It’s an age-old story, really; one day, you just realize that your life is missing something. Your business, which once seemed so complete, is now ready to expand and welcome something new. Or maybe your days of running around and placing manual orders are growing tired and you’re ready to move on to the next chapter.
Whatever the reason, it suddenly hits you: you’re ready to have an eCommerce site.
That’s all well and good, but in order to have the best eCommerce site that you can, you first need to understand why you’re ready to implement or improve your eCommerce site, a question that can generally be answered with one of the following goals:
- Increase revenue
- Decrease costs
- Improve customer experience
Identifying why you’re implementing an eCommerce site will help you decide what you need from this new implementation. For example, if your main focus is increasing revenue, you will most likely want to enable a platform with heavy marketing capabilities. To decrease operating costs, you will want something with advanced technical capabilities and the ability for more automation and customer self-service. If improved customer experience is the goal, then your site will need a great UX, advanced customer self-service features, and increased engagement with customers.
These considerations hold true regardless of whether it’s your first time welcoming an eCommerce site into the world or you’re looking to make an established site even better. Here’s what you can expect from this first stage in the eCommerce site implementation process.
If You’re Establishing Your eCommerce Presence
Determine Your Goals
If this is your first eCommerce site, the first thing you need to identify is what you’re hoping this new site will accomplish for your organization and how you are going to achieve those results.
While I’m sure you have a beautiful vision of your organization with this new addition, remember that an eCommerce site isn’t a “set it and forget it” tool. It needs guidance and care to be able to meet the goals you have set for it.
Identify Your Audience
Another thing to keep in mind: who is going to be using this site? Who is your audience? The best way to answer those questions and figure out what those people want is to establish personas. Going forward, personas will help make sure that all decisions are made with the end user in mind.
If you’re going from a manual sales process to eCommerce, you have a lot to look forward to. Through a website, you can gather valuable information on your customers as well as reach your potential customers whenever they’re ready and wherever they are. An eCommerce site is active and available 24/7, which means your company is not limited by state lines or typical business hours.
If You’re Replacing Your eCommerce Site
Your first site was perfect when it originally joined your organization. But businesses grow and there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps you’ve realized that your business strategy for the future is limited by your current platform’s abilities, or it’s just not accomplishing what you would like to accomplish.
If your website is dated, behind on upgrades, unable to support a mobile site, or is completely dependent on the developers who created it, it’s time for a change.
Identify What Works and What Doesn’t
To get your project off on the right foot, you need to answer some questions for yourself. What’s working? What’s not working? Identifying what to continue doing and what to rethink is crucial information for the beginning of a project.
If you find that something isn’t working for you, there are some more questions you need to ask. What determines whether that feature is working or not? Is it a platform functionality problem or a business process problem? How would you have that feature ideally operate? While these questions may seem rather in-depth for the decision phase of a project, knowing the answer to these questions from the start will help ensure that you love the eCommerce site that you end up with.
How Will You Measure Success?
Once you have identified what you would like your new site to accomplish and the capabilities required to get there, you need to determine the metrics that will be used to define success.
Define Your Metrics
Metrics (we’re talking numbers) need to be based on the “why” behind your implementation. If your site’s purpose is to increase revenue or decrease costs, then your success metrics will be measured in dollars. If customer experience is the goal, then maybe your metrics are something like fewer calls into a call center, or a shorter wait time to speak with a CSR.
Whatever you decide, be sure to determine success metrics early. This will allow you to make the right choices at the beginning of the project to help propel you to success.
Once you have considered these questions, you are primed for the next step of the eCommerce implementation process: picking a partner and a platform.
Picking a Partner and a Platform
For many, these decisions come in a specific order; first a platform is selected and then a capable partner is brought onto the project. Here at Briteskies, we think that those decisions should be made in reverse: first pick a partner, then find a platform.
Although it may seem backwards to some, this strategy makes a lot of sense. Even if your organization finds the ideal platform for your eCommerce project, a good platform can be ruined by a bad consulting partner. However, a competent partner can make even a subpar platform a successful choice.
Consider this: after deciding on a software, a company typically calls the software vendor and asks for their help in finding a partner. From there, the company is at the mercy of the software vendor. Instead of considering the driving forces behind the eCommerce project, the vendor will have their own business motivations to consider when suggesting a consulting team. None of this is to say that the suggested consulting teams won’t be talented or helpful, but simply that the motivations behind all parties involved may not align.
Instead, consider choosing a partner before selecting a platform, or letting your top partner choice drive your platform selection. Your partner selection should be based on the “why” behind the project, not necessarily the software solution being chosen. By partnering with a team that understands and wants to solve the issues driving the project, you will be able to choose the right software for the job.
At the end of the day, a partner who helps you find the right software has more of an interest in your project’s success, as opposed to a vendor whose first concern is selling you their software.
Choosing the right partner is no easy task, however. While the circumstances of each individual project will ultimately determine who is right for the job, there are some qualifications that apply to any eCommerce situation.
Check Their Track Record
A potential consultant should be able to provide you with examples of past successes to help you with your decision. By showing you what they have done for other, similar projects, you can hopefully find a partner with a proven track record in your “why.” Once you know they have had success in those types of projects, the platform simply becomes a means to an end.
Once you have determined that your potential consultants are in fact capable of the job, it is important to consider compatibility. Would you hire a new team member without first considering their cohesion with the rest of the group? Probably not. The same consideration should be given to a potential consulting partner.
Discuss a Results Road Map
Beyond making sure personalities mesh well is ensuring that development styles are similar. You don’t just want a great result; you want a pleasant experience throughout the process.
Once the compatibility of your two teams is determined, you need to consider a results road map. The question is no longer can they get the job done, but how will they get the job done? How are they going to take your plan from point A to point B? Although you and your consultants may be in tune where the results are concerned, you will want to make sure you are on the same page as far as the process as well. Remember: your consultants can’t read minds! Discuss what you want from them and ask questions about their strategy.
Now that you have all of these specifics figured out and you’ve selected both a partner and a platform that you trust, it’s time for the final step of the eCommerce process: setting up the site.
Executing the Project
In order to make sure you and your consulting partner create the perfect site for your organization, it is important to adhere to a project management methodology that allows you to course correct throughout the process. While it may seem like you have everything laid out flawlessly at the beginning, things will inevitably go wrong throughout the implementation process. Using a methodology that accounts for those speed bumps keeps the project on track.
Here at Briteskies, we break an implementation down into the following phases: Define, Design, Develop, Deploy, and Support.
In the Define Phase, your team will clearly define the project to your consulting team in order to make sure that everyone is on the same page from the get go. Scope and features will be established, and your company’s objectives will be integrated into the overall solution.
By setting a high-level strategy, both teams will be prepared to create a detailed project design in the next phase.
Throughout this phase, your consulting team’s designer will create a visual representation of the online solution you defined in the previous phase. Functional requirements and technical architecture should also be discussed and finalized.
While specific designs will be created, it’s important to remember that these are guidelines, not letters of the law. As things change throughout the implementation, so too will these designs. Remember to stay flexible; both teams are working towards the same goal: your dream site.
So much about the Develop Phase can seem final, as the online solution is created, tested, and prepared for the outside world. But change is the only constant in a tech project like this, so we recommend utilizing the Agile method of project methodology.
Agile was created to manage and react to change. It works by creating stories out of business process requirements, and then prioritizing those stories into sprints to deliver functionality on an ongoing basis throughout the project.
Each aspect of a sprint is weighted by an estimated level of effort by the consulting team (you can read about how our team estimates effort for a project here) in order to keep a close watch over the many moving parts of the implementation. This allows the team to develop, test, and account for errors or changes in a flexible environment that, coupled with frequent status reports, keeps the project on track despite any unexpected occurrences.
During this final stage of the implementation, the eCommerce site will go live and be accessible by the public. Using your previously-determined success metrics, you can measure the site’s success over time. But remember, (say it with me now) things change, so if you need to recalibrate your metrics, that’s alright. What’s important here is that the new site is operating according to the goals of the project.
Finally, the ongoing support and improvement of your platform. Here, your consulting partner will pass the reins over to you for everyday maintenance of the site, but remains available should any issues or new features or goals arise.
So, as your consulting team fades into a support role, take a deep breath. You did it! Your dream eCommerce site is finally a reality.
Are you ready to take on the journey of launching an eCommerce site? Or maybe you’re mid-project and need some assistance? Contact our qualified team.