience
Customers expect that their shopping experience will be the same, no matter which channel — desktop, mobile, app, etc. — they use to browse your store. Keeping your experience consistent can avoid confusing people about price and product information, potentially cutting down the number of support tickets your staff will need to answer.
3. Keep an Eye on KPIs
Slow-downs in manufacturing, shipping and site load time can all seriously impact your ability to get items to customers. If you regularly get updates on package shipping and vendor status — among other relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) — you can identify potential bottlenecks and find alternatives before they start creating problems.
4. Scale Up Your Hosting
During a demand surge, you’ll need to handle the uptick of requests to your website’s server. Hosting may strain under the number of visitors your site receives during a demand spike. If your analytics take a turn for the worse — your bounce rate is increasing, and load times are getting longer — it may be a sign that you need to upgrade your hosting.
5. Switch to Efficient Packaging
You can save a significant amount of time by switching to more efficient packaging materials and methods — especially if you own a particularly small business and are packing these items yourself. Use only as much packaging as an item needs and select the most optimal materials. Bulk purchasing will also help you get the lowest costs on packaging. Depending on how many boxes you’re assembling, it may be cost-effective to invest in something like automated equipment.
More efficient packaging and proper adhesive use can also improve your productivity and reduce the risk of error. For example, using hot melt adhesive applicator at a too-low temperature can result in adhesive stringing. This stringing can contaminate products and create other packaging issues. Using adhesive correctly can prevent these potential pitfalls.
6. Continue to Train Employees
While peak demand times may seem like opportunities to pause employee training, educational workshops are a great way to improve organizational efficiency.
Employees who haven’t received proper training may make avoidable mistakes. Getting them to practice is an excellent way to ensure that your business is productive and maintains a high standard of service.
7. Maintain Your Company Values
You may wish to cut corners to fill all the orders your business receives. However, you should stay committed to your company’s core mission. If you forgo values, you may find that customers don’t return or that employees will become frustrated with working conditions.
You may need to streamline some elements. If you pack every order with a customized note, for example, you may need to find ways to simplify the process — like a system that customizes and prints the letters automatically.
8. Order More Stock in Advance
Simplify the picking and packaging process by ensuring that you always have stock ready to box and ship. You’ll want to purchase more stock than usual to handle the uptick in demand and avoid coming up short on certain items.
9. Don’t Overadjust Sales Forecasts
Some businesses will overstock in-demand items, expecting the sales surge to last forever. This case isn’t always true — some demand spikes are temporary. Once over, you may have to hold on to overstocked items for much longer than you’d like — costing you space and potentially boosting storage expenses.
When planning stock purchases, use past sales data to ground your forecasts. If you overstock an item that sold well in the past, it can be less painful than purchasing too much of a specialty item that you may have trouble selling.
10. Resist the Urge to Over-Promise
Your business may receive dozens of new queries every day about when specific items will be back in stock. Your first instinct might be to promise the product within a few weeks. Demand spikes, however, can cause many supply issues — like slowdowns as manufacturers and vendors struggle with orders. Overpromising may reassure customers in the short term but can create problems if items end up back-ordered or impossible to source.
When a customer asks how long it will be before an item is available, be honest. If you don’t know, you don’t know. You may disappoint some customers, but you’ll also avoid the costs of promising too much.
Boosting Ecommerce Productivity
Ecommerce is how many Americans prefer to shop — and if current trends hold, it’s likely to become more prevalent in the future. Ecommerce business owners who want to improve their productivity and manage increased demand have options. Simple tweaks, such as simplifying packaging and adopting productivity tools, can do a lot for organizations that want to boost operational efficiency.
Lexie is a digital nomad and graphic designer. If she’s not traveling to various parts of the country, you can find her at the local flea markets or hiking with her goldendoodle. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
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