One thing I learned running my ecommerce jewelry business for 10 years was that I was never done. There was seemingly always something new I should be working on.
I suspect many other merchants feel similarly. But it’s important to ask if you are working on the right things. Are you investing time and money into projects that will help achieve your business objectives? Do you know what your business objectives are?
Importance of Strategy
If you were to travel from Colorado to Canada, for example, would you leave without doing some planning? Probably not. You would likely want to determine:
- The best route;
- How long it will take;
- What supplies you need;
- Customs or visa requirements.
If you want to grow your online revenues in 2013 by 30 percent, how will you do that? Ask the same types of questions, such as the following.
- More revenue from existing customers?
- Increase average order value?
- Sell through new channels?
- Acquire more new customers through outbound marketing campaigns?
- Lower your prices to steal business from competitors?
- All of the above?
The point is, make a plan. At least think and strategize even if you don’t develop a concrete business plan, which is always best, by the way.
- Conduct a SWOT analysis. Assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of where you are today.
- Review your overall vision. Where do you want to be in 5 to 10 years?
- Establish business objectives. For the current year, establish objectives for sales, profits, customers, traffic, new systems, and new staff.
- Choose your strategies. These are broad ideas of how to achieve objectives.
Time Well Spent
All of this will take time, but it will be worth it. Continually reflect on things that come out of your SWOT analysis. It generally presents the opportunities you should pursue and the weaknesses that you have in your business.
- Focus on reducing your weaknesses and building on your strengths.
- Mitigate the risks you observe from external threats. Those are usually supply chain, competitive, or traffic related.
- Evaluate going after the external opportunities. Those are frequently where your primary investment of time and money should be made
Review your product strategies, website, supply chain, customer support, fulfillment, and finances. In other words, review your entire business, not just a single part. Making a change in your online store may impact your operations or resources in another area.
Involve Entire Team
Assemble your management group from all departments and plan projects as a team for a half or full day. My company calls this “Discovery Project.” Having all the stakeholders involved will help provide a more comprehensive view of your company and market. Create a vision and business objectives the same day. Meet again a few days later and review alternate strategies to achieve those objectives. Set aside another week for the various teams to evaluate the impact of various strategies.
Develop strategies in the following areas of your ecommerce business.
- Customer experience. Everything from finding your store to post-sales support.
- Product strategies. What is your product mix, pricing, and sourcing?
- Ecommerce platform and systems. Is your platform supporting the right customer experience? Are your systems automated and integrated at a level to support your processes?
- Business processes. How efficient are your operations? What are areas of improvement, training, or better oversight?
- Channels. Are you reaching all the target customers with your current online store? Should you add marketplaces? International markets?
Areas of Improvement
As you go through this process, you likely will quickly identify areas for improvement. A good SWOT analysis may expose it during the first day.
For many merchants, customer experience enhancements will be the main emphasis. Whether you just launched a store or are running one that has not changed in three years, you should have a list of improvements to make. Prioritize those improvements that will help you achieve your business objectives. If you want to sell more to existing customers, you may need investments in merchandising and personalization. If your goal is to acquire more new customers, you may want to focus on new landing pages and search engine optimization.
In short, seek continuous improvement.