Are you running a business in Malaysia? How have you been handling cost control? Have you left it to chance, or have cost control measures in place? We know it’s not easy, and we are not judging you, but you must keep those expenses in check. Why? 

Because your goal as a business owner isn’t to spend the most money but to increase your profit margins. You need to cut unnecessary costs. This article will discuss some optimization techniques and allocation methods for cost control in your business. 

Effective Cost Control Strategies for E-Commerce Businesses

What is Cost Control?

The cost control process is about finding new ways to spend less money in your business to increase profit. The first step is financial budgeting, where you plan how much you’ll spend in different areas. 

For example, let’s say you’re a coffee maker or chef whose budget for ingredients in February was 1,500 MYR a month but ended up spending 1,900 MYR. In this case, you need to know why you paid more than you budgeted and how to reduce it with the help of cost control tools and analysis software. 

One of the strategies you can use is to compare prices from different Malaysian suppliers to find the best ingredient deals (not necessarily the cheapest). For example, if one supplier sells 1kg of ingredients at 0,30 MYR and 5kg at 1,50 MYR, another may sell 5kg at 1,35 MYR.

Another example of cost reduction measures is outsourcing some tasks like payroll. You can hire a freelancer instead of a full-time employee. This way, you can avoid dealing with employee turnover and it’s a way of reducing future labor costs.

Indeed, controlling costs is about being smart. You don’t necessarily need to follow every strategy. Analyze your business and see how to save more to become profitable.

What is Cost Control?

Cost Control Measures in E-Commerce

What makes cost control important is that it grants you the ability to increase the amount you can invest to grow your business. It also helps you gain more profits, maintain financial stability, and reduce actual expenditures. Earlier, we gave an example of a chef whose spending exceeded the budget (an example of cost overruns).

The difference between the budgeted cost value and actual spending is cost variance. In the case of the chef, the variance was 440 MYR. You should perform a monthly cost control variance analysis on the revenue and expense accounts. The lower the cost variances, the better. 

The following are best practices to control costs and reduce variable cost in an online business. 

Adopt Automation

Arguably one of the essential cost control examples, using automated expense management software is one of the best cost-minimization tactics for handling routine tasks. The best part is that it doesn’t save money and there’s a case to be made about expense management increasing efficiency. 

Part of the importance of cost control is that it reduces human error and saves costs by reducing the number of talents you need to hire and the time you will spend correcting human error. Areas you can automate include customer communications and payroll.

Reduce Cart Abandonment Rate

Cart abandonment is equal to a loss of potential profit for your business. What happens if there is more than one, and it keeps happening? It means you are losing more chances of making more money for your business. 

One of the best options for dropping the cart abandonment rate is to set up a seamless and quick checkout process with small steps from start to finish. 

It should be something like this:

  • Cart Page: Review Cart ➡️ Proceed to Checkout
  • Checkout Page: Enter Shipping Information ➡️ Select Shipping Method ➡️ Enter Payment Information
  • Order Summary Page: Review Order Summary ➡️ Apply Coupons or Discounts ➡️ Place Order 
  • Post-Order Confirmation: Wait for Confirmation ➡️ Track Order (Optional)

Ensure you integrate a payment gateway that accepts multiple payment methods like credit cards and Apple Pay. If you work internationally, find a provider who can handle a global mass payments workload.

Next, automatically send cart abandonment emails to get shoppers to return. Show delivery estimates and remove elements of uncertainties. But let them know the causes of delay, if any.

Nearly 70% of visitors abandon their carts at check out. It’s alarming, but you can drop the number if you implement the framework above.

Reduce Cart Abandonment Rate

Reduce Your Return Rates

Returns are bad for business, so you need cost performance analysis to know the quality of your products, how you can improve them, and the quantity of damaged goods.

When returning products, you have to give a new product to the customer and account for the loss of damaged or poor-quality products. You also need to handle the new product’s shipping to the customer and the return of the other product. 

The following optimization techniques will help reduce return rates to avoid extra project expenses:

  • Be clear about your offer, and don’t exaggerate features and benefits, whether your marketing message or product descriptions.
  • Adopt post-order communication monitoring systems to keep communicating with customers so that they know you are trustworthy.

Lastly, use cost-effective systems and tracking mechanisms, such as prepaid return labels.  They are labels generated after receiving a return request from the customer. This label usually contains the customer’s shipping address, the merchant’s return address, and a tracking number to fast-track the return process.

Lower Your Shipping Costs

Shipping fees are essential in helping customers decide whether to proceed with payment, so consider using cheaper and more reliable shipping options. 

Here is how to implement this into your cost control efforts:

  • Partner with a delivery or shipping service for bulk deliveries at a discount.
  • Negotiate rates with your shipping carriers, especially if you are a repeat customer.
  • Keep in mind that regional parcel carriers provide cheaper and faster services than national carriers.

Lastly, you should invest in your inventory management system so that warehousing and shipping save total cost and not the opposite. Have warehouses closer to where your customers are or are close to delivery or a courier environment with no extra delivery costs before shipping. ERP systems for automated order tracking also help you control your inventory, reducing employee expenses.

Effective Expense Management Strategies

Have your business and project expenses been on the roof lately? You need better expense and cost management.

You should consider cutting fixed costs using these cost management best practices:

  • Automate Expenses Data Entry: Companies now use cloud-based tools like DOKKA to record expenses automatically. Think of a robot or AI tool that records all your spending information in one place without you having to type it out.
  • Use Digital Receipts: Gone are the days you track expenses with paper receipts. Start taking pictures of your expense receipts.
  • Enforce Expense Policies: Create rules and regulations concerning the organization’s use of money. Outline when anyone can request for or spend it.
  • Currency Conversion: If you have suppliers overseas, you must pay attention to the conversion rate from your currency to their currency, impacting your expenses and business costs.

Use software that searches for reporting mistakes in your expense records, like Xero and QuickBooks. These are software for checking even typos and discrepancies you may have missed.

If you use a modern e-commerce platform, it will give you different tools for tracking your net income and expenses like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and accounting systems, thus helping you make informed financial decisions toward your target net income. 

Effective Expense Management Strategies

Techniques to Reduce Operational Spending

Operational costs are essential for running a business, but how much you spend depends on how smart you are at cutting costs. 

The following are solutions for creating a cost control system that produces cost savings without reducing the quality of work:

  • Work Remotely: Remote work is no longer news; many businesses work from home without spending on traditional office setups. However, you must consider investing in a workspace at home to ensure productivity.
  • Rent Spaces: Rent space for menial tasks that need a week or a month to complete. It pays to rent for short-term use. 
  • Pause Hiring: Think twice before you hire, especially if you don’t need in-house talent or don’t urgently need to expand your team. Instead, consider outsourcing to freelancers or contract workers to help with cost savings.

Some operational costs could be wasteful, but you may not realize them. Pay attention to workflows and how much time it costs to get work done. In some cases, you need to save time and spend money in the cost management process to save money in the long run.  

Tools for Analyzing Cost Control

Ernst Harting, Jo Bos, and Marlet Hesslelink talked about the instruments for cost control in Project-Driven Creation. They referred to tools for cost control as instruments. 

Let’s see these project cost control tools below:

  • Cost Estimate (The Initiation Phase): At the beginning stage of any project, you need cost estimates to determine whether the project is financially feasible. For example, you could use past data to estimate cost baseline. Examples of tools to use for cost estimation are COCOMO (Constructive Cost Model) and SEER-SEM (Software Estimation and Evaluation of Resources). These specialized cost management software use historical data and the current project to estimate project costs.
  • Budget (Planning Phase): After confirming the project’s feasibility, you need to convert estimates into actual costs (budget). A budget is more detailed and more relatable. For example, owning a restaurant means budgetary control for the kitchen, cooking utensils, food ingredients, and packaging; your budgeting process should have a breakdown of actual costs incurred. A project manager can use specialized project management software tools like Microsoft Project and Asana to budget. Project management tools can be a lifesaver when working with a sizable team as they allow you to record task delegation, stay on top of project schedule, and conduct project budget control easily.
  • Cost Monitoring (Execution phase): Are the planned project costs expected to exceed predetermined estimates? At this stage, you are to ensure that the spending aligns with the budget. This helps identify and mitigate overspending. For example, establish project controls using tools like Expensify or Xero to track your expenses helps identify discrepancies and find the root cause.
  • Financial Evaluation (Closing Phase): This is the stage where the project is put to a close. You have to check if you achieved the financial targets for the project. For example, did the project yield the intended ROI? Use tools like Tableau and Power BI to find answers.

Let’s remember that cost control isn’t just about numbers and spreadsheets — it’s about making informed decisions that shape our future projects’ success. As Ernst Harting, Jo Bos, and Marlet Hesslelink pointed out, these tools are like instruments in an orchestra, each playing a crucial role in keeping our projects on track.

Tools for Analyzing Cost Control

Mastering Financial Budgeting for Success

Budgeting is straightforward when it comes to personal finances compared to business. 

Below, we have outlined some strategies to help you become a pro at budgeting:

  • Maintain a Database: Our first strategy is to record all inflow and outflow of cash in your business. A database is a structured collection of related records organized into a cost control table, meaning there should be a database for business performance data metrics, finance, operations, and any other department.
  • Embrace Analytics: Data analytics tools help business owners make decisions through factual data and numbers. Paying attention to your expensive trends and patterns can help you know areas to cut costs and make better budgeting plans. You can also predict future trends thanks to analytics tools.
  • Zero-Based Budgeting System: Our last strategy involves you starting the new business year with a fresh budget every year instead of manipulating the previous year’s budget. Starting from zero and making careful considerations, ensure you only include essential things to reduce variable costs.

Also, consider the possibility of including everyone in the budget planning and strategic cost control. This way, everyone will be in sync and understand the direction toward the financial goal, improving the chances for project success. 

Monitoring Systems: Ensuring Fiscal Discipline

This refers to keeping an eye on the financial activities of a company and measuring cost performance. We discuss monitoring systems and tools or ways to track cash flows – both inflow and outflow. The following are action tips to help:

  • Make a Budget: Create a plan for how much you want to spend in the different areas of your business. Knowing what you can afford is essential.
  • Check Your Cash Flow: Pay attention to your cash flow and balance. Finances with business can be tricky. One day, you look like you have become a millionaire, and the next, you are pleading with your employees to postpone their pay. That’s why you need to know about cash flow.
  • Set Money Goals: You should have money goals like making 1000 monthly sales and 5000 leads.

These tips may look too easy, but they are not that simple. Set goals for expenses and revenue and track how much is coming in and leaving. This way, you can ensure fiscal discipline.

Using Software for Cost Efficiency

It’s almost impossible to run a business without the use of technology. Not to mention when cutting costs and improving profits. Technology will make it easy, help you track expenses, and find areas needing discipline. 

The following are some ways businesses can use technology to save money:

  • Automating Manual Tasks: Rather than doing repetitive tasks with human resources, why not let software or robots handle them? Use software like Odoo or robotics systems like Kiva Systems.
  • Using Cloud Computing: Moving your data to the cloud saves money on hardware and infrastructure. For example, a small e-commerce startup can use cloud-based software like Salesforce or HubSpot CRM to manage customer relationships.
  • Embracing Remote Work: Allow your employees to work from home so your business can save money on office space and utilities. Through technology tools like Microsoft Teams and business and project management software like Trello, it is easy to work remotely with your team. 

You can use Tableau or Microsoft Power BI to analyze and find valuable data that will open up future cost-saving opportunities. For instance, a retailer can analyze sales data using software tools to see which products are most profitable and focus on those.

Using Software for Cost Efficiency

Control Audits For Financial Prudence

Control audits are cost accounting practices for ensuring sound financial management via cost accounting systems. Without a control audit to evaluate project performance, you can’t say you manage your finances or control costs. It is usually a comprehensive assessment of your finances and system to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.

And that’s the primary cost accounting function – when a company performs a financial statement audit, it checks its financial statements to ensure they are accurate and compliant with accounting standards. At the end of the review, the auditor will send an audit opinion indicating whether the financial statements are correct and fair for the company’s overall and project performance. Depending on the outcome, it’s possible that managers reduce project expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which strategy would most help an e-commerce business?

The following strategies would mainly help an ecommerce business drive sales and profits:

  • Cost control measures like reducing shipping fees and using automation;
  • Adopting marketing strategies like email marketing, social media advertising, and content marketing;
  • Segmenting your customers.

How is e-commerce cost-effective?

It’s cost-effective because you don’t need to spend extra money on a brick-and-mortar store, rent, utilities, staffing, maintenance, and other overhead expenses.

What are cost-effective strategies?

Actual cost-effective strategies ensure you can reduce costs without lowering the quality of your work, product, or service.