Even if you sell fantastic products aimed at the perfect market, have a beautiful and user-friendly website, and assemble a dedicated team, you still run the risk of failure if your day-to-day operations are hampered by outdated tools, methods and mindsets.
Ecommerce teams need to eliminate points of friction and find ways to ramp up productivity in order to succeed in the volatile world of online shopping. Here are five ways businesses can improve their operations right away.
1. Offload time-consuming HR work to third parties
If you started your business so you could process payroll and onboard new employees, you’re...unique. Most people want to focus on what inspired them to start a company in the first place.
That doesn’t mean typical HR tasks like running payroll and paying employment taxes aren’t extremely important. The business can’t run without these important tasks being taken care of. But do you have the time and resources to do these things in-house?
Consider offloading some of these tasks to third parties who are dedicated to doing them.
If not, consider offloading some of these tasks to third parties who are dedicated to doing them. Payroll programs that run payroll online, pay employees via direct deposit, automatically submit new hire reports, pay taxes and insurance, set up benefits, and other important tasks that keep you compliant are easy to find and try out.
2. Find, or return to, better modes of communication
The secret is out about email: reading and responding to emails — even taking the time to delete them — is a huge time suck.
According to a McKinsey study, “The average interaction worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email.” That’s more than a day of dealing with email out of a five-day week.
Get employees on a social network for business, such as Slack, that encourages quick responses.
Instead of asking your employees to solely communicate via email, get them on a social network for business, such as Slack, that encourages quick responses and collaboration while maintaining easily searchable records.
You can also support in-person, face-to-face, good ol’ fashioned human interaction as another way to communicate around the office. You may not be able to search those conversations at the later date (at least not yet), but it does strengthen human connections and is often faster than sending and waiting for digital messages.
3. Let people telecommute
This is a controversial one, but it’s time to admit that teleworking can be just as productive, if not more so, than asking people to commute to work every day. Businesses are still on the fence because evidence is mixed, and true productivity outside the office depends on a number of factors.
One way to tip the scales in favor of “more productive” is to invest in collaborative applications, such as Asana or Basecamp, that help create online spaces for tracking work and measuring results.
If you have a system that helps your employees feel comfortable and productive, no matter where they’re working from, you’ll see results.
4. Invest in automated inventory management
An oddly high number of businesses, 43 percent, admitted in a recent State of Small Business report that they either didn’t track their inventory at all, or used a manual process to do so.
Not tracking your inventory at all as an ecommerce business is virtually impossible. But it’s possible that some are clinging to outdated methods like Excel spreadsheets or manual counts.
If you’re doing this, you’re more likely to rack up carrying costs like fees for shelf space or insurance on your products, or to make simple mistakes that can have expensive consequences. You’re also less likely to be able to serve customers by telling them why their shipment is late, or to have transparency into your supply chain needed to identify points of friction.
5. Boost intrinsic motivation
The most productive people are those who are intrinsically motivated to do their jobs. Dangling hardly significant bonuses in front of people’s faces to reach an arbitrary benchmark will only encourage them to work hard in short bursts for a small fee.
Dangling hardly significant bonuses in front of people’s faces to reach an arbitrary benchmark will only encourage them to work hard in short bursts for a small fee.
Instead, figure out how to motivate people intrinsically to work harder. Give them autonomy in their roles, and the ability to creatively think through obstacles to their success; allow for flexibility in the form of telecommuting; and help them identify higher purpose in their role. If people want to do their job for the intrinsic joy of it, they’ll be more productive than if they want to get money for doing their job, especially over the long term.
Whether your ecommerce suffers from ancient tools or dated mindsets, consider these improvements to day-to-day operations in order to get a leg up on competition that can’t innovate, pivot or change quickly enough.
What ways have you improved your store operations? Let us know in the comments!