The internet makes being an entrepreneur a lot easier. Running an online startup is often a lot cheaper than a brick-and-mortar business, and it gives you tremendous reach. However, it comes with a few unique challenges that you’ll need to overcome if you want it to work. Here are 5 of the most common hurdles, and how you can beat them:
Shipping Products on Schedule
Unless your business delivers digital products, you’re going to need to make sure that your shipping and delivery methods are on point. Nothing sinks a company faster than the inability to get sold products to their customers on time. You need to make sure that as much of the process is under your control. Be very particular with your choice of shipping service, as their performance will reflect directly on you. You should also give clear (generous) time estimates when the customer will receive their product. Impossible promises might get you quick sales, but they’ll also lead to consumer disappointment.
Getting Customers to Keep Coming Back
Customer loyalty is one of the most difficult aspects (for a startup) to develop, and it is often more difficult to achieve when you are an online business. Brick-and-mortar businesses have the benefit of having good sales people getting in front of their customers. Online businesses need to make up for this lack of face-to-face interaction through other means.
For many online entrepreneurs, the answer largely lies in providing stellar customer service; So, make sure your service team is well trained and understands the level of service that is expected from them. In addition, you also need to ensure that any, and all, information relevant to a consumer is easy to find and easy to understand, on your website. The smoother the process, the more likely a customer will return for other products, and hopefully also spruik your good service through social media.
Having Enough Stock on Hand
Nothing loses a consumer’s interest faster than seeing a “not available” or “out of stock” tag on a product they want. Having your product be available for purchase is the bare minimum requirement for a functioning startup. Doing so is also more difficult than it sounds, especially when money is ‘tight’. However, this functionality is a basic requirement and cannot be compromised – some ways to ensure you maintain supply is to be rigorous in your forecasting, ensuring cash flow is maintained, putting in supply arrangements with your suppliers, methods of payments to your suppliers etc.
Offering Multiple Payment Options
To make money, you must be able to accept payments. That sounds simple, but you would be surprised how many companies lack enough payment options. It is highly likely what if you do not cover as many of the payments systems your customers prefer, you are likely to lose sales.
Initially, you should thoroughly investigate the most commonly used payment options in your target market, e.g. Afterpay, Zippay is commonly used by younger people today) and focus on making those available first. Other options can need to be included, if not done initially, when your startup is ‘stable’.
Keeping Your Inventory in Order
Managing your inventory can be very difficult as an entrepreneur. If you want your startup to succeed, you’ll need full control of how your product is stored (including having facilities that can accommodate your very busy periods) and how quickly you can get it out of storage and shipped out.
This logistical problem comes down to proper planning. For example, coordinating with your manufacturer to ensure they deliver to your storage facilities in time, that your software can keep track of these deliveries once they are on your site, then have internal systems to ensure the product is packed correctly, and that your delivery process (likely to be a 3rd party) pick up -delivery -notification system, is seamless.
While these are certainly not the only issues your online startup business will face, getting to know and understand these (above) processes and their answers, will put you on the right path. As your company develops, you will need to ensure you are always looking at new technology and process that can lead to ways that improve these processes and functions – not only because it benefits both you and your clients, but because you need to stay ahead of the completion as well.
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