In Economics and other disciplines, people like using the fancy phrase “ceteris paribus“ which basically means something like “all other things remaining the same or constant“. This is, of course, very useful for principles and assumptions; even vital for theories and certain decision making. So you may hear experts saying things like “Given condition X, Y and Z and applying resource number 1, ceteris paribus, the demand should rise…”
For ecommerce and for the web in general (just as in real life Economics), “ceteris paribus” does not really hold and you may know by now that there’s a whole culture of embracing change and iterations and agile approaches and the likes.
So how do you go about addressing needs, choosing the right ecommerce solution, allocating a given budget to serve internal company purposes like automation but not sacrifice on user experience or features, ensuring Return on Investmentt? The list goes on and on, difficult indeed.
Either commit to the project or you’ll just get a fancy cart built
Forget about giving a brief to your web agency and getting you baby built. You really have to work in defining technical needs but also really open your business to analysis with your agency, including costs, marketing, user experience, support, and of course, the sales process. If your company is going the ecommerce way, you might as well secure the collaboration of the different stakeholders like those guys in sales, marketing, customer service, and of course, logistics.
Here are 3 healthy assumptions for you before getting into ecommerce:
- Assume that you will not cover all the desired features in the first version of your website (either because you can’t afford it, it’s not possible, or simply nobody thought about it).
- Assume that there is no point in covering all, since the ever changing nature of ecommerce requires continuous improvements. Releasing regular upgrades will result more cost effective since there’s room for feedback
- Naturally, assume from day 1 that all changes require investment (time and money), so plan for that. Oh, and by the way, regular change is good. Think about a retail store: shop windows are changed frequently and aisles arranged and rearranged and the decoration changes, vouchers are introduced, promos are presented and so on. Start thinking about your website like an offline shop and you’ll start embracing change (and the necessary investment).
So how can you try and tackle all these challenges and produce an idea of what you want and require from your ecommerce project?
Well, it is not a once-off action but more of a process which is guided by discovery questions. Here are a few core ones to get you started. From there, start holding meetings with the different stakeholders (making sure they serve a purpose):
- What is your budget range for the initiative? If you are a newbie, simply ring you agency to define some usual average costs based ont their examples, you”ll know really quick what you can afford and then let the specialist fine tune it. Remember that you have to think about upgrades and changes as the thing evolves. You don’t want to buy a BMW and not be able to service it when needed.
- What’s your web target audience? (think B2C/B2B, groups, etc) Is this different from your current customer profile? Tie this with your short and long term goals and how you can set expectations.
- Where is your market? Think in detail and specify different geographical targets/age. This will trigger requirements as to SEO strategy and your social media strategy
- What are the key reasons why customers will choose you? Is this likely to change in the near future? What type of customers do you want and what type you do not want?
- How will you measure the success of the new solution? Think about phases and tie time with metrics/milestones.
- Will you need the ability to accept foreign currencies or to have multiple languages? Think about accountancy challenges, localisation for the website and online community creation.
- How will you drive qualified traffic to the site? Who will handle the online marketing side of things? How will you create a community around the business? Allow for a budget.
- Can you approximately foresee the amount of products and categories?
- What would you estimate your volume of business will be? (i.e. monthly sales and transactions) Think about the payment processors, commissions, shipping, returns. Are your profit margins tight? If so, determine those best selling products that allow for good profit and focus on them intitially. Not everything you sell offline has to be available online.
- Do you plan to outsource your customer service and logistical efforts in the short term? Think training and knowledge transfer
- When will you need integration with an in-house system? We generally advice not to go this way until you gain some ecommerce experience. Oh, and just as mentioned above, if you plan to outsource certain efforts, integrations have to be in line with that.
- Look at your competitors and ecommerce leaders and ask yourself which features from their websites you can mirror (I said mirror, not copy) and make a list. Then analyse that list and define what is really important, share your priorities with your agency .
Take a step by step approach. Do not be overwhelmed, open your organisation to business analysis, and, ceteris paribus 🙂 you will get started with the right foot in the passionate world of ecommerce.
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