What Are SOPs (and How to Use Them for Your Online Store)?
When building an ecommerce empire, it’s easy to let staying organized and efficient fall to the wayside. But it is a crucial part of achieving success and requires more than a calendar app or time blocking tools. You also need a rock solid process in place outlined by Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for your online store.
SOPs create everything from how to ship out an item to customer service policies that can create stability, strengthen quality, and produce more dependable outcomes. For example, if you go through several virtual assistants in a year, a good SOP that everyone follows helps retain the consistent quality and service your customers want. It can also help save time on training contractors when everyone is on the same page about what to do.
Big, booming corporations down to solopreneur ecommerce businesses can all use SOPs to help grow their businesses. Not sure where to start? Here’s an overview of what SOPs are, why they matter for your online store, and how to implement them into your operations to elevate your brand, revenue, and entire customer experience.
What are SOPs?
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are detailed, written instructions that outline the exact step-by-step process to perform a task. They’re valuable to both employees and company owners to ensure everything runs consistently and accurately. When you have a solid SOP, everyone is on the same page. Although these procedures are most common in highly technical industries like manufacturing, they can still be incorporated into your e-commerce business.
Why Online Stores Need SOPs
SOPs also extend beyond how to send out an email campaign; they ensure quality and a consistent approach to everything in your business. Here’s how they can help your online store:
Establishes Consistency and Quality
SOPs create detailed steps for how you want everything done. It can include how to resolve customer service complaints about out-of-stock items down to how you ship an item. The problem with using SOPs for quality is that they lay out a great foundation, but you still have to implement them. But what if you need help executing quality control?
Instead of handling all of the logistics of sourcing inventory, producing the order, fulfilling all the details, and shipping everything out on time, you can also outsource it. Upload your designs to your CustomCat library, apply them to your favorite products, and add one of our easy-to-install integrations. When someone places an order, we fulfill it on your behalf to the highest quality standards available. We’ll also send out your orders with a white label reflecting your business, so your brand is consistently represented.
Amplifies Your Customer Service
When your customer service is inconsistent and unorganized, customers notice. Research shows that would switch to a competitor after just one poor service experience. Offering incredible service also helps customers become brand loyal, with 94% of consumers reporting that a positive customer service experience encourages them to continue buying from the same brand.
To foster customer loyalty and satisfaction, an SOP can outline everything from:
- How to handle returns
- How to handle complaints
- How to delight your customers with follow-ups, birthday discounts, and more
There’s no limit to how SOPs can help create a more consistent, reliable customer service framework.
Creating Rock-Solid SOPs for Your Online Store
The question isn’t whether or not SOPs are a good foundational cornerstone for your online store; it’s about how to create them and make them work.
Nail Down Your Key Processes
A good SOP starts with figuring out the critical processes in your e-commerce business. From product selection to email marketing, you need a list of everything that helps your business run. If you feel overwhelmed and unorganized, you can put aside the processes you don’t have a handle on yet and focus on what you already know. Return to those vague processes once you’ve successfully created other SOPs for your store. You’ll get the hang of it!
Write Out Step-By-Step Instructions
Break down each of your ecommerce processes into bite-sized, clear, and concise steps. It should include all the details, including which software you used, where to find relevant passwords, specific actions to take, and what to avoid. For example, you may already know your marketing campaigns fall flat on Fridays; instead, outline which days and times to run your campaigns.
Use Lots of Visual Aids
Visual aids, including screenshots, graphs, and videos, are essential in SOP creation. They immediately give more context to the process, so it’s easily understood and followed. Visual aids and SOPs can also serve as training materials for your contractors or assistants who step into your business with ease.
Your online business is unique, and so are your standard operating procedures. Go ahead and take some cues from corporate-style SOPs outlining booking procedures, but also add something creative to the mix.
- Explain how you crowdsource material for new designs.
- Detail how to reach out to influencers and your favorite way to promote your products.
- Write out how you create detailed video products or gift guides and what to include.
- Outline how you brainstorm new product ideas without spending money.
Creativity is fluid and can’t always be clearly defined, but it can still have a process for how that work gets done.
Keep Track of All the Different SOP Versions
Be wary of adding notes and updates to existing SOP files. It will get confusing quickly as to which information in your materials is the most up-to-date. Instead, label each SOP as a different version and the date created. You can always go back to previous versions as needed.
Audit and Collect Feedback (Rinse and Repeat)
After your SOP is finalized, it’s wise to audit it periodically. As your business grows, so will the need for new processes and SOPs to go with them. Be open to the changes. It’s a sign of growth and success, and staying flexible is part of the process of how you’ll grow a thriving e-commerce empire.
How do you use SOPs for your online store? Let us know by leaving a comment below!