In the world of ecommerce, it’s imperative to spend time effectively so you can keep the trains of your business running. The 24 hours we have each day just never seem to be enough.
If you don’t spend your time doing tasks that really matter, it’s not difficult to see how your ecommerce business may fail. In this blog post, I’ve picked apart my schedule and the schedules of my employees, to give you a breakdown of how we spend our time.
My business may be vastly different from yours, but what I’m about to reveal might give you some insight into how to spend time effectively with your own business.
This is particularly important to startup ecommerce businesses with just one or two employees. You have to remain on top of everything, and wearing all of those hats isn’t an easy task!
Receiving stock (10%)
Without stock, your ecommerce business won’t get very far. I estimate we spend around 10% of our time receiving from suppliers. Each time a delivery comes in we have to confirm that what’s on the delivery matches what’s written on the invoice.
We then have to put the entire delivery away, which can take a lot of man hours depending on the size of it. Taking deliveries isn’t particularly fun, but stock is the lifeblood of any ecommerce business.
Customer service (20%)
Customers expect great service, and they deserve great service. If a customer chooses to shop on your website, providing outstanding service is the least you can do for them.
We spend around 20% of our time responding to customer queries via email, resolving any problems that arise, and of course helping customers over the telephone too. We also take orders by phone – many customers still don’t like to input their card details into websites they’re not familiar with. Offering to take payments over the phone is a great way to build a bond with new customers.
Customer service takes up a lot of time, and we have a member of staff dedicated to providing great customer service on a daily basis.
Perhaps the most time consuming part of any ecommerce business is the packing aspect. Some businesses focus on selling large volumes of stock at low prices, whereas others focus on selling just a few units with large mark-ups.
If you’re selling any kind of volume then be prepared to spend a lot of time packing. Generally the more time spent packing, the higher the accuracy will be. If you have a large range of products and you rush to pack orders, the number of mistakes made will be higher.
Budgeting enough time to pack orders correctly is hugely important – sending the wrong items to the wrong customers will cause big problems and increase the time spent offering customer service by email and telephone.
It wasn’t so long ago that bookkeeping could easily take up a day or so every single week of a business owners’ time. With ecommerce, however, book keeping is generally quite straightforward as most multichannel selling software and payment processors offer the facility for people to generate reports in the blink of an eye.
Bookkeeping for us tends to take less than a day every month – we still hire a professional accountant to tie up all the loose ends and file returns for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re outsourcing your bookkeeping, you will still need to do a bare minimum to organize invoices and bank statements ready to hand over to your accountant.
Nobody will ever know that your website exists if you don’t market it. For some websites, social media marketing works great – for others, paid clicks really hit the spot.
You’ll need to dedicate a good chunk of time each week to your business’ marketing – because without marketing you’ll struggle to find customers. In fact, 15% should be the bare minimum of time you allocate.
A lot of businesses tend to outsource their marketing activities, but in my opinion that’s not always a shrewd move. The chances are that you understand your market better than any third party company does, and the basics behind online marketing aren’t particularly difficult to pick up if you actually apply yourself.
Hiring a third party company to look after your marketing can easily run into the four or five figures per month (certainly for a company with a great track record), so often it’s more cost effective to keep it in-house.
Research & development (5%)
It doesn’t matter if you manufacture your own products or buy them from brands or wholesalers. It’s super important to dedicate time to research and development, to ensure that your business moves with the times and keeps up with emerging trends.
Often research and development is nothing more than touching base with suppliers to find out about their latest offerings, and monitoring what your competition are doing. It’s not a particularly difficult task, but it has to be done if you’re serious about getting on top and staying on top in your industry.
Supplier meetings (5%)
Meeting with your suppliers is really important, often face to face meetings are infinitely more productive than emails back and forward, or rushed telephone calls. Making time to have sit down meetings with your suppliers is always a great idea, so don’t get too caught up in the other aspects of running your business to spare time for suppliers.
Human resources (5%)
Hiring, firing and training staff takes time, a lot of time, and in some businesses, recruiting staff plays a bigger role and should be focused on regularly. In these cases, this should probably be much higher than 5% — closer to 15-20% even.
Getting your staffing levels right is absolutely vital in ecommerce, especially at busy times of year like the holiday season. Neglecting your human resources can cause a lot of problems further down the line, especially in fast-growth ecommerce businesses.
Getting on top of hiring and firing early on is essential to ensure your workforce is up to speed. Don’t forget that most people aren’t ready to contribute from day on, either; you need to make a commitment to training people properly from the outset.
Whether your ecommerce business is on an upward trajectory, or it’s still just an idea in your head ready to be put into practice, this post should help you think about how to spend time effectively. Running any business is a balancing act between all the different tasks that need to be fulfilled, ecommerce in particular!