At some point in the lifespan of any business, serious thought will have to be given to scaling up. The task presents a number of significant obstacles for ecommerce business owners, who traditionally employ only a limited number of employees. With such businesses, one of the biggest challenges is scaling up without necessarily having to devote more personal time–or personal resources–to the business.
There are many ways to scale up a business, and the appropriate approach varies on a number of factors. Something that remains constant however is the need to employ the proper systems, technologies, and personnel resources. It is also important to be acutely aware of the appropriate time to scale up, as timing is an especially important factor when it comes to taking an ecommerce business to the next level.
Identify problems that need to be solved
Research is an indispensable part of scaling up, as it will help you identify problem areas and the steps necessary to address them. You should pay particular attention to how you will address issues related to a spike in traffic. After all, the effectiveness of an ecommerce website hinges in large part on its ability to deal with peak traffic. Determining the proper platform will help address your needs now, as well as when you eventually scale up your ecommerce business.
Explore all your options and don’t neglect seemingly simple solutions. This could very well apply to ecommerce, where the simplest solutions often produce the best results.
“It is always the simple that produces the marvellous” – Amelia Barr
Invest in appropriate technology
Investing involves more than just throwing money at your business, hoping that the problems will go away. As with any other aspect of running a business, making an investment with an eye toward upscaling should be done in order to address a specific operational weak point. This is especially important when you apply for financing for your small business, as you will have to ensure that the money you borrow is put to good use.
It is equally important to ensure that any investment you make continues to pay off in the long-term. By making wise investment and targeting areas that will be benefited the most, you can increase your business’s chances of making it to the next stage.
“Let us make our future now, and let us make our dreams tomorrow’s reality” – Malala Yousafzai
Utilise a content delivery network
Consider automating key processes
Automation has long been considered an essential business tool, and ecommerce sites stand to gain many advantages from using them. Automation systems typically use computer software for controlling repetitive tasks that are done on a frequent basis. Such systems are usually employed in order to enhance efficiency and reliability, particularly with tasks in which accuracy is a top priority. Automating key processes will also help reduce human error and save you more time for other equally important tasks, as you are able to carry out the less human-intensive processes of running your business automatically.
Prioritize the fulfilment aspect
Fulfilment is one of the most important aspects of running an ecommerce business, and yet it is one of the areas that are so often neglected when upscaling. Far too many businesses scale up their production and operations only to realise that they are unable to address their customer’s needs. The sudden increase in volume of sales could have a severely detrimental effect on any business that fails to deliver, as unsatisfied customers may opt to take their business elsewhere.
It is important to note that upscaling fulfilment capabilities often involves investing in the proper technology–such as more efficient barcoding and inventory management systems, for example–as well as hiring more employees. As your scope widens and the demand for your products increases, you could consider using online fulfilment systems.
Scale outwards as well as upwards
The changing needs of an ecommerce business so often involves scaling outwards as well as upwards. There are many instances wherein increasing your website’s capacity will prove to be advantageous, but don’t neglect the importance of investing in more database servers as well. For instance, you could continue with your current system as your master database, and employ a number of other public database servers exclusively for taking orders and providing your customers with shopping cart functionality. It may entail additional setup and maintenance on your part, but the enhanced efficiency will prove to be worth it.
Scaling up an ecommerce business requires a thorough assessment of your business needs and a determination of the tools and processes necessary to achieve your goals. Not every business is the same, and there is no single set of solutions that will be the most appropriate for every business. By identifying the areas of your operations that need improvement and being prepared for any eventuality, you may just be able to cope with the increasing challenges of a growing business, while at the same time ensuring a consistently high level of service.
About the Author
Charles writes for Authorflair.com about small business and recruitment. A serial entrepreneur and avid writer; connect with Charles at Authorflair for ore insights into the Australian start-up scene.