collaborative post // Like many people, you may have started a small eCommerce side hustle to earn some extra money. Unlike many people who give up after not getting immediate results, you have stuck with it and are now reaping some of the rewards.
As you become more successful, however, you are likely to find that your small eCommerce business will grow from its humble beginnings into something much bigger and present you with a new range of challenges. At first glance, these can seem quite overwhelming, especially if the whole just started with you buying some items from a charity shop or market and selling them online.
However, if you want your business to grow either to the point where it can replace your 9-5 or go on to generate a life-changing income for you, you will need to look at some key areas and make sure they have the potential to grow further. This may involve some hard decisions and investment in the right services or products to help you along the way. To start with, though, you need to look at the basics of what makes your business tick.
Spend some time (and money) on your website
This is an important first step because it is all about ensuring that your online storefront is entirely fit for purpose and that you have no issues with loading speeds. It might seem trivial, but it is a common problem that many e-Commerce type sites overlook.
They will take a high-quality picture of a product and not reduce the size of it when it is on the site, which means it could take longer to load, and potential customers will click away from your site because they get fed up with waiting. It is best to address this issue now because if many more products are added to the site, it can worsen the issue.
While that was quite a basic issue, there are others that might take a little more thought. You will also need to ensure that your website is up to date ‘behind the scenes’ – and this could need some work if you have done very little with your site since you launched it.
If you are not tech-savvy enough to do this yourself, then you should consider hiring a website maintenance company to come and take care of that particular issue for you.
It might involve an extra cost that you hadn’t foreseen or budgeted for, but you need to weigh that up with the unseen cost of having people click away from your site because it isn’t working properly
Update your site design if you need to
You also need to look at your site’s design and make sure that it is congruent with any branding you have in other areas, like your social media accounts (more on that later). This is so anybody clicking through from a Tweet, Instagram post, or TikTok isn’t unconfronted with something that looks completely different – and clicks away thinking that they have been sent to the wrong place.
This sort of website redesign or refresh might be something else that you need to leave to the experts. They will look at your online presence as a whole and come up with a design, so customers know they are in the right place all through the journey from the first click on social media to the point they make a purchase.
Add content to your site
In addition to this, you should seriously consider attaching a blog to your e-commerce site. This might seem a bit old-school, but easy-to-read articles containing important information about the niche in which you are selling products can be an important first point of contact for a potential customer.
As with social media posts, providing value to the customer with free information is an important part of building a relationship with them before a sale. This information is likely to install you as an authority figure in their minds, and your name will be the first they think of when it comes to purchasing in your niche.
Invest in SEO
Of course, to help people find these articles organically, it could be wise to invest in the services of a specialist SEO agency like Click Intelligence which can advise you on how best to go about this.
An effective SEO strategy can help you rank higher in search engine results for searches in your niche, although results are unlikely to happen immediately. A good SEO agency can also provide an overall strategy beyond on-page SEO and investigate the many benefits of having other sites link back to yours.
There is one final that could increase sales on your website. As well as generating more traffic to the site and selling more products to the customers you already have – you can also look at tactics to convert more of the traffic that already comes in. This area is called conversion optimizing, and if done correctly, you can get more sales without too much extra effort.
That said, conversion rate optimization is not something to be undertaken by an amateur, so you should perhaps look at getting a company involved to go through your buying process and see where people are falling by the wayside.
You will always have a small percentage of abandoned carts, but given the huge number of purchases that are left unfinished, there is very little chance that you are not leaving money on the table by not looking at this area.
Increase your presence on social media
Any business that wishes to expand will need to make sure that they take social media very seriously. So, you will need to post regularly to attract new customers, as well as keep yourself at the forefront of the minds of those who have interacted with you before.
Some sort of presence on all of the major platforms is all but essential, even if your target audience is one that would normally use Facebook more than other platforms. This is because new social media sites like Tik Tok have as many as 1 Billion users, and even a small portion of those is still a significant amount of traffic that would not otherwise be coming to your site.
You need to look at posting content in the format that best suits the platform you are using; if done carefully, you will find that the same content can be chopped up and repurposed across several platforms – and even transcribed unused as a new page for your blog.
Even by employing this tactic, this can still be time-consuming, so you might find this is another thing that you want to leave to the professionals. Using an agency could free up a lot of your time and get better results, leaving you to get on with the very important business of running your company and generating more sales.
Increase the number of platforms you are selling on
One major way of doing this is to look at where you are selling and see what other options are available. As well as expanding your website as discussed earlier, you should also consider using eBay, Etsy, and Amazon as additional streams of income if you are not already.
Despite the fact you are listed right next to the competition, you will quickly find that the massive amount of traffic generated by these platforms, which dominate worldwide marketplaces will bring you in sales that you would otherwise have missed out on.
Each of these platforms has different rules and regulations regarding the listings, so you will need to do some research on this before taking the plunge. Some items are banned from sale and could lead to you being banned from the platform, so it is not an area to overlook.
If done correctly, branching out like this is an important step forward, not just from a sales point of view. Having a presence on Amazon and eBay can help bring credibility to your business which having a website alone might not do.
Look at your supply chain
If you are going to sell more online, you need to make sure that you have high enough stock levels to satisfy all the customers you will create using these tactics. To make sure you aren’t sending anyone away disappointed, you will need to check with any suppliers that you have that they can cope with any upturn in sales that you’re likely to have over the next 12 months.
If this is not the case, you should look at finding alternative suppliers of the same product if possible. You will also need to remember that larger shipments tend to have a lower price per unit – so there is a chance to add to your bottom line here.
As well as increasing stock levels of existing products, you could also explore the options for additional lines to add to your range. This will involve further research into products that complement your existing range and then sourcing those from suppliers in the volumes you expect to generate as your business grows.
To see which of these products will work best for you, you could offer them to your existing customers to see which ones pique the most interest. As you already have a relationship with them, this tactic involves minimal marketing costs and could bring in a handy influx of cash.
As well as increasing the range of products that you have to offer, you can also branch out into other areas to get sales without having to stock or store the product yourself. The first of these is by using drop shipping – a practice by which you sell the item on behalf of another company, which then ships it directly to your customer.
Because there are a lot of moving parts to this, it is not necessarily for the faint of heart. You could potentially sell products, only to find at the manufacturer or warehouse that is supposed to ship them has run out of stock – and simply not told you. This is likely to reflect very badly on your business as the customer’s contact is with you – and it could damage your relationship with them.
Alternatively, you could choose to sell some products as an affiliate. In this situation, you do not take any money at all from the customer yourself, but instead, you refer them to a product. This would happen somewhere on your site – typically in an article on the blog, using a special link given to you by the company you are promoting.
Every sale through this link will be accredited to you, and you will earn a small commission. Like dropshipping, this is very much ‘hands off’, but again you are relying on a third party to keep your reputation intact. In this case, if you redirect the customer to a product that turns out to be substandard, or worse, a scam – they will think of you as at least partly responsible.
For both of these methods, proper research and due diligence are needed to maximize profits and minimize the potential damage to your reputation.
As you might expect, hand in hand with all these other external changes, you need to make sure that your business infrastructure is up to the task. This can be done in stages, but you will need to plan in advance to ensure everything goes smoothly.
Staff and training
The overall workload is likely to increase, so to allow for this, you could need to employ more staff – or if it has been just you so far – it’s time to start hiring help. Once they are onboard, you must ensure they are properly trained to do what you need them to do. Well-trained staff are a real benefit, as they will be more productive and more likely to have higher morale and come over as more confident when dealing with customers or issues.
It might be the case that some of the tasks, like customer service, might need to be outsourced to people in another part of the country or even on the other side of the world. This means you are getting the best possible person for the job, but it can be tricky to get to grips with it first if you are not used to dealing with contacts in another time zone.
By using training and the right software to make communication easy, you should be able to get over the initial hurdles without too many problems.
Software and equipment
Communication software is likely to be just one of the things you need to source and invest in, as there are many tools a larger business will need that small ones do not. While you might have been quite happily running your business from an excel sheet for the last couple of years, unfortunately, that can’t continue.
Once there are more moving parts to consider, and the increase in traffic and products amplifies the amount of data and information running through everything you do – you need to start using specialist software for these tasks, especially things like accounting, HR, and training.
Picking the right packages to achieve this goal can be tricky, as you might not be quite sure about what you need. However, by using the free trial option on many of the available packages, you can find something that is the best fit for you – without parting with too much cash during this inevitable process of trial and error.
In addition to this, you will also need to look at upgrading your computer hardware and any equipment you have, like packing benches, if you are still doing your own order fulfillment and not outsourcing it to a third party like Amazon FBA.
There is plenty to think about when increasing the size of your eCommerce business. So much, in fact, that you might even consider just keeping things the way they are now. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but there are some important areas you need to look at in some depth. First of all, there is your website, which is an absolute must for every business.
You will need to look at how it looks and how it works, as well as how to drive more traffic to it organically. You will also be able to do this using SEO and social media, although the workload could mean outsourcing this part of the plan. You also need to look at the platforms you are selling on and make sure you have a supply chain to meet increased demand.
All of this needs to be backed by investment in your office structure, where getting additional help from both humans and tech will be the final piece of the puzzle.