7 key strategies to sustain online-only SMBs

Today’s dynamic business environment requires companies to think beyond the traditional strategies, and look towards more innovative possibilities. Here are a few key strategies to have a sustainable business.
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We are living in a period where digital dependency is at its peak, and a multitude of businesses have adopted digital processes. Ecommerce is, without a doubt, one of the most promising ventures in today’s business world. 

But with all its advantages, it is important to follow a few key strategies to have a sustainable business:

1. Create a memorable brand image

Great products and great visuals go hand in hand. Visual imagery can play a big role in the success of a business – whether it's something as trivial as symbols and colour, or how you display your offerings online. Most businesses will focus on creating great products, with very little thought given to visual depiction. 

There is immense competition in the online space, and one of the best ways to give your business a leg up is by investing in quality visuals. Effective marketing techniques entail all forms of photography and graphics as they help correctly communicate your brand story to your audience. Working on your brand image right from the start helps customers identify with the brand as well. 

2. Adopt a flexible pricing strategy

Product pricing is possibly one of the trickiest aspects of a business. With a plethora of options, it is often difficult to finalise the correct price point keeping in mind the customer, while also maintaining brand differentiation. 

Your business depends on the way you price your products. If you price your products at a loss, or at an unsustainable profit margin, you’re going to find it challenging to grow and scale. While there is a lot to factor in, one thing to keep in mind is that there needs to be a realistic limit.

The launch price may not always remain fixed. Therefore, consider a price that accounts for your expenses and your profit margin, while always being open to change. 

Most businesses fail to understand the various costs, such as shipping, advertising, the implication of GST and so on, involved in running an ecommerce business. SMBs should do a rough estimate of all the costs involved and price their products accordingly to stay sustainable. 

3. Minimise cash on delivery failures

When a business is new, cash on delivery (COD) is almost inevitable, until the consumers have built their trust with the brand. From the sampling size of over three lakh orders, we have seen a trend of over 20 percent COD orders having to return to origin (RTO). RTO is a terrible enemy because it means twice the shipping charges. 

Accounting and warehousing practices go much further than merely keeping track of products and orders. They eliminate much of the guesswork, giving companies greater control over their business. There is no failsafe method to prevent these orders but there are ways to avoid them.

Verifying orders, limiting payment methods, and incentivising your audience with discounts for online payment methods will help them gain trust and help you reduce unnecessary spending. 

When you’re selling online, tracking orders and payments is a task. If this is not optimised right in the beginning, it will lead to a lot of complications in operations later on.

4. Take baby steps

If you’re an entrepreneur, it's important to not only visualise an idea but also to execute it and constantly improvise. Instead of ticking off all the boxes, start small. Your idea will go through multiple stages of trial and error before it comes to flourish. The first step is to test it. Study the way your product is received by a small section of your audience, before going all out. In an environment that is constantly changing, it’s best to refine your offering as much as possible. 

Even if you’ve experimented with your products and found the ideal offering, the process doesn’t stop. It’s an ongoing cycle of continuous optimisation, to ensure you leave no margin for error. 

5. Understand advertisement and promotions

The world of advertising seems unscathed and is almost impossible to fully understand. However, it plays a large role in introducing a business to the audience. In the age of the internet, digital ads are everything. Taking courses on sites like Udemy and understanding the fundamentals, allows you to pick the best course for your business. Social media is another great tool that is almost inevitable for a growing online business. It offers a lot of opportunities to personalise and promote content. Understanding these various tools will allow you, as a business owner, to select the right vehicle for expression and know what to expect in return. 

6. Act on the opportunities

The great thing about the internet is that it is constantly improving to allow newer advancements that you can leverage for your business. Marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart are great places to list and market your products. Firstly, because they have a huge base of customers who will bring good volumes and organic sales. Secondly, they increase the visibility of your brands. 

Today’s dynamic business environment requires companies to think beyond the traditional strategies, and look towards more innovative possibilities. This way, your business can leverage different platforms to emerge as a new leader or strengthen its position among its audience. 

7. Don’t do it all

If you’re an entrepreneur or a solopreneur, you’re probably wearing way too many hats.

Whether or not you have people working for you, you’ve taken on the role of the CEO, the designer, the tech person, the marketer, and the list goes on. That’s one of the worst things because it’s a surefire way to become overworked, overwhelmed, and ultimately, burned out. 

It’s time to stop worrying and realise that you can’t do everything by yourself. Instead of trying to cover all the different roles, outsource them.

Look for trusted people that can cover tasks for you and focus your attention on the work that needs you. This way, you will be able to do more, quicker.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)