On paper, running an online business was supposed to be easy compared to old school bricks and mortar enterprise, with low overheads leading to high margins, and most importantly the freedom not to be tied to a location so you can work from anywhere you want.
While this is completely true in theory, in practice this turns out not to be the case. This is because while ‘everything’ is easier, it turns out you’ve either got to do ‘everything’ yourself or outsource most of it to others. While this means those things are done well, it can also mean that most of your ‘high’ margins end up being much lower.
In more recent times, though, this is not always true. For obvious reasons, over the last 18 months, many business functions have needed to be done remotely and as a result, the app development industry has done you a few favours, by creating apps that and have the ability to make life easier for those struggling to keep up with running an eCommerce business.
So, if you’re still needing at least 25 hours in each day to stay on top of things, here are some ways in which the app development industry has potentially made your life easier.
#1 Social media management apps
This is an easy place to start, because no matter the size or niche of your online business, the chances are it relies on social media for many reasons. As well as sending traffic directly to your website or product pages on platforms like eBay or Amazon, there are long term benefits to having a strong social media presence. Regular posts across all platforms work towards building a bond with potential customers who align with your ethics and put you at the front of their minds when it comes to making a purchase.
For this reason, your social media game needs to be a strong one. However, while you can’t have all of the platforms open at once, you can use an app to show all of your social media involvement at a glance. This can allow you to respond to messages and questions with having to open or close this and that platform every time. An app like this where you can have everything in one place is an absolute lifesaver, especially if it also allows you to post to several platforms at once.
#2 Online selling apps
Mobile friendly or not, the apps for your online selling platforms are better than trying to use any version of the website on your phone. Any ecommerce business selling physical products (which is the vast majority) is going to have a presence on both eBay and Amazon, which benefit from easy-to-use apps for listing items either as one-off or bulk purchases.
Even if you have a Shopify site, your life can be made easier by adding an app like Cliksit to manage customer returns. An easy returns process is key to making sales online, as most buyers check the returns procedure before deciding to buy or not. These apps also let you see reviews and feedback so you can manage responses in real time, the same as with your social media communication
#3 Shipping the items
If you happen to have a fleet of delivery trucks, there are of course apps that can help you manage that. However, the chances are that all of your daily dispatches will be going on one or two couriers or pallet shipping services. These can be entirely managed from app on your phone from getting a quote to having all of the paperwork sent to the relevant agencies and having the driver turn up with the labels ready to put on your boxes.
This tracking information can then be sent to your customers, so they know when to expect their delivery. Like returns, delivery is a key part of the buyer’s criteria when deciding to purchase your product rather than somebody else’s. You will also be able to track the progress of your deliveries and make customers aware of any potential problems in real time. This proactive approach again is something customers look for when choosing whether or not to make a repeat purchase.
#4 Bookkeeping apps
It’s not just the nuts and bolts of the business that can be helped by using the most newly developed apps, but also some of the boring but essential everyday things that seem to take more time out of the business than we would like. Bookkeeping is one of those tasks and as a result, it can often get neglected, which is far from ideal.
Using bookkeeping apps means you can do things as they occur, and not have to remember them later when you realize a customer hasn’t paid, or you don’t find that receipt until after it’s been through the wash. Instead, having the ability to send invoices at the press of a button or scan a receipt on and have the details sent straight to your accountant can save lots of headaches and possible fines, as well as keep business a bit more organized.
#5 Banking apps
Another area of many eCommerce businesses that would benefit from the efforts of the app development industry is banking. While many payments from customers will go through various payment processors and into your account, paying for goods from suppliers can be more difficult, especially if importing parts or products from abroad.
The ability to do this on the move rather than be stuck in the office all day, as well as being able to pay utility and other bills and check payments have gone in, can allow you to get on with what you need to be doing. It can also give you an overview of where your money is going without talking to your accountant.
#6 Additional apps that help
Information and communication are key to successfully running every business, and rather than having a dozen email trails going, using communication and scheduling apps allows you to keep on top of deadlines as well as keep in touch with your team and suppliers, wherever in the world they happen to be.
Newly developed apps are also key to monitoring your overheads, by being able to see at a glance what you are spending on your utilities without having an unwelcome surprise when the bills come in at the end of the financial period.
To wrap things up
As you might already know from bitter experience, running your own online business is not always everything it is cracked up to be. What is often framed as a ‘laptop lifestyle’ can often mean being glued to that laptop 18 hours a day. However, because of the app development industry, what used to involve having a dozen windows open and twice as many emails threads can now be mostly managed from dedicated apps on your phone.
The correct use of these can save hours from your working day, increase your level of flexibility as you are not tied to your desk, and allow you to interact with customers in real-time which can only have benefits for your long-term sales and profitability.