The ability to scale is not necessarily the ability to blow up the market, constantly growing and growing. Scalability refers to the ability to respond to demands effectively, to be prepared for growth, and adaptable to limitations and fluctuations in the market.
In the world of ecommerce, business owners must be able to adapt. Sometimes marketing can be a double-edged sword if things take off before you’re ready. If you’re unprepared for a rapidly increasing customer base, or unwilling to make modifications, you could be buried under demands. The effects: a slow or crashing website, disappointed customers, no supply, and harsh feedback. Who has time to deal with that?
In retail, you don’t have the option to bite off only what you can chew. You have to make predictions, market to the moon, and develop accordingly. It’s not only about welcoming growth, of course. Your business has to be able to uphold that growth, on all levels.
How far are you willing to go? Nationwide? Global?
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You’ll need appropriate resources for whatever you plan to scale to. Build momentum with cutting down on time and costs, and by increasing sales. The relationship between demand and supply is a cycle, and your ability to adapt to it defines your business’ scalability.
So what can you do to ensure your business is scalable on all fronts? Technology is something that won’t stop developing. That means, you have to develop with it. Take advantage of new software and systems that can help make your job easier, and customer interactions smoother.
1. Do a lot with a little
There are many movies about robots taking over the world and replacing humans – and yes, Sophia, the Saudi Arabian “robot citizen” is creepy as hell. But there are never movies about businesses that wouldn’t be able to run without the help of automation or AI (artificial intelligence). At least none with Will Smith.
There’s only so much you can do on a budget. Automation can allow you to cover more ground with your current number of employees.
Don’t get it twisted. It’s not about replacing employees or potential jobs with technology. Those positions wouldn’t be available regardless, due to the costs of hiring new talent. What technology can do is assist your present employees in their everyday tasks, and most importantly, extend their reach. Automation therefore redefines the job that ecommerce retailers are able to do.
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Of course, with AI, ecommerce retailers are able to offer more personalized shopping experiences. Based on a customer’s interaction with the site, AI can make recommendations to upsell related products. It’s a necessary method for getting to know online shoppers.
Online shops are limited in terms of how they can connect with customers, so it’s essential to embrace any available tech that helps make those interactions smooth and beneficial for the visitor.
2. Build to scale
When I say “develop, on all levels,” I’m referring to the processes you use that aren’t exactly within your grasp. Platform, order fulfillment, payment processors, suppliers, shippers, website speed, and anything outsourced wear the face of your ecommerce business and they all speak for you.
Since you don’t have ultimate control over these, but they very much affect the way customers perceive your business, make sure you pick the right business partners. As a manager of an ecommerce business, it’s your responsibility to find the best options for both your customers and your company’s functionality and growth.
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Having cool products only goes so far. If they’re a hassle to get to because of slow website speeds, or hard to receive because of slow and untracked shipping, customers will be sure to spread the word and move on.
3. Market with intent
Without marketing, there is no growth.
Once you and your partners are prepared to deal with increasing demands, your online presence and reach should become a focus. Have a goal in mind to help measure your success. Having projections will definitely assist you in your business’ ability to scale. Without looking forward, there’s no way to communicate to your suppliers and other partners what to expect.
As an ecommerce business, you should be highly invested in social media. Promote your website and app on the most relevant platforms.
Have your current customers carry the torch. Provide customers with incentives for passing on referrals to their friends and family members.
It’s likely that you’re familiar with SEO (search engine optimization). It’s an excellent way to draw customers in. Your lead generation should be welcoming and not intrusive to prevent pushing potential customers away. These are just some basics, but note that web development is constantly on the rise and improvements are introduced regularly. Part of being able to scale is investing in web development.
4. Monitor and analyze
Along with looking forward, be sure to reserve some time and energy to look back.
Your suppliers may also be affected by increased demand. Your customers may see a decline in the quality or speed or production if the business is not scalable in itself. Even if your business is comfortable with growth, you need to make sure your connections are able to keep up.
Monitoring and analyzing your sales data will keep you updated on how successful your marketing and performance has been in terms of reaching your goals. But if you’re over your head in demand, customer service issues, and any other issues, you don’t exactly have time to monitor or analyze anything. This takes time and attention.
Having the willingness to grow is important. But the room, skills, and resources for growth must come first.