So, you want to uplevel an online store.
Great! But, how do you do it? How do you go from idea to execution in a way that sets you — and your customers — up for success?
That answer lies in how you implement your ecommerce platform from the beginning. From design to architecting to deployment, each step includes key decisions that can significantly impact your long-term success.
No matter if you’re launching an entirely new ecommerce business or migrating to a new platform, what you do now will help decide how successful you are. Welcome to the next step of the digital transformation.
There are an estimated 26 million ecommerce sites in the world — and growing. Statistically speaking, millions of these will fail. The ecommerce industry is crowded and there’s no single case study for success.
However, being thoughtful about your ecommerce implementation now will set you up to win.
Failure starts with poor up-front planning. Failing to fully understand the market, your customers and your own organization will lead to disaster. You should have a full accounting of the existing marketplace and who you’ll be competing against. This includes understanding customer needs and preferences.
You’ll also need to take an inventory of what your ecommerce can and can’t do. Do you have the talent and knowledge on staff? Have you made a sufficient investment in technology? Can you provide adequate customer service?
Scaling an ecommerce store is hard — really hard. Those that succeed are thorough in their preparation, in execution and in optimization.
Implementing an ecommerce solution takes a village. It requires a host of skills and knowledge to build the foundation your ecommerce website will be built on.
Any project the size of the typical ecommerce implementation needs a project manager. Whether you’re following agile or waterfall, a good project manager will keep you on task and keep project pricing on target.
Robust ecommerce platforms are complex and not for amateurs. You’ll need an experienced solutions architect that knows how to build a site properly — one that can also scale up seamlessly and without unexpected surprises.
A good trainer will set your team up for success. They’ll teach the ins and outs of ecommerce and why it’s unique from other IT disciplines.
Devs in ecommerce should have specific knowledge around large databases, integrating microservices, security and managing payment gateways. Having a staff trained in these skills will keep your site running and optimized.
The sheer volume of ecommerce customers makes it challenging to really understand them. You should have team members that understand customer research, user experiences and user interfaces. You need to understand what your customers want and then deliver that to them.
An ecommerce technical account manager serves as a bridge between the technical parts of the online store and the company’s business needs. They ensure a seamless integration and ongoing support experience for customers.
Whether you’re launching a new site or replatforming, a good ecommerce implementation includes several required steps and takes months of planning and execution.
Step one is identifying what your specific needs are and finding the vendor that best meets them. You should understand the marketplace you’re taking part in (whether you are in B2C or B2B ecommerce) and customer wants and find the solution that can best help you succeed.
This also applies to microservices, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.
Your organization should all be on board with the direction you’re taking, including business and technical interests. Training should start here, with developers and business decision makers learning the ins and outs of the new platform.
If you’re replatforming, you’ll need to ensure that all data is moved and integrity is maintained. This is a key step. Done correctly, the migration should be fairly quick. If there are issues, the project could fall behind schedule and take on additional costs.
Established ecommerce businesses are likely going to have a large product catalog representing a significant amount of data. Getting product information moved to the new site and displaying properly on the frontend is key. Many digital commerce sites include a product information management (PIM) solution.
Moving customer data has added security concerns. All customer data, whether at rest or in motion, must be protected from external threats.
This is the history of your business and is a key fundamental to maintaining customer relationships. This often migrated to a customer relationship manager (CRM) solution.
This includes the rest of your website. This is a good opportunity to do a content audit to determine what should stay, what should go and what needs to be updated.
Even with the best planning and preparation, there can be unknown complications. The more complex a system is, the more likely it is that there are complications that require a bespoke solution.
Building a full ecosystem often takes some custom work — any you may need to even count on it.
All key stakeholders, not just developers, should have a full understanding of the platform. This may include content authors, product owners or customer support. Self-service is the goal so all stakeholders can spread the burden of site maintenance, including solving low-impact problems.
No matter how many online sales you produce after launch, your site is never done. It’s just in its current state. Ecommerce platforms will never stop evolving, with each iteration building on the last.
There will be two primary workflows: maintenance and optimization. The first will be business processes that keep the site up and running for day-to-day business. The latter will improve the site with new features and functionality.
Automation should be considered, as well as roadmaps for new customer acquisition and retention. You may consider more complex approaches, such customer loyalty programs that reward referrals, multiple sales channels or personalized product recommendations.
Launching a new ecommerce site or migrating to a new storefront is a major undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.
By taking a measured approach and considering the best response to every issue, you’ll be live in a reasonable amount of time and have minimal technical issues moving forward.
Have a user-first approach that caters to the customer experience. This includes user-friendly design, mobile optimization, a friction-free shopping cart experience and customer segmentation options.
The customer journey places the target audience at the heart of every decision. Reward them with a good online shopping experience.
This starts with analytics and how you use them. You should have key performance indicators (KPIs) that help define success for you. These should include metrics like customer acquisition cost, conversion rates or even just web traffic from various marketing campaigns. These should help guide your decision making. For metrics that you’re meeting, keep evolving your business model. For those that fall short, your ecommerce strategy may need altering.
IT is central to any ecommerce implementation. No matter if you’re leveraging a monolithic solution or putting together microservices, IT is responsible for ensuring that everything works as it should.
This may include frontend optimization to include things like social media channels, backend integrations with payment systems or infrastructure and cloud hosting.