As you grow your e-commerce business, keeping it agile becomes a challenge. Here’s how you can keep your business agile, even while growing.
Scaling a company is hard, but scaling successfully is even harder. This is especially true for e-commerce businesses. There are countless tools that make it easier for even the smallest brands and retailers to make their mark, but growing a business to its potential is another story. Maintaining open communication, an atmosphere that fosters creativity and collaboration, and utilizing the right technology are essential to ensuring your e-commerce business stays agile as it grows.
Keep Communication Open
When you start a business, you’re in “hustle mode,” constantly aware and editing every facet of your startup to ensure its success. As you begin to scale your online storefront, however, you realize that you can’t do it all yourself. Long gone are the days of packing and fulfilling orders on your kitchen table. You need a dedicated team to handle the day-to-day activities so you focus on the bigger vision you have for your business. But as you grow your team from two or ten to dozens and even hundreds of employees, that hyperaware mentality that helped you grow your company isn’t as easy to maintain. So how do you regain a sense of direction?
The first step: avoid hierarchies within your company. When every piece of information is filtered through executives and other management roles, important material and messages can be lost. The open flow of communication will ensure that team members across all departments—from inventory and logistics to digital marketing and customer service—not only know shared objectives but that they take the initiative to achieve the same goals within their own teams.
Also, when critical information isn’t shared at a high level, fear, doubt, and a lack of trust may develop amongst employees. When they’re not privy to company announcements, new product launches, and the general state of the business, your team members may even feel underappreciated. By streamlining the flow of communication, your staff will not only be better informed but know that their role in the organization is acknowledged.
Collaborate and Create
The dissemination of information alone isn’t enough to keep your e-commerce business moving in the right direction. You have to trust your team members to collaborate effectively, which becomes more difficult as your company grows. The “divide and conquer” methods may work for small projects, but every employee should understand your company’s big-picture goals.
By cultivating an environment that not only accepts collaboration but encourages it, your team members will be more likely to share their ideas. They’ll work together to solve problems and create solutions that they would not have discovered on their own.
But how do you foster a truly collaborative, cross-department workplace? Start by giving teams reasons to interact with each other. Does your customer service team need a Twitter account to answer customer questions and receive feedback? Get your marketing gurus to create an account and write social media posts. Organize brainstorming sessions between various team and departments. Building these relationships will not only be the start of successful projects but lay the foundation for future collaborations.
Use Technology Thoughtfully
The right tools and platforms are essential to the growth of an e-commerce business and play an important role in initiating and maintaining long-distance partnerships with manufacturers, sellers, and new customers. Video conferencing allows stakeholders, partners, and vendors to talk to each other on a moment’s notice, even if they’re thousands of miles apart, while cloud services allow employees scattered in offices around the country to work on the same product launch or other projects in real-time.
An over-reliance on technology can be a con, however. The implementation of too many tools or systems can overwhelm your team, delay information relay, and slow down productivity, which ultimately can restrict the growth of your business. By integrating multi-functional platforms that work with legacy and other systems and properly training your team, you’ll avoid many of the pitfalls that come with helpful—but often confusing—tech tools.
As you grow your e-commerce business, be sure to maintain the “startup mode” you developed in the early days and carry it through as your company evolves. This is easier said than done, of course, but by keeping the doors of communication open, fostering a collaborative work environment, and using the right technology, your business has a better chance of scaling to its full potential.
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