Since the dawn of the internet, most aspects of everyday life have found their digital counterpart on the web, and, of course, business is no exception.
Web-based marketing, sales, and fulfillment have opened up many doors for enhanced communication, organization, and customer support so much that it is almost unimaginable for a company not to claim prime commercial real estate online. The online sector now accounts for trillions of annual sales and 21.3% of all retail sales. This means that establishing an ecommerce business is one of the most lucrative things an entrepreneur can do, assuming it is done successfully.
What Makes ecommerce Different Than Other Forms of Business?
Abbreviated from electronic commerce, ecommerce is mainly different from its brick-and-mortar counterparts in that it operates primarily on digital platforms. As a result, business communications, organization, and operations must be performed sufficiently under varying circumstances. Depending on the scale and scope of the ecommerce business, more specialized staff may need to be recruited to manage all aspects of virtual operations.
It is important to note that while ecommerce businesses can originate and exist independently online, many companies that began as physical stores have jumped on the bandwagon of creating an online presence. The ease of researching products, communicating with business representatives, purchasing, and tracking shipments online allows customers greater access to various products, no matter where they are sourced. Better yet, the centralized operation of ecommerce businesses allows for effortless purchasing.
Are all ecommerce Businesses Created Equal?
While not every ecommerce business is created equal, many fall into the trap of lack of automation, workflow inefficiencies, and poor fulfillment standards.
Given the broad capabilities and spirit of entrepreneurship in ecommerce, there are a variety of different paths online business owners can take.
Here are various approaches when it comes to online selling:
- Business to Consumer (B2C): Closest to the traditional business model, B2C ecommerce describes sales between a company and an independent consumer.
- Business to Business (B2B): Best conceptualized as a wholesaler selling to a retailer, B2B ecommerce is self-explanatory in that companies sell to other companies. Products can range anywhere from raw materials to software.
- Direct to Consumer (D2C): Direct-to-consumer ecommerce is a relatively new ecommerce business model and describes a brand selling directly to an end customer without involving a middleman (e.g., retailer, wholesaler).
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C): Consumer-to-consumer ecommerce encapsulates more independent sales, from individual to individual. One might think of Etsy or resale websites when considering C2C businesses.
- Consumer to Business (C2B): C2B businesses operate similarly to C2C, except that with C2B, an individual offers goods or services directly to a business. Freelancers of any kind can fall under either category.
No matter what ecommerce business you operate, there are pitfalls to avoid to ensure high productivity and efficiency. Below are five productivity mistakes many ecommerce businesses make when starting or scaling their operations.
1. Operating Your Business With a Traditional Model
While ecommerce businesses with physical locations are especially vulnerable to making this mistake, companies that first originated on the web can also be slowed by adopting a traditional business model.
Regarding the former, it is essential to ensure that an ecommerce site can be autonomous. While maintaining your brand image is incredibly important, the appearance and functions of an ecommerce website will need to be personalized to the needs of a virtual consumer. For instance, distinguishing between popular in-store and online goods and services and offering those accordingly will best serve the patrons of each.
For businesses that originate online, it is essential to gauge what online audiences to market to, where to find them, and how to attract them to your website. This is a significant first step for your business that will vary significantly from the process of reeling in customers to a physical store. Generally, knowing how to alter a traditional business model to accommodate your virtual operations is vital to realizing your ecommerce business’s potential.
2. Lack of Inventory Visibility
Because customers cannot see how many items are left in stock as they would be able to in-store, it’s your responsibility to share available stock levels. Additionally, there is nothing more frustrating for a business than to double back on fulfilling the purchase of an advertised product or service. ecommerce businesses can avoid this troubling situation by giving customers real-time inventory visibility.
Update inventory levels accurately. Remember, no matter how good your product or service is, the sheer number of ecommerce businesses poses an astounding number of competitors. When in doubt, offer honest communication about inventory to keep the company rolling.
3. Failing to Keep Products and Content Up-To-Date
Your website must receive consistent attention and updates to keep up with the growing competition in the ecommerce sector. As with a physical store, your online store should advertise new items, remove or mark unavailable products, and update promotions and sales as needed. Displaying the active advancement of your brand and its assets is the best way to attract, engage, and sell to current and new customers.
4. Offering Insufficient Customer Service
We all know what it is like to find a business’s customer service department to be of little to no help. When requiring assistance online, this scenario is all the more irritating. Given the impersonal nature of an online store can often be associated with, reliable and effective customer support becomes an absolute must for ecommerce businesses. Especially without the personability of an employee in-store, online stores require an available representative to field any questions, comments, or concerns remotely.
5. Oversimplifying Delivery and Fulfillment Processes
No matter the size of your company, shipping and delivery processes can have several complexities, especially when it comes to modern supply chain challenges. Managing your fulfillment processes from start to finish indicates your business’s professionalism and reliability. In this case, ensuring clean packaging, safe transport, and swift delivery times are the key to satisfying customers. To do this effectively, organizations should invest in the right fulfillment automation solutions to streamline processes and increase accuracy.
Managing an ecommerce business may be more challenging than it lets on, but the payoff can certainly be worth it. With access to a more significant number of consumers, an organized and efficient online store can offer sustainable growth and substantial returns for those willing to invest in the right ecommerce solutions. With an intentional focus on mitigating these common inefficiencies, your ecommerce businesses will maximize productivity while opening up new opportunities for scale.