Growing Your Online Business Part 11

Avoiding Disaster

E-Commerce businesses need to be flexible and fleet-of-foot – we all know that!

There is just no industry which changes faster or where the consequences of those changes can be so dramatic.


Why is this?

Well, firstly it’s because there are so many people involved on a global scale, and so the odds are that every day there will be significant innovations.

Secondly, it’s so easy to proliferate change because the form of communication is instantaneous. If you are just about to spin up a new store using one of our Shopify themes, then you’ll know how easy it is to get your e-commerce business off the ground.

However, no developing business has enjoyed an entirely smooth ride. At various stages of its life, a business will hit barriers or worse, experience one or more disasters. If you are the owner then, when that happens, the buck will stop with you and sometimes that can be a very lonely place.

So let’s look at how to deal with the inevitable.

Well, the first thing to do is to try to minimise the occurrence of a disaster. Ever heard the term SPoF?  Well, it’s the initials of the entrepreneur’s biggest enemy and stands for Single Point of Failure.

If you can reduce the number of ‘SPoFs’, then you are halfway to avoiding or at least reducing your disasters.
Sometimes SPoFs are obvious; perhaps you have only one product supplier, and something happens to them.

Maybe you make your products, but one of the elements can only be sourced from one place.  And if you have nothing to sell then your business doesn’t function.

But what about the less obvious ones?

What happens if you use the postal service to ship your products, and the mailmen go on strike? Do you have a backup plan?  How about the company that hosts your e-commerce website(s)?

Do you have a contingency if something happens to them?

Now we aren’t suggesting that you need a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) for everything. If you spent all your time planning for the ‘maybe’, then you would never get time to run your business. But avoiding SPoFs if you can, goes a long way towards improving your nighttime sleeping!

One of the most common issues that e-commerce businesses face is the SPoF called Google.  If your website relies on SEO for its business then only one search engine matters – and they know it!

If you have endured a cycle of algorithm changes by our all-conquering friends, then you’ll know how much havoc that can cause for an e-commerce operation.

One day you are top of the pile enjoying a bumper crop of visitors and the next you are nowhere to be seen on page 3. And as we know, that’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard!

Google cannot apparently be influenced by others and certainly not by you- so the answer is that you have to make sure that SEO is not an SPoF. Make natural searches only a part of your marketing mix and if you look back a few months in this blog, you’ll see how to do that.

In the meantime here are a few other thoughts on how to avoid SPoFs.

Try to cross train as many people in your company as you can to undertake a range of tasks. That way, if they leave or go on vacation, you have better cover. If the business is very small and is mainly just yourself doing the work, then try to find a trusted person who could hold the fort for you in times of need.

Perhaps another e-commerce business owner who needs the same coverage when they have problems?

Investigate your hosting partner and make sure they have an adequate backup capability.

Have all your DNS details ready in case you need to make a quick switch.

Try not to rely on one method of attracting traffic.

Develop multiple channels and keep them fresh in case one or more ceases to be effective.

If you are riding on the coat tails of another organisation in the early days  - such as a manufacturer or software provider, then use the time to diversify and become less dependent on their influence. Big companies are like tankers – they may take a while to stop, but once they start heading off in a different direction, you won’t be able to turn them around.

But if, after all, your careful planning and ‘SPoF avoidance’, you still end up with a problem – remember there is always a solution.

Sometimes it’s time to call in favours and sometimes there will be a silver lining anyway.

Just Keep Calm and Carry On!