Running your own e-commerce business means wearing a lot of hats. From managing inventory to advertising to bookkeeping and employee management, it is safe to say that your plate is full.
As your brand grows, the idea of outsourcing some of these tasks starts to look more and more appealing.
Outsourcing can not only help your business perform tasks with a greater efficiency, it can give you access to skilled experts in a particular area rather than paying a hefty price to hire similar experts in-house.
In short, outsourcing can save you time and money.
Outsourcing is clearly a valuable resource - but what tasks should be outsourced and which are you best to handle on your own? The exact answer to this question depends on your brand and the specific products and services offered; there is no one right way to do things. But having said that, there are still a few general outsourcing guidelines that apply to nearly all businesses. Knowing and understanding these points can contribute to the success and profitability of your brand.
For starters, never outsource what your brand does best. Know your strengths and be sure to protect them. Whether these strengths are linked to proprietary intellectual property or simply a proficiency for which you have come to be known, keeping them in-house can ensure that they remain your strengths.
There are many tasks that are worth outsourcing and others, like your core competencies, that are best left in-house. Here is a closer look at 3 tasks worth outsourcing, and 3 you should manage yourself.
Things to Consider Outsourcing
Some tasks can be easily outsourced to improve the workflow and success of your brand. Here are some tasks that are worth outsourcing:
Design: Outsourcing your design elements is a great place to start, especially if you do not have any experience in it yourself. One of the first things people will notice about your brand, good or bad, are the images you put before them. These images include your brand’s logo, your brand’s colors, and the overall layout and design of your website and/or Amazon listing.
Allowing a professional to handle your logo design and branding, increases the odds that you will reach the right customer base by creating a compelling image and color scheme that can be used everywhere, from your social media platforms to your packaging, creating a consistent story that tells people exactly who you are.
Bookkeeping: Bookkeeping is essential to keeping your business on track. If you do not have a handle of the flow of money in and out of your accounts, there is no way you can truly succeed. Outsourcing your bookkeeping will help you maximize your resources. In all likelihood, you do not have the time to check the books every day nor do you likely have the time to train another staff member to do it. By outsourcing it, you will free yourself and your staff to pursue tasks that are more closely aligned with your skills which will be far more effective when it comes to managing and growing your brand.
Bookkeeping, while not considered one of the sexier elements of running a business, is too important to ignore. A firm handle on your bottom line is key to running an efficient and profitable business. Outsourcing this task means you will be prepared for whatever may come your way. You will have a clean, clear, and comprehensive financials readily available should you ever be slapped with an audit, need to get a loan, want to sell your business. It will also give you a firm handle on the day to day of your business, allowing you to identify, and correct, any inefficiencies.
Order Fulfillment: Order fulfillment is time-consuming. Packing, printing, shipping, and tracking your orders takes a lot of work. Furthermore, owning or renting warehouse space can be a costly fixed expense. When you outsource to a fulfillment center, you will improve the process across the board.
Not only will you reduce costs by eliminating warehouse fees, staffing fees, and costs of associated technologies, you will improve customer experience.
Fulfillment centers are able to keep up to date with software developments and improvements to reduce turnaround time and increase the efficiency of shipping methods. These factors mean customers will receive their orders more quickly, going a long way to improving their satisfaction levels.
Outsourcing order fulfillment allows you to keep pace with demand. As your brand grows, or when you experience periods of high demand, you need to be able to scale up your operations. Fulfillment centers give you the flexibility you need to keep pace with these changes in real time.
Things to Avoid Outsourcing
While nearly all tasks can be outsourced, not all of them should be. Here are some tasks that are best kept in-house:
Customer Service: While outsourcing customer service is a good idea in some instances, it is not in others. For large companies, selling easy to understand products or services, outsourcing customer service is a no-brainer, but for smaller businesses, it often makes sense to keep this one in-house.
More often than not, how you deal with a customer question or complaint will play the most significant role in customer satisfaction and retention.
For smaller brands, staying on message is doubly important. Larger brands have a wider base and so a little more latitude is possible, but for those looking to grow, it is essential to establish yourself as a brand who cares about its customers and if customer service is managed by in-house staff, you will have a greater amount of control over the message being sent.
Similarly, if you sell a product or service that requires specific knowledge or experience to understand and operate, it is wise to do your own customer service. In this case, when you outsource customer service, you cannot guarantee that inquiries or complaints are being handled with the required competency. When handled in-house, you can make sure that all customer service representatives are trained and knowledgeable in all facets of your product and brand.
Corporate Culture and Employee Management: The internal interactions and functioning of your brand cannot be outsourced. The employees you hire make up your team, and it is up to you manage their behavior.
You probably have an idea about the way you want your company to run and the overall vibe you would like to perpetuate in the office. This cannot be forced. You cannot hire someone to create the right social environment.
Leading by example is more effective in promoting a particular workplace culture than hiring someone to try and create one. It is your employees that will most influence culture and only you can decide who is the right fit and how they can best be motivated and utilized.
Recruitment: When it comes down to it, no one knows your business better than you. Outsourcing your recruitment may result in a hire, but it may not necessarily result in the right hire.
Only you know what you need. An external recruiter will look for someone who hits all the markers when it comes to competency and proficiency but that person may be lacking the personality required to fit into and develop, the corporate culture you have in place. When you handle hiring yourself, you can make the necessary judgment calls that will help you to build the strongest team possible. Sometimes the best candidate on paper is not the best candidate in practice. It is better that you be the judge.
Outsourcing can have an incredible impact on your brand. It can reduce spending, improve efficiency and free you up to develop a creative path forward but not everything should be outsourced. When deciding what to do, carefully consider your brand goals, your personal skills, and the skills of your team. If outsourcing a task will not provide a marked improvement, take a pass and keep it in-house.