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February 1, 2021
The full guide consists of 3 parts.
Ecommerce Guide. Part 1 - PREPARATION.
More and more consumers are comfortable with online shopping. At the same time, retailers traditionally associated with offline businesses are expanding their online offerings. Even if your brick-and-mortar stores are doing just fine, you still might need to establish an online presence if you want to keep up with competitors and address your audience’s needs.
The question is not whether or not to move online, but how to do it efficiently and effectively. For large-scale retailers with thousands of products in stores, the very thought of building an ecommerce may seem overwhelming. And rightly so: such a project may easily turn out to be a long, drawn-out process. What is more, the costs could end up being significantly higher than you expected at the beginning. But it’s all good as long as you have your ecommerce launched at the end of the day, right?
It’s not. If you don’t follow the best practices of ecommerce development and software project management, you might build an online store that’s serviceable, but not user-friendly and definitely not successful in terms of profits generated.
Now, that’s quite a bleak vision, but it’s imperative that you understand the importance of properly planning your ecommerce implementation. We’ve created this guide to help you with this part of the process.
Upon reading this guide, you will be able to:
Whether you’ve recently started thinking of moving your brick-and-mortar store online or have already decided to do that in 2020 but you’re not sure how to proceed: we’ve got your back.
We have created a blueprint for your ecommerce development process that will allow you to better control the project. It’s divided into three main stages so that you can plan significant milestones along the way. This framework will work for both B2C and B2B businesses, but we’ve included extra tips tailored for each of these models.
Ready? Let’s jump into details!
The first challenge you face when you decide to add an online channel to your brand’s offering is how do I even begin? We believe that the first thing you need to decide is whether you’re starting small and treating the ecommerce implementation as a side project or going all-in and engaging a large team within your company.
Our suggestion is to start with a smaller project and a smaller team, perhaps choosing a limited number of products/categories from your offer. Alternatively, you could focus on a specific group of clients you want to address.
There are several benefits of starting your online expansion with a less substantial project:
As you can imagine, all of the elements listed above entail a dose of risk. What if the team you initially assemble turns out to be incapable of performing the duties you’ve planned for them? What if you find out that your company’s processes are not suited to the demands of agile software development? What if you hire an external tech partner who can’t deliver your project on time or within budget? All of these risks are less significant when you face them while working on a relatively small (and cheap) project.
If you are satisfied with the results of such a “trial project”, you should commit fully and build a larger team. In order to deliver an ecommerce for your business, you will have to involve multiple roles within the company and coordinate several teams (both internal and external). You wouldn’t be able to do it with limited resources.
It’s time to take a moment to consider your goals. Why do you want to create an online presence for your retail business? What do you want to achieve?
Outlining your business objectives is very important: they will serve as guiding lights for your future decisions. Whenever you wonder whether or not to add a new feature or implement a particular technology, ask yourself if it supports your objectives. Making decisions will be a lot easier when you have your goals in mind.
Here are a couple of business objectives for you to consider. Which of these are in line with your strategy?
Getting to know your customer is a crucial element of building new products or expanding the existing ones.
You might be thinking: “I already have my target audience defined, why would I do it again?” If you do, that’s great, but it’s probably your brick-and-mortar client, correct?
The “offline” audience will come in handy here, but you have to keep in mind that your ecommerce might attract different groups of people than your physical stores. Let’s assume you work for a retail chain. Your stores are visited by people of different ages: from young adults to the elderly. The products and offers you’re promoting in the stores reflect that. However, it may be the case that your online store will be utilized predominantly by the younger demographics. This is why it’s so important to analyze your target consumers again if you’re planning to establish an online presence.
When you’re just starting with an online presence, it could be challenging to gather viable information about your audience. After all, you can’t know for sure who will purchase your products. There are, however, some options for you to collect this kind of data:
In order to create a comprehensive profile of your online customer, you should collect both the demographics but also the needs, goals, and pains of your audience.
When it comes to the demographic data, you should try to determine people’s:
Of course, it could be challenging to pinpoint the exact age or location of people purchasing your goods, especially if your business is directed at different consumer groups. You can either focus on the differentiating factors (e.g., gender doesn’t matter, but your consumers have kids) or create segments within your audience.
Try to answer the following questions about your consumers:
Once you have collected data about your online customers, you can synthesize it in the form of buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representations of your clients. They’re based on the research you’ve done, but they’re also enriched with personal details like names or even photographs. Buyer personas allow you to develop a deeper connection and understanding of your customer.
Even though you’re doing business with companies, purchase decisions are made by people within these organizations. You can still create buyer personas for your ecommerce, but remember to include B2B-specific details like:
In order to differentiate your business from competitors, you have to know their strengths and weaknesses. You probably already know their brands’ characteristics, now it’s time to look at their online stores. Visit their ecommerces and try to answer at least the following questions:
Knowing the ecommerce standard in your industry, you can assess your plans and identify areas that could enable you to stand out from the crowd.
You may also want to analyze their ecommerce marketing messaging. Which benefits are they emphasizing? Which products do they promote? This kind of information will help you make educated calls about your competitors’ strategy.
Keep in mind that brands with very similar products in their catalog can create unique personalities for their brands. A distinct tone of voice or storytelling strategy may help you distinguish your brand among others.
Ready to proceed? Read Ecommerce Guide. Part 2 - LAUNCH.
Schedule a consultation with New Gravity, experts in building online platforms for retailers.
If you are wondering where we get our knowledge from, take a look at the examples of our work.
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