Regular readers know I’m all about focusing on the big picture of your ecommerce business which is why I was happy to have Ronald L. Dod, CMO and Cofounder of Visiture.com, stop by with this great guest post on how to scale your eCommerce business as things change around you.-T. W. Seller
Scale Your eCommerce Business
Without adequate preparation and experience, scaling any business can be a road filled with wrong turns and potholes. eCommerce is a wonderful world where scaling a business from a few thousand dollars a month to a million dollars a year isn’t as uncommon as most people would think, but it does take a substantial multi-faceted understanding of what it takes to successfully grow a business online.
Significant obstacles and new challenges happen every day, and this guide is set up to help you take your business to the next level.
Build a Scale-Friendly Foundation
Scaling your business is essentially a series of hurdles that must be jumped over. However, prior to jumping over a hurdle, you must be sure you are adequately prepared to keep on going. One of the biggest enemies to effective business scaling is building on a foundation that doesn’t give way for growth.
Envision a regular single-story house. It’s got the essentials: a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and even a living area space. What else could you need?
Let’s say your needs start expanding; you get married, have some kids, a few relatives want to move in. Now, you decide to build a few stories on top of it and a guest house in the backyard.
This might work for now, but you might start to see some difficulties. When the kids start having grandkids and their own families trying to move in, doing the same things to scale won’t work as well anymore. Your house’s foundation can only handle so much weight before things start to become dangerous and problematic.
An eCommerce business sees similar difficulties like a house quickly outgrowing its foundation. Things will break, frustrations will happen, and days off-line will lose customers.
Having a poorly equipped foundation for growth doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad foundation; it just means that each effort to scale your business will start to see more and more friction until the foundation busts and a large change will need to be made.
Creating a scale-friendly foundation means optimizing every critical structural component.
- Site architecture. Your shoppers should be, at most, within three clicks from the home page. Many business owners that create sites without a good architecture end up with a maze of content, product pages, and landing page content that only detracts away from the user experience and search engine optimization.
- Hosting. Check in with your hosting provider to see if your plan allows for growth. Many hosting plans are priced based on users, so plan appropriately.
- Security. More shoppers mean more information, which means more potential security problems. Make sure your sites are updated with the proper security certificates.
- Supplier relationships. If your business primarily relies on supplies relationships for its product fulfillment, make sure your relationships are water-tight. Additionally, creating a backup plan for alternative options in case something happens to your supplier could be a lifesaver in the future.
- Analytics. Going into eCommerce without analytics is like fumbling around a dark room. Scaling an eCommerce business without analytics is like sprinting in that dark room. Thankfully, this step is usually easy to check off, thanks to Google Analytics. Make sure your site and shop analytics are working properly and learn how to analyze your site’s data in a meaningful way.Taking care of your site design needs could save you a lot of hassle in the future.
Choose a Good Site Design
Taking care of your site design needs could save you a lot of hassle in the future.
It’s important to have a great site design when you get started because site customization in the future could be pretty expensive. Taking 2-3 days to update your site design could mean thousands in missed revenue.
Many eCommerce platforms have aesthetically pleasing and functional themes. Shopify has 149+ premium design themes and 24+ free themes, and BigCommerce has 76+ premium design themes and 7 free themes.
While these designs may work flawlessly and at scale, some eCommerce merchants might be keen to get their site custom made.
Whatever route you take, be sure to benchmark your design for scale. Does your theme stand the test? Here are a few questions to ask:
- How long does it take to load? Some premium themes are loaded with high-quality images and graphics that can significantly slow down the page load time. It only takes four seconds for page abandonment to jump to 25%. While your design may look fabulous, it’s not worth losing one out of every four shoppers.
- Is it mobile responsive? Mobile shopping has exploded in recent years, yet there are still themes that don’t function as well on mobile. Your mobile shoppers are not only using a smaller screen to browse your store, they’re also likely more distracted. It’s critical to make sure your theme works perfectly on mobile and delivers exactly what the shoppers are looking for.
Build a Frequently Asked Questions Page
Scaling your eCommerce business is all about removing as much friction as possible.
A frequently asked questions page is essentially a landing page that could make the difference between a shopper becoming a customer.
Thankfully, your frequently asked questions page tends to write itself. Here’s a simple series to get your FAQ page started:
- Compile every question your shoppers have asked via email or chat.
- Sort the questions into categories. For example:
- How long does shipping take?
- Do you ship internationally?
- Can you gift wrap it for a friend?
- Do the shirts run large?
- Could I get this design on a tank top?
- Can you custom embroider my name on it?
- What are the shirts made from?
- Write them in a reader-friendly way. Investing in a copywriter to bring life to every part of your website copy, including your FAQ page, will help create a seamlessly consistent experience.
- Set up the page architecture to deliver curious shoppers their answer as quickly as possible. Creating a table of contents with sub-head links that shoppers can click on is a great way to streamline the process.
This is a good start, but digging a bit deeper will yield more substantial results. It could even increase your conversion rate! You must account for shoppers that have concerns but don’t have enough urgency or willingness to send an email to ask. This is exceptionally true for businesses that are in highly competitive industries and which carry products that have many substitutes.
These questions can be found by personally forming conversations with shoppers to see if they had any concerns when ordering your products. Further exploration includes frequenting forums such as Reddit that are specific to your industry. This process could even pave the way to discovering new products your target market will enjoy, coming up with content ideas for your content strategy, and learning how your shoppers naturally speak.
Keep in mind that your product pages should already be answering some of the most frequently asked questions specific to those products, such as sizing, shipping, etc.
Build Scaleable Processes
Your processes are going to be either your best friend or your worst enemy.
- Support. Having the all correct and active email addresses for your site is a good start, but do you really want to be spending hours a week answering emails or answering phone calls instead of further growing out your business?
- Have a FAQ page.
- Hire and train a VA to handle low-urgency emails.
- Payment Interface: Most payment services are so seamlessly integrated that business owners forget this is a process in itself. Payment interfaces can also be a substantial expense in the future. For example, an eCommerce business taking in $1,00,000 in annual orders using a payment interface charging you 3.5% per order means you are paying $35,000. Finding a comparable and reliable alternative at 1.5% will essentially put $20,000 back in your pocket. It’s important to find the perfect payment interface to save you orders and money in the future.
- Backend Processes: Over time, these may seem to be automated, but it only takes a minor hiccup to derail a business scaling at high speed. Create processes for every step in the back-end product delivery to keep your attention focused on growth, and not maintenance. Some merchants have even gone as far as purchasing their supplier or product manufacturer to ensure everything is running smoothly. If you’re selling over multiple platforms (your site, Amazon, eBay, etc), order fulfillment and inventory management can get very confusing.
With these four ways to help you scale your eCommerce business, you’ll be much better prepared for growth.
Keep in mind that every step of the way to scaling is going to involve removing as much friction as possible so you can continue to jump the hurdles and navigate whatever challenges the world throws at you.
Successful scaling is a combination of building a strong foundation, creating effective processes that untether your site and attention for growth, and constantly looking for ways to add value to your site at every touch point.