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6 Challenges Of Running an eCommerce Store And How To Overcome Them

6 Challenges Of Running an eCommerce Store And How To Overcome Them

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

7 years ago

6 Challenges Of Running an eCommerce Store And How To Overcome Them

Starting an eCommerce website, whether for gluten-free cookies or premium WordPress plugins, is a bit of a doozy once you start realizing the problems that can eventually arise. And let me tell you, problems always arise.

It seems like smooth sailing at first, sitting back and seeing the cash roll in with an eCommerce site that you only have to set up and do nothing after, but the logistics of eCommerce websites are far more complicated than that.

You’ll run into hard times, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for the hard times and fight through them like the eCommerce champion you are.

Let’s take a look at some of the hardest parts of running an eCommerce store and how to overcome them in the future.

Starting Out With Low Sales

After pondering for ages on which is the best eCommerce platform, you’ve finally completed the construction of your online shop and even pushed the word out to a few outlets. Now it’s time to wait for your first 10, 50, or maybe 1,000 orders.

The only problem is that sales usually start low, very low, for brand new eCommerce sites. Unless you end up pitching your product on Shark Tank before you launch the website you can’t really expect many sales to move through the site.

How do you overcome this problem?

Focus on website perfection and marketing. Spend this time figuring out ways to make your core competencies clearer on the website and testing every component to prepare for the time when the sales start picking up. You’ll kick yourself if you just sit around the first few months, then once you get sales people are getting upset because the shopping cart doesn’t work half the time.

Marketing is also an obvious point to spend time on when your sales are low or stagnant. Think about optimizing your social media pages to boost sales through sites like Facebook. Hit the grind and start making calls to influence makers in the industry. Share free products and give them a chance to fall in love with your product.

Providing Enough Support for Customers (Fielding Angry People)

Many companies pride themselves on premium customer service, but working with online customers is a tad different, particularly when your site is bound to kick some dirt in their faces along the way.

Make a commitment to providing exceptional customer support through various different mediums. Customer support is such a pain for online retailers, but think about how frustrating it is when you have to sit on the phone with a company for hours. 

Customers have no problem yelling or posting horrible blogs about how your company “appalled them with the lack of service.” Yes, customers go overboard, but you can ease this drama with a few simple tips:

●     Offer multiple points of contact like email, phone, live chat, social media and forums.

●     Track your interactions so you know what each customer talked about last time you spoke.

●     Respond to inquiries quickly.

●     Offer promotions or freebies to talk people down.

●     Make the conversations personal. (Don’t sound like a robot in a faceless company.)

You Lose Sales Due to Carriers, Returns and Fraud

One of the unexpected burdens I hated when getting started with eCommerce was the glee I found from a sale being crushed by something unfortunate.

This happens when a carrier loses a package, a customer returns an item or a fraudulent purchase is made to try and take advantage of your company. It’s rare, but on occasion FedEx or UPS loses a package. The only solution is to bite the bullet and test to see which one is the least expensive in this regard.

Returns tie into customer service and following up with customers. Send out emails to figure out why they didn’t like the product, and maybe even offer them a discount for their next order.

Fraud is the biggest problem of them all. Imagine receiving an order for $10,000, jumping for joy and then shipping out the product only to learn the company or person just stole all that product from you. According to KissMetrics there are various ways to prevent eCommerce fraud, ranging from choosing the right eCommerce platform to maintaining files of past fraudulent charges. 

The short answer is to always research before shipping your items out, especially for the large orders. Use an automated system that cross-references purchasing and shipping information. Call the customer if you suspect fraud or if the area codes don’t match up.

Inventory Management

Another huge headache that comes with an eCommerce site is the overall inventory management. What happens when the holidays come along and you run out of your best selling product?

How will you respond if a customer orders twice as much as you can provide? 

The key to inventory management is staying organized. Do you know exactly how many shoes you have in-stock for each color and design? You should have a report run every single day to understand where your inventory stands.

Another primary factor is selecting a system that easily tags and manages every item you have in the store. You need a platform that lets you quickly change a page to Out of Stock and a product ID system to have a real-time view of your shelves. 

Competing With Sites Like Amazon

You may love Amazon while shopping for your family birthday presents, but when it comes to business, the tides turn quickly. It’s no secret Amazon has single-handedly crushed thousands of online businesses, so how can you compete?

Shopify provides a nice guide, but the goal is to differentiate your company by creating a niche that focuses on expertise and guidance. You can’t just sell a product that Amazon currently offers for cheaper, but you can make a site that includes blog posts, tutorials, videos and other guides to dominate the market.

People will stumble upon your site if they want to learn about a product, and they are often willing to pay a premium since you helped guide them.

Some other tips include selling products that only you create or choosing a mission that people can connect with. Charity comes to mind on this one.

Working with Manufacturers and Suppliers Abroad

What’s so difficult about working with suppliers and manufacturers abroad? You would think it’s just wonderful since you can manufacturer just about anything, and the prices are usually cheaper.

The problems arise in three areas: The language barrier, quality control and business culture.

You’ll encounter all of these problems, some of them more than others. Consider hiring a translator or only opting for a manufacturer that provides a contact who speaks your language. 

In terms of quality control, check in on your foreign contact, and insist that you hold calls or Skype sessions every week or month to understand what is going on in terms of productivity. It’s also not a bad idea to jump on a plane and meet the foreign manufacturers on occasion.

The business culture is difficult to manipulate, because some countries just work differently than yours. You might find that one country isn’t that punctual or another doesn’t take aggressiveness well. The only solution is to learn about the country’s culture you plan on doing business with.

There are loads of other headaches that come along with running an ecommerce site, so let us know in the comments which areas make you want to slam your head against the wall. How do you get past these dilemmas?

1 comment

  • Hey Dude. Just want to thank you for placing this article in here, its really goods and down to earth honest about the challenges of running an ecommerce business. Just wanted you to know dude. Cheers

    Jesse on

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