Overall online sales in the U.S. increased 15% in the third quarter, a sure sign of its increasing importance as more and more consumers shop online.
As ecommerce continues to grow, individual retailers must learn to accurately gauge when and how to expand their own digital offerings. Companies like Circuit City and Borders ultimately failed because of their inability to make the right investments at the right time. They were simply unable to scale responsibly to meet customer’s digital needs. Growth is a challenge for any retailer or brand, so it’s important to know when it’s safe or when it can seriously damage the health of the business.
Evolving from an early stage brand to a fully established ecommerce brand is no small task. While it’s important to think outside the box and innovate, it’s easy for everything to unravel quickly during periods of rapid growth if you ignore your brand’s roots and culture. After all, it is your original idea and simple value proposition that made your business so successful in the first place. What’s more, many business owners fail to give up aspects of their company’s ecommerce operations.
As you continue to work toward your 2016 goals, invest in the right tools and partners in order to foster growth, but never forget your brand’s beginnings.
Remember your roots
All of the changes and decisions you make boil down to one thing: Meeting customer’s needs. Ultimately, the company you created was designed with a simple value proposition and customer persona in mind. Many growing brands fail to keep their customers in mind throughout these periods of change and expansion in their ecommerce business.
Everything from site design to your marketing initiatives needs to be done with your brand’s roots in mind. When daily operations get complicated and you face tough decisions, ask yourself if the steps you’re taking will meet the needs of your customer and improve the product or service you offer.
Focus on your culture
Your team is the backbone of what you’ve been able to accomplish so far as a brand. And the culture you promote is what matters most when it comes to retaining happy and healthy employees. It’s difficult to convince customers that your brand’s growth and innovation is exciting if your employees are not equally as excited about their everyday jobs. If your employees become static and burnt out, this attitude will be reflected in the work your teams produce, which ultimately hinders the very innovation needed to make your brand grow.
Bigger sometimes is better
Implementing new processes and structures doesn’t always mean that creativity stops flowing; it simply means you’re willing to foster growth. Even though certain processes need to be in place as you grow quickly, don’t limit yourself within a narrow perspective of how things can and should be done.
For example, emerging brands may hesitate to invest in new technology or alter company structures in favor of allowing creativity to flourish. But sometimes large technology investments and new overall strategies are necessary to manage big projects, new marketing initiatives or growing inventory. Let the big processes and systems do their work while you and your team continue to innovate.
Don’t be afraid to outsource
At one point you may have handled shipping and packaging internally, dropping everything to make sure all orders were fulfilled. As you grow, however, you may no longer be able to operate like this. Looking to a third-party distribution partner is one possible step towards growing your business. By outsourcing this part of your business, you can focus on innovation in other areas.
When it comes to scaling up your business, it’s important to outsource parts of it while remaining true to who you are. Allow technology, processes and partners to help you manage growth so you and your team can focus on the customers and culture that helped get your brand where it is today. Scaling responsibly can be difficult, but with the right strategies all brands can do so successfully.
Maria Haggerty is CEO of Dotcom Distribution