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Entrepreneur tips for scaling your online business

Amy McWaters is the COO of The Hamper Emporium and is responsible for the day-to-day operations and logistics of the company, while ensuring customer satisfaction.

On top of that, she is also the COO of SOL Group Australia, Australia’s leading online gifting company.

Amy draws on her expertise and experience to share her insights for scaling an online business with us.

Byline: Amy McWaters, COO of The Hamper Emporium

As the number of Australians who shop online continuously increases, it’s never been more important for business owners to know how to scale their operations – particularly amid predictions 1 in 10 items will be purchased online in Australia by 2020.

The dramatic increase in online sales is promising significant year-on-year growth for company owners but as with all retail businesses, demand fluctuates.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in February 2019 online retail sales accounted for 5.6 per cent of total Australian retail turnover, an increase from 5.1 per cent in February 2018.

As COO of The Hamper Emporium, I work alongside my sister and CEO Emily McWaters and am responsible for the logistics, ecommerce, and day-to-day operations of the business.

Over the past two years, the company has seen 72 per cent growth and now has an annual turnover of $17.5 million. Last year, we had more than 100,000 orders dispatched, becoming Australia’s leading gift hamper online retailer.

This growth is in part a result of our focus on continually growing and scaling the business, including consideration of peak periods and customer reviews.

Here are some of my insights for those starting out or growing their e-commerce business.

Plan for peak times

Most online retailers will have peak periods and fluctuating demand year after year. For instance, we experience dramatic peaks in business during special events such as Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

In the lead up to Christmas 2018, we sold a gift every 14 seconds, with 1,042,983 hamper components processed, including almost 70,000 bottles of champagne, wine and beer.

Early preparation is key to being able to meet demand during your company’s busiest times. At The Hamper Emporium, Christmas is our peak. We’ve started preparing for Christmas this year – in fact, we began out prep on Boxing Day last year!

Emily decides on hamper production numbers for the following year when it’s all fresh in our minds. New hampers are designed and orders are placed with suppliers at least six months before production.

I continually take notes on what needs to change for the following year’s peak, even when we’re still in the thick of the current year. I look at how processes need to change to prevent bottlenecks, inefficiencies, double handling and other limitations to scaling.

Production numbers also need to be considered when planning for peak times, and should be based on the previous year’s sales ratios, as well as accounting for growth. Staffing and rostering should be based on data such as ticket/call volumes, dispatch numbers per day, and production numbers.

Each year, you’ll find your business will evolve to ensure it keeps up with customer demand.

Keep customer satisfaction in mind  

Reviews allow customers to feel they have their opinions heard, and if they see changes to the site, products or delivery, they know their feedback is having an impact on the business. Our customers have delivered gems of information and ideas for improvement via customer reviews and feedback that we otherwise would not have known.

Don’t just focus on the negative reviews to make improvements. Ensure things you’ve done right, which have resulted in a good review, continue. You need to be delivering value, time and time again.

A positive brand experience is going to result in customer loyalty and repeat business, word of mouth advertising, and strong staff morale. Customer acquisition costs in ecommerce can be quite high, so it’s in your best interests to focus on retaining existing customers by monitoring their levels of satisfaction.

Some of our reviews reveal the preferences of our customers, and we have used these on many occasions to change and develop our product, including tweaks to delivery options and descriptions to ensure the best experience for those who shop online with us.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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