For almost every eCommerce owner, there comes a time when day-to-day management of your business becomes a daunting task. There’s just so much to take care of, and all of it needs to happen ASAP. On top of the usual challenges of running any kind of retail business, you also need to deal with challenges unique to the online environment. It doesn’t really get easier either. When your business grows, it becomes more and more challenging.
Luckily, this isn’t a helpless situation. There are a number of tools and strategies you can implement to make eCommerce management easier. When used to their full potential, you’ll be able to make your daily tasks more effective and, at the same time, make improvements to the big-picture profitability of your business.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges in eCommerce management and the ways you can make your life easier when tackling them.
What is eCommerce management?
If you ask 10 people to define the general concept of management, you’ll probably get 10 very different answers. eCommerce management, specifically, is no different; everyone understands it in their own unique way. Because of this, let’s first establish what I mean by the term to make sure we’re on the same page.
For the purpose of this article, “eCommerce management” means the process of overseeing and operating an eCommerce business. It encompasses a wide range of day-to-day activities and responsibilities aimed at making both workflows on your side and the user experience of your clients run smoothly.
The daily grind of operational execution is the backbone of effective eCommerce management. But how can you approach it the right way? “Somehow, I manage” might work for Michael Scott, but it won’t get you very far in the real world. First, you’ll need to develop the right tools and approaches for the job, and this is where I hope this article will come in handy for you.
Leveraging technology in eCommerce management
You’re probably all too aware that making your eCommerce business run as smooth as butter isn’t easy, but you don’t need to be alone in this task. The market offers many different tools that you can implement in your ecosystem to take a large part of this work off your shoulders. Once put into their designated spots, these solutions can come together into an eCommerce manager’s dashboard of sorts. This synergy can hugely improve your efficiency in handling day-to-day tasks while also opening up new opportunities to develop your business. Let’s explore some of them now.
1. Order management and processing
Challenge: efficiently processing and fulfilling customer orders
A lot can go wrong when you move through the different steps between a customer placing an order and it arriving at their doorstep. There are a lot of moving parts, potential bottlenecks, and opportunities for human error along the way. As your eCommerce business grows, so do these risks.
Solution: order management system
Implementing an order management system (OMS), like Fluent Commerce, can be a lifesaver when you’re dealing with this kind of problem. The software provides a centralized platform for managing orders from multiple sales channels, such as online stores, mobile apps, and even physical stores. It simplifies and automates order processing, reduces errors, and enhances the customer experience.
2. Marketing and customer loyalty
Challenge: attracting and retaining customers
In a fiercely competitive eCommerce landscape, you can’t take your customers for granted. If you’re hoping for them to continue buying at your store, then it isn’t enough to, well, simply hope. You need to keep reaching out to them proactively with attractive offers and keep building the relationship in other ways. Doing it all by hand is almost impossible, so it becomes more and more crucial to implement customer loyalty tools.
Solution: customer loyalty platforms
Loyalty platforms, such as Open Loyalty and Talon.one, that you can integrate with your eCommerce infrastructure are proven methods of boosting your customer retention. They enable you to create personalized and engaging experiences in a variety of ways that you can choose from. For instance, you can reward loyal customers with points, discounts, or special offers based on their preferences and purchase history.
Implementing a loyalty platform eliminates guesswork from the activities you perform. No matter which specific platform you choose, it will certainly come with some form of module that collects valuable data about customer behavior, preferences, and purchase history. By analyzing this data, you gain insights into what works and what doesn't in your loyalty program. You can then adjust your strategies to optimize customer retention and increase sales.
3. Logistics and shipping
Challenge: optimizing delivery, keeping shipping costs low, and tracking shipments
The harsh reality of the eCommerce business is that, in most cases, there’s no way to escape being compared to Amazon. This is especially apparent when it comes to how efficient they are in shipping purchases to clients. Obviously, there’s no realistic way that you’ll be able to establish the massive network of warehouses and couriers that they have at their disposal. That doesn’t change the fact that this is what your customers are used to.
Keeping this in mind, you can’t afford your shipping process to be subpar. Any delay, insufficient information, or other inconvenience can result in the customer not coming back. That’s easier said than done. There’s a lot that goes into making the shipping process run smoothly, and it can be a massive challenge for any eCommerce manager.
Solution: shipping management platforms
Shipping management solutions, like ShipperHQ and Shipstation, are designed to streamline and optimize the shipping and logistics processes of eCommerce businesses. They integrate seamlessly with all sorts of eCommerce platforms, marketplaces, and OMSs. They automatically import order data, including shipping addresses, order details, and customer information, and oversee each stage of the shipping process.
One of the key quality-of-life improvements that these platforms introduce is the ability to connect with multiple shipping carriers, such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL, through APIs. This integration allows businesses to access real-time shipping rates, print shipping labels, and generate tracking numbers. The whole process happens either fully or nearly automatically, which saves you time and greatly reduces the risk of human error.
On your customers’ side, shipping management platforms provide real-time tracking information for shipments. Customers and businesses can monitor the status of their packages. This improves transparency and reduces customer inquiries.
4. Product information management
Challenge: creating and managing product listings, descriptions, and attributes
Making purchases online always comes with some degree of risk for the customer. When they can’t see the product in person and touch it with their own hands, each transaction comes down to a small leap of faith that everything will turn out okay. That’s why the quality of product information that you offer is such a big deal. It’s often the deciding factor in whether a visitor decides to trust your store and complete the transaction or not.
Robust descriptions, precise attributes, such as size or technical details, and clear pictures are all elements that you should ideally include. But as your inventory grows, trying to keep all of this in order, accurate, and up to date can become quite a challenge.
Solution: a PIM system
A product information management (PIM) system, such as Pimcore, serves as a centralized repository for all your product information. It lets you consolidate data from various sources, including suppliers, manufacturers, and internal teams, into a single, unified platform. This ensures that your product data is consistent, accurate, and up to date.
Pimcore supports data enrichment through automation and data import capabilities. You can refine your product data by automatically pulling in information from trusted sources, such as manufacturer databases or industry-specific data providers. It also comes with data validation and cleaning tools to maintain data quality and consistency. It allows you to set validation rules, detect and correct errors, and enforce data standards across your entire product catalog.
5. Product discovery
Challenge: making your products visible
Even the very best product information won’t get you far if your customers don’t know that the product exists in your store at all. This is another common challenge in eCommerce management that can have a big impact on your bottom line.
Solution: search and recommendation tools
There are three aspects that come together in eCommerce discovery. As you’ll see, they synergize with one another quite well, meaning that, in most cases, when you make improvements to one of them, you’re also indirectly improving the other two.
First, you need to make sure that the search engine that supports your website is in order. We’re not talking about Google and the likes here; what I mean is your internal search solution, such as Algolia or Constructor. On the one hand, you need to consider their features. For instance, you might be interested in Algolia’s AI and natural language processing (NLP) capabilities. On the other hand, you also need to take care of the data that they’re searching through by paying attention to keywords, tags, and so on. A PIM solution will be a big help in this area.
From a marketing perspective, the search function is as straightforward as it can get. A customer knows they want a certain product, and you just help them find it. But what if they haven’t reached that point yet?
This is where a recommendation tool that provides personalized suggestions of related or complementary products can be a big help. They usually lean heavily on users’ behavior within your store, but they aren’t constrained to just that. Modern recommendation engines can take advantage of AI, machine learning (ML), and all the other trendy acronyms while also leveraging data from outside of your ecosystem, including market trends, competitors’ activities, the weather, and so on.
Finally, you shouldn’t forget about SEO to keep bringing a steady stream of new visitors. The synergy effect mentioned before comes into play in a big way here. When you make improvements to product information for the purposes of internal search and recommendations, you’re generally making it SEO-friendly at the same time. However, it’s still worth verifying if everything is set up properly in terms of headline structure and so on with, for instance, SEMRush.
6. Website performance
Challenge: ensuring your website is fast, secure, and reliable
In the early days of eCommerce and the internet as a whole, users were ready to forgive a lot. We didn’t know any better than janky, slow-loading websites and questionable encryption. However, the general level of sophistication has evolved a lot, and users’ expectations have increased accordingly. As a society, we’re becoming more and more impatient, and our attention spans keep falling.
As a result of those factors, you usually only get a single chance to make a good impression on visitors. That’s why you need to make sure that, on the technical level, you’ll be able to consistently serve a great experience. High page loading speed, optimized user experience (UX), and security are all contributing factors.
Solution: composable architecture
There are a number of tweaks and fixes, both big and small, that you can apply to your website and eCommerce ecosystem to improve their performance. The concrete steps depend on the specific solutions that you use, so listing them all here makes little sense. There is, however, a big chance that you’ll be able to find tips applicable to your system in one of our eBooks.
That said, there’s a big chance that those fixes will end up as only band-aids. If you’re looking for more spectacular results and to future-proof your business, you might want to look into migrating your eCommerce infrastructure to a composable model. This article can help you decide if your business is already at the stage when such a project makes sense.
eCommerce management doesn’t have to be difficult
There’s much to accomplish in terms of optimizing your day-to-day managerial duties with modern eCommerce technology. The tools mentioned here can help you streamline repetitive and time-consuming processes and open up new strategic possibilities at the same time. They’ll free up much of your valuable time that you’ll be able to spend on strategic matters instead.
Implementing those tools doesn’t have to be a huge project either. Each business faces its own set of challenges and has different priorities, so there’s probably no need for you to go for all of them at once. You’re free to pick and choose those that respond to your unique needs, and implement them one by one in any time frame that works for you. In case you need help with picking the optimal tools for you or implementing them on technical and business levels, make sure to get in touch with us.
Published October 17, 2023