4 Ways to Responsibly Scale Your E-Commerce Brand
Choosing how and when to scale their e-commerce operations is an increasingly important, and difficult, decision for retailers. While more consumers are shopping online, not every retailer should be swept up in the excitement. In a classic Goldilocks scenario, some growth opportunities are too hot while some are too cold. Brands must understand their customer and what their shopping cycle looks like before investing more resources into e-commerce. To avoid spreading themselves thin, retailers need a strategy that's just right for their business goals and the needs of their customers.
As an e-tailer, you should consider scaling in ways that cater to your specific e-commerce offerings and boost your brand’s health. Consider these four tips:
1. Stay true to your brand voice. From your digital marketing efforts to how your website functions, an e-commerce presence should be an extension of the branding you have in place, not an entirely new version that alienates loyal customers. This means using similar layouts, photography and your unique brand voice.
Remember that your loyal customers are excited about e-commerce and are happy to share content that resonates with their array of networks. These same customers will also be vocal when you stray from your brand, and will tell you exactly what he or she needs via social media or email. Their feedback will help innovate or even bring back favorite products from your brand’s past. By listening to your customers, you stay aware of their evolving wants and needs.
No matter how big your company grows, it’s your original value proposition that consumers respond to and often come back for. While it’s important to push boundaries and keep shoppers engaged, every new channel added to your business has to meet the original needs of your customers and complement the products and services you already offer.
2. Pay attention to your company culture. During times of growth, don’t neglect the health of your internal team. Company culture is powerful. If your employees are happy, their happiness can be used as a sales tool. Modern consumers want to know your company, its employees and what they're up to so they can feel like a part of your brand culture. This means that from the inside out, your employees are responsible for conveying your brand’s experience and intentions. As you hire more team members to handle your growing needs, ensure that old and new employees connect, feel inspired and grow together so that their commitment sustains your expansion.
3. Know when it’s time to outsource. Don’t spread yourself thin and do everything alone when you should ask for help. This may be a tough to realize, but asking for help will encourage workplace efficiencies. For example, while you may have been responsible for fulfilling your online orders in the past, transitioning to working with a third-party fulfillment company will allow you to focus on doing what you do best and chase new opportunities for growth.
Letting go of aspects of your brand can be scary, but you have to find balance between your own contributions and knowledge of your company and how you allow others to manage your growth.
4. Think big. Rewards are often the result of taking risks. While investing in new technologies or updating company operations may take time and force institutional adjustments, these changes are often absolutely necessary to scale successfully. This strong operational foundation will situate your team with the resources and systems needed to tackle more creative projects or to handle larger, more exciting inventories. As the e-commerce industry expands, you should always be thinking of new ways your own brand can innovate.
Scaling for e-commerce isn’t easy. The industry has seen even well-established retailers like Borders and Circuit City fall victim to the changing nature of 21st century sales when they were unable to adjust their operations enough and at the right time.
To avoid a similar fate, make sure that your growth decisions are based in strategy and place value on the brand you’ve built thus far. With the right infrastructure, steady growth and a loyal following, you've got the foundation in place for sustained e-commerce success.
Maria is CEO and co-founder of Dotcom Distribution, where she has played an integral role in developing and defining all aspects of the operation, including sales and marketing, operations, finance and IT. Her strategic leadership helps the Board and senior management to establish long-range goals, strategies, plans, and policies. Maria has developed the systemic and procedural infrastructure necessary to provide timely and accurate analysis of budgets, financial reports and financial trends in order to assist the Board, senior executives and clients in performing their responsibilities. Maria holds a CPA. Prior to founding Dotcom, she began her career as an Auditor at Arthur Andersen and was the CFO of GoodTimes Home Video.