7 Challenges of Running an eCommerce Business From Home
Last update: 1 February 2024 at 11:34 am
According to Statista, eCommerce sales worldwide exceeded $5.7$ trillion. The projections suggest future growth as well. And why would that not be the case, given how convenient it is to order goods from an online store?
The recent pandemic also offered more revenue for online business owners.
Even sceptical consumers had to change their stances because brick-and-mortar stores had to close the shop. Ordering goods online was the only option.
- Supplier Challenges in Dropshipping:
- Difficulty finding reliable suppliers.
- Complexities dealing with multiple wholesalers.
- Returns and Customer Service:
- Handling disheartening returns in eCommerce.
- Managing customer service issues, especially in dropshipping.
- Cybersecurity Risks in eCommerce:
- Growing threats in the eCommerce cybersecurity landscape.
- Importance of regular site updates and security measures.
- Marketing and Funding Struggles:
- Need for a strong eCommerce marketing strategy.
- Challenges in funding and implementing promotional ideas.
It does not take too long to replace one’s potential fears with convenience when shopping in an eCommerce store.
And as more people discovered this convenience, the overall growth of eCommerce businesses worldwide grew, attracting new potential customers.
What seems like growth with no ceiling encourages new entrepreneurs to consider starting an eCommerce business themselves.
These days, thanks to the dropshipping business model, you do not have to bother with heavy investment to open an online store. No, carrying everything out from the comfort of your home is possible.
Having said that, while the idea is attractive, it also presents a plethora of potential challenges. If you are considering starting a new online business, expect to face a few obstacles.
Some challenges are not hard to overcome, while others make you scratch your head, trying to figure out how to approach them even if you have a solid business plan.
This article aims to cover the most common challenges of running an eCommerce business from your home.
1. Finding a reliable supplier
Let’s start with suppliers. Once you have your business idea, the odds are that you will go with the dropshipping business model.
Inexperienced entrepreneurs tend to stick to dropshipping because the method has notable advantages:
- Easier to test different product ideas
If you want to use your eCommerce website to try multiple product ideas to determine which brings more sales, you are free to do so. Listing new products comes without committing to investing in a large inventory.
- Fewer upfront costs
Brick-and-mortar or eCommerce retailer business owners have to invest upfront to have enough inventory to sell. Meanwhile, dropshipping has you spend money once you make a sale. You work as a middleman.
- Location flexibility
You should be fine so long as you have a reliable internet connection and a computer to run the business. Plenty of eCommerce entrepreneurs are digital nomads.
- Low overhead
Overhead expenses are low since you don’t have to invest in managing fulfilment centres.
With growth, it is expected that these expenses will increase, but initially, you will not have to worry about it, which lets you focus on online sales.
In short, it is easier to start an eCommerce business, and since it does not require too much investment, there are fewer risks to consider.
However, dropshipping also means working with a wholesaler.
In fact, it is common to work with multiple wholesalers to ensure you have enough goods to sell.
This dependence might present complications. Different wholesalers will have different demands for shipping, billing, and order processing.
The lack of access to product information is another problem.
Even if you order a few samples to check them thoroughly yourself, there are no guarantees that every single item is in good condition.
In a way, you are at the mercy of your supplier, who plays a prominent role in the supply chain.
It is all well and good if you can find someone reliable, but newcomers are more than likely to struggle due to the lack of experience and how certain suppliers are uncertain to bother working with newcomers.
Expect to spend a lot of time reaching out to various suppliers and convincing them to work with you. And once you land one, do not expect smooth sailing.
2. Dealing with returns and refunds
Returns and refunds are disheartening, especially for those in the early days of developing their eCommerce store.
One of the biggest downsides of the eCommerce business model is that shoppers cannot try goods in person.
Take shoes, for example. If you go to a store and put the shoes on, you can determine whether they fit. Store owners or staff can then get you a different size.
From there, it is about trying until a size fits.
Unfortunately, an online store does not offer such luxury.
There is an element of risk in ordering shoes online, and finding out they do not fit calls for a return.
If you sell online, some of your customer purchases will have to be returned and replaced or refunded.
Thankfully, there are tools to automate the process to make it easier, but the implementation of such tools is not the be-all and the end-all solution.
Coming back to dropshipping as your eCommerce business model choice, you have to be ready to resolve various customer service issues that occur due to the supplier.
You cannot personally guarantee that the replacement will arrive on time, which will leave customers unhappy.
3. Preventing cybersecurity breaches
The growth of eCommerce also invites cybersecurity-related issues. If you want a successful eCommerce business, add security prevention to the list of things you or your web developer has to emphasize.
Modern online shoppers are smart enough to smell a shady website once they end up on a landing page. And even if they miss a sign, antivirus software on a device tends to warn them about it.
They will immediately leave the website, destroying your chances of running a profitable business. It is imperative to protect your own website.
Major eCommerce cybersecurity threats include:
- Phishing attacks
- Ransomware attacks
- SQL injections
- DDoS attacks
Each threat presents challenges, but you have multiple ways to prevent them. Your cybersecurity strategy should revolve around the following:
- Regular site updates
- Security plugins and extensions
- SSL certificate implementation
- Multi-factor authentication
- Content delivery network
Educating site visitors about potential threats is also a good piece of advice, as is ensuring that people who work on the website are not putting the online store in jeopardy due to their carelessness.
4. Coming up with effective marketing channels
Having an eCommerce business plan gets you only so far if you struggle to promote the online store.
eCommerce store owners look for ways to cut shipping costs and other expenses, but their eCommerce site success depends on an effective marketing strategy.
Lacking sufficient funds is one of the biggest bottlenecks for eCommerce stores.
You want to try various promotional ideas, such as Instagram marketing and other social media channels, PPC ad campaigns, content marketing, email marketing, and search engine optimization to be at the top in search engine results, etc.
Digital marketing attracts new customers and encourages repeat customers to return to your online store rather than choosing a competitor.
Marketing costs add up, so you have to be extra cautious about how to approach marketing strategies or if you want to automate your marketing.
Consider competitor research to see what they are doing. Use social listening to verify how their brand authority looks and what challenges it poses.
If they are active on Instagram, you can review their Instagram comments to assess the overall sentiment towards the brand.
Other businesses provide a solid reference. You can learn from their mistakes and success.
Once you finish the research, pick one of the available sales channels and create a buyer persona from your target audience.
For instance, if you have a print-on-demand venture, social media marketing could be the go-to channel. Look at groups with specific interests.
You could advertise t-shirts with funny cat designs to cat enthusiasts or custom-made water bottles to hikers.
Even if you are not going for a global audience and want to focus your efforts on local demographics, there should still be a customer base interested in the physical products or digital goods you sell.
5. Communicating with your team remotely
Running your own eCommerce business involves multiple tasks. Early on, you might be fine without getting help from others, but it changes once you begin scaling the venture.
The sheer volume of tasks to manage an eCommerce business makes it impossible to do everything on your own.
Optimizing for search engines; selling products to new markets; selling physical products at various events; finding new ways to accommodate future customers; transitioning from a simple online store builder to a custom-built website; even managing warehouse space if you decide to expand from an online market to a brick-and-mortar store is another task to add to an already busy work day.
Hiring help is a natural solution. And the odds are if you work from home, you will look to hire remote workers as well.
You might not need direct help to sell products, but it will be easier to focus on the most pressing matters by outsourcing specific tasks.
Let’s say that you have been the one who wrote product descriptions. Why not hire a copywriter to replace you?
Or what about taking product pictures?
You can find an experienced photographer and view iCloud Photos submitted to you on your device or via another platform.
Sounds great, right?
Mind the fact that communicating with others remotely can lead to issues.
Explaining in person is different from sending an email or a text message.
You will likely need to record multiple tutorial videos, and even then, there are no guarantees that the person receiving the instructions will understand it or ask follow-up questions to make things clear.
Be careful about who you trust.
Also, when you find a potential candidate, ease them in slowly and confirm you can rely on them.
6. Lacking focus and productivity
Working from home, regardless if you are a blogger or someone managing your own eCommerce store, presents the challenge of finding focus and remaining productive.
Running an eCommerce business requires a lot of effort, and those who find themselves struggling will have a hard time establishing a successful eCommerce brand.
If you start an eCommerce venture, dedicate time to it. Treat it as a real job.
In case you already have a full-time job and want to make extra selling products online, you will still need to establish a schedule and stick to it.
We treat home as a place of leisure, and it is hard to resist distractions surrounding you. Video games, books, mobile browsing, social media; the list goes on.
Getting easily distracted is detrimental. Even if you have a great idea, it will not come to fruition, especially one like a profitable eCommerce store.
Identify potential distractions and eliminate them.
If you spend too much time surfing the web, block websites that consume too much time. In case you cannot resist checking your smartphone, disable notifications. If you want to procrastinate playing video games, uninstall them from your computer.
Your focus should be on how to sell products and appease the customer base. There should be dedicated time for leisure.
Living with other people also presents difficulties. Not establishing boundaries early means that they might disturb you.
Ideally, you should have a dedicated room that you can turn into a home office.
If such an option is not possible, a simple computer desk and a chair will suffice. It is about having a place to sit down and treat as a workstation and nothing else.
7. Separating personal and work life
We covered how working from home encourages poor productivity, but there is a different side of the coin to starting an eCommerce company from home.
The eCommerce industry is punishing in the sense that it consumes a lot of your time.
If your goal is to generate revenue and sell online as much as you can, do not be surprised to find yourself spending too much of your time developing the business idea.
Declining offers to socialize with others and thinking about what eCommerce products might sell online are two early signs that you might have a problem.
Abandoning your personal life and focusing entirely on work is not the best long-term approach for your mental health.
Look for opportunities to unwind and take some time off whenever you can.
Getting away from work is one of those things everyone should do once in a while, even if they are workaholics.
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To sum it all up, starting an eCommerce business is appealing for a good reason.
You can pursue financial independence by selling products without investing too much money, particularly if you go with the dropshipping business model.
However, the challenges that get in your way could prevent you from achieving the dream.
As a newcomer, it is about knowing what to expect and how to prepare in advance. Knowing your enemy is half the battle.
We covered the most common challenges, and that should be enough as a starting point to help you develop your own eCommerce business and make money.