Creating an ecommerce strategy can be a little overwhelming at first, especially if you are planning for your first ecommerce site. As an initiative that will touch every department within your organization–for better or worse–that overwhelmed feeling is understandable.
The key to creating a successful ecommerce strategy is to ask and answer some critical questions before you start looking at ecommerce platforms. Even if you have to revise your plan mid-stream, you’ll still be further along than you would have been had you just pressed forward without consideration.
Here are eight steps to creating a comprehensive ecommerce strategy:
- Establish clear goals for your ecommerce site. Having clear goals for your ecommerce site will give you benchmarks to measure against in the future.
- Utilize a thoughtful and phased approach. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the saying goes. The same can be said of your ecommerce site. Realize that a site is not “finished” when it goes live and that most ecommerce strategies require a phased approach to roll-out to manage project scope and stay within budget. Consider your site design in Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 phases. If you aren’t sure how to break your project into phases, ask your ecommerce provider to help you when you start the interview process.
- Research and budget appropriately. Nothing kills a project faster than a lack of budget. If you plan to launch an enterprise ecommerce site with a budget of $5,000, you are going to run into trouble. Do some research on the front end before you start talking to companies to see what the features and functionality you need cost and create your budget using these figures to ensure you get the platform you need.
- Ask questions. Don’t worry about looking “stupid.” Any ecommerce provider worth their salt will be glad that you asked. Better to ask now, before you can’t change the outcome. If you don’t understand something an ecommerce provider says, ask them to explain. If you are concerned about the line item estimate you’ve been given, ask for clarification. Ask. Ask. Ask.
- Assemble a cross-departmental team to guide the project. Ecommerce will affect all areas of your business, so it’s only prudent to involve key players from each department on your implementation team. While it might take a bit longer to gain consensus on the front end, it will definitely save headaches on the back-end when marketing or IT finds out that their #1 functionality isn’t available on the chosen platform.
- Know what success looks like so you know when you get there. You wouldn’t set out on a road trip without knowing where you were going, would you? Probably not–unless you are college-age and filled with adventurous wander-lust. On a road trip, if you don’t know where you are going, you are unlikely to know when you have arrived. In ecommerce, without knowing what your ecommerce site goals are, you won’t be able to measure whether you’ve achieved them.
- Choose your ecommerce partner wisely. Choosing an ecommerce software provider is a lot like getting married. It’s a big commitment–of time, of money, of energy–and making the wrong choice can be devastating. View samples of a potential partner’s work. Ask for references. Ask the tough questions and weigh out the answers before you sign on the dotted line.
- Evaluate and revise. Like the “Rinse and repeat” instructions on shampoo bottles of old, ecommerce sites require constant evaluation against your goals for the site. Remember, an ecommerce site becomes like a living thing post-launch. Constant evalution and tweaking will be necessary to keep your project on target.
Taking time to answer each of the critical questions above before you start looking at ecommerce platforms will ensure the best chance of success in choosing the right solution.
Ready to delve deeper? View the on-demand webinar, The CEO’s Perspective.