Business development is a somewhat-ambiguous term with a function and responsibility that varies from company to company.

While the definition has been endlessly debated, the ultimate goal of business development is to find strategic opportunities that create long-term value. This requires effort from brand marketing, sales, partnerships, and ultimately depends on the delivery of quality products to match these efforts. Essentially, BD applies to every area of a company.

Business development is often used interchangeably with sales, which underestimates the many other considerations necessary to execute on strategic business initiatives. While sales is an important component of BD, it's one of several key factors that go into creating value for a business.

The broad definition of business development underlies just how crucial it is to success in any industry, and ecommerce is no different.

Business development is built on relationships

Through its varied applications, every area of business development has one thing in common: it depends on building relationships - with customers, partners, and departments within a company. Every company relies on other organizations and all of its departments to get their product or service to a customer, and building strong business relationships is necessary to succeed in any field.

Consider a pro football team: its objective is to win games and increase profits. But to achieve that, the coach needs to be in sync with the players, general manager (chooses players and oversees budget), training staff (monitors player health), PR (manage distractions), and owner (verifies expenses), who all play an integral role in building a profitable championship team. With a unified front established, the team can then work efficiently with third party contractors and organizations to fulfill all outstanding needs.

Much like the above example, it's important for an ecommerce company to establish clear objectives that are translated into goals for each department. A target market must be established to select the right products for a determined audience, and brand messaging should reflect these principles. A healthy line of communication between departments ensures that individual objectives are aligned to meet company goals; from there, each team works to forge additional strategic partnerships to reach their targets.

What is business development for ecommerce?

Once goals are set and each department knows what it needs to do, an ecommerce business inherently relies on other organizations to complete every step necessary to get the product to customers. While every company has its own unique BD needs, common business relationships include:

  • Shipping: Reliable and timely deliveries are necessary to keep customers happy, and this depends in great deal on the shipping provider. An online store must be responsible for a shipping provider's fulfillment regardless of fault, making this an extremely vital partnership. Factor in the cost and corresponding economic implications, and this is an alliance that can make or break an online store.
  • Supply: Product fulfillment depends just as much on suppliers as it does on shipping. Being in sync with a supplier is crucial to maintaining inventory, keeping the promise to customers, and scaling your business.
  • Marketing and advertising: Effective digital marketing is quite work-intensive, which is why many ecommerce businesses seek outside help for SEO, PPC, email marketing, and display advertising. Another important consideration is content marketing, which requires both quality curation and strategic distribution to be successful.
  • Product: Offering products to complement your main offerings--accessories--helps fulfill customer needs and increase retention. When you can't get these from a primary supplier, it can be accomplished by direct partnerships with manufacturers.
  • Customer service & PR: Perception is reality, especially in the online marketplace where one bad review can preemptively end your relationship with a customer. Established enterprises often partner with PR agencies to generate positive press and manage negative publicity. One of the best ways to ensure customers stay happy? Excellent customer service. This often requires an additional partnership, whether with live chat software, a help desk application, or a third-party call center.


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