Let’s discuss a semantic issue before we actually jump into the article, shall we?
The term ‘unexpected growth’, while very real and tangible, should not exist in your business vocabulary.
You should always both expect to grow and prepare for it.
A lot of e-commerce businesses fail precisely because they were not prepared for it: they may have been hoping for it, and in a manner of speaking expecting it, but were not prepping for it.
This article is here to save you from the same fate and help you prepare for the (un)expected growth you’ve been working towards since you first launched.
Let’s dive in.
Prep your website
The most important aspect of any e-commerce business is, obviously, the website that’s its home.
When your sales spike, your traffic will do just the same, and you need to be able to deal with this increased influx of visitors. Here’s how:
- Upgrade your server. An excess of users on your website can crash it. It can happen to the biggest and best-run websites (including Shopify), but smaller e-commerce platforms are more prone to crashes and downtime. To circumvent the problem, invest in a better server when you notice traffic is increasing.
- Improve the user experience. The more visitors come to see your pages, the better you can make them. Use the data you gather on their behaviour to improve your website layout, menus, and URL structure.
- Make sure your mobile version is up to speed. All elements of your website need to be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. This is paramount, considering that over 50% of all online sales are generated from mobile devices.
Restock your stock
An increase in sales will require you to up your stock as well.
Modern consumers don’t like to wait for anything. And if you take more than a week to ship something to them, they are not very likely to shop with you again.
To avoid this scenario, you’ll need to know when to invest in extra stock and storage space, as well as how to handle the distribution and shipping of a greater volume of goods.
There is no magic formula to figure this one out: monitor your traffic and sales, know what marketing campaigns you are running and what you expect from them, and make an educated decision. Rely on the data you already have, and try to anticipate sales numbers.
If you deal in perishable goods, the risk might be higher, as you can’t store excess stock indefinitely. This is why knowing how much time an order will take to be fulfilled is very important.
Talk to all your vendors and see what their timelines are, then work accordingly. Don’t promote a product you can’t easily have access to.
Another important thing to bear in mind is that you might find yourself in a situation where you need access to some ready cash to cover your increased expenses. Your customers might not always pay you at the time of order, and if you don’t have an investment fund ready, you might find yourself in a tight spot.
Access to online business loans can tide you over in case this happens and help you handle the hurdle of rapid growth.
Mind your customers
As you sell more, chances are your customers might have more questions. You don’t even have to make more sales for an increase in customer service inquiries to happen: shoppers might have questions about your shipping and return policy, payment methods, and so on.
When undergoing an expansion, you need to make sure your customer service can handle it. After all, bad customer service experiences are a major turnoff for shoppers, and it might cost you a fair share of future sales.
When expanding your customer service team, you can choose to invest in an AI-powered chatbot that can handle some of the initial queries and straightforward questions, only delegating to human reps when it can’t handle the issue on its own.
On the other hand, when expanding your human customer service team, try to look for candidates who already have experience with e-commerce customer service in your industry. Naturally, you will need to train everyone who comes on board, but some experience will be better than having to mentor a rookie in a time of urgency.
Strategize your growth
Finally, a very important aspect of growth is planning for it, as we’ve already established.
All of what we’ve just listed above needs to be written down and outlined in a growth strategy you write, research, and turn to when the time comes.
Most business manuals will tell you that having a strategy in place is the first thing you need to focus on when starting a business. And while it might sound boring and repetitive, there’s a reason why they do it.
A strategy is your blueprint and backup plan all rolled into one. When you experience anything unexpected, including growth, which pushes you out of your comfort zone, you won’t exactly be thinking the clearest and making the best business decisions.
Instead of relying on your mind to make the right call, you should rely on a business strategy instead – one that clearly outlines your current capacities, as well as the point when those capacities need to be improved in order to cope with an increase in sales.
Incorporate things like:
- a list of business risks and how you should handle them
- a list of business opportunities and how to handle them
- a detailed analysis of all your resources (including finances, people, equipment, marketing, etc.)
- a market and competitor analysis
- a distribution channel analysis
- a cash flow overview
- an up-to-date list of all your inventory and an analysis of your vendors
All of these pointers are meant to help you make educated decisions when the time comes, and if you stick with them, you won’t have to come up with a plan on the spot. You’ll already have one in place, so all that will be left for you to do is execute it.
And as with all well-laid plans, the execution should be much simpler than the actual planning.
About the Author:
Natasha is a web designer, lady of the keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. She is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends. To see what she is up to next, check out her Twitter Dashboard.