Online Business 101: Planning for Ecommerce Growth

When entrepreneurs start a business, they dream of growing it and watching it thrive. In those early days, when sellers are just trying to gain traction, it can be hard to imagine too much growth might ever be a problem. However, before they know it, their endeavor is developing in size, sales and operations. 

A growing business presents a new set of challenges. How will processes, such as shipping and storage, scale? Is there a need to hire more staff to handle demand? Can the website handle an increase in consumer traffic?

Planning for ecommerce growth is mostly a matter of anticipating expansion and the challenges it brings.

Working with Suppliers
One of the first things ecommerce entrepreneurs need to do when experiencing rapid growth is communicate their changing needs to their suppliers. Alerting your suppliers to the need for an increase in product to match the surge in demand, you’ll protect yourself from potential lags and downtime. The last things growing businesses want is backorders, which could stymie sales.

Additionally, working with suppliers early on, ecommerce sellers can negotiate favorable price points and further develop relationships with suppliers. Failing to plan ahead, e-sellers are left to the whims or demands of the supplier.

It’s always better to expect the changes necessary, communicate with your suppliers, ensure that there is minimal lag time, and negotiate good deals on merchandise so you can pass savings along to your shoppers.

Storing a Growing Product Line
Another headache associated with upscaling an ecommerce business is storage. If you operate an ecommerce store sustained by drop shipping or are selling ebooks through Shopify, then these problems won’t touch you. However, if you run an e-store out of your home this probably conjures visions of an even more cluttered garage or storage shed.

Again, the best strategy is to plan ahead for the amount of storage you will need to house your growing product line. If you operate a business out of your home, consider investing in a nearby storage facility. Make sure the area and facilities are secure enough to protect your assets. Insurance is also a good idea.

If you operate a larger business, either invest in larger warehousing as well or plan that your items are sold at a rate that won’t require excessive storage. Enterprise resource planning and management software can help keep track of incoming and outgoing merchandise.

Handling Increased Customer Requests & Questions
Customer service will also need to scale. With an increase in customer interest and sales, e-stores see an increase in customer questions and complaints.

One solution now used by many ecommerce stores is to hybridize customer service blending technological solutions and human staff. Using AI-powered chatbots to field quick questions and one-off queries makes customers feel their needs are addressed in a timely manner. This frees up human customer service agents to tackle bigger and more complex issues.

Depending on the number of questions and issues handled each month, you may still need to hire more customer service agents. Still, a chatbot solution can fill in the gaps.

Ensuring a Robust Website
We’ve all seen the chaotic videos of retail stores flooded with Black Friday shoppers. It’s hard to imagine that profitable sales can come from all that pandemonium. But did you know a similar plague can beset online businesses? It’s true. A flood of online shoppers can crash your website, thus preventing sales and causing disorder.

To handle higher traffic demands, invest in more processing power for the website or work with a third-party provider to ensure a robust website architecture. Similarly, a better ecommerce platform can handle more pages, more product images, more videos, and all the rest.

Yes, putting your ecommerce site online and choosing products to sell are the easy parts, if you want long-term success, you have to plan to scale.

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