Creating an ecommerce roadmap is a critical step that every company launching an ecommerce site should undertake, but one that is often overlooked. If you are a manufacturer, you probably have a clear product roadmap that helps you choose the next step when considering a change to your product. Likewise, as a distributor or retailer, you probably have a clear business plan that outlines what your business priorities are and serves as a guide in everything that you do on a day-to-day basis.
An ecommerce initiative should receive the same amount of consideration, if not more, because ecommerce will touch every area of your business and because it isn’t your company’s core competency. Too often an organization fails to see the importance of creating an ecommerce roadmap at the outset of a project, leaving them vulnerable to an inconsistent ecommerce vision, delayed launch and overspent budget.
How should an enterprise organization begin to formulate a roadmap to drive ecommerce success?
To get started, answer the following questions. Get input on your answers from anyone who will play a role in designing and launching the site. (Not sure who to include? Check out this post about creating an ecommerce launch team.)
- What is my organization’s ultimate goal for our ecommerce site? Yes—selling product online is the goal of ecommerce, but that’s not what I mean. It’s likely that your organization will have another goal in mind for your ecommerce site, besides selling product. These might include: educating your customer and potential customers as the thought-leader in your industry or launching your industry into the world of B2B ecommerce and securing the position as the first mover within the space. Perhaps your goal is to reach a new audience of customers outside your traditional customer base. Whatever this goal is, it is likely to drive all of the other choices you make about design and functionality.
- What is important to your corporate brand? How do you want to be perceived and remembered? Ecommerce, whether focused on B2B or B2C, is a visual experience. Make sure your branding strategy is reflected in your ecommerce roadmap for consistency among all business channels.
- What functionality can’t you live without? Make a list of the things you absolutely must have in your ecommerce site. These are the non-negotiable items of your site design and should be what guides Phase I of your project.
- What is my organization’s budget for ecommerce this year? Years two and three? Budget will ultimately drive what you can accomplish on your site. Knowing your budget will help focus your efforts on the most important functionalities first.
- What features and functionalities can wait until the next phase? There will always be more inspiration than budget on any ecommerce project. Identifying “nice to have” functionalities and earmarking them for the second or third phase of the project is an easy way to include new functionalities without overspending your initial budget. At Insite, we call this our “land and expand” approach.
- Define the buyer’s path through your ecommerce site. If you could choose how visitors consumed the information on your site, how would they move from page to page? Design your site with specific information, merchandising and calls to action that propel the buyer through the site on your preferred path.
- Consider your competition. Please note that I did not say, “Copy your competition.” You need to remain a unique and relevant entity in your space, but paying attention to what your competition is doing is a good business practice. Watch to see if your #1 competitor comes out with a new product configurator or is using advanced merchandising techniques to promote their products on their site. How are they positioning themselves? As the information resource in the industry, the premium product line, the value-priced option? Knowing what the competition is doing will help you hone your own messaging and improve your ecommerce site experience.
The ecommerce roadmap is an essential tool for any B2B or B2C ecommerce initiative. By considering the above questions before you embark on an ecommerce project, your organization will save time, money and considerable frustration, ensuring that your ecommerce site is as successful as possible.