Throughout our many years in the digital industry, we’ve come to notice familiar patterns when it comes to the thin line between a successful eCommerce project and the ones that fall short of hitting their mark. In this article, we will take you through some key considerations you should be aware of when planning your eCommerce project.
In order to sell online effectively, there are a number of important planning points that will make a difference in the success or failure of your project. These same rules apply whether a business is a brand new start-up or a well-established multi-national organization seeking to leverage additional revenue through online sales.
Even if the organization has a pedigree of success in one or more existing sales channels, the key to ensuring the successful delivery of an eCommerce strategy is a solid foundation of process planning involving all Key Stakeholders.
At the start of any project, the scope must be defined and you need to work out what the project is expected to deliver. It is very common for projects to begin to shift at this stage in favor of recommendations or features relating to a specific technology such as a specific software tool or an online service.
Don’t shift from your plan. If a technology decision causes your team to waver from the project plan at an early stage, then it’s time to take a few steps back and assess what is of KEY importance.
Remember that the goal of almost all eCommerce deployments is to use the ubiquitous availability of the internet as an easily accessed marketplace to SELL goods or services– whether it is to consumers, businesses, charities, or not-for-profit organizations.
Whether each transaction has an instant monetary value gained, or the goal is to sell recurring subscriptions, the key deliverable is that the project SELLS and generates revenue for the project’s stakeholders as efficiently as possible.
No project plan is complete without involving other departments or functions in the business to include planning for:
Fulfillment of the order
- What is bought and how is it delivered?
- Is it Physical? Does it require storage, order picking, moving, or transportation or can it be completely fulfilled online?
- When it is shipped/sold, is there a need for stock replenishment or re-ordering? Should this be reported in some form to another responsible or system in the organization? How should this reporting happen?
- Does the order process create or require paperwork to be generated and issued? How is the content for paperwork generated and where is it taken from/accessed?
- What is the process if a customer changes their mind/cancels purchase/contract or returns a purchase?
Customer Support/Customer Service
- Is the customer happy with all aspects of their purchase?
- Did something go wrong? What is the process to identify, rectify, prevent/eliminate issues?
- Does the customer fully understand their transaction/new service/new product? Do they need guidance, how-to’s, FAQs, instructional videos, documentation, or formalized training?
- Are there channels available to allow timely responsive communication between your organization and the purchasing customer/user?
Marketing, Promotion, and Pricing
- Who are the customers? What is known about them now/in the future? How is this profile information kept updated?
- Where are the customers coming from – what channels will any advertising take place on? How will they maximize and optimize sales revenue from top-selling lines? How will you respond to new target markets or support new customer types?
- Did the customer follow a discount/offer link or a published promotion embedded in targeted content? Can the marketing department see how many times that code/offer was used to consider the effectiveness of the channel/promotion?
- What pricing is applied to the product/service purchased? Will the pricing model remain constant or be designed to change by order quantity/contract length/repeat order/customer type or status?
- Will the price for one or more new/existing customers change as a result of a promotional campaign?
- Which element of content is responsible for the purchase/conversion? Out of multiple emails/ad campaigns – can the solution tell the marketing team which converted the most customers and why?
- Where does the converting content reside - is it on a website, an online ad, or in a link in social media? Did it accrue a sponsored cost per click or was it via an unpaid channel?
- What is being bought? In what quantities? What does this do to the sales figures for current or future forecasting?
- Can the finance team plan or generate reports or orders, revenue, and business financial performance?
- Can they see stock level changes for goods/units out AND in? Will canceled orders/returns/faults be represented in sales figures as credits/adjustments etc?
- Can they generate reports to management levels as needed? What content will be needed in these reports?
- Can all information for all department heads and upper management team members be accessed and distributed as necessary for meetings and directional planning?
This is a list of some of the key areas to be taken into consideration as part of any planned eCommerce project and although not exhaustive, having responses and processes which reflect all these aspects of the order fulfillment process will help shape any proposed technology and not the other way around.
Each of the areas listed above for consideration must be able to generate reporting and data to inform all other departments and maintain an efficient workflow. Such reporting may be created as exports for dissemination around responsible teams or as a result of sharing updates in linked software systems such as stock management or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) tools.
Linking or integrating an organization’s existing systems is the lifeblood of an eCommerce project in order to inform key decisions by all the involved departments and their areas of expertise.
In fact, it is the fact that the entire transaction in eCommerce involves the collection, creation, processing, and sharing of DATA, that facilitates solid electronic integration between involved departments and teams.
A systems integration team will build and deploy a solution by acting as the translator and switchboard for all this data. They make sense of it and create rulesets as to how the data can be used or accessed securely, before routing it to the next department’s system.
Systems Integration Specialists will work with or develop APIs that can interface (link) between different packages and can allow access to the resulting data from almost any kind of existing package or future feature (such as sharing data with a productivity app.)
The differentiating factor in terms of systems integration is experience.
eCommerce projects like any other technical project will generate or experience anomalies. Experienced System Integration Specialists will have first-hand knowledge of such anomalies and how to deal with them efficiently and effectively, without tearing down and rebuilding large sections of software or code.
Choosing an eCommerce integration partner should be based on their understanding of working with organizations shaped like yours, software similar to that which your team uses and familiarity with delivering outcomes in line with those in your own project plans.
Want to learn more? Find out how i3 Digital has delivered systems integration and eCommerce projects that truly reshaped our client partner's organizations.
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