Your inbox is overflowing, 40 orders are unfulfilled, taxes are due in two weeks, payroll in two days, and your website just crashed—again. This probably isn’t the life you envisioned when you left the rat race to start your online store, but as your business has grown, so have the challenges and demands on your time. Sure, you might spend a few less hours in the car, but when’s the last time you grabbed a drink with a friend or played catch with your kid?
It can be difficult for ecommerce merchants to ask for help or relinquish control. “My business is my baby,” is the common refrain, and given the long hours, sleepless nights, and relentless demands of starting an online store, the comparison fits.
But even if right now you’re a one-person company handling everything with ease, there will eventually come a time when there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up. Or you’ll reach a point when you find you’re spending more time on routine administrative tasks than you are on growing your business. Or you’ll realize you just aren’t equipped to manage the books or do the marketing as effectively as an expert.
Ultimately, every business that scales will have to consider outsourcing some of it operations. We chatted with merchants to find out what commonly “breaks” and today we’re going to identify some signs that it might be time for you to hand off certain responsibilities. It might sting a little at first, but in the long run, delegating tasks can save money, boost productivity, and free you up for more important things, whether that’s working on a new product line or spending time with your family and friends.
Sign #1: You’re not doing what you want to be doing (or what you’re good at)
Running an ecommerce business will never be all rainbows and unicorns, but if you’re spending most of your time on tasks you don’t enjoy, that’s the first sign you might be ready to ask for help. In a 2014 study by Gigaom Research, only 14 percent of small business owners said they were happy with their time allocation. The rest said that while they think business growth and corporate strategy are critical, they spend much of their time on “necessary, unavoidable tasks, such as compliance with government regulations.”
Of course, just as important as doing work you enjoy is doing work you’re good at. Ecommerce requires a variety of specialized skills and resources, and even the most prodigious among us can’t claim to have mastered content marketing, web development and accounting. Outsourcing is all about efficiency, so if there’s an area of your business that’s lagging because you don’t have the skills to do it well, consider delegating it to someone who does.
Sign #2: Customer satisfaction is slipping
One of the main reasons why many merchants find delegating work so difficult is because they want to retain full control over the customer experience. That’s understandable given the aforementioned “my business, my baby” mentality, but if you’re stretching yourself too thin, you’re not going to be able to give your customers the attention they deserve.
Poor customer reviews are a clear indication that something isn’t working as it should, and the causes should be investigated and rectified ASAP. Are your customers complaining that you’ve sent them the wrong product? Are they disappointed with the quality of the product itself? Has your response time to support requests been frustratingly slow? All of these issues have solutions, and one of the simplest and most effective is outsourcing.
Instead of spending time and money resolving “wrong product” complaints, you can improve your “picking accuracy” by outsourcing to a third-party fulfillment centre. Instead of working around the clock to personally respond to every support ticket, you can outsource to a call centre with friendly, experienced and knowledgeable staff. Instead of trying to improve the quality of your product… well, that’s something you should probably work on yourself. Thankfully, with fulfillment and customer service taken care of by a third party, you’ll actually be able to devote some time to it!
Sign #3: Your costs are beginning to spiral
Though DIY is a budget-friendly approach to many things in life, when it comes to owning and operating an online store, it sometimes makes more financial sense to hire out. Why? Because outsourcing allows you to take advantage of economies of scale.
Due to their size, efficiency, and scale of operation, logistics companies generally have lower warehousing costs, employee costs, shipping rates and taxes, all of which translate to savings for your business. According to a white paper by Landmark Global, companies that opted to outsource their logistics activities cut costs by 11 percent on average, hold 6 percent less stock, and save an average of 23 percent on fixed costs like labour and warehouse rental.
But outsourcing doesn’t only save you dollars and cents. It also saves time—a precious commodity for busy online retailers. Consider the last time you had to edit and add a new batch of images to your site. How long did it take? According to image optimization company Pixelz, it takes the average Photoshopper roughly 10 minutes to edit an image. If you have 1,000 images, you’re looking at 166 very tedious hours. By using a third-party solution like Pixelz, you could cut your photo editing time to just 24 hours and spend the time saved proactively building your business.
Sign #4: Your search rankings are dropping
These days it takes a ton of time and SEO-savviness to get—and keep—your store on the first page of Google’s search results (and with page-one sites generating 92 percent of traffic from the average search, that’s really the only place you want to be). To earn your spot, you have to publish relevant content, earn links, use metadata and alt tags, choose the right keywords, be active on social media, and a bunch of other stuff we’re still trying to figure out ourselves.
If your sales are dropping and your competitors are pushing you further and further from the coveted number-one spot, it might be time to outsource some of your marketing to an agency that knows its stuff. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer can connect you with freelance writers to produce high-quality, relevant content, while services like Kit CRM, a “virtual marketing assistant” we’ve written about before (twice, actually) are one-stop shops for marketing your store and improving your search rankings.
Sign #5: You’ve lost your mojo
Hey, it happens. We all go through phases of enthusiasm and disenchantment with our business. But if you’re in a rut you can’t climb out of, consider outsourcing the aspect of your business that’s getting you down. After all, packaging orders is a thrill when you only have three to do, but when there’s 300 and your hands are covered in paper cuts? Not so much.
Don’t feel like you’re cracking under pressure or waving a white flag in defeat. The fact that you can’t handle it all alone anymore is actually a good sign—it means you’re growing. And isn’t that what you set out to do?
When you take some time to analyze which tasks fire you up and which ones stress you out, you’ll start to see how outsourcing can help you operate your business more efficiently and feel more positive about the work you’re doing. As they say, “Do what you love and outsource the rest.” (That is what they say, isn’t it? 😉 )