How to run a remote e-commerce store from anywhere

Having a remote e-commerce store is easy with so many handy tools at your disposal – you no longer need to be tied to your desk. If you plan strategically you will be able to move away from your e-commerce business hub, or even manage it while you travel the world.

Your e-commerce business likely started off small but needed to be micro-managed. As it starts to snowball you should consider utilising technology, outsourcing and basic administration to ensure you can be more hands-off and manage it from anywhere in the world.

The benefits of remote e-commerce management

As an e-commerce business, you can easily switch to a remote management style. This becomes even easier if you are shipping digital goods, rather than physical items.

By making the leap you will save on running costs, maximise your business’ efficiency and be able to work wherever you feel like it. Likewise, some of your staff will also be able to work remotely, which is becoming a much-requested employment perk.

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If you can switch all your staff to remote working, then you may be able to save on office rent. This can be a considerable saving. You will also save on all the running costs associated with that office such as internet and supplies. Electricity, cleaners, even keeping the snack cupboard stocked – it can all add up. Managing your e-commerce brand remotely helps lower all of those hidden costs, and means you can get back that commuting time.

Aside from cost savings, going fully remote can also benefit your team dynamics. If you’ve previously operated on a hybrid basis, chances are you’ve come across issues with some employees feeling left out, particularly when conversations or decisions are happening in the office without them. Moving your team completely remote means everyone is able to communicate in one place and has a fair opportunity to share their input on important business decision.

How to make it happen

The key to successful remote e-commerce management is organisation. If you want the freedom to manage your e-commerce business from a holiday destination or even just from your home, then every process needs to be fully documented. There should be no wiggle room. Staff need to know exactly what is expected of them and have written instructions they can access at any time.

If you struggle to write down the procedures then use a tool like Loom to record videos of you carrying out the processes.

Automate where possible

Using helpful tools, you should aim to automate as many procedures as you can. Using cloud-based apps both you and your staff can log in anywhere in the world and have access to all the business’ data.

Use MailChimp or a similar app to automate your newsletters. Make sure you are using all the features of your accounting software.

Xero has features that allow you to invoice globally, manage your stock, manage Payroll and much more – They even have project management software.

Apps such as Zapier or IFTTT allow you to link two or more apps together. This can be useful for business owners on the go. Examples include when an email arrives with an attachment the attachment is saved to Dropbox and you are alerted in Slack about the new file. The list of apps you can link to on Zapier is always growing and already includes Xero, PayPal, Amazon Seller Central and eBay. IFTTT also has an impressive array of supported apps including MailChimp, Dropbox and Slack.

Outsourcing your tasks

There may be tasks that are best outsourced altogether. While many people associate outsourcing with cheap labour in countries with English as a second language, this doesn’t have to be the case. You can find top-level freelancers without needing to take on the commitment of full-time hours, that will themselves work remotely as your business needs.

What you need to run a remote e-commerce store from anywhere
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Outsourcing opportunities

As an e-commerce business, you may already be outsourcing without realising it. If you are part of Amazon’s fulfilment scheme on Marketplace, then you are outsourcing your dispatch via that channel.

Fulfilment partners aren’t just limited to Amazon, however. Outsourcing fulfilment is becoming common practice and will mean all the logistics are handled for you. Simply search for a fulfilment partner in the right locale and they should be able to handle incoming orders, perform quality checks and ship the product to your customers.

For administrative tasks such as checking emails daily, you could use Upwork or a similar site to source a high-quality Virtual Assistant. Sites such as this using a stringent reviewing system to ensure you get a top-quality VA.

You may find it beneficial to outsource your marketing and advertising. Many agencies can offer varying levels of involvement, with some just helping out occasionally during busy periods or with specific aspects of your marketing activity, whereas others can be given full reign to run your accounts for you, with regular updates and reports on activity keeping you in the loop.

Tools you will need to get to grips with

If you need to provide customer service on your e-commerce products Zendesk will allow you to keep track of all interactions and access the hub remotely.

Slack or Basecamp will allow you to chat with your staff remotely and share files. This is great for checking in as and when your staff are free. Zoom or Skype can be used if you want to touch base face-to-face.

Asana is perfect for assigning tasks to staff members or just keeping an eye on your to-do list via the cloud.

Dropbox or Google Drive are GDPR compliant secure storage options for all your files. This is a great place to put those in-depth procedure instructions so staff can access them at any time.

What you need to remember

While anyone can attempt to run a remote e-commerce business, the successful cases tend to be those who check in regularly. This can be face-to-face, via text or email but it is essential that you keep an eye on all moving parts on a regular basis and check in with staff to ensure everything is working as planned.

Where to start

Switching to remote e-commerce management of your store is an exciting step, but one that will take planning to ensure a smooth transition. You will still need to regularly tend to your business if you want it to flourish but by carefully introducing the right processes you can start to walk away from your desk.

If you would like to chat about how to make the most of Xero’s features to ease the process, please reach out to one of our staff.

The best time to start is now.

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Breakout E-commerce accountants and Xero specialists to supercharge your UK online business growth.