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What Challenges Can You Face When Starting Out In eCommerce? Advice From Custom Plugs, A Multi-Million Pound Startup Company


Life in business is never just plain sailing. Challenges are an inevitable part of any startup journey, but how you deal with and overcome them will determine your fate.

Matthew and Chris from Custom Plugs set up their business from scratch in 2011, selling plugs for ears, ear gauges, body jewelry, accessories, and alternative clothing. They are now one of the top companies in the world selling these products across the globe.

In their own words, here are some of the key challenges they’ve overcome during their journey, which should offer some helpful advice for those starting eCommerce businesses of their own:

Picking the right platform is crucial for success.

We started out on our journey with limited development experience and have had to learn huge amount on the fly. Every website launch has been a lot of hard work, and even now, we’re still learning.

Without a doubt, one of our biggest challenges was when we moved our site from Shopify to Magento. Magento crippled our speed and creativity. We spent years trying to get Magento to work. We funnelled loads of money into it and still didn’t get to the point where we had a site that would do the most basic e-commerce tasks.

Eventually, we had to admit to ourselves that we can’t save something after spending 6 figures, and that we just have to put that behind us and chalk it up to learning. It was really a horrible decision to make.

That’s why you should do research beforehand and ensure any platform you choose fits your business model. Speak to experts, speak to other users, and get a full understanding before you make any changes.

Be careful with suppliers.

Make sure you know and trust them before you invest a lot of money. At the early stages of our business, we had a supplier who took £2,800 from us and never delivered the goods.

This was a big knock for us, as we were in the early stages of the business and our cash flow was really tight. We had to do a lot of robbing Peter to pay Paul to stay afloat and keep the business moving.

We’ve since built strong and trusting relationships with all our suppliers and now have a great business relationship with each one.

Social Media is a double edged sword.

Social media is undoubtedly a fundamental tool for growing your business in a B2C environment, but it can also be a double-edged sword. Using scheduling gives the impression that you’re available 24/7.

When you’re working in an international arena, that can mean you’re expected to be online all the time, but in reality, you need some downtime. You need to keep your audience engaged but at the same time you cannot be available all the time.

A lack of customer service consistency can hinder you.

Equally, if you have different people managing different contact platforms, it can become messy and complicated, as often, customers will contact you through 2 or more different channels. If they get different responses, it can be confusing for them.

Finding ways to manage people’s expectations is important, and utilising automation tools can help you do this. Shopify has several apps that help you manage your customer service procedures more effectively. These bolt-on apps to your store can give a really enhanced experience for your customers.

Building teams is hard.

Building and managing a successful harmonious team is one of the hardest parts of business, and we’re still learning how. We have now made a decision that we won’t employ anyone who is connected with the business already, as it gets too complicated and political.

We only recruit people who have a genuine passion for the culture and our industry. Giving autonomy to those you’ve employed is very difficult, especially when you’ve nurtured a business from the ground up. You need to employ people you believe in and that you trust, so you can start to loosen up the reins and understand that as you scale, you need support and that you can’t do it all by yourself!<

You’re likely to encounter your own challenges when setting up your eCommerce business but hopefully this has given you some insight and tips to avoid the common ones.