How to Scale Enterprise eCommerce: Preparing for Future Growth
If your enterprise-level eCommerce business is reaching the point of expansion, it’s time to think about how you can scale your processes as effectively as possible.
With efficiency and future growth in mind, we have a word of warning: Now is not the time to throw things at the wall to see what sticks.
Instead, it’s time to buckle down and do your homework.
The first step in scaling an eCommerce business is to prepare for that growth. You should be sure you have your data organized, your features lined up and your strategy set.
Nicole Blanckenberg at Business2Community has an analogy for us on this front: Like a house, your eCommerce business needs a solid foundation. From there, you need the right building materials and labor to complete the building project. Only then can you focus on the “final finishes and design details.” This post is about building that foundation.
AJ Agrawal, founder of Verma Media, speaks to what eCommerce businesses need to do to grow. “You need to start or keep the momentum going to drive more and more sales,” Agrawal writes. “You also need to free up your time by getting rid of the redundant things such as picking, packing and shipping.”
In other words, there are two areas to address as you prepare for enterprise-level growth:
- Identifying and doing more of what works.
- Identifying what aspects of the business can be made more efficient through partnerships.
A big part of eCommerce growth is about expanding to new markets and using strategic tools to build upon your audience. Here are a few ways to prepare for that future growth.
Due Diligence: Know How and Where You Should Expand
Researching where and how you want to expand is important for a couple of reasons.
First, research will help you determine why you want to scale and where growing your eCommerce business will make the most sense. For instance, one of the more common approaches to scale eCommerce is to go global, or to start selling internationally. But that leaves the questions of “Where?” and “Why?”
“Before venturing away from your home market, it’s important to know why you’re doing it,” Vivian Wagner writes at Ecommerce Times. “This means, in part, that you must have a sense that your products will sell elsewhere.”
Second, doing your research first will inform what your scaling efforts will look like. Those efforts can take many different forms. For example, Peter Betts at Globalization Partners points out that customers in some markets like to buy clothing online while others do not. Research will inform “what products people like to buy online in which global markets,” Betts tells us. Another example is that growing as an enterprise eCommerce business doesn’t always mean sticking solely with eCommerce. In some cases, it can also mean opening physical locations and diversifying your sales channels.
Supraja Srinivasan at The Economic Times reports on several digitally native brands in Asia (such as Pepperfry and FirstCry) that have begun to invest heavily in physical stores “to fuel their next phase of growth.” This major step was based on the research that these brands conducted to determine what would simultaneously increase revenue and build their brand.
Data Must Inform Any Strategic Approach to Growth
Jon Brody at DigitalCommerce360 writes that major eCommerce companies get to where they are by constantly assessing what is working and what is not. “Start with a leaner, less resource-intensive version of your vision, and adapt as you gather data concerning the parts of the model that are working (or those that aren’t),” Brody says.
A big part of this assessment is dependent on the data that you are able to analyze.
“With lower-than-ever entrance barriers into the eCommerce space, competition over the consumers is peaking,” Hila Perl at Optimove tells us. “Brands that will fail to leverage their data to generate meaningful, long-lasting customer relationships, will be trounced by the competition.”
Perl suggests analyzing the customer data you already have available (e.g. demographics, behavior patterns, preferences) to drive more relevant marketing communications as you prepare to scale.
It’s all about crunching the numbers and finding what turns up. Sawaram Suthar, head of marketing at Acquire, makes a clear recommendation: “Re-evaluate your existing business and crunch some numbers to make sure that any changes will provide long-term benefits.”
Ashley Ward at SEMrush provides an example of what translating customer data into marketing opportunity looks like: If you can pinpoint where your audience is coming from (e.g. social channels or organic search) and how they are interacting with your site, then that data can inform which aspects of your marketing you should invest in.
Preparing your data will help growth in a big way. In short, you can use data to ask two critical questions as you prepare to grow:
- Where do the opportunities for growth lay?
- What areas of the business need work?
Set Up Your Shop’s Features to Support Big Growth
Don’t neglect your shop’s features as you make plans to scale. In this, we don’t simply mean things like Add to Cart buttons or product comparison pages. For growing eCommerce brands, features encompass physical and digital spaces — everything from page design to fulfillment options.
For starters, you should ensure that your digital experience is as close to a physical one as possible — without losing the convenience factor eCommerce provides. “One of the reasons why customers prefer to shop online than in brick-and-mortar stores is that the internet gives them the chance to weigh their options and get the best deals,” payment gateway EMB company points out. “They can quickly search for promotions and coupons and compare prices from several retailers.”
As you prepare for growth, you can test your on-page features to see which are most effective and which need work. Writing at Forbes, Mohammad Harake recommends testing different pricing models, shipping fees, account creation processes, calls-to-action and visual attributes on the page. The goal in testing these on-page attributes should be to make the digital shopping experience as tangible as possible.
But what the customer doesn’t see can be just as important as what they do see. Growing eCommerce brands should also ensure their fulfillment processes are prepared for the growth. Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, calls fulfillment the true key to scaling an eCommerce business. And part of that is making sure the fulfillment software is in place.
“As a business expands, its available technology needs to grow with it,” Haggerty writes. “Special programs to effectively manage the increases in sales must be developed and integrated into the fulfillment process.”
A Strategic Approach to Long-Term Revenue Growth
Crunching data, examining shop features and performing research are all tactics that can translate into a high return on investment and long-term, sustainable growth.
Scaling without a strategic plan or means of measurement in place will not necessarily translate into revenue growth, however. You must prepare for continuous future growth. Find out what is working well, what you can improve on and what opportunities you face for expansion. From there, qualify your growth efforts as you go — and make sure you have the capacity to handle it.