ESSENTIAL SKILLS FOR MANAGING AN ECOMMERCE BUSINESS
If you’re managing an online business or have just started your entrepreneurship journey, you’ll know that ecommerce requires both breadth and depth when it comes to knowledge and skill.
Regardless of the size of your enterprise it pays to develop an understanding of the whole picture. We’ve put together a list of the fundamental skills that will help you successfully manage an ecommerce business.
Your success in the online industry will be determined by your ability to learn, unlearn and relearn. Managing your business will require an understanding of both your industry and the ecommerce industry. Not only are these massive topics but they are also constantly changing.
The speed at which technology develops results in continuous shifts in the way ecommerce operates. Managing your business means staying on top of change and this means knowing how to learn. More specifically knowing how you learn.
Learning can be demanding, but changing your attitude when approaching something you don’t yet understand can open your world completely. Your potential to learn is limitless and given the right circumstances you can be an expert in any field you wish.
These circumstances can be manufactured and when you run an ecommerce business you’ll find that there are skills you’re forced to learn whether you want to or not. Making sure you have the right attitude to learning and the right resources to help you is critical. Think about people who already know what you’re trying to learn and reach out to them. Google, YouTube, books and online courses are infinite sources of knowledge.
Getting in a position that requires new knowledge as well as understanding you can learn is the first step. Then ensuring you have the right resources to read, listen to and watch will help you become the ultimate learner.
The larger the business, the more complex the systems. But regardless of size, becoming a master of systems is a crucial skill. Time is the most precious commodity we have, and it’s also in short supply. Even at the smallest level, systems can help you manage your time and the many processes of an ecommerce business.
Every minute you spend thinking about administration, tasks and repeatable work is a minute you could be thinking about growing the business. Systems allow you to automate processes and give you the time to think about what matters most.
There’s a famous quote that advises, “Spend less time working in the business and more time working on the business.” The less systematised your business is the more you’ll be working in your business and it doesn’t take long before you’re overwhelmed with menial tasks, and the important things are ignored.
Starting your ecommerce store is the perfect time to think about and design systems. Think about how every process could be automated or improved. Efficiencies at this stage will pay dividends down the road. Customer service, marketing, warehousing, shipping, web development and bookkeeping are all examples of areas of your business that have many possibilities for improvements, outsourcing and automation. Never stop examining your business and researching ways to implement systems.
Whether you have major capital investment in your ecommerce store or are bootstrapping everyday, you will always need to learn how to manage your resources. Being resourceful is a key skill that will benefit you in every area of life, but none more so than the management of your business.
Resourcefulness is an attitude change that says, “Yes, we can do this” and requires you to open your mind to what you can achieve with what you have available. It’s a form of innovation that helps you create new things and make old things work together better. If you’re working on your own it means asking for help and spending your time working on what will return the best results.
This is summarised in the Pareto Principle which states that in most cases 80% of of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This is true of your activities and your employees. Learning to be resourceful is taking the time to work out exactly what is the 20% that returns 80% of your success and move your resource to those tasks, whether it’s time, money or focus.
Many times in business you’ll come up against obstacles that may seem insurmountable. It’s at these times that resourcefulness will help you look inward and outward to find the way through. And although at these moments resourcefulness is critical to your progress, it will also serve you well in times of prosperity by eliminating waste and maintaining focus.
If you’re involved in the ecommerce industry an understanding of its technical aspects will serve you immeasurably. This not only includes the platforms and applications that you work with but also the alternatives and new technologies. Even if you don’t use all your applications every day, your decisions will be improved by your knowledge of their operation.
It’s always a good idea to spend time in the admin panel of your ecommerce platform. Learn its features and limitations. As you become more comfortable with this side of the business you will be far more open to new ideas and have the knowledge to make better decisions. If you’re a small operation you’ll also know how to do simple tasks yourself or instruct an employee.
Another technical requirement of running your store is data collection, reporting and analysis. Ecommerce relies on a multitude of data from marketing efforts to website performance and knowing how to create and interpret this will help your business grow. This is also true of experimentation and split or a/b testing. Having intuition is great, but actually testing and measuring the results of your ideas will ensure you see the reality of your progress.
If you’re running a store on your own there are a range of technical skills that will benefit you immensely. Apart from those mentioned it will also pay to learn creative applications like Adobe Creative Cloud or Sketch, ads management like Facebook Business Manager or Google AdWords, email automation like Mailchimp as well as the accounting, inventory and customer relationship applications your company uses.
If you’re someone who doesn’t like numbers, you’ll have to learn to love them if you run your own ecommerce business. When those numbers mean profit or people visiting your store, they become very interesting. And noticing trends or inconsistencies can help you make the right decisions at the right time.
Accounting is the most obvious area that will require some skill. You may not need to manage your own bookkeeping, but knowing how to read a Profit and Loss, Cash Flow Statement and Balance Sheet is essential. Being able to make sense of these is the only way to have insight into the health of your business.
If you’re selling products it’s vital you understand the costs associated with your products. Build a spreadsheet that calculates the real money you make off the products you are selling otherwise you may find yourself going backwards quickly. Know the difference between margin and markup and remember to include taxes, packaging, shipping, payment gateway fees and ecommerce fees into your calculations.
Learn the basic ecommerce metrics and what they mean. There are a number of acronyms and terms that are vital to understand when running your store. These are site performance numbers through Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools as well as advertising metrics through social media platforms. Stay on top of these numbers and you’ll be equipped to manage your ecommerce business
There are limitless skills you can acquire to manage an ecommerce business. Hopefully this list will give you the best possible foundation. Take time to work on each of these areas and you will be prepared for your ecommerce future.