23rd August, 2021
There’s so much you can learn from the powerhouse ecommerce industry, even if you’re not working in online retail.
These are turbulent times in every way, putting the global economy in a highly confusing state.
Some of the challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have been suitably addressed by this point, while others continue to cause major problems — and we still can’t know when (or even if) vaccination efforts will allow us to return to old levels of social and economic activity.
As a result, business leaders of all kinds need to remain broadly adaptable, learning everything they can from events around the world and figuring out ways to improve their operations.
Now, inspiration can come from anywhere, but it’s always good to have a success story from which you can glean insight, and ecommerce is one such success story.
Ecommerce had already grown at a rapid clip to reach a dominant position before COVID-19 arrived, and the pandemic only furthered that success, making it a great case study. In this post, we’re going to look at four things business leaders should learn from ecommerce in 2021.
What happened when the pandemic struck and online retail demand went up?
The biggest and best stores just sold more, accommodating the increases in desire and traffic. They couldn’t fulfil all orders, because you can’t just magic new products into existence (just look at the global hardware shortages that continue to burden the gaming industry, for instance), but they could ensure that their online operations could continue to excel.
Regardless of their preferences, today’s business leaders need to be operating online, and that means having business sites that can scale when needed. It also means having a mindset that can accommodate scaling: and not just scaling up, but also scaling down when needed.
These conditions are tough, and it may be necessary to downsize to survive. Ecommerce businesses know this.
Business of any variety is hectic these days, with more and more people scrambling to carve out their own pieces of the pie and the proliferation of available actions making it hard to know what your next move should be.
Things were simpler back before the digital era. The first thing that ecommerce shows today is that it’s vital to be efficient — and the path to efficiency calls for the smart use of both automation and delegation.
Automation uses computer systems while delegation uses employees (whether full-time or part-time and in-house or outsourced), but the result is essentially the same: taking a task off your hands so you can focus on something else.
Ecommerce merchants are great at using online tools to speed things along, if only because they don’t have realistic alternatives.
Do ambitious brands build their stores on enterprise platforms like Magento because they’re crafty, or because they simply lack the expertise to build custom platforms (or the resources to commission the development of such platforms)? It doesn’t really matter.
What’s important is that they do pass on as many core tasks as possible, using social media management tools like Hootsuite for engagement, freelancer marketplaces like Fiverr for custom tasks and, yes, software like MYOB’s for financial management, payroll and accounting.
With so many online stores out there, it’s extremely challenging for any given store to stand out, pushing entrepreneurs to look for interesting ways to set themselves apart.
This is why we’ve seen such a rise in ecommerce businesses with interesting brand identities. Instead of being bland corporations with adequate prices, they’re increasingly shaping themselves into memorable brands that are worthy of customer loyalty.
Even business leaders deep in high-end B2B operations need to understand the role of personal branding, because social media is steadily dragging everyone into the light: just about every role is unavoidably public-facing now, and those utterly lacking in personality will be ruthlessly exposed.
Media training can inspire mockery, and for good reason at times, but the fundamental action of learning how to look good in the public eye is a valuable pursuit.
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Lastly, while we’ve looked at operational scalability, automation, and delegation, we haven’t looked at personal flexibility — and it’s hugely significant here because it’s all but impossible for a business leader to keep their business going if they’re unable or unwilling to change with it.
Top merchants could have uselessly railed against the awkward demands of the COVID-19 era, but they didn’t. They leaned into it. They discontinued old products and started selling masks.
Meanwhile, fresh sellers went into the ecommerce industry with no preconceived notions and achieved impressive results. Many of them had lost their jobs and held unclear career prospects. They didn’t give up when they had plenty of excuses to cite. Instead, they knuckled down and tried new things.
Business leaders who want to take their careers to the next level must be ready to roll with the punches, then, because there are always going to be more punches to come.