Many companies start their eCommerce website without considering their eCommerce Strategy and evaluating what is required and when. More often than not, companies are sold on the creative capacity of the web designer or specific functions rather than ensuring the chosen technology can be managed with the smarts to handle the functional, management and business logistics requirements.
Most design agencies have limited in-house technical skill and outsource the development to 3rd parties. When projects eventually Go Live, things may seem initially ok, but as online traffic and sales increase, processing errors, administrative overheads, poor logistics & ERP integration, lack of resources and expertise and inadequate technology become a burden. Once this occurs, often companies pour more dollars into unforseen development which dramatically impacts the cost/benefit ratio. The good news is that most first attempts ultimately provide extremely useful data for developing a more robust eCommerce strategy going forward. The most basic rule of thumb is to define your eCommerce strategy first and find eCommerce technology and services that address your requirements.
There are six main ingredients that underpin a solid eCommerce strategy:
- Look at current and proposed business metrics (enquiries, sales, orders, resources)
- What are competitors doing online and look for weaknesses or opportunities
- Understand your competitive advantage
- Look at industry metrics (online and offline)
- Define logistics and operating costs for distribution
- Chat to eCommerce and SEO specialists
- Commercial Proposition - If the research stacks up, define commercial objectives and measure the value. Example: increase sales for product group X by Y%; reduce cost of processing orders by 50%; reduce inbound phone calls by 60%; trade in overseas markets.
- Customer Drivers
- Define your target audience
- Speak to your existing customers to find out if and how they would like to buy from you online (conduct a survey)
- Find out about customer's browsing habits. Ie what browsers they use? Would they prefer to use their mobile phone? What ways do they like to navigate to find products like yours.
- Be clear that your target audience would browse/purchase on the web
- What other online services would help them trade online with you
- Marketing & Promotion - Develop a strategy to promote to your target audience.
- Google is still King and Search Engine Optimization is paramount.
- Check the page rank of your existing website. (a good page rank but a poor quality website is like having a shed on a million dollar block of land - this can be harnessed to boost your rankings)
- Setup adwords or online advertising campaigns to kick start traffic
- Setup offline advertising, mail outs, brochures, telephone on hold messages to steer traffic to your website.
- Setup a facebook or twitter community (if your target audience are likely to use these mediums). Setup a social media policy to maintain regular communication.
- Get innovative with your marketing strategy. There are cost effective ways to make noise in your market.
- Technology Requirements - Cover all bases:
- Web store look and feel (functional and useful navigation combined with striking and clear design generates your online brand)
- Assess limitations with current functionality and define future functions required (often overlooked)
- Review your current platform. (Really ask the question, can it live up to your 3 year plan?)
- Ease of management (can your staff drive your eCommerce Platform - often the cause of most frustration)
- Order processing and error handling (how can you guarantee orders are fulfilled)
- Freight and logistics (often overlooked and could either cause cost blowouts or turn customers away if too high - the simple the better)
- Integration to accounting/ERP system (will stifle growth if not considered and expensive to implement down the track)
- Marketing tools (vital to generating traffic and brand awareness)
- Online statistics (make sure you know if you are getting bang for your buck)
- Cross browser compliancy (often lost sales come from websites not functioning on older browsers)
- Platform capability (can your infrastructure handle the load - always ensure that it can handle 20% of your target audience visiting at any given time)
- Software evolution (platforms keep developing - ensure you know how updates are applied to avoid expensive upgrades)
- Mobility requirements (monitor your mobile traffic and consider a lower resolution website interface for this audience)
- URL migration (vital if you are upgrading your website to a new platform and your URLs are changing)
- Go Live and Resources - Most companies are over ambitious with timeframes to develop eCommerce websites. Depending on project complexity and how well you are organised, expect a Go Live timeframe between 3 - 6 months at the very least. Use the time wisely to prepare online data, logistics, workflows and plan marketing initiatives. Ensure you allocate resources to work on the project. Best to assign a project manager internally and have them liaise with the implementers. Distribute the work to relevant departments. Often project delays are caused by a lack of resources at your end.
Plan out your strategy for every quarter over a 3 year period. For each quarter set goals and milestones and relevant actions to achieve those goals. Assign resources to each action point and ensure everyone is on board with the strategy. Consider establishing a partnership approach with your developers/implementers.
Whether you are about to go online or have an eCommerce project up and running, your investment into developing a sound eCommerce strategy is sure to pay dividends in the future.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require further assistance with your strategy.
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