Make the technology work for you and take your ecommerce business with you on the road. After spending months working whilst travelling, I’ve picked up several good tips and one great insight – working from the road is possible.
Lessons learnt running ecommerce from the road
These days there is a veritable alphabet soup of companies and services that enable anyone to build something that used to require a team of specialists to achieve. You can now run a successful ecommerce business using nothing more than a laptop and an Internet connection. Unsurprisingly many people are seeing that as an attractive proposition. Those who build and operate their ‘location independent’ businesses are doing so from the beaches of Bali to the wilds of Wyoming. And for first part of this year, I counted myself among them. I spent several months working out of hotel rooms and airport lounges, while also travelling along the West coast of the U.S.
Of course that is an extreme example. I am certainly not advocating that you should renege on your office lease and throw your employees out the door. But the next time you are wondering if you can risk going away for that long holiday you have always wanted, here are some lessons that are worth bearing in mind.
Use expendable hardware
Whether it’s the airlines fault for losing your bag, or yours for leaving something in your hotel room, you should set out knowing that you could lose everything. Clothing and cosmetics might not be critical to the smooth running of your business. But your laptop and smartphone probably are. Always have a plan for what you would need to do in order to get yourself back up and running again. Knowing that a travel insurance claim could take several days to pay out, if not weeks, I always kept enough money in my emergency fund to be able to walk into any Apple store and buy a replacement laptop and iPhone.
Sync files to the Cloud
Unlike remote-desktops and VPNs, Cloud-based file hosting and synchronisation software – such as DropBox, Google Drive and Amazon WorkDocs – allow you to work on your files while you are offline. When you do find yourself in a Wi-Fi spot, your changes are seamlessly backed up to the Cloud. Building on my previous point, if you end up buying a brand new laptop, or smartphone, you will instantly have access to all your files again. Or, in a pinch, you can also access your files from the hotel’s business centre computers.
A well-orchestrated online business will be highly automated and require very little day-to-day work. That being said, if something does go wrong you will need to know about it quickly so that you can respond. There are three key areas that you should be monitoring while you are away.
- Orders– Depending on your sales volume you can set up email notifications for individual sales or a daily digest. This is easy to set up in most ecommerce systems including Magento and WooCommerce.
- IT infrastructure– If your servers are struggling with a problem or, in the worst case scenario, go offline, then you need to be the first to know. I recommend using web app and server monitoring tools like Pingdom and New Relic.
- Social media– A tweet from a disgruntled customer can quickly ignite an online firestorm. Social media monitoring and sentiment analysis tools can be invaluable. There are plenty of tools for this e.g. Google Alerts, HootSuite and many more.
- Google Analytics – If your transaction currently drop or the bounce rate hits a 100%, you might want to know about it. You can set up Google Analytics Intelligence Events to send you emails if a metric hits a threshold.
Notifications are your friend
If, like me, you rely on your smartphones as your alarm clock, setting the ‘quiet period’ – when audible notifications are disabled – can be really useful. However, always bear in mind that the times you set will be relative to your current time-zone. So while you are still fast asleep, back in the office it can be the middle of the business day and everything might be hitting the proverbial fan. This is even more critical if you are relying on email notifications from your monitoring systems. Consider setting up custom rules for when, and what types, of notifications should be allowed to disturb you. Believe me, I would much rather be woken at 2am, then wake up at 9am and learn that I have lost an entire day’s worth of trade.
Stay in control of the money
Money is surely the lifeblood of every business. Therefore it is especially important that you stay in control of it while you are out of the country. As a first step, ensure that you have enabled Internet banking for your business and merchant accounts. Plus, many of those providers also have mobile apps too. Next, use online accountancy web services – such as FreshBooks, Intuit and Xero – to automate your payroll and tax obligations. Nothing spoils a beachside Mai Tai faster than remembering you have a VAT payment due.
On speed dial
Have a designated contact, back in your country of operation, who you can call upon in an emergency. While you are away there will always be times when you will be unable to respond to business critical incidents. Maybe you are about to board a long-haul flight. Or you find yourself sharing the hotel’s Internet with a large school group of Wi-Fi hungry teens.
Better yet, use the services of a good IT company to provide contracted technical support. They will often already have the infrastructure in place to be able to monitor your online business remotely. Have highly skilled staff on hand to respond to issues around the clock. It can significantly reduce the time it takes to resolve a problem that is impacting your business’s bottom line.
I hope that you have found this post informative. Maybe the next time you fancy taking yourself off on a well-deserved break somewhere exotic, with a little planning and preparation, you might just find yourself deciding to take to the scenic route home.
Here at LogicSpot, we have a crack team of technical wizards who look after all of our clients’ sites, using many of the tools mentioned in this blog post. So, if you happen to be looking for a little help managing your ecommerce website or web application, I would invite you to have a chat with one of our friendly support team.