Starting Ecommerce: Being Professional
For many a start up in ecommerce, they tend to learn as they go. With no prior experience in the world online selling, how can anyone be blamed for their mistakes or improvisations? Sadly, your customers will not see it this way and so in this episode, we will talk about some of the basics of running a ‘professional’ ecommerce business.
What’s in this episode?
- Setting out goals
- Pride in packaging
- Customer service is king
- Being the brand
- Avoiding a quick fix
Setting out goals
Having a vision of where you would like to take your business is very important but this for most of us is where the thought process ends. We typically find ourselves imagining where we would like to be in a years time, but by the time we realise we need to sit down and plan that out we have already swamped in work due to the growth of the business and a lack of relevant processes and metrics to track.
It is very important to take our vision of our business and then set goals to achieve that vision, from those goals we can build measurable metrics in which we can monitor and improve our process.
If your goal is to sell enough shoes online so you can open up your own brick and mortar store then you will need to plan a journey of goals to achieve that vision.
Your main goal will be a financial one, a target you would like to hit but by hitting that target there are going to be other factors that play apart in the general day to day running of the business. Some key metrics you will need to put in place are:
- Monthly Sales – This will allow you to set targets and analyse trends, you will also be able to use this data to improve poor moving lines or replace them with potential new lines.
- Order dispatch rate – How many orders can you ship out in a day, could you improve that number by optimising your process rather than hiring a new employee (watch episode 2 for advice on this area, particularly picking locations)
- Customer Service Query Count – you could break this down further into email & calls but what you want to do is dive down further to see if there are recurring areas you can fix to save you spending unnecessary time on customer service.
Pride in packaging
Have you ever had an item come through the post with a hand wrote address on or a really poorly package parcel? It sets a bad image and many customers will have a negative opinion initially as they get their order.
Though it may be fun cutting out the printed label from the A4 sheet of paper and taping it to the over wrapped bin liner or brown postage paper but other than giving off the wrong impression, it is also costing you unnecessary time.
Having the correct packaging and labels is vital for sending the correct image and making your whole process that more efficient. Here are some ideas you can use for your business.
Integrated invoice paper
This is an A4 sheet of paper with a built in integrated peel off label, allowing you to print a dispatch note, packing list or invoice combined with a courier or address label.
You can purchase this from sites such as:
Thermal labels are a cost effective way of printing out your shipping labels, and depending on your courier they may even send you the labels for free.
The Zebra printers are very well known and used by many online sellers, the pros to these printers are that you do not need to purchase any ink.
Don’t waste your time wrapping up items in a tonne of brown wrapping paper followed by half a roll of brown tape. There are so many options out there from padded jiffy bags, polyethene mail bags to even boxes that have been designed to fit through letter boxes allowing them to be classed as a large letter, rather than a parcel.
- LilPackaging offers a range of packaging designed for the online seller. (UK & EU)
- UK Packaging is a large seller of packaging products (UK)
- Uline is a great packaging for SME’s (USA)
Customer service is king
When starting out finding time to list products, pack orders and order more stock is hard enough, especially if your online business is not yet your full-time source of income. Customer service, queries and even complaints can seem not a priority and sometimes even a pain in the rear.
Your customers don’t know the hardship of your day to day life and to be honest, probably don’t even care. They just want a great product with excellent customer service.
Another reason to make sure you offer excellent customer service, especially to the more difficult buyers is that the major marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay have metrics in place to record how good your customer service is and guess what, if you do poor in this area you could lose your right to sell on these popular marketplaces. So take these few points in mind to create your awesome customer service process:
- Respond promptly – set yourself a maximum response time for every message and case.
- Don’t take it personally – if you feel the customer is wrong don’t waste your time worrying about, solve the issue quickly, politely and then move on.
- Don’t be scared to refund – Returns, refunds and exchanges are going to happen. Most online retailers will have a buffer in place on their shipping charges to take this into account. (Watch our Episode: Dealing with Returns on Etsy, it has some great advice for all online sellers)
- Go above and beyond – Try to Wow that one person a day, word of mouth is still a great form of advertising.
Being the brand
As the saying goes “you have to think big to be big”. With this in mind you really need to think about you, your business and the image you would like your customers to see. They don’t need to know you are running this business from your garage or spare room. You really want to portray from the start that you are a professional online business and give them the confidence that they are buying from someone reputable.
- Avoid using generic email addresses, buy yourself a domain
- If graphics are not your strong point then use a graphic designer for your logos and imagery (check out Fiverr for competitive freelancers)
- A business phone number – Skype is a great option for a low budget, you can take with you on your smartphone
- Be social – Most buyers assume that professional businesses are on social media
Some tools that may help you in regards to Being the Brand can be found on our Episode: 5 Free Tools For Ecommerce
Avoiding the quick fix
As you grow you will come up against obstacles and road blocks, it may seem at the time that an improvised work around or allocating a person to the task will be the best option. In reality, as you grow, these often clumsy time-consuming processes become so engrained into your business that when you go to make a change it becomes very difficult.
If you come up against an issue you need to write it down and that very afternoon or evening think of a smart, effective way you can resolve it. Is there software that can automate the process? Do you need to create a procedure that you and your team can follow? Each business will find their own unique issues alongside ones that others have had. The best plan is to take that extra time to plan a long term and effective fix.
I hope this episode has been insightful and saves you a lot of time in your initial start-up phase. If you have any questions from packaging and printing to processes and issues, share them in the comments below. See you on the next episode!