Ecommerce plays a key role in the success of today’s businesses. When implemented properly, an ecommerce solution can help your business increase sales, enhance your brand, reach a larger pool of potential customers, and build stronger relationships with current clients.
But launching a new webstore or re-platforming the one you currently have can be tricky. By understanding the potential risks and challenges – and incorporating best practices along the way – you can speed your time to completion and reduce the chance of costly errors creeping into your project.
Limiting potential problems
Like most things in life, careful planning and execution is key to successfully completing an ecommerce implementation. As you start to strategize and plan for your new or re-platformed webstore, several requirements should be top of mind:
- Brand your site – Ensure that every aspect of your ecommerce website – from graphics to navigation – align with your brand and create a consistent shopping experience that customers expect from an in-store visit.
- Know your audience – Define your audience and understand its buying behavior. For example, some buyers may want personalized buying guides based on past purchases. Then ensure that your site reflects how your audience prefers to interact with ecommerce sites.
- Know your competition – Conduct a competitive analysis to better understand the current online marketplace and your place in it. Also be sure to check out competitors’ Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to see what is being said about them.
- Decide the level of customization – Understand the type of solutions that partners can offer you – from out-of-the-box packages to highly customized options. Remember, the more customized your solution, the higher the cost and the longer the development time.
- Build a great user experience – Use best practices to create a friendly and intuitive online experience for customers. This includes planning how to integrate back-office applications with your web store in order to streamline order management, simplify payment processing, expedite shipping and enhance personalized service.
- Factor in basic operations – Align your current operations with your site. If you are re-platforming, you will have already staffed up or outsourced certain tasks. But if this is your first ecommerce solution, ensure you have sufficient support.
- Find the right partner – Choose a partner that understands more than just ecommerce technologies and can offer expertise in areas such as back-office systems and database development. Once you have narrowed down your candidates, get a clear understanding of what you can expect from them in terms of solution delivery, price, structure and timeframes.
- Set clear expectations – Have a clear idea of when you expect to see a return on investment (ROI). And keep in mind that ecommerce platforms have a relatively low cost but high ROI in the spectrum of enterprise IT projects.
Preparing for hidden challenges
Careful planning and execution is key to successfully completing an ecommerce implementation.
As you move past your initial planning phase, additional challenges lurk beneath the surface. By addressing these early in the process, you can reduce the risks and create a more complete ecommerce solution that addresses the needs of your customers and your business.
- Make checkout easy – Consider the needs of your audience when building your shopping cart and checkout. Plan carefully for promotion, coupon usage, payment methods, information privacy, return policies and customer support.
- Plan for solution support – Develop a detailed plan that outlines who will provide additional development support, fix bugs or handle security activities. The plan should include whether you will hire a team of in-house developers or work with an outside vendor.
- Define reporting needs – Determine the best way to handle your financial reporting and site performance analytics. Remember that ecommerce is only one part of your company’s ecosystem, so understand how your site financials fit into the rest of your reporting processes.
- Do not forget marketing – Decide what percentage of your budget will be dedicated to marketing and developing your online audience. Also, determine the types of promotions you will use and how your plans and schedules synch up with your more traditional marketing vehicles such as print catalogs and email campaigns.
- Set your strategy for editorial elements – Create a plan for how to feature editorialized sections of your site, including how you will promote this section, where this section will appear on your site, and how customers will navigate to it.
- Define your social media strategy – Decide how you will incorporate social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter into your ecommerce environment and who within your organization will manage your social media activities.
- Integrate with other applications – Understand that your ecommerce site must connect and communicate with other applications that are key to your business operations. If you partner with other providers in any of these areas, bring them into your deployment planning process early on to ensure complete integration.
- Go mobile – Follow best practices for providing mobile access to your webstore to ensure that your customers have a seamless, personalized, online shopping experience using whatever device they choose.
From basic operation and website design to site support, purchasing options, the use of mobile applications and social media integration, you must consider all aspects of your ecommerce environment to ensure a risk-free deployment and smooth ongoing operations.