When you first thought of running an e-commerce site, all you could think about was the money. While there is plenty of it to be made, there’s also plenty of hassles to go around. After you’ve met all of the regulatory requirements for running an online business, you then have to contend with a multitude of time-wasting activities. Everything from IT management to product creation and distribution – here’s how to keep your business from running you.
Using Apps to Save Time
Some of the best small business tools are actually web applications. For example, Creately helps you visualize company plans by creating a flowchart and diagramming your company’s future. By doing this, you’re able to create clear visual representations of ideas. More than that, the app is collaborative, so others in your company can help you piece together complex projects and tasks.
ZenDesk has earned a reputation for being one of the best customer support apps on the market. All companies need a customer service department, but putting one together online can be a challenge. ZenDesk runs entirely in the cloud and helps agents track support calls, which in turn helps your customer service department better, understand the status of the assistance being given and what steps are needed to solve customer problems and challenges.
Looking for a way to improve employee performance? Work.com’s app presents the gamification of work. The app is designed to help you gauge discernible achievements on the job. As a result, you can help employees reach benchmarks, set challenging, but achievable goals, and improve company-wide productivity.
Content Management Systems
To manage the variety of content you want to publish with ease, try using a content management system. Some shopping carts and e-commerce platforms include integrated CMS systems in their features. CMS systems can maintain current content across all of your media platforms.
For example, if you change a price or product description, it will be available in all your output feeds. A CMS enables you to distribute creative material for various promotions along your social media , ads, landing pages and websites. CMS also allows any of your content writers to edit all relevant content in a single place.
CMS systems are available with various prices and functionality, from free to expensive, with features that are basic to quite intricate. Drupal, EPiServer, Ektron, and Adobe are popular solutions for e-commerce businesses.
Smaller businesses can use a marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, Eloqua, Marketo, or Silverpop to manage their outbound and inbound content programs. These products, which originally became popular in B2B marketing, are useful in B2C marketing now. These platforms allow businesses to manage and deliver content to blogs, social media accounts, and email using a single, seamless platform.
You wouldn’t sit down to write a book or article without creating an outline, yet many small businesses try to develop software programs, products, and new services on the fly without a plan. Before you dive headlong into a project, you should sit down and create a plan that takes you from concept to prototype to the finished product.
By outlining projects, you gain a better, more focused, idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve. This becomes increasingly important for team projects where you may have up to 10 different people working towards the same end-goal.
A great way to get started with outlining is by using a service like Basecamp. Basecamp allows you to create projects, manage workflow, and gain insights from all members on a team. It also has a built-in white board so that all members can contribute to the project in a “free-flow” form.
One of the biggest challenges for e-commerce businesses is keeping track of their inventory. Luckily, a number of viable options exist for businesses both large and small that can save many headaches. According to the 2013 Sellers Choice Awards, conducted by ecommercebytes.com, here are the top inventory control tools available today:
- Kyozou – This program, which came in first place, supports eBay, eBay Motors and Amazon, came in first place, earning perfect scores in reliability and customer service. Kyozou is easy to use, and integrates seamlessly with PayPal. Refunds display in your reports, so you don’t have to go back and do 1099 reconciliation later. The flat monthly fee is affordable for any sized business.
- Monsoon Stone Edge – With multi-channel support, Monsoon Stone Edge is easy to use, reliable and comes with stellar customer service. It has a variety of helpful features, but it is more expensive than Kyozou. Even so, customers are happy with this powerful program.
- SixBit Software – Founded by the creator of Blackthorne Software, which eBay recently acquired, SixBit supports eBay and bidStart, receiving the highest customer service score, with high scores also in reliability, ease of use and features. Although it takes time to set up, listing is quite simple. However, customers would like to see it support other venues, such as Amazon and Etsy.
- Stitch Labs – With support for Amazon, Etsy, BigCommerce and Shopify, Stitch Labs received its highest score for customer service, followed closely by the features offered and reliability. It costs more than most, but customers found it a great help for managing their inventory with ease.
Use Contractors to Help You Save Time
Employees are great, but they’re also expensive. To minimize costs and manage your e-commerce site more efficiently , try hiring independent contractors to fill in the gaps temporarily. An independent contractor doesn’t receive retirement benefits, and you don’t have to pay for unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation and health insurance.
They just show up for the job and do the work outlined in their work contract. Plus, you don’t have to keep them on for longer than you need them. So, you can scale up or down as needed without worrying about making huge financial commitments that you may or may not be able to keep in the future. Some of the larger freelancer sites include oDesk and Elance, where you can find a variety of professionals for any job you need completed.