Running a successful e-commerce business is often about firefighting one problem after another!
There seems to be no end to the issues that pop up at the most inconvenient times. In these moments you must be decisive and provide leadership for your business and teams.
But what if you have never faced this problem before? What if you have no idea what to do or where to start?
In this article we will break down a framework for an analytical approach to e-commerce business problem solving. By the end of this piece you will have a great foundation to take on any issue you face and accelerate your business towards success.
Let’s get to it.
How do you efficiently and effectively manage e-commerce business problems?
There is a famous line used when tackling big goals or problems that I’m sure you have heard before.
How do you eat an elephant?
The answer, one bite at a time.
It is easy to dismiss this and roll your eyes but like many of these sayings, there is validity to the message behind the witticism.
Effective problem solving involves working through a step by step process which we have helpfully set out below:
Step One – Problem Identification
It can sometimes be fairly obvious that there is a problem within your business that needs immediate attention. Others can simmer in the background and creep up on you like a leaking water pipe. Both are issues that need to be addressed.
This first stage is key and can require more thought than it would initially seem. It is important to drill down into the problem, what is the nature of the problem? Is the problem systemic or an aggregate of lots of little issues? How can the problem be best defined?
By spending some time defining and thinking about the problem you will not only understand it more clearly yourself but be able to communicate its nature to others, which leads to step two.
Step Two – Structuring the Problem
This step is all about observation, fact-finding and developing a clear picture of what the root cause of the problem is. In this stage of an e-commerce issue or challenge you need to build out a comprehensive understanding of the barriers to the problem – what is getting in the way of progress and why?
If the issue is relatively simple, you might be able to skip this step but be careful not to underestimate the complexity in the first instance.
Step Three – Looking For Solutions
So far the first two steps have been about information gathering. This next one is about mind mapping out possible solutions. At this point there are no bad ideas, only possible solutions. This is where you can talk through ideas with friends or employees. Everyone has their own set of expertise and could see what is in your blind spot. Leave your ego aside, and start to figure out the problem collectively.
Step Four – Making a Decision
It’s time to review each of the potential solutions and make a decision as to which option you are going to take. But first, work through each and analyse the outcomes that may arise. Will this fix the problem? How much will each option cost? Can you spare the resources to fix the problem internally or will you need to outsource?
Decision making is a skill in itself and will take some time and experience to improve. If it turns out that the decision was wrong, take a few steps back and look for an alternative route.
Step Five – Implementation
Once the course of action is set, it’s time to get on with it and implement. It is likely that once you are underway more issues may arise or a better solution presents itself. If this is the case, loop back to the start, work on the next solution or change to the better option. Remember, done is better than perfect. Don’t get caught up in analysis paralysis. Take action just have a plan like we have discussed above.
Step Six – Monitoring and Feedback
Potentially the most important step in the process. This step is all about reviewing the outcomes and taking on board any lessons that can be derived from the chosen course of action. Seek feedback from others and monitor any progress moving forward. It is best practice to write down the process and decisions made throughout as well as any issues that have arrived. All being well, your problem has now been solved. Congratulations, one problem down, now onto the next.
Problem solving is a skill and one of many that are needed to overcome e-commerce business issues and challenges. The good news is problem solving is a trait that can be learnt and nurtured on your entrepreneurial journey. Embrace the challenge and pain that comes with running an ecommerce business, it is well worth the effort in the end!
Evan Bleker is founder of Etail Express, a company focused on providing great bookkeeping services for internet retailers. Evan’s history of starting and running web businesses gives him a unique owner’s perspective when it comes to providing top rate business support services. His experience with starting and running web businesses goes back over two decades, and has helped shape him into a strong team leader and internet marketer. Evan is also a skilled investor. In his spare time, he manages an investment community focused on helping small retail investors quickly and easily identify high quality net-net stocks. He’s been published in Forbes, ValueWalk, SeekingAlpha, Nasdaq.com, plus CMC Markets, and recently released published Benjamin Graham’s Net-Net Stock Strategy through Harriman-House.