How would you react to a friend saying they were opening a 24 hour, 7 day a week custom baseball cap store? Customers at anytime of day selecting styles and colors and graphic designs for a cap. They would have it in their hands just 3 days after ordering. Any customer complaints could be made 24/7 as well.
After checking your friend’s breath for alcohol, you would probably ask about the viability of the new business. Wouldn’t it involve extensive overhead and extra staffing? Well, yes and no since your friend’s custom baseball cap store is actually of the e-commerce variety.
This post continues a series regarding your business entering the e-commerce world (beginning with “Is E-Commerce an Option?”). The topic du jour is giving consideration during the planning process to the “people power” that is particular to the addition of online sales.
Make no mistake, when you add in e-commerce, you can’t simply turn off the open sign when heading out the door. Your e-commerce must consider the 24/7 nature of such business. If a customer cannot select the color for a product at 2 a.m., or submit a customer service inquiry form when they arrive home and find an incomplete order, you risk the loss of goodwill and more importantly, customers. The round the clock nature of your e-commerce business requires realistically planning for how much help you will need.
As an owner you already have a full plate and the added sales desired from e-commerce will only add to your workload. Seeking the assistance of e-commerce experts that handle online business tasks everyday is the most practical course of action.
Fortunately, skilled web professionals are more available today than at any time in the past. During the planning process for the move into e-commerce, you have various options to consider:
Permanent Employee(s) – If the size and type of business supports it, you could hire somebody in house solely to develop e-commerce.
Temporary Help – Another option is freelancers to set up your e-commerce and then using them on an as needed basis for periodic changes/updates or expansions (maybe even new ventures if all goes well).
Outsourcing – Engaging a firm or contractor to develop, design and host the e-commerce website. They might also maintain the site and keep it up to date and manage its growth.
“Off the Shelf” Options – There are products available to set up your e-commerce. They charge ongoing fees, provide an online storefront and the online shopping carts that are now as common as a cell phone in every man, woman and child’s pocket. Other potential features available are product pages, catalogs and tools to list products/services and technical support.
Those are the basic options with mix and match variations possible as well. Each option comes with potential pros and cons. Outsourcing versus hiring employees is a constant dilemma for business owners. The potential cost savings of temporary help as opposed to continuity of permanent employees is another issue. “Owning” your e-commerce site rather than renting is akin to the buy or rent housing dilemma we all face at some time.
The “best” answers depend on your particular needs and goals. Regardless, a key consideration during the planning process is to assess your level of internet/technological knowledge. That will go a long way in deciding whether to engage employees or web development firms or purchase off the shelf products.
Our next topic regarding the planning process for adding e-commerce will be the analysis of your targeted online customers and whether your cyber efforts will travel to the ends of the earth (e.g., are you knowledgeable of the shipping charges to Papua-New Guinea?).
Top Photo Source: Jed Hakuro (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jedhakuro/) under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Middle Photo Source: Mark Warner (https://www.flickr.com/photos/senatormarkwarner/) under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/