Global eCommerce is currently valued at over $5 trillion and forecasting for 2023 sees no obstacle to its continued growth. This is a fast-evolving industry that has turned global retail on its head in less than a decade. In the UK alone there are now 580,000 eCommerce enabled websites, many of which have built a successful business from scratch over the past five years.
For eCommerce start-ups, speedy growth has meant rapid adjustments to organisational change, often without a roadmap to guide them. Most significant is the milestone referred to as ‘scaling’. This marks the point at which you switch from investing your revenue in increased staff, product, infrastructure, to growing your revenue without needing to invest further in your overheads.
In lieu of a roadmap, this article offers eCommerce brands that are wondering ‘Is this the right time to scale?’ or ‘How do I scale successfully?’, 6 essential tips to help steer a successful course to increased profits.
Tip 1. Know When the Time is Right to Scale
Scaling is about recognising the opportunities you have for serving an increasing customer base in new ways. It’s an evolution that businesses go through multiple times and recognising the right moment to scale is critical; go too early and your hard-earned growth could founder.
There are 5 signs of scaling readiness that we suggest businesses look out for:
- Business Goals Are Met. The goals that you set for the business are being met or have been surpassed. You have clear evidence of product-market fit.
- Adequate Cashflow. All business expansion requires investment. You’ll need a secure cashflow, or the potential for additional investment to the business.
- A Team You Trust. Having the right people on board is key to scaling. You need a team that shares your vision and is ready and able to take on the challenge.
- A Loyal Customer Base. Customers that come back for more, demonstrate that both your product range and your customer experience are recognised and appreciated.
- A Resilient IT System. Your IT solution will have evolved rapidly to deal with additional revenue. It needs to be solid, secure, and stress-ready for scaling.
Tip 2. Start Outsourcing Services
eCommerce start-ups have a great idea that they want to sell, so it makes absolute sense that they market, sell, package, and ship every order individually. If the idea succeeds, there will come a point where the business needs to outsource in order to maintain their high standard of customer service.
Order fulfilment companies can store your inventory, pick and pack your orders, and ship them using a range of national and international carriers. You may wish to outsource your marketing which relieves your core team of time-consuming tasks such as social media, copywriting, or SEO, in order to concentrate on growing the business.
Tip 3. Optimise Your Website
If you depend on your website for sales, you need to know that it’s working 24/7 to bring in maximum traffic and conversions. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is an important part of any scaling operation.
SEO marketing makes improvements to your website in order to increase its visibility in the major search engines such as Google or Bing. The more visible your pages are, the higher they will rank, and the greater the volume of traffic that gets directed to your site. SEO involves technical adjustments and the use of web copy which mirrors the search terms used by your customers.
Tip 4. Partner With a 3PL
A third-party logistics partner helps eCommerce businesses to manage every aspect of their supply chain. This includes inventory management and order fulfilment, but offers in addition a number of value-added services that help brands to scale:
- Planning for Growth. A 3PL has the experience, expertise, and resources to manage peaks in product fulfilment, and they’ll work with you to plan for growth.
- Optimised Packaging. Packaging that’s not optimised costs more and annoys customers. Optimised packaging saves on shipping and safeguards your product.
- Bespoke Fulfilment. A 3PL takes the time to understand your brand and uses their infrastructure to create a personalised fulfilment process to support it.
- Sector Knowledge. 3PLs that specialise in your sector will often provide supply chain consultancy as part of the ongoing conversation that is integral to the partnership.
- Returns. 3PLs handle your returns. This means frictionless returns management for customers, and reverse logistics to increase efficiency, and maximise revenue.
“eCommerce retailers need to be continuously trying to create a better experience for their customers so they can continue to grow in a competitive market. A good 3PL will adapt to personalise their operations for every brand they work with, offer a great onboarding process, and maximise the value they can offer. A 3PL should always be looking for ways to help accounts to grow.”
James Coleman, Business Development Director, Prolog Fulfilment
Tip 5. Maximise Your Customer Lifetime Value
Online shoppers are increasingly looking for a personalised shopping experience from eCommerce retailers. Rather than being treated as generic consumers, they want to be recognised as individuals across all touch points on their online journey. This means personalised greetings, recommendations based on previous orders and a continuously evolving range of customer services.
eCommerce brands can maximise customer lifetime value by getting to know their shoppers and making helpful suggestions about how to buy their products. A return customer may appreciate a subscription service for the products they purchase regularly. Customer curated gift boxes, or personalised items may turn someone into both a regular shopper and word-of-mouth advocate for your brand.
Tip 6. Never Get Complacent
Scaling your business means changing how you do things in order to increase customer satisfaction and grow sales. Once you’ve achieved this, it may be tempting to think that you’ve earned a breather and can coast for a while. Don’t do it. Once you’ve achieved you goals for scaling, it’s time to take a step back, look at where you are now, and assess what you need to do next in order to make the growth you have achieved sustainable.
Amanda is a researcher, copywriter, and digital marketing executive for Imagefix Design & Marketing. She has over a decade’s experience marketing for the public and private sectors. Amanda writes e-books, white papers, articles, blogs, and web content for a range of businesses and organisations.