The best way to succeed in a competitive marketplace is to adapt over time, continually serving your target audience—and expanding it to include more loyal shoppers in order support your growth. However, you have to walk before you can run. There’s no sustainable way to go from small store to behemoth overnight. A savvier strategy is planning to scale up over time, addressing key areas for growth before making any major leaps. This way, you’ll be able to accommodate your current customer base while anticipating their future needs.
Understanding the challenges associated with scaling up your ecommerce business will help you anticipate sticking points and mitigate them effectively. The result? A smooth experience for visitors, whether it’s their first time on your website or their tenth.
Handling Inventory and Order Fulfillment
Exclusivity can be a useful tool, but shoppers tend to be frustrated by constant ‘sold out’ notices on a website. Scaling up means more than just accommodating extra website traffic; it’s important to manage the back-end logistics accordingly. This includes maintaining an inventory that can support demand and keeping up with order fulfillment as transactions roll in.
At some point, many merchants find it useful to outsource order fulfillment to a third-party center. Fulfillment companies handle processes like packing, shipping and storage. This leaves your store free to concentrate on front-end issues, website maintenance, customer service, marketing and more. Of course, the success of this setup depends entirely upon choosing a reputable fulfillment center, as your store’s reputation depends on timely and accurate deliveries.
Downtime is one of the biggest hiccups ecommerce stores face when scaling up. Your website must be equipped for an influx of customers, especially during sales and holiday promotions. There’s no use growing your store if shoppers will experience slow load times, delays, crashes and error messages. It all starts with your choice of a cloud ecommerce platform. The closer to 100 percent uptime you can expect, the less you have to worry about losing out on valuable sales. Scaling your business means ensuring your website has enough bandwidth to handle an ever-increasing volume of transactions.
Growing Your Customer Service
Many ecommerce operations start small; meaning handling customer service is relatively simple at the beginning. But as you grow, it’s not always possible to stay on top of responsive customer service and all the other functions your store needs to thrive. So, scaling up means some combination of hiring customer service specialists and implementing alternative channels.
As one Entrepreneur contributor points out, scaling up simply means dealing with more customer complaints. When only one out of 100 customers complain, it’s manageable. When the ratio expands to 1,000 or 10,000 customers, suddenly you have many more to address in the form of emails, calls and social media posts.
The first step is providing customers with a number of channels to ask questions and provide feedback. Some people will prefer getting in touch with a live human on the other end of a phone line or chat box. Others will write an email or submit an on-site message form. Still others will go straight to social media, perhaps tagging your brand in a status or comment. Scaling up means anticipating these inquiries and responding accordingly.
Many merchants turn to artificial intelligence-powered chat bots to handle front-line inquiries rather than handling them with human specialists. AI live chat can answer frequently asked questions, help customers conduct searches and elevate more complicated tasks to humans.
Being mindful of these challenges associated with scaling up your ecommerce company will help you avoid growing pains.