In this post, we will discuss topics relevant to online entrepreneurs:
- Defining your eCommerce goals
- eCommerce strategy
- Time management
- Customer service
- Becoming your own boss
- Finding tools to help automate your business
- An interview with a highly successful digital nomad eCom seller
You have had enough of working for someone else and are ready to make your eCommerce business your primary income. Or maybe you are already in the midst of building a business but you want to be freed from geographical constraints and become location independent.
Enter: The Digital Nomad
Gender: According to a study by Forbes magazine, a majority of people who opt for the nomad lifestyle are male, yet women have a solid presence, coming in at 31%.
Age: 54% are above the age of 38.
Income: 16% report earning north of $75,000 annually.
When starting a business this is the guy most people want to be:
- Winter in Barcelona
- Summer in Paris
- Spring in Tokyo
- Fall in Australia
And that is just the itinerary for 2019!
Life and business are perfectly balanced. The dream you have already. Now, you are going to need:
- A plan
- A strategy
- Management skills
- eCommerce business automation tools
- And a little inspiration from a man who has already achieved everything you have conjured up in the annals of your imagination
Defining your eCommerce goals
First off, you need to be realistic about where you currently are and set attainable goals.
If you are just starting out in eCommerce, chances are it will take a few weeks or even a few months before you are making the kind of cash you have in mind.
Set a clear goal: E.g. Within one year I want to be earning $1,000 per month.
If you already have an eCommerce business but are still working your day job, you obviously have not yet reached your desired earning capacity. How much more a month would you need to earn from your eCommerce business and what would you have to do to reach this? (We will talk more strategy in the next section.)
Set a clear goal: E.g. I need to make $2,000 extra per month and will do this by expanding into new markets and selling a larger variety of items.
If your eCommerce business is already flourishing and bringing in the type of capital you would need for your new lifestyle, but you are still struggling with time constraints due to the operation and logistics of running a company, you are in need of better planning as well as tools which will help you automate large portions of your business and allow you to make time for travel and family.
Set a clear goal: E.g. I must find one or two tools which will automate my customer support and inventory replenishment and synchronization, thereby reducing my hands-on business time by 50%.
Now that you have put yourself into one of the three categories above and set clear goals, I will give you a few ideas of strategies you may want to use to achieve these goals:
Dropshipping – Consider using dropshipping as your primary method of inventory sourcing. What is great about this is the item stays in the supplier’s warehouse and is shipped directly to your buyers. This is the perfect strategy for any eCommerce seller looking to cut geographical ties.
Increase variety – You want to increase your profit and therefore you must increase your reach. One way of doing this is by increasing the sheer variety of items you sell. This will allow you to sell to a larger number of shoppers who are searching for different things. In the interview in the last portion of this post, I was blown away when the seller (Ivgeny Zomer) I was interviewing told me that he carries upwards of 500,000 items in his 25 + eBay stores. He only uses drop shipping, so there is no overhead (i.e. he does not need any capital up front and does not pay to store these items). Based on a study conducted by Zeynep Ton and Ananth Raman, using 4 years of data from large retailers, a conclusive connection was drawn between increased inventory variety and sales as shown in the graph below. This study was conducted in bricks & mortar stores but holds true for eCommerce as well.
Open more stores – To follow up on that last point, not only should you increase the number of items you carry, but increase the number of stores you own. This is a good idea in order to properly brand your items and target appropriate buyers. I mean, it would be weird and also less effective to have both dog food and baby toys in the same store. Instead, open up a store with all items related to babies and children and a store with items related to pets.
Adding team members– The larger you get, the more help you will need. Logically, you will also be earning more so you will be able to hire or involve others in your business. First off, consider bringing a good friend or family member into the business. Yes, you will have to share profits, but this can take the workload off and help you fulfill your dreams. Alternatively, you can hire a real-life assistant or a virtual assistant to help you take care of menial tasks.
Seller tip – Ivgeny Zomer, a highly successful eBay seller whose full interview follows, says that hiring employees is what really helped him save time and get his business off the ground. He recommends spending a month really training your employees, which in the long-run will save you tens of hours a week and hundreds of hours a month.
Expand overseas – Wherever you are located or selling, there is always a foreign eCommerce marketplace you do not have a presence in. By expanding into foreign markets, you are enlarging your pool of potential buyers much like would happen with opening new stores or increasing your inventory variety.
Additionally, there are 6 must-know eCommerce customer support hacks when expanding overseas, which you can read about in my previous post. It can seriously help you in this area.
Keep an eye out for opportunities – One of Ivgeny’s major strategies is to always keep an eye out for in-the-moment opportunities. “That is what made me the most money!” he says. An example he gives is an item which sells 3-4 times a day. He goes ahead and finds the item but not new. For example, he’ll find an item with an open package (this is an option you can search for on Amazon). One year, Ivgeny found a cooking pot like this around Christmas time and sold $180,000 worth of just that item. He highlights that this was not his profit margin, but still, the numbers are impressive!
Whatever strategy you choose, it will require time, money or both. As most people in any developed economy know, money is a function of time and vice-versa, which leads us to our next point.
The goal is to travel, which likely means you are in a different place every few weeks. You are constantly changing time zones and, of course, you want free time to explore and enjoy yourself, otherwise what is the point of traveling? Time management is an exercise you need to do with yourself:
- Are you a morning person or a night person?
- Do you prefer to work weekends or keep weekends open?
- How many hours a day do you ideally want to work?
- What happens if a flight gets delayed or you are off-grid for 24, 48 or 72 hours?
Once you answer these questions, build a weekly schedule, and if possible, a yearly itinerary of where you are traveling and when.
Here is a workweek schedule example I put together for you:
Sunday – Morning – Sleep late. Afternoon – Take care of processing weekend orders and customer support. Evening – Go out for a drink at a local bar.
Monday – Morning – Get up early. Go to the gym. Afternoon – Restock inventory and source new items and drop shippers. Evening – Go to a concert.
Tuesday – Morning – Speak to my Chinese supplier by phone (schedule morning call due to time difference). Afternoon – Go check out the sites and go for a cruise on the Seine. Evening – Deal with returns and closing tickets.
Wednesday – Day-off. Explore the sites. No work.
Thursday – Early morning – Make sure all orders from the previous day have been processed and shipped out. Afternoon – Go wine tasting in the French countryside. Evening – More customer service, returns, tickets, etc.
Friday – Full day project – Develop a brand identity and narrative for new eCommerce store. Deal with processing new orders and customer support on an as-needed basis.
Saturday – Full day of work – Make sure all inventory and supply is up to speed. Check in with my virtual assistants. Go over all the data and analytics in my eCommerce CRM and start planning for future changes and expansion for my business.
Note: If you have your travel dates ahead of time. Take a 24-hour window and be sure to deal with all orders and customer support issues directly prior to departure and post-arrival, thereby minimizing any potential damage to your business and reputation.
Seller time-saving tip: Zomer says, “time management is possibly the most important element in a business, the more organized you are the more you get done:
- When I say organized, I mean using things like Excel sheets or even ‘Trello’ (a collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards) which I have only heard of from other sellers but have not personally used myself.
- I also am a believer in working without any distractions. No Facebook, no Whatsapp, no family and no friends. These are by far my biggest ‘distractions’! Of course, when it’s family time, just do that, but don’t try to do everything at once.
- And finally, when you come to get work done, then you have to do whatever it takes to be in that state of mind. Try working outside your house or at night when everyone else is asleep. My most productive hours are at night, when I have complete silence and the whole world sleeps.
Customer service plays a central part in any business, especially eCommerce. Having and maintaining good customer service can be the key to your success as a business and triumphing over your competition. It can also be the source of:
- repeat customers
- word of mouth
- positive reviews
and ultimately be the key driving force in your business’s growth and expansion.
The numbers clearly support this. But achieving high levels of customer service while travelling can be a challenge to say the least. You are combating:
- Time zones
- Working constraints
- Tough internet speeds
- Yourself and your desire to have fun
And that is why you need a tool which can automate and streamline your entire eCommerce customer support process. You want to be using an eCommerce CRM, which can help you with:
- Automated messaging and follow-up
- Ready-made customer support templates (check out these free templates I put together for you)
- Ticket and customer support query management for all eCommerce accounts in one inbox
- Analytics and data to help you grow your business, and do cross/up-selling
Once the most time-consuming tasks are automated and you have a full-cycle customer support tool, life will look a lot different on the go.
Seller customer support tip: In this regard, Ivgeny strongly recommends VAs or virtual assistants, and says he never “defecates on the hand that feeds him,” meaning he does not allow the fun of a trip to harm his customer support, which can lead to a decrease in sales and the closing of stores. More than once, I have heard stories of sellers who went on vacation for a month or two and returned to chaos in the business that funded their trip in the first place. “Always know how to find your balance!”
Becoming your own boss
Becoming your own boss is by no means an easy feat. The temptations are endless and there is nobody there to rein you in. Quick psychology lesson: The human psyche, according to Freud’s theory, at least, is divided into 3 parts –
- The ‘Id’ – This acts on instinct. Basically, the guy who always whispers in your ear, “come on. Let’s do it. Why not?”
- The ‘Superego’ – This is the exact opposite of the Id and is always telling you to do the right thing. He says things like, “You should really put that back. You should pay for those, and don’t run over that cat in the road.”
- The ‘Ego’ – This one is tasked with mitigating between the devil and angel. He is the realistic part of you who finds the balance. Picture creds: MiddleChild
Try and connect with your Ego and be self-critical. Ask yourself questions in the moment, like, “If I had a boss, what would his reaction be to this choice and how would I improve this action in the event that I had to justify myself to others?” Additionally, you should have a weekly review including both your own actions as well as your business’s performance. Make sure to accurately identify areas for improvement and work on those.
Seller tip: Ivgeny Zomer, who has been his own boss for years now, says his seller friends get up in the morning and get dressed for work even if their office is their bedroom! “I personally have a developed work ethic,” states Zomer, “so I am able to work even in my underwear, 10 minutes after waking up. In contrast, my wife, who is soon leaving her job to give me a hand with my eCommerce business, says that no matter where she works from, she needs to get dressed for work. Distractions also play a big role here. At a normal job, wasting an hour on Facebook would get you fired. You should have the same attitude when running your own business. Fire yourself if you are not disciplined enough!”
Finding tools to help automate your business
For Ivgeny Zomer, the most important tools he uses for his business include:
- Easysync – a dropshipping monitor which helps him manage an inventory of roughly 500,000 items, including constant price changes.
- Employees – He always has a staff of 8-10 employees on hand so his business is never dormant.
- Excel – “75% of my entire business exists on one excel sheet. Without it, I am nothing!” he exclaims.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the keys to managing an eCommerce business while traveling the world is finding tools which can help automate different aspects of your business. Here are the top tools you should be looking into:
- Cantolog -Helps you keep track of inventory and stock levels with all information synced across sales channels. It is able to predict future inventory requirements and partially process orders independently.
- Buffer- This is a great platform for automated social media marketing. All you need to do is choose the date and it will automatically upload posts to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
- Subivi eCommerce CRM –This one offers sellers a full-cycle solution for their customer support needs, including:
- One inbox for all eCommerce accounts
- Automated messaging
- Ready-made templates
- Smart tags, which automatically insert a buyer’s name and order information
- A built-in translation tool
- Analytics and data
Now that you have a better idea of how to practically fulfill your dream of managing an eCommerce business while traveling the world, here is an interview with a real eBay seller who has achieved all that and more. Here he offers actionable insights into his path to success.
Interview with Yevgeny Zomer
Q: How did you get started in eCommerce?
A: I was between jobs and looking for an income. I had an acquaintance who was in eCommerce and he was not doing too bad for himself – it was his only revenue source. So I said to myself, “ey, why don’t I try this too?.”
Today, eCommerce is my only source of income. I have a beautiful wife and two great kids who I support thanks to my eCommerce business.
I am able to travel the world and live a very comfortable life thanks to this business. If my kids weren’t in school, I would be travelling abroad every other week.
Q: What items do you sell?
A: I currently have 500,000 products selling on eBay. I sell everything from dog toys to computers. All my items are drop shipped through Amazon. I used Walmart for a while, but that wasn’t a viable long-term option for me business-wise.
Q: How many stores do you have and which marketplaces do you sell in?
A: I sell exclusively on eBay, though I have a plan to start selling on Shopify and Amazon but am keeping those as a contingency plan. Currently, I have around 25 stores. This number is always in flux and has a lot to do with eBay’s constant changes to their algorithm as well as trial and error business-wise.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a seller?
A: eBay makes it exceedingly hard to grow as a business. If I open a store which within a short amount of time starts generating a turnover of $10k on a monthly basis, that looks ‘suspicious’ to eBay and they tie me up in all kinds of bureaucracy and roadblocks that it doesn’t pay to keep on growing that store.
Q: How has Subivi helped you?
A: Subivi is extremely helpful to me on a daily basis. I recently opened a new eBay store which I forgot to connect to my Subivi account. It was disconnected for about a month and needless to say, that store was a total flop. I had to shut it down. The beautiful thing about using Subivi is I never have to log into any of my eBay accounts!
Q: What’s one thing you love about Subivi?
A: I absolutely love the support they offer sellers who do business overseas, including their built-in translation tool. Before using Subivi, I would only sell products on eBay Germany. I would sit on Google Translate, working on 50-100 messages per day. Since I started using Subivi, I have expanded my eCommerce business to Italy, Spain and France. Using their tool is insane – two clicks and I have the template, then the translation, and I have it sent on its way and on to the next one!
Q: How has Subivi affected your level of customer service and your bottom-line?
A: Wow. It has really been transformative. I not only have more time to spend with my wife and kids, but my numbers are looking fantastic. Prior to using Subivi, I could handle maybe 8 stores at a time. I would be spending 20-30 minutes on customer service per store per day, which is roughly 3 hours or more just on customer service. Now I have 25 stores and when I am doing CS myself without my VA, it takes me about 5 minutes per store (times 25), which comes out to 150 minutes, just under 3 hours. Yet I own 3 times more stores than beforehand.
Yevgeny spending time with his wife and two children. After implementing Subivi’s customer support automation tools in his business, he now has more time for the important things in life – like his family, for starters.
Q: How does Subivi compare to other tools on the market?
A: I used to have an account with one of the competitors. I had so many tickets and messages that I hired a virtual assistant in the Philippines. The only problem was that every time one of us would log on, the other would be kicked off. It was really no way to get things done. With Subivi, I do not have this problem.
Additionally, if I had an issue, I would have to send an email and wait 3-5 days before it would be addressed by some cold robot-generated email. With Subivi, I get personalized service from Michael. Subivi is like a glove – they are very much into personalization! Something was missing for my business and Michael added a feature specially tailored to my business needs. I mean, where else are you going to get service like that!?
Q: What would you say to someone considering Subivi as an eCommerce CRM software?!
A: I would tell them that Subivi is easy and convenient to use. Any person who wants to succeed in eCommerce needs a tool which can feed all the data and correspondence into one centralized place. It is impossible to succeed past a certain threshold in this industry without an optimized, efficient CRM.
Summing It Up
In this post, we discussed the essentials of managing an eCommerce business while traveling the world. The most important things we discussed include:
- Defining your eCommerce goals
- Choosing the right eCommerce strategy
- Learning to manage your time and deciding when to work and when to play
- Making customer service a top priority and choosing the right tool to help you automate and streamline this as much as possible
- Learning to become your own boss and balancing yourself
- Finding tools to help automate your business
Lastly, we spoke to an eBay seller who is living the dream and made it happen. Beyond being inspired, I would recommend reviewing the interview and finding one key point that resonated with you and implement that in your business today.
Please comment below and tell me what your aspirations are in terms of managing an eCommerce business while traveling the world!? What has been your biggest challenge to date in achieving this goal?
Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂