A new year is another opportunity to start over, perhaps explaining why we all go into a tizzy of personal resolutions every January. If you are a retailer who has had an eventful 2017, this is your chance to make decisions that can hold you in good stead all through the brand new year. We bring to you solid resolution ideas for what to do in your ecommerce business in 2018 to see tangible results.
I Will Audit Last Year’s Sales
As you go into a new year of sales, it is good practice to evaluate what worked and what failed in 2017. Take a long, hard look at your sales numbers in each month, as well as during market spikes. How well did you perform when compared to the industry growth percentage? How well did you perform as compared to 2016?
If you find that your sales numbers were rather stable over time, now is a good time to evaluate why? If you have spent money on advertising, also consider how much return that investment gave you. In short, take a look at your revenue, compare it to the industry standards as well as your own past track record. Then, compare your revenue with your expenditure. See where you can do better and make a list of action items, from very easy (I can do this right now) to very hard (I need more time/ resources). Begin implementing the easiest action items right away.
I Will Go Multichannel
Are you still selling through just one sales channel? While it is not bad to develop one sales vertical and specialize in it, you may be jeopardizing your own sales numbers by not being visible across various media. For every product retailer, Amazon is an alternative worth considering today. Even though the FBA commissions are steep, you can win using the sheer numbers you can sell through a marketplace.
Also, consider having a web store. You can start with a simpler step- having a web presence. Your website and social media can help brand your products and increase recall in an increasingly competitive world. Position yourself as the authority on whatever you sell. Over time, you can consider adding ecommerce functionality to your website.
In short, being a multichannel retailer does not have to be a leap of faith. It can be a calculated decision involving small steps in the same direction.
I Will Offer A Personal Experience
We have come a long way since the launch of Amazon and Alibaba in the nineties. Today, people use their mobile delives more and more, and Netscape Navigator- the go-to browser from two decades ago- is now obsolete. If there’s one lesson to be learnt here, it is that in order to survive, you must change to suit every consumer’s needs.
In the last point, we talked a bit about how there are many retailers for the same product today. Customers find it very hard to recollect a brand’s name, even when they have shopped from the brand. There’s another problem too- decision fatigue. Science says that when presented with more options than the brain can handle, the brain shuts itself out and refuses to make any decision at all! This is precisely what is happening to consumers today, because they are bombarded by brand messages and advertising even in their sleep.
If you are an exclusively online retailer, the recall value may be even lesser, as your products are shipped out and delivered in standard brown boxes. Just adding a small logo to the packaging won’t cut it. Think through the customization you can offer- from custom prints on a product to special packaging in your parcels. You can customize everything from the language on the sales receipt to your discount coupons. Bombard them with your brand’s persona, but do it very subtly.
I Will Stop Using Spreadsheets For Inventory Management
Are you a retailer still depending on redundant spreadsheets to manage your inventory? You’ve probably faced all of these problems, but let’s go through them again. For one, you may or may not be updating spreadsheets as often as you should- as a result, you book numbers and actual inventory do not match. Also, your spreadsheets may be telling you to sell a product that is actually out of stock.
If you sell across more than one channel, you also know the pain of doing this exercise across many more sheets, all the time. Today, automated inventory management systems can actually do this job, and so much more for you. For one, machines don’t tire, so you can keep track of inventory every single day and hour of the day.
Some products also sync up with shippers, accounting software and even your vendor management tools, thus helping you manage all of these aspects from one dashboard. If you are still stuck with a spreadsheet, 2018 is the year to make a positive change.
I Will Make The Hard Decisions
As a businessperson, you are no stranger to the hard decisions. While you may make them every single day, there are still some decisions that we all fear making. And these decisions have the potential to make or break the business.
Choosing to stop selling through one channel to focus entirely on another, more successful channel is one such decision. Having a conversation with your vendors to let them know that delivery fluctuations are not tolerated is another. Perhaps, choosing to shift how you look at inventory and dead stock is your pain point.
Whatever that one hard business decision is, make it in 2018. If the option has crossed your mind, there must be some merit to it. Dead stock is one reality that a lot of retailers have trouble facing. However, not getting rid of it is probably leeching much needed money from your business. Likewise, if your vendors do not meet their delivery agreement, you cannot meet yours, so it may be wiser to look for a different vendor for the same product that to feel trapped with the same one. If you also manufacture what you sell and find yourself unable to meet sales commitments, consider hiring more people for manufacturing, or move to a workshop setup.
If the choice you make pays off phenomenally, you have a successful business. If it doesn’t, you still have a story to tell.
What is the one resolution you will make and implement for your business starting today?