As I'm writing this post, I'm wondering "Did I make a mistake?"
I decided it was time to make a new online store that was more customer friendly because I had received e-mails and calls from customers about issues they were having with our current website.
I also noticed areas we could be more efficient and accurate with inventory control on the administrative side of the website.
After accumulating a list of improvements to make on the site; I went shopping recently for a new template with my virtual assistant, Joy. We settled on a Magento template we found in TemplateMonster. We are now in the middle of building the new and improved GlassEyesOnLine.com
That's when the negative talk in my head started. Why am I doing this? What was I thinking? Why do I need to change the site? I can't do this. I don't have the skills to do this. etc. etc. ad nauseam.
I stopped in the middle of all this negative self talk and pulled out that list of reasons we need to make the change to help me remember why I am doing it and show you what is happening behind the scenes.
Four Reasons we should move Forward With a New Design in the OnLine Store
1) Search Friendly Address Bar
Our current listing addresses have strings of numbers and letters.
For Example: The current address for Safety Eyes No Pupil Round Style is:
In the Future Website the address for the same product will be searchable by the name of the product:
2) Search Field to Find Products
There is no search field on the current website. Customers must navigate around the website looking in various categories to find what they need or e-mail us and ask us if we carry the product. We then have to e-mail the customer a link to the product.
The Future website will have a working search field where customers can type in sizes, colors, or styles to find listings.
3)Photo Slide Carousel For Each Listing
The current site has one photograph for each listing.
The new website will have multiple views of the products in each listing. Customers can scroll through the photos to see the item in different colors, sizes, and photo angles.
4) Multivariate Size and Color listings
In the current online store, customers have to click in and out of each size product to order different sizes and colors. There is also no ability to monitor inventory of different colors / sizes within the site. Jerry uses an excel spreadsheet for tracking colors and sizes. He then has to transfer the information manually into the administrative side of the online store.
In the new online store the customer will be able to order multiple sizes and colors from one listing and the inventory for each size and color will be tracked directly on the administrative side of the site decreasing the time it takes for Jerry to manage inventory control.
As I reviewed the list of improvements and wrote this post, I was reminded of the reasons I needed to do this.
I realize that making a change and improving aspects of a small family run business is time consuming hard work.
We'll make mistakes and run into problems along the way. There will be a huge learning curve for us while we are using this new system. I won't know if I made a mistake until the New Online store is live and we see the results in sales and customer feed back.
If you haven't signed up for our Free Newsletter; now is a good time to do it.
We'll be sending out a Notice to all our Newsletter Subscribers when we get ready to move to the new Online Store. Stay tuned for more behind the scenes as we get ready to open the new and improved OnLine Store
I am continuously looking for ways to improve our business. I read articles, take online classes, and talk about ways to make it better with friends and family. I view shows on TV and read articles about looking at processes, people, and the work environment when trying to improve a business. This blog is about my "behind the scenes" experience with improving one aspect of our business, Shipping.
I felt like we were putting alot of hours into shipping. I mapped out the process as you see in the photo and kept track of the time it takes for certain tasks. Jerry was manually entering about 70% of the addresses into the Endicia postage system we were using. We were also both spending about an hour or more each evening changing the status of an order to shipped and manually entering tracking information into each online store.
I was discussing my findings from mapping out the steps in shipping with my daughter. She described a software shipping program that would download the address and change the shipping status in the stores automatically. She works in e-commerce and her company used this type of program. She suggested I do some research on Shipworks, ShipStation, and other shipping programs.
I did the research and decided that I would test out ShipStation. They offered a free one month trial and appeared to have the options we needed for automating the manual entry of addresses and order updates. Jerry was skeptical about making a change; so he also kept the subscription with the Endicia shipping program as a backup.
One year later; we are using ShipStation and continue to have Endicia as our backup shipping program. Jerry no longer manually enters shipping addresses. We don't spend an hour or two in the online stores changing the status of an order to shipped and entering tracking information. It has completely automated the data entry part of shipping. As a result, we have more time for a date night and more energy for many other creative aspects of the business. Jerry can paint more eyes and build more tools. I have more time to update photographs and listings, read articles and take online courses to improve my small business skill set.
If you read my last post "My Five Aha Moments..." you know that we recently moved GlassEyesOnLine. Before the move; the physical space of our shipping department was located in less than 20 square feet. It consisted of a desk; two computers, a scale and printer located in the same room as inventory, packing, and painting. Packing and shipping materials and supplies were put where ever we could find space. It was crowded, unorganized and prone to disruption and errors.
Now, GlassEyesOnLine has a 100 square foot room designated for one activity, Shipping. The Shipping room includes one computer with 2 monitors, a postage scale, and printer. Packing and shipping materials are now very easy to find on shelves located in the same space. The environment is more conducive to concentrating on shipping without disruption caused by other business activities. The space also is a time saver for locating packing supplies and monitoring the inventory of these supplies.
Over the past year we have made some significant changes in Shipping at GlassEyesOnLine. It started with those Workflow Process Charts I posted above. We continue to look for ways to work faster and smarter.
I am always interested in talking with other small business owners about ways they have improved their small business. Do you know about a new app or other tool that helps with running a small business?
You can e-mail us or better yet; comment below. We'd love to share information and exchange ideas for other ways to save more time for more date nights!
We have been running glasseyesonline in approximately 600 square feet of space for the past few years. That included inventory, packing, shipping, painting eyes, building craft tools, and office space. We have been bursting at the seams for a while now and really needed more space to grow. After a long search we found a new space and spent the last week moving in to it. Is your small business growing out of it's current space? Are you thinking about moving? I jotted down some notes during our move of the things I wanted to share with you. These are My Five Aha Moments: Five Things To Do when moving your small business.
#1 Transfer Utilities Before Move In Day
That old saying that the devil is in the details is so true! Jerry and I had planned to move in starting at 7am. We found out on move in day that the electricity was turned off by the previous tenant. That meant there were no lights and air conditioning. We had to re-group and get over to the electric company to get the power converted to our name before we could begin move in. That took a day out of our schedule and brings me to #2.
#2 There are hidden expenses with moving.
We planned for the increase in rent and utilities. The other expenses such as deposits for utility conversion, lock changes, a new security system, internet access, and shelving were an after thought that certainly impacts the bottom line for the year. Moving really is a project to manage and there needs to be a timeline, budget, etc. We did save a tremendous amount of money on security and internet upgrade and installation labor. Our friends with expertise in that area volunteered to get everything set up for us during the move.
#3 Feed and Water Each Other.
Jerry and I both can get so focused on managing a project that we forget to take care of ourselves and each other. If we are getting short tempered it usually means we are hungry or tired. We were blessed with friends and some fellow congregants from our church that volunteered to help with painting and moving through out the week. I tried to make sure we all had breaks and were fed and hydrated. Sometimes we fixed the meals; and sometimes we went out to eat. One evening, Jerry, David and I took a break and went to Hunting Island State Park and sat on the beach in zero gravity chairs. We watched the Pelicans and Dolphins while the sun was setting. It was a relaxing moment in a week filled with unexpected challenges.
#4 Get The "It's an Exciting Adventure" Mindset
I can be a little bit like the Rabbit character in Winnie the Pooh at times. I don't really like moving or unexpected challenges that inevitable come up during a major project. I realized about day two that I needed to change my mindset and experience the move as part of that exciting adventure of Being Married and having a small business to raise.
#5 Take Some Before, During, and After Photos
We did not take photos of the organization of the inventory before disassembly for the move. We had to rely on our memory of the organization of the inventory when reassembling the shelves in the new space.
Fortunately, I did remember to take a few photos of our friends that volunteered their time and expertise to help us move. I am so thankful for the gift of wonderful friends that rallied around to support and help us during the move of our small business.
I am looking forward to working in our new space. I expect to see improvements in several areas of our business including our speed, efficiency, and accuracy with picking, painting and shipping orders. In my next Blog I will be focusing on our wonderful new shipping area.
If you have had experience with moving a small business, we'd love to read about it. Any challenges? Any similarities or differences in your move experience from ours? Anything you noticed that was different with your business after you made the move? It's your turn to comment below.