Managing an online store

You need to juggle many different skills, when it comes to managing an online store on an on-going basis. Firstly, you need marketing skills to understand your target audience and improve the customer experience. Then, you need commercial skills to manage income and costs, so that you grow your business profitably. And lastly, you need to manage people and teams, and set up processes and routines, so your online store runs efficiently and effectively. 


Managing an online store

How this guide raises your game.

  1. Focus on the key marketing activities which drive better connections with online shoppers for your store.
  2. Learn the key commercial measures and systems to set business goals and track performance.
  3. The importance of controlling your business by working with the right people and establishing processes and routines. 

When you are responsible for managing an online store, you need to bring together different types of activities for your business to run smoothly and grow. You can group these different types of activities into three key areas. 

First, those activities which drive better connections with online shoppers. These are mainly market research, brand strategycommunications and customer experience activities.

Then, as a commercial operation, there are those activities which relate to managing the profit and loss for your online store. It’s an important skill to know how to maximise income for example. And equally as important to know where and how to minimise costs to drive profitability. 

And finally, managing an online store also means putting control mechanisms in place. This means you need to set up teams and find the right people to work with. And, you need to look for processes and routines which can automate your operations. 

Let’s look at each of these areas more closely. 

Sale sign in white on a red window with outline of a person walking past in the background

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Build better connections with shoppers

As part of the e-Commerce planning process, we introduced the five key steps to manage orders through an online store. These were digital media, the online store website, payment, delivery and customer service. (collectively known as the order to delivery system). 

Each of these areas involve interactions with the online shopper. So, a big part of managing an online store is to understand these interactions. It’s important to work out ways to improve these interactions on an on-going basis.  

Before launch, market research would identify the store’s target audience, and their online shopping needs. You would validate the opportunity and work out your e-Commerce competitive strategy and your positioning

e-commerce planning process - The 5 key steps of the e-commerce process

From potential to actual behaviour

While these improve your chances of success, you still have to convert these potential customers behaviours into actual customer behaviours. What people say they will do, and what they actually do, can often be different.

You won’t know how strong your online store is until it actually goes live. Only then do you start to build a picture of actual behaviour. Your digital data gives you insights into all interactions in the customer experience.

This is data which gives you feedback and insights into actual, not potential behaviours. This is a much stronger level of market research. It’s real, not hypothetical. And you can use this real insight to make more customer-centric marketing decisions, as your business progresses.

With a live online store, you also have opportunities to regularly interact with online shoppers. You can ask for feedback on service levels when you complete a sale, for example. Or, you can add surveys to your website or emails. And, you can use marketing technology to make the online shopping experience feel more personal.

Start by tracking performance against KPIs

One of the first things to do when managing an online store is to start tracking performance. As part of your online store strategy and your digital media plans, you should have identified Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each of your major activities.

Each KPI should have a measurable target attached to it.

Each KPI target should also set the target date by which you aim to achieve it. 

Track these KPIs and targets on a business performance dashboard. This is a regularly updated dashboard that’s a simple way to check on progress against the targets. 

Most online store performance dashboards aim to capture on a single page the key metrics that determine if the store is doing well. Or, not doing well, obviously.

You use a dashboard to identify whether performance is on target, ahead of target or behind target.

On target is generally the easiest to deal with. Usually, no further action is needed.

Where performance is ahead of target, you should investigate to understand the cause. It could be that there is more opportunity in that area. You may choose to invest more on high-performing campaigns or products, for example.

Behind target usually also requires investigation. You need to go fact finding to understand the cause behind the under-performance. It should flag the need for action to “fix” the issue.

Create your dashboard

You can create your dashboard in Powerpoint, Keynote or in a spreadsheet. Powerpoint and Keynote dashboards generally look better, but are harder to manage the raw data in the background. Spreadsheet dashboards don’t look as slick, but they are much easier to interrogate the raw data.

You could also consider automated dashboard tools like Datorama and data visualisation tools like Tableau.

The key people involved in managing the online store website and the other functions of e-Commerce should meet on a regular basis to review the dashboard. For most online businesses, this review happens weekly or monthly. That meeting should identify actions required to manage KPIs that are ahead of or behind target. You should discuss the results of those actions at the next regular review meeting.

Depending on the complexity of the online store, it’s possible to have separate more detailed dashboards on key activities. But, you should use the overall consolidated dashboard as your first step in managing an online store. It helps you prioritise. And, it helps you share with the whole team the general health of the store.

Example dashboard, measures and commentary

There’s no specific set of KPIs that can apply to all online stores. Each store will have different target audiences and business objectives which means differences in KPIs. 

However, the basic objectives behind an online store – get customers to visit the online store, persuade them to buy, run the store profitably – apply to most stores.

So, though the KPIs themselves may differ, they generally will all come from similar areas. 

We’ve created an example here based on an online store we worked on in the past to show you what a dashboard could look like. Your dashboard may not look exactly like this, but it’ll give you some ideas on what it could look like. 

Media campaign analytics

Though you can choose from any type of media channel in your media plan, the most common types of media used for online stores are digital media channels.

Digital media channels let you identify specific online shoppers based on demographics or behavioural data. You can use this to target your media to online shoppers who most closely fit your target audience profile. This makes digital media an attractive channel for online stores.

It becomes even more attractive when you consider than you can add a direct call to action in your digital advertising. You can make it easy for shoppers to buy, by clicking on a link.

Zero likes - Advertising evaluation and social media

With social media channels, you can also set up interactive conversations with the customer by allowing comments and responding to direct enquiries. 

Digital media is attractive for those managing an online store, because you can run simultaneous, low-cost campaigns. These help you test and learn what works and what doesn’t. You can easily set up and run variations of the same ad to identify which video, which image, which headline, which piece of copy works the strongest to drive visits and sales. This gives you quick feedback to help you decide how to optimise your activity.

Campaign measurement

You can measure many different elements of each campaign. As a minimum you want to capture measures related to reach and engagement. So, in the example above, we used impressions and Click Through Rate (CTR) on our two hypothetical campaigns. Impressions would be how many people saw the advertising online. And, Click Through Rate is how many people clicked on it to visit the website. 

You should pick the measures that best suit your objectives. 

Impressions gives a good sense of the scale of a campaign. But, they’re less helpful as a predictor of the effectiveness of your digital media. Just because more people see your advertising, doesn’t mean more people will buy. If your digital media appears in the wrong place, or at the wrong time, or to the wrong audience, it can still generate a lot of impressions. But, it may drive no sales. 

Using a measure like Click Through Rate is more helpful. It measures an actual response to the advertising. However, as we cover in our guide to online store business models, Click-Through-Rates are often low (less than 2%). These low numbers can freak out some people, especially accountants who will see them as inefficient. 

They also don’t always give a true impression of the impact of the advertising. It may take repeated views of an advert to drive a sale, for example. Customers may remember the advert at a different time and search for the site separately. 

Click-Through-Rates only measures the final advertising exposure. It doesn’t track how many times the shopper saw the advert, before they clicked through.

Define how KPI data is captured and reported

If you use an agency to book your digital media, agree the KPIs and targets with them during the briefing process. They should also report during and after the campaign on how the media performed.

If you use channels like Facebook Ads, or Google Ads, you can access this sort of data by campaign directly within those services.

This gives you instant access to live data about how your advertising is performing in each of these channels. This helps you make quick adjustments, if necessary.

If you have set up pixels and tags on your campaigns and platforms, you’ll also be able to see which campaigns drive which actions on your online store website.

Facebook Audience Insights page screenshot to show digital data source

With social media, you may also want to include measures related to the number of responses to posts. Responses such as likes, shares and re-posts and re-tweets can give a good measure of engagement with your social media posts.

Website analytics

For most websites, Google Analytics is the default choice for measuring what happens on your website. We cover the key measures you would typically review in Google Analytics in our guide to digital data.

More advanced stores may choose another more sophisticated analytics platform, but Google Analytics provides a good level of data to measure your online store website performance. 

In a high level online store dashboard, you would want to measure the number of visitors to your website, and how many of those visitors convert to a sale.

But, do be aware that like Click Through Rates on digital media, conversions to visitors as a percentage is usually very low, with an average of only 2 -3%.

On your website, you may have much more specific measures that you track separately like bounce rate, time of site or visits to specific pages.

Customer Feedback – Net Promoter Score

If you also capture any feedback from customers on the website, this is a good place to include it. For example, Net Promoter Score (NPS) – is a common measure of customer satisfaction. 

With NPS, you ask a simple question. “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend (your brand) to a friend?

The answers are collated and scored. All scores of 8 and above (promoters) get a score of 1. All scores between 5 and 7 (neutrals) score a 0. And, all scores 4 and below (detractors) score a -1. Your overall Net Promoter Score is the total number of promoters less the total number of detractors, expressed as a percentage.

The assumption is that only people who are really positive (score 8 or more) will talk about your brand. Scores of 5 to 7 are seen as neutral. And scores of 4 and below will actively be negative about your brand.

This gives a good view of the perception of your brand and its service. The higher the number, the more positively customers see your brand.

Operational measures

You should include measures which relate to how you manage the order to delivery process.

If you outsource this, such as through marketplaces, print on demand or dropshipping, it’ll be on your service provider or supplier to manage this. You’ll likely not have a lot of control over how it works or access to much data. 

But, if you manage your own payments and deliveries, you should include a number of measures to show how the operational side of your online store performs. 

Some commonly used examples include :-

Close up of a delivery driver handing over a cardboard box delivery to a customer

Delivered In Full On Time (DIFOT)

Delivered In Full On Time (DIFOT) is a commonly used measure in supply chain teams to show that you delivered products in the right quantity and at the right time. Typically, most businesses would aim for this to be over 95%. And in fact, in some businesses, it’s over 99%.


The level of returns is another important operational KPI that we would recommend you include on your dashboard. Every time you have a return, that adds cost to your business. 

A high level of returns can indicate problems with either the sales offer or the delivery. You should aim to keep returns as low as possible, and investigate the cause if it starts to rise.


Complaints are normally handled by a customer service team. They are a good indicator of how well your operations are performing.

It’s almost impossible to have zero complaints.

Someone, somewhere will always have some issue. But, you should aim to keep complaints as low as possible. If they start to rise, the dashboard gives you an early alert on this.

If there’s a trend of complaints around a particular area, it can show where you need to fix a problem or improve the efficiency of a particular part of your online store and customer experience

Man in a red T-shirt looking frustrated and angry

Fraud and chargebacks

Fraud and chargebacks are another cost that will hit your P&L in your online store business model. Again, you want this number to be low. But when you regularly check the number on a dashboard, it can alert you if there’s an issue. For example, if hackers or fraudsters are deliberately targeting your site.

Sales Performance

You should somewhere on your dashboard have the total amount of sales and how that compares to the target. You should then aim to break down the performance of the key categories or products that sit underneath that. 

Look for the best and worst performers. Try to work out why products over- or under-perform. Maybe some media campaigns are working better than others? Or, a particular sales promotion or price discount was more effective? 

You should compare sales levels at times of little or no activity to times of high activity. The little or no activity periods give you a baseline of sales, so you can compare the extra sales you get during high activity periods to evaluate the impact of your marketing. 

It’s also important to consider any external factors which might impact on sales. So, maybe competitors are also advertising and running sales promotions? This can draw potential shoppers away from your online store. 

Check your competitors websites and social media activity to see when and how they are active. Look out for any comments or trends from consumers which help you identify where your target audience are shopping online, and what they buy. 

Other KPIS you might measure

There are many more KPIs and data points you can track and measure. 

If SEO is part of your plan for example, you should add in performance from Google Webmaster Search Console

Or, if you run lots of sales promotions you should include their performance on a dashboard. And, if your business is based on loyalty and repeat rates, you should include these as measures on your dashboard. 

You can also have specific measures around the target audience. So, based on gender, age or geography for example. 

There’s no single best dashboard set-up, because every store is different. But it’s important you have one as part of your plan of managing an online store. It helps you make decisions, and decide where to prioritise your actions. 

Act on the data

As we covered in our guide to using data in the marketing plan, knowing what’s going on in the marketplace is no use unless you actually do something about it. 

As part of your online store strategy planning, you should have an overall marketing plan and a brand activation plan for your online store.

You should try to match the data that you see with what’s in these plans, and decide what, if anything needs to change. 

If you have an activity that is working well, you could choose to highlight it more, or put more investment behind it.

Online stores are essentially a service so benefit from looking at the broader 7Ps of the marketing mix rather than the more common 4Ps of marketing

Examples of the marketing mix 4Ps and 7Ps - product, price, promotion, place, people, process, physical location

For activities that are broadly performing as expected, you should review ways to keep that level of performance going. And, for activities which are under-performing, you need to decide whether to change the activity completely, or even to stop doing it.

So, for managing your online store, particularly around the marketing mix, areas to consider could include :-


Which products do you include or feature in your advertising and media? Do different products generate different response rates?

Which products do you feature on your home page? Or, on your social media page?

Is it better to focus on one or two hero products, or to highlight broader ranges? Do some products work better when placed next to each other? Do you offer different levels of features on your products?

Which types of product information or content generate the most clicks and the most sales? Should you change the order in which you show information and content?

A keynote page showing product page basics - product name, product information and product images

What about how you show the products on the product pages in your online store? Can you use different images, different copy and different call to action buttons to drive more sales?

How many images and what style of images work best to drive sales, for example? Have you tried different styles of sales copy and if so, which ones perform the best? Can you test different words or designs to improve the call to action?


What is your regular price for each item, and what is your sale or promotional price? Do you offer price discounts or incentives for bulk buying, or spending a certain amount?

What is your overall pricing plan? How does it fit to your competitive strategy?  Do you always aim to offer a low price? Or, do you have a higher regular price, but more frequent sales promotions?

What if you’re a premium product? Or you only sell high ticket items rather than more regular everyday items. Do you choose to not do price promotions to keep your product exclusive? Where do costs like shipping, insurance or warranties fit in?

What about average spend per basket? How do you incentivise shoppers to buy higher priced items?


How are your different campaigns and channels performing? Is one particular piece of advertising or channel delivering consistently better results in terms of clicks and sales? Do online shoppers respond better to particular styles or themes in what you communicate?

Are you able to track changes in awareness and engagement based on your promotion activities? Do these correlate to changes in sales? Is your advertising and media spend paying off in terms of generating more sales through your online store?

What about the timing or placement of your media campaigns? Are there certain times of day, or days of the week that drive stronger levels of sales?

If you run display advertising on third party media sites, do you get more clicks from some sites than others?


How is your online store website performing?

Is the content performing well from an SEO point of view? What do your key metrics like time on page, clicks and bounce rate look like?

Can you test changes to the order you display products? Can you use priming for example to boost particular products or influence how customers view your site? (see our article on design psychology for more on priming). 

What about the design and layout of your store? Can you test the website to see if there are ways to improve it to drive more online sales?

What about more ‘offline’ touchpoint such as how you deliver the product to the customer? Are there ways to track and measure how you perform here?

People, process and physical location

As online shopping is essentially a ‘service’, you can also consider the broader range of “P”s within the marketing mix. (see also our article on growing your business with digital services). .

So, for example, when your target audience has to contact you directly, how do your customer service teams handle those enquiries? What people measures do you have in place to build teams that support the growth of your online store? 

For processes like payments and deliveries, do you have clear KPIs and targets that you track and measure? 

So, for example, a target to minimise chargebacks or fraudulent orders. Or, a target to deliver products to the shopper within a specific time frame. 

You can also look at processes the customer goes through as part of the customer experience. So, for example, do shoppers add to cart, but then abandon the cart before completing the payment?

When managing an online store, physical location is very similar to place. But you might also include here, coverage of which countries or areas you deliver to. You might also consider where your warehousing facilities sit as part of this performance tracking too. 

Building connections with your online shoppers with marketing

The digital data inputs that you get when running an online store, needs to go back into the briefs and plans that drive your key marketing activities. 

Learning what worked and what didn’t helps you develop better advertising and media campaigns in the future.

Digital data helps you define the best types of sales promotions and price discounting for your online store.

And overall, you can use digital data to continuously find ways to improve the online customer experience.

When you improve the online customer experience, that’s what helps you drive more sales and grow your online store. 

Person paying for an e-Commerce purchase as they hold a credit card up in front of a laptop

Commercialise : How to sell more and spend less

The second key skill to focus on when managing an online store is the overall commercial management of the store. This skill focusses on how to drive sales and manage costs, so that your online store runs profitably and efficiently. 

You will grow sales though building stronger connections with your online shoppers through marketing as we just outlined. But viewed through a commercial lens, means taking a much more detailed view at the profit and loss of the business. 

Focus on the profit and loss

As we cover in our online store business model guide, the Profit and Loss account is the key reporting tool to manage the commercial side of your online store. 

In simple terms, it describes the total income of the business, less the total costs to operate the business. What’s left is the profit or loss.

While you’ll find a profit and loss in eery business, online stores come with their own set of challenges which can often freak out accountants used to more traditional business models.

Your aim is obviously to maximise income and minimise costs of the online store to drive better profitability. 

e-commerce d2c simplified profit and loss

Maximising income in your online store

There are three key ways to maximise income in your online store. These are to sell more units, to increase the average price paid per unit and to recoup delivery costs from the online shopper.

In your online store business model, you should have set a forecast on the number of units you thought you would sell. This forecast was based on your understanding of the key factors that drive shopper choice.

These factors will vary by store and by category. But, they will usually link to key elements of the marketing mix. So, how well the product meets consumer needs for example. How much value the online shopper sees in the price point. Or, how attractive and compelling the promotional message is.

But as you carry out marketing activities, you learn what works and what doesn’t with your target audience. So, you should go back and refine the forecast based on this new knowledge.

Statistical analysis

Once you have a sufficient amount of sales data history, you can also start to look at if, when and how you could start to use statistical analysis to deliver a baseline forecast for future sales. 

You could for example carry out a linear regression on your past sale history. This would identity a future trend line based on the best straight line prediction. You could carry out more sophisticated econometric modelling to identify the key variables which influenced past sales, and apply these to future sales. 

Statistical-based forecasts give you a more solid foundation and more accuracy about future levels of sales. However, on their own, they cannot figure out or plan likely future scenarios such as the impact of your future activity or the actions of competitors. 

You should use statistical forecasts as the first step in projecting future sales, but make sure you factor in any known “human” considerations. In the statistical world, this combination of hard statistical techniques and human intelligence is known as a Bayesian approach.

Pricing impact

Pricing obviously has a big impact on the overall dollar value of your sales. In most categories, you can usually sell more units by reducing the price.

Online shoppers love to feel they have got a good deal. Cutting the price can help you shift more units. 

But from a commercial point of view, you need the percentage of extra units sold to be more than the percentage of the price discount for this to work. 

So, for example if you normally sell 100 units at $10 each, that’s $1,000. If you cut the price to $5, you need to sell at least 200 units (200 x $5) to make the same level of sales.

Sale sign in white on a red window with outline of a person walking past in the background

If you sell less than 200 units at $5, your overall sales drop. And obviously, more than 200 units, your overall sales go up.

However, you also need to factor in that you will likely have multiple items in your online store, and items can be a different price points. You might have t-shirts at $30 and hoodies at $65 for example as we do in our shop. So, in that case, you need to sell more than two T-shirts to make the same income as selling one hoodie.

From a commercial point of view, it therefore makes sense to try and sell more hoodies as these make more money. But obviously, you need to trade this off against the consumer needs. People generally buy more T-shirts than hoodies and $30 is easier to spend than $65.

Trade-off income and demand

This trade-off managing the income from each product versus the demand and price point is a key skill to master when managing an online store. You need to try out different variations of activities with consumers to generate data on which activities drive sales. These then feed into your marketing efforts like which products to feature in advertising, and how to lay out products on the page, as we discussed above.

Delivery - who pays for it?

Another important commercial factor in managing an online store, is how you manage the costs associated with deliveries.

Your delivery company will charge you for every delivery they move from your warehouse to the consumer’s doorstep.

As we cover in our online business model guide, you need to work out how much of this cost, if any, you pass on the online shopper.

For low value orders, typically under $50, it’s common to pass some or all of the delivery cost on to the consumer. 

Delivery cost example

So, for example, you might make a T-shirt that costs $15, but you sell it for $30. And your delivery cost per order might be $15. If you pay the delivery cost yourself on that order (i.e. you don’t charge the shopper), you make $0 profit. That’s $30 paid by the shopper – $15 cost of the T-Shirt – $15 delivery.

But if you charged say $10 delivery, so the shopper pays $30 + $10 delivery, your profit looks different. You make $10 on that sale as its $30 + $10 delivery = $40 – $15 cost of the T-Shirt – $15 delivery.

But, now let’s say the customer orders 3 T-shirts. The calculation gets different again. 

It’s important to note that often the delivery charge is calculated per delivery, and not per item. So, the delivery cost for 3 T-shirts could easily be similar or the same as that for 1 T-shirt.

In this case, let’s assume it’s still $15. At that rate, you could cover the delivery charge and still make a profit. Your income is $90 (3 x $30). Your costs are $45 for the 3 T-shirts and $15 delivery. So, you make $30 on that sale, even if you pay for the delivery.

This is why many online stores have order value thresholds above which they offer free shipping. This is usually the amount at which they can cover the shipping and still make a profit.

Minimising cost in your online store

The other key way to drive profitability for your online store is to minimise the costs it takes to drive your sales. There are a number of ways you can do this when you are managing an online store.

Volume discounts

When you start selling online, your costs per item sold will be based on prices you negotiate with suppliers and other service providers.

So, the costs you pay to cover the cost of manufacture, the cost of warehouse storage and deliveries, for example. 

But, your negotiating power when you start an online store is relatively low. You have no guaranteed size of business. You’ll usually have to take rate card values on services.

But when you start to scale your business, and sell a lot more volume, this makes you more attractive to suppliers and service providers.

Person holding 6 hundred dollar bills in front of them which have been set alight

A guaranteed higher level of business,  gives you more negotiating power with suppliers and service providers. You can ask for volume discounts on materials, for example. Or, you could ask for better warehouse and delivery rates based on putting more overall value through your service providers.

Successful online stores will often negotiate contracts with suppliers and service providers for a fixed period, and set up regular reviews. This can involve pitching out the business and asking for quotes from competitor suppliers and service providers to see if you can get a better deal.

Advertising efficiency

The next area where you can look to boost profitability is to get more value from your advertising and media spend.

As you run campaigns, you can build up knowledge of what works with your target audience, and what doesn’t.

This knowledge comes from the digital data that sits behind your digital media and online store website. 

You should be able to attribute sales to specific campaigns and channels. This gives you a Return on Investment (ROI) that means you invest more in channels and messages that work.

And you cut anything that doesn’t.

This ROI calculation of advertising efficiency depends on a number of other influencing factors such as what competitors did in media, and which consumers you reached. This can become quite complex, but the principles behind the decisions are relatively straightforward as we’ll show in this quick and simple example.

Advertising ROI example

Let’s say you spend $10,000 on advertising in a year on 2 campaigns (Campaign A and Campaign B) in 2 separate media channels (Channel A and Channel B). 

Overall, the advertising generates $100,000 in sales. But, by analysing the data, you identify which combination drives the most sales. 

Activity 1

Campaign A – Channel A : Spend $2,500 Sales $40,000 (ROI – 16)

Activity 2

Campaign A – Channel B : Spend $2,500 Sales $10,000 (ROI – 4)

Activity 3

Campaign B – Channel A : Spend $2,500 Sales $30,000 (ROI – 12)

Activity 4

Campaign B – Channel B : Spend $2,500 Sales $20,000 (ROI – 8) 

So, in this case, you might decide to put all $10,000 of your next media spend into Campaign A – Channel A. This should generate $160,000 in sales assuming that year 2 works like year 1.

In reality, there are other factors to consider. It’s rarely that simple.

For example, there may be a limit or threshold for any particular campaign / channel combination, above which, spending more doesn’t make any difference. Advertising and media can also eventually “wear out” as once consumers have seen an advert too many times, they start to ignore it. 

We cover more of these media spend considerations in another guide.

Operational efficiencies

The final area you can look to minimise costs is to look for efficiencies in the order to delivery process.

For example, you might change the payment rules to reduce chargebacks and fraudulent payments if these get too high.

You might be able to outsource order and payment processing and get a better deal than handling this yourself.

Where you decide to store your goods, and how they are physically moved from the warehouse to the consumer, can also be areas where you can look to drive efficiencies. 

As you start your store, a lot of your processes might be very manual, and involve a lot of different people.

Interior of a warehouse showing high shelving and main aisle

But for processes which are predictable and repeated, you want to try to automate many of these processes. Reduce the need for actual people to carry out the tasks.

In most cases, you want the people on your team to focus on the more creative and customer-facing activities, and less on the operational processes.

Control – People and systems : less complexity, more automation

The final area of managing an online store we will look at is how you control your online store. This means managing the people involved at each step of the online store experience and looking to establish routines and systems that reduce complexity, automate processes and generally make the online store work efficiently. 

People and teams 

We cover in our article on the functions of e-Commerce, some of the other people and skills you need to access when it comes to managing an online store.

As an online store manager, you should consider the people and teams behind each of those functions. What motivates them? How can they bring their expertise to grow your online store business?

Marketing people can help you think more about the consumer and shopper, and what they might be looking for. Your website and technical teams can help make the shopping experience run more smoothly. Even something as simple as making the page load faster will have an impact on sales over the longer term.  

Your warehouse and delivery teams will be the experts in moving products from A to B. If possible you should spend time in the warehouse and follow an order getting dispatched. (this doesn’t work in some models like Print on Demand or Dropshipping). You should also look for ways to improve the packaging and labelling to improve the shopper experience.

And finally most of all, you should use your customer service team to listen to your consumers. Make sure your complaint rate is going down, not up. Ask consumers for suggestions about how you can improve the online store experience.

Online store routines and automation

Online stores are open 24/7, but that doesn’t mean you need to work 24/7 to run them.

You can use marketing technology to operate and run a lot of the processes needed to manage the online store website and the order to delivery process, for example. 

When you first set up your online store, most of your processes will be manual. You might pick up emails yourself.

Maybe, you pick and pack products directly off the shelf in your storage facility? 

But the bigger the store grows, the more you should consider re-investing some of the profits back into the business to automate where possible.

This helps you spend time on more important parts of your online store business. And less time on administering repeatable tasks.

Automated questions and emails

So rather than have lots of email enquiries which you have to handle one by one, you could add an FAQ section or a chatbot to your website. This can reduce the volume of contacts to your customer service team.

Your delivery company should be able to help by informing you when an order goes through different stages of the delivery process. You can link these updates to an automated email system which can inform the consumer of the progress of their order.  

At each key stage of the order process – the receipt of the order, the picking and packing, the product is in transit, the product is delivered – you can automate many of these outbound emails to improve the customer experience. It reduces the need for them to contact you, and for you to have someone sending out the emails.  

Automated order handling

In bigger operations, you should consider a move away from manually picking products in the warehouse. The bigger retailers in online are investing in automated robotic picking and if you reach this scale it can add significant efficiencies and cost savings.

You should review each step of your order process system. Look where possible to automate the flow so that the process works more smoothly for the customer. And places less demands on your time. You should only have to intervene or interact when there is a problem or something goes wrong. 

Final thoughts on managing an online store

As we shared at the start of this guide, managing an online store requires a wide range of different skills.

If we were to compare managing an online store to a sport for example, it would be like the decathlon.

You, yourself don’t need to be perfect in all disciplines. But it’s the overall combination of skills that ultimately defines whether you will be a successful online store operator or not.

The skills across across all elements of the online store business operations need to add up to a cohesive whole. 

Your ability to connect with online shoppers is important. You need to be exceptionally customer focussed. Without understanding your customers and what they want, you’ll never be able to drive sales.

Managing an online store is essentially managing your own business. So, it’s important to be strong on the commercials. You need to be able to understand how the profit and loss works. It’s important to know how to drive top-line income and manage costs efficiently.

It’s also important, that you can put in strong controls in place, so that your online store operates in an efficient way. This includes people and teams, systems and routines.

Be flexible and resilient

But probably most of all, it’s impotent to be flexible and resilient. There is a lot of complexity in managing an online store. Consumers are unpredictable. Something will go wrong at some point. Recalling a product. An angry customer. A break down in a system or process. Credit card fraud. You name it, online store management can throw a lot of challenges your way.

But ultimately your online D2C store is a business you control. It can be liberating to not depend on retail buyers if that is the model you are used to. And for your brand, an online store is the ultimate connection with a consumer. The consumer trusts you enough to hand over their credit card details. 

And with that control and connection, the best online store managers drive a very profitable commercial operation.

Three-brains and e-Commerce

We have worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across strategy, working with online retailers and building D2C stores. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. 

We also know a lot about managing an online store. 

Contact us if you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business through our coaching and consulting services.

D2C Online Store Status dashboard
Click to download the pdf

Downloadable D2C status dashboard

Setting up an online store needs you to define your strategy and plan, work out the sales and marketing and also set up the whole operational side of the business including the finances and the delivery / supply chain model. It can be complex to manage.

That’s why we’ve used this project dashboard to great success in the past to have a simple one-page summary of the key actions require to set-up and manage a D2C online store. Download it here or from our resources section. 

Powerpoint and Keynote versions of this document available on request. 

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