5 Key Steps to Scale Your E-Commerce Business

September 28, 2022
by Alyssa von Bornhoft

E-commerce activity grew by 44% in 2020, compared to 15% just one year earlier. Ok, there was a global pandemic and most brick and mortar stores closed temporarily, but still. It’s been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But, what if that dog was forced to stay home and had no other choice than to buy his treats online? What if all dogs had to suddenly buy their treats online at the same time

This may seem like a bit of a stretch considering dogs don’t have thumbs. But, the events of 2020 forced retail businesses to consider how they would manage the sudden surge in online demand. The truth is, many couldn’t. In fact, the 2020 American Customer Satisfaction Index was at its lowest point since 2013 meaning that consumers who turned toward making their purchases online weren’t particularly happy with their experiences. It should come as no surprise that consumers – or a lack thereof – will make or break a business and this year. E-commerce sales are projected to account for 20.3% of all retail sales worldwide, underlining just how crucial the customer experience is for online shoppers. 

Learn from the Mistakes of Others

One study found that 88% of consumers won’t return to a website if they have a terrible experience. If your e-commerce business sees a sudden surge in online demand and your infrastructure can’t handle it, it will cost you consumers and in turn, sales. Amazon learned this lesson the hard way. Back in 2018, their website couldn’t cope with the surge in Prime Day web traffic. Customers looking to make online purchases received an error page, were redirected to the homepage or simply couldn’t checkout. The outage lasted for about an hour and during this time, the website took up to 30 seconds to load. When it comes to e-commerce, website speed is key. In fact, 53% of people will abandon your site entirely, or bounce, if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Because Amazon’s website wasn’t prepared to handle the surge in traffic, it was estimated that it may have cost them as much as $1,000,000 per minute.

How to Scale Your E-Commerce Business 

Scaling your digital operations to cope with any spikes in online traffic is essential to the long-term success of your e-commerce brand. It’s also a vital step in making your e-commerce business grow without having to work 24/7 to do it. By keeping scalability at the forefront of your digital transformation strategy, you will be more responsive, adaptable and resilient. With this in mind, below we’ll show the key steps you need to follow to scale your e-commerce business. These tips are designed to ensure that you’re working smarter, not harder in building an e-commerce brand you’re proud of.

1. Evaluate Where You Stand, Plan for What’s to Come

Is your business ready for growth? Before anything else, you’ll want to outline everything about your business – and we mean everything. Take a hard look inside your brand and evaluate all aspects of where you stand right now. If you don’t know where you stand, how could you possibly know how to get where you want to go?  Remember that the goal of scaling your business is to grow your brand while providing consumers with an experience that will keep them coming back for more. By evaluating your business from the inside out, you can pinpoint areas of opportunity and plan your next moves accordingly.

2. Don’t Overlook Your Website

Your website is the first point of contact consumers have with your e-commerce business. It’s the first impression your brand makes on potential customers. In the real world, you have about 7 seconds to leave a good impression on someone after meeting them. Online? Well that’s a whole different ball game. One study showed that it takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form their first opinion of your e-commerce brand. And, just another 2.6 seconds for them make a conscious decision about that opinion.

How could anyone possibly ensure they’re making a positive impression on visitors with such little time? Well, besides the obvious ‘make sure your website is free of grammatical errors and make sure your promotions are current. Here are some other things you may want to consider based on user feedback: 

  • 94% of a website’s first impressions are based on its visuals and design
  • Around 38% of visitors to a website will stop engaging if the layout or content is unappealing
  • 75% of website credibility comes from design
  • 39% of visitors will leave a website if an image is taking too long to load
  • 44% of internet users will leave a website if the homepage doesn’t contain a company’s contact details
  • 74% of users are more likely to return to a site if it’s mobile-friendly

Every step your brand takes toward e-commerce growth should be done with the customer experience in mind and your website is a crucial step to ensuring it’s a great one. 

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Invest in Automation 

If the point of scaling your e-commerce business is to grow your brand without having to work around the clock, it just makes sense that you will need to hand off some of the more basic tasks involved in keeping your e-commerce business running. Consider how much time you spend on things like designing (and maintaining) your website, creating content and advertising, not to mention the operational tasks like production, packing/shipping items and customer service – and the list goes on and on… Well, a study found that 79% of businesses report using automation for marketing, 45% say automation is used by sales only, while 33% of businesses say that their finance department also uses automation.Just think of all the areas in which you can invest in automation and how much your business will thrive when you can have someone – or something – doing the repetitive stuff for you.  

The bottom line here is that as your business grows, you won’t be able to do everything yourself, and you shouldn’t. According to IBM, 61% of companies are currently using automation software and tools, globally. Whether you use automation software or hire employees to help (or both!), the idea is to cut down on self-fulfilment. It simply takes up way too much of your time that would be better spent focussing on areas that will build your e-commerce business. Yes, paying for software and outsourcing will cost you a little extra, but you’ll quickly see its value when compared to the projected revenue from scaling your e-commerce brand.

4. Spread the Word

Once your site is as pretty as it can be, and you have all the tools in place to handle a surge in traffic, the next step for scaling your e-commerce business is to work on your marketing strategy and focus on promoting your brand. How are you going to attract consumers to your website if they don’t know it exists? Marketing strategies are different for every business, but the idea here is to outline what your e-commerce business does, how you do it, who you do it for and build on that. Generally speaking, you usually can’t go wrong with incentivizing potential consumers to drive traffic to your website.

Check out: Facebook Ads Audience Targeting: 10 Tips for Your E-Commerce Brand and 5 Successful Instagram Giveaway Ideas (and How to Create Your Own) for some examples, tips and tricks to promote your e-commerce brand on social media.

5. Don’t Skimp on Customer Service

Customers are what ultimately determine the success of an e-commerce business – they’re your bread and butter. Without customers, companies won’t get very far, so it’s important to keep them happy. And how do businesses keep their customers happy? With excellent customer service, of course! In fact, about 96% of customers admit that customer service is important in their choice to remain loyal to a brand. On the flip side of that coin, a customer is four times more likely to switch to a competitor if the issue they’re experiencing is service-based, and considering the cost of acquiring a new customer is exponentially higher than retaining an existing one demonstrates the importance of customer service. Simply put, good customer service means happier customers; happier customers means increased profitability for your e-commerce brand.

Bonus: Remember the importance of word of mouth? Well, 94% of American customers will recommend a business whose service they rate as “very good”. So, if you focus on creating quality customer service for your consumers, they’ll help you do the work in creating that buzz. Win-win!

Ready to Scale Your E-Commerce Business?

Scaling your e-commerce business is never really finished – it requires continued effort. As the market continues to grow and adapt, so should you. With this in mind, though, if you’re thinking about scaling your e-commerce business, you’re already on the right track to success. Scaling your e-commerce business will allow you to effectively handle any surges in online traffic, keep your customers happy and it will give you peace of mind knowing that not only are you working for your business, but that your business is working for you. By using the key steps outlined above – and  our help – you can scale your e-commerce business to create a more efficient and consumer-friendly product that you’re happy to call your own.

About the author: Alyssa has spent the majority of her career specializing in the Accounting sector of Affiliate Marketing. With a persistent urge to learn new things, Alyssa returned to McGill University in Montreal, Canada in her 30s to study Public Relations and Communications Management where she discovered a passion for writing – and she hasn’t looked back!

Her interests include adventuring in the great outdoors, cooking up a storm, and not sitting still. She aspires to take a million pictures of her Siberian Husky/Saint Bernard mix, Jax, and is probably getting pretty close.

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