There’s a lot more that goes on in running an e-commerce business than meets the eye.
While it does look convenient for a business owner to just collect all the revenue as the business runs on autopilot, the reality is it’s not as easy as it seems. There are in fact several tasks that need to be accomplished for an e-commerce business to continue to operate.
Just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it’s a one-man show.
From the products you sell to your online presence, there are several aspects of the business that require keen focus and attention, something you don’t have the luxury of as an online store owner.
The good news is the gig economy is at its peak and with a large pool of talent to choose from, getting some of these key tasks done through outsourcing has become a lot easier in recent years.
Below are 7 of the most important e-commerce tasks you should consider outsourcing:
1. Product Sourcing
When you’re in the business of selling products, everything that goes into finding these products becomes a continuous cycle.
Realistically, you can’t forever rely on one of your best-sellers to keep bringing in the money.
You need to always be on the hunt for new ones regardless of whether your current products are selling or not.
Product sourcing isn’t as simple as researching for products over the internet, however.
Aside from research skills, a good product sourcing specialist should also have excellent communication skills that would come in handy when speaking to factory managers from other countries.
This individual should have good negotiation skills as well so you can get the best deals possible.
2. Product Listing Optimization
A well-optimized product listing is essential if you want to grab potential buyers’ attention.
From the product title down to the images used, each of these elements have their own unique way of converting potential leads into actual buyers.
The trick is to have all these elements complement each other to form one convincing “pitch” which is not the easiest thing to do without the necessary experience and skillset.
The good news is there are a lot of talented product listing optimization experts available in the freelance market who can help improve the way your product listings look.
Always keep in mind that when it comes to selling online, presentation is everything.
You yourself would most likely buy an item that has all the information you need over one that comes with low-quality images and poorly-written descriptions, right?
3. Customer Service
There’s no such thing as a perfect system.
Even the most stable businesses with standardized processes experience unexpected setbacks, making an experienced customer service essential for daily operations.
Every business needs competent customer service because you’re not going to be available 24/7 to address urgent concerns.
By having an extension of your voice answer inquiries on your behalf, customers are given the attention they expect.
What’s great about today’s freelance talent pool is that a lot of them have experienced working in customer service at some point in their professional careers.
Having someone with customer service experience can go a long way to making your life easy as well as making the business profitable.
4. Order Fulfillment/Processing
For some people, processing orders is not a complicated task.
What’s so difficult about getting customer information, checking the inventory for stocks, updating a database, and arranging product shipment?
While the task can be considered generally clerical, it’s not going to be that easy when you have 30 orders to process for an entire day.
If your product is “hot”, you may have to process even more. Doesn’t sound as easy anymore, does it?
Yes, the task may not require a lot of thinking and it’s repetitive at best but when volume spikes, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
We’re not even talking about refunds yet which can add up to what you already have on queue.
It’s just going to be impossible for you to take care of this when you have your hands full managing the business’ daily operations which makes outsourcing this task more sensible.
5. Inventory Management
Imagine how embarrassing it would be for you to advertise a product on your store only to find out that you’re out of stock when a potential customer decides to place an order.
Such a scenario can put your reputation in question and can hurt your business in so many ways.
Not only will you be accused of false advertising, but it will also make you look disorganized and unprofessional.
One way of keeping this from happening is to have a dedicated person managing your inventory so you can keep a close look at how much stock you have sitting in the warehouse.
Having an inventory manager also helps you save money because they can help you order new supplies and determine how much you actually need so you don’t end up having too much excess inventory.
Keeping a balanced number of items in stock requires focus, which is why outsourcing inventory management makes perfect sense.
6. Web Design/Development
Since your “store” resides in the online space, having a visually inviting and easy to navigate web presence is crucial.
You have to remember that while people today may be highly visual, a lot of them also have a shortage of patience.
If you don’t impress them at first glance, or your website makes it difficult for them to find what they need or execute a certain action, they’re likely to go somewhere else.
The common misconception is that having a website is all about aesthetics.
Some people think that having a visually appealing website automatically guarantees a ton of visits and sales but the truth is, it takes more to convince a potential customer to buy.
More than the looks, your website should be user-friendly. The text should be readable, the images shouldn’t be intrusive, and navigation should be easy.
If it takes more than a minute for a customer to locate your shopping cart, you can’t expect people to have the patience to look for it which can lead to fewer sales.
Web design and development requires a specific skill that not everyone has been blessed with.
By hiring a freelancer who has the skills and experience for both, you’ll be giving your business a big advantage because they have the ability to make your web presence stand out.
7. Social Media
Having an awesome product will be for nothing if no one can see it, which is why marketing is essential.
With the internet and social media becoming a huge part of our daily lives, marketing has become easier and cheaper.
If you really want to reach more people and increase your store’s exposure though, outsourcing them to specialists would be the better option.
This is the reason why it’s rare for companies today not to have a website or any sort of web presence, including brick and mortar ones.
People today are on social media almost all the time and it would be a total waste if you didn’t take advantage of the millions of potential customers you can put your products in front of.
To help increase your odds, outsourcing social media management to a freelance expert is an excellent decision.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are unique in their own ways.
They require equally different tactics and techniques in promoting a product or service so why waste your budget on someone who “knows” how to use them over someone who understands how each of them works?
Having an experienced social media manager handle your social media tasks is a worthy investment with benefits that you will continue to reap in the long run.
Where do you begin?
Once you have decided that outsourcing is something you want to do, the first step is to take note of the seven tasks mentioned above and list down all the duties and responsibilities each task will entail.
It’s important to be very specific at this point because this will be your basis for finding the right person for each task.
- Which social media channels will the social media manager handle?
- Will you allow the inventory manager to order new supplies without your consent?
- How involved do you want to be with customer service?
- Will the web designer/developer be in charge of presenting you with a design or do you already have one you would like them to replicate?
It’s important to give yourself time to do proper task assessment so you and the person you hire know what to expect.
How much are you willing to spend?
While outsourcing tasks to a freelancer is relatively cheaper, it may still cost you quite a bit depending on the amount of work you want to delegate.
You should at least have an idea on the number of hours it will take for these tasks to be accomplished and how much you’re willing to spend.
Most freelancers generally work on a per hour basis but there are also those who work per project or on fixed pricing.
Make sure to identify which option works best for you and your budget because this will also help narrow down your choices in terms of the freelance marketplace where you’ll make the hire and the freelancer you hire.
Where do you find them?
With the gig economy at its peak, finding a freelancer to outsource tasks to has never been this easy.
Dozens of websites offering massive talent pools are scattered all over the internet, each one offering their own unique way of helping you hire and manage freelancers.
Popular sites like Upwork, FreeeUp, and Fiverr are just some of the websites you can visit so you can begin looking for the best people to help you.
Your choice will depend on how much time and involvement you want to have in the hiring process but one thing’s for sure, each of them have a ton of promising and talented individuals to offer.
All you need to do is sign up when you’re ready.
Formally onboard them and set expectations
Once you have hired the freelancer of your choice, the next step is to formally onboard them. Begin by setting expectations as to the work hours, outputs, and reports you require.
- Are they supposed to work in the same timezone as yours?
- Which reports will they need to provide on a weekly/monthly basis?
- Do they have to work on weekends?
- Is there a certain number of hours they need to work each week?
This is also the time when you provide them access to all the tools you use both for work and for tracking purposes.
It’s also the best time to discuss how you will communicate with one another.
Running an e-commerce business is definitely no walk in the park but with freelancers and experts helping you out, things are bound to become easier and more productive.
By releasing some of the load off your shoulders, you’ll be able to concentrate on the more important, high-value tasks while leaving some of the equally-important yet tactical ones in the hands of more qualified professionals.
Outsourcing is indeed a huge decision and a risk but it’s definitely worth every penny considering the benefits it brings.
And if you hire smart — slowly and carefully — you can avoid many of its pitfalls.