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Top 10 Insights from the Experts: Expansion and Growth in 2021

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Companies looking to scale and grow in the year of unsurmountable change face unique challenges. Consumer demand and trends show huge ecommerce growth but at the same time, shipping and logistics have had major turbulence. All this change is scary but don’t worry, we’ve brought in the big guns. 

We asked ten ecommerce businesses experts to share their best advice for brands preparing to grow/scale this year and they gave us some straight heat. Read more below: 

1. Collaborate With Other Players 

“Launch more products and more collaborations with other players (influencers, brands, publishers) that your customers like. Taking the same core product/form factor and creating more variants based on design, patterns, aesthetics that are "co-designed" by other influential people that your core customers trust is a great way to sell more products to the same customers and create a channel where another party is incentivized to promote or sell your products. Bonus points if you make those items in limited quantities. Creating the demand and urgency to buy limited edition products create additional demand for the products you already sell. Plus it's a great way to get more units out of the core products you are already producing.” - Jeremy Horowitz from Daasity

2. Put Product First

“2021 is a whiplash, revenge-everything year. There is abundant capital in the market, with heightened consumer demand, at the same time as global freight, logistics and supply chains are compromised.  Trying to beat the market in projecting the intersection of these factors will be a fallacy for most brands. In general, do not focus on the land grab, focus on building a great product and a legitimate community of advocates. The efficiency and scale of media is not the end game -- rather, it matters to push an authentic message around a legitimately high-quality, differentiated product into market.” - Jono Schafler from LAUNCH, (Trade Coffee, M.Gemi, Rockets of Awesome, Follain, BRUNT Workwear, Singuli)

3. Use Loyal Customers For Operations Feedback

“It is important to revisit and focus on your customer's journey from both an acquisition standpoint, as well retention. Throughout the customer journey ask yourself, does the messaging convey a transactional tone or a relational tone (it should be relational)? Acquiring customers will only continue to get harder and more expensive, so as you’re bringing in new customers the question would be, what can you do to retain them? This also involves the "Final Mile" and packaging. With that being said, you should also be thinking about ways to build a community out of your customers. Once you have loyal customers, a lot of the other logistical and operational problems will become a lot more clear based on their feedback. The main point being, a company cannot sustainably grow if they are not retaining their customers.”  - Matt Houlemard from Recharge 

4. Communicate Brand Story With Customer Community 

“Ensure that you have an active customer community, rather than a passive customer base. A community drives greater ROI with every year it exists, and Insider community members show a far greater propensity to be loyal, repeat purchasing more regularly, spending more with each purchase and regularly acting as advocates. Ensure that you’re using your community to communicate your brand story, because 74% of Insiders say this is what motivates them to undertake community-based actions that drive greater value for your brand. We’re seeing lots of merchants combining everyday marketing techniques including email, content and social media with their loyalty programs, in order to power communities that simultaneously drive better acquisition and retention by creating long-term emotional connections with their customers.”  - Fiona Stevens of Loyalty Lion

5. Increase Customer Service, Use a HelpDesk 

“It's important for brands to prepare for the influx of customer service questions that come with scaling. This is especially true in 2021, as customers will interact with your brand across various channels, which can cause inefficiencies and confusion. You can scale your customer service without scaling your head count by using an omnichannel helpdesk that channels all communications into one place, including social media, SMS, email, phone, and live chats. This will save your team time flipping between channels, and help ensure context about customers is centralized in one place.”  - Emma Kimmerly from Gorgias

6. Adjust Messaging in Accordance to Your Audience

“Understand your opportunities as well as limitations. Growth tends to increase complexity of marketing programs and there are plenty of platforms available for all tiers. Understand how far you will be able to grow within the next 3-5 years and find a tech stack that can accommodate those expectations. Watch your processes for efficiencies and be prepared to rapidly adapt in order to scale smoothly. Hanging on to old processes can impede growth by forcing some focus to maintain old systems. Be prepared for the customer base to shift. Small companies tend to have a dense concentration of advocates but growth will bring in more generalized customers. Keep focus on the brand's core while adjusting messaging and tactics to align with the growing audience.” -Peter Inthirakoth from Tinuiti

7. Don’t be Afraid to Start Small

“As your business grows, you will likely need to revisit and optimize your shipping and fulfillment strategy to stay ahead of competition and meet customer expectations around fast and affordable shipping. Continuously review your operations and consider what you need to get to the next level of growth including long-term scalable solutions, whether it’s expanding in-house or outsourcing to a 3PL that offers a global fulfillment network, where you can start out small by storing inventory in one fulfillment center, then expand into more as you grow. This way, you can easily launch into new markets and add new sales channels while managing back-office logistics.” - Kristina Lopienski from Shipbob 

8. Create Goals That Consider Sustainable Growth

“Look for sustainable growth and know your goals. You need to identify where you are today, where you want to be tomorrow and how you plan to get there before you take any actions in your business. If your goal is global expansion, take steps and work with a partner who understands your goals and can help you meet them. If your goal is to sell your business, learn from those who have done so in the past and steps you need to take to sell. There is no one size fits all solution for growing your brand and as a brand owner you are responsible for defining your brand in the market and helping it grow.” - Ben Stein from Payoneer

9. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify 

“The best piece of advice is to not only diversify spend across multiple channels due to privacy laws, but to also diversify product offerings based on customer needs. Plus, have products accessible on multiple marketplaces (i.e., Amazon, Etsy, etc.).” - Kunal Parikh from MuteSix 

10. Allocate Resources to Account For COVID Trends

"Be careful about spreading resources too thin. It's very easy to over-invest in new sales channels, fulfillment partners, or creative strategies for driving engagement. Don't let this come at the expense of maximizing efficiency and ROI from the channels, audiences, etc. that you've already had success with. Plus, in many cases, COVID is an outlier, not part of a valid sample size. While many trends are here to stay, you might also bet big on a new audience or abundance of demand that failed to maintain after a couple good months/quarters." - Gareth Roberts from Skubana 

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