E-commerce Management: Balancing Business with Time Off
Summer is near, the sun is finally in full force, and everyone has one thing on their mind: vacation!
There are many benefits to being self-employed: a certain flexibility in scheduling our work and various achievements throughout the year, and we do something we love.
One drawback though is the challenge to disconnect, even if for only a couple of days. Yet, it is essential; everybody needs time off!
If you own an e-commerce, the very concept of vacation may sound impossible, especially if you work alone or are managing a small team.
However, you deserve to take time off! Here are a few tips on keeping the business going even if you are not around.
1. AUTOMATE CERTAIN ASPECTS OF YOUR BUSINESS
Optimize productivity year-round by automating certain aspects of your e-commerce.
What is automation? In simple terms, marketing automation allows you to implement campaigns without human intervention, so you don’t need to be there to manually run them.
For example, you could plan to send emails to customers proposing similar products based on their navigating your site or by inviting them to finalize their purchase if they abandon their cart. All of this can be done automatically even if you are off on vacation – plus it would save you time throughout the year.
Here, take me as an example: I am the sole proprietor of Buster Fetcher and I also manage a major e-commerce with my wife. So that we can regularly take time off work together, a few times a year we assess what takes up most of our time in our weekly tasks and we try to improve our efficiency or automate when possible. That way, we perform better and we free up time for ourselves.
Here are a few examples of automation tools (among many others) that you may already know and that can alleviate your daily routine:
- Salesforce.com (customer relationship and marketing)
- HubSpot (Internet marketing and sales management)
- Marketo (marketing automation)
- MailChimp (email marketing)
- Oracle (marketing automation)
- Emailicious (targeted email campaigns)
- Klaviyio (customer relationship, email campaigns, and marketing management)
2. PLAN OUT YOUR BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS
Automation can also help you manage your social media or schedule your blog articles.
Depending on the duration of your vacation, you can anticipate the number of articles your blog will need to stay active and plan your social posts, even sharing them automatically on the different platforms. You could also take advantage of your time off to republish articles that had generated interest in the past or that are still relevant.
You can also plan your Facebook or Instagram posts with platforms such as Later or Hootsuite that allow you to manage different social media accounts without having to connect to each one individually.
Of course, if you want to respond to social media posts, you will need to take time to do so every day during your vacation or delegate this specific task to someone while you are away.
One piece of advice: avoid controversial topics. It is not a good time to stir debates. Schedule simple posts which everyone will agree on and that will ensure a presence on your social media.
3. USE YOUR E-COMMERCE SERVICE PROVIDER’S MANAGEMENT SERVICES
Another service you may want to think of should you want to take some time off: if you deal with an e-commerce service provider, they likely offer a management service for your site.
You could take advantage of your vacation to test this service! If you’re uncertain, try it beforehand so you can keep an eye on it, and that way you’ll be reassured when you will be gone.
Your e-commerce service provider may be able to manage a newsletter campaign or contact customers who have abandoned their carts. Take the time to find out what they can do for you so that you stay in contact with your customers even when you are away.
4. HIRE A TEMPORARY BUT RELIABLE PARTNER
Plenty of things can be automated or delegated to your e-commerce service provider, and there are other things that can be suspended for a week or two – content creation, collaborations, product development for instance.
However, your business MUST continue operating, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Your customers must be able to make purchases and delivery must continue as usual. For these reasons – I hate to break it to you – you WILL need someone to look after this.
Therefore, think of training someone you can rely on, someone that will be able to take over the basic services – order fulfillment and shipping at least – while you are away. Test it for a few days just to make sure things everything will be fine, and guess what? Everything will be fine!
5. INFORM YOUR CUSTOMERS, BE TRANSPARENT
If nobody can look over order fulfillment in your absence, there is nothing wrong in notifying your customers that you will be away by publishing a message on your site, your blog, and your social media.
Some merchants choose to do this to make sure they enjoy real vacation. They announce that their shop is still open, but deliveries will be paused until a certain date. If customers are aware, they will be willing to wait.
Above all, indicate exactly when you will resume shipping orders on your social media accounts, your website, and most importantly, at the time of choosing the delivery method and in the automatic order confirmation email.
Another tip: depending on how many orders will have accumulated in your absence, give yourself a bit more time when you return since you may not be able to catch up on all order the very day you are back.
Lastly, if you choose to announce your absence, configure an auto-reply message for your emails and telephones.
Some merchants decide to temporarily shut down their site or block payment methods so that customers cannot make purchases in their absence. I strongly advise against this! Your customers and potential customers may think you are definitely closed and you risk losing them.
6. ENCOURAGE PURCHASES, EVEN DURING YOUR VACATION
A good way of thanking your customers for their patience is to send them a special offer to compensate for the exceptional shipping delay, and at the same time, encourage purchases.
For example, it could be a discount on certain products or on the total amount of their order, or even offering free shipping.
Make sure to communicate this special offer everywhere – on your website homepage, on your social media accounts, in your newsletters, etc.
In conclusion, it IS possible (and necessary) to take vacations even if you manage an e-commerce. It will require a lot of preparation throughout the year to make sure that everything runs smoothly in your absence and that you won’t lose any customers in the process.
The good news is that if you are subscribed to busterfetcher.com, you will continue to receive refunds for all late deliveries even while you are off, which should make for a nice surprise when you get back!
So, get some rest and enjoy your time off!
- Find out more about marketing automation for my newsletters, emails for abandoned carts or following purchases.
- Plan my blog articles until I get back.
- Plan all my social media posts.
- Find out more about my e-commerce service provider’s management services.
- Make sure my inventory is up-to-date so that orders can be fulfilled in my absence.
- Train someone to look after order fulfillment and shipping.
- Delegate someone to reply to customer inquiries by email or on social media. Otherwise, take time every day to ensure follow-ups are done.
- If nobody can take care of orders and shipping, notify my customers of my absence and when shipping will resume on all my platforms – website, blog, social media, and confirmation emails.
- Offer a discount or free shipping during my absence to compensate for shipping delays.
- Should I inform my customers of my time away, configure an ‘out-of-office’ autoreply on my emails and telephones.