The e-commerce industry is experiencing growth at a staggering rate, requiring online retailers of all sizes to prepare to scale their offerings. A 2013 report published by Forrester Research states that online shoppers in the U.S. will spend $327 billion in 2016, a 45 percent increase from 2012. Additionally, the report says that the majority of growth is a result of e-commerce sites improving their services and websites. Growth in any industry is a good thing, but it is essential that it is approached and managed correctly.
To effectively and efficiently manage the burgeoning online economy, all e-commerce professionals should be preparing to scale their business. By following the lead of the most successful and innovative e-commerce companies, you can boost your own offerings and effectively increase your revenue. It is no secret that industry titans rely on remote or outsourced employees. What is less talked about, however, is that you can and should be preparing to do the same.
When you're managing thousands of products and vendors, standing out among your competition can prove to be very difficult. Identifying, documenting, tracking and ultimately outsourcing these three highly repetitive core e-commerce business competencies will make you stand out in the saturated market, and allow you to focus on growing and managing your business:
Using customized product descriptions will separate you from competitors and will help improve your SEO and brand memorability. Product descriptions are an easy way to personify your brand, helping you connect with every customer in a more engaging and intimate way, increasing brand advocacy. Nasty Gal, a wildly successful and relatively new online shopping site that sells new and vintage clothing and accessories and sold nearly $100 million last year, appeals to its target audience through its anomalous and engaging product descriptions. Nasty Gal never strays from its brand, cultivating a community of loyal and engaged online shoppers.
Customized product descriptions help foster brand loyalty in your current customers and improves your site's SEO resulting in new customers. Writing customized, unique and memorable product descriptions in-house is a time-consuming and labor-intensive task -- one that is perfect to outsource.
In the absence of a brick and mortar store with company logos on every product, it's hard for e-commerce companies to customize and brand products. Retouching, editing and making every photo that goes on your site uniformed is essential to establishing your company's brand. HauteLook, an online destination for flash sales, brands every photo that goes on its site. Every product is recognizable as a HauteLook product from its photo. All photos on the site go through a rigorous retouching procedure, including making all backgrounds completely white, removing any imperfections on the product, correcting skin blemishes on the models and minimizing reflections from the photographer. Companies like HauteLook scale by first solidifying its photo branding standard, and subsequently outsourcing to trained photo retouchers.
Retouching photos is a laborious task, but it is necessary because it brands your site in a way that people will remember and prefer over other sites' inconsistent, inferior product photos. Outsourcing photo retouching for you product photos will allow you to scale your business and manage increases in product volume without sacrificing your brand.
Today, providing quick and effective customer support is a far more complex challenge than simply determining whether to outsource or keep in-house. Innovative companies are now tapping into outside services to manage their customer support programs. Gilt, a site that provides customers insider access to top designer labels at a discount, utilizes Zendesk to streamline its customer support.
Additionally, many companies are using tiered customer support systems with centers in the U.S. and outsourced centers overseas. Incoming requests are quickly assessed and then filtered to the appropriate call center or customer service representative that is optimized for the inquiry. Centers in the U.S. speak with customers that have more complex or volatile inquiries, whereas remote or outsourced employees field emails that can be resolved quickly and require less subjectivity. Utilizing outsourced employees is ideal for tiered customer support because those employees can handle the simple requests that often bog down customer queues and distract U.S.-based customer support agents, resulting in much shorter wait times without sacrificing the quality of service you're providing.
The takeaway from this article should not be, "I need to outsource immediately! Not every company is at the point in its growth to look outside of its internal team; however, every single e-commerce company should utilize these strategies today to ensure it is optimized for rapid growth tomorrow. The key is to develop and document your process for each, and then determine how best to maximize and streamline those processes. The most successful e-commerce companies use outsourcing as a competitive advantage, allowing them to focus on innovation. To position yourself and your company for success, you need to plan for the future. Start now.