Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day! So it is with large eCommerce stores. Much as you would like to build the next Amazon or eBay overnight, the fact remains that it takes a lot of strategic planning to build a successful eCommerce store. Is there a cheat sheet? With our experience of helping several eCommerce stores launch and scale, here are the 10 things we would recommend:
#1 Determine What Technology Competitors are Using
The importance of detailed competitive analysis cannot be overstated when you are building a new eCommerce system. Of course, you need to create a detailed features list and functionality that encompasses what is it that you want in your eCommerce store. Beyond that, you will also get a lot of useful insights from undertaking a thorough competitive analysis. It is important not just to undertake a features comparison between platforms but also to determine the technology your competitors are using. You can use several online tools to figure out the technology the platform is deploying. Some handy tools include Wappalyzer, Builtwith, and more. Speaking of technology and tools, the one best practice that you cannot afford to compromise on is to get an SSL certificate to secure your site, build customer confidence as also to rank higher.
#2 Look at the Project Requirements
You must look at the exact project requirements with a fine-tooth comb. This will involve addressing several aspects, including but not limited to:
- Features and functionality required
- Any customizations/third party integrations that may be needed. It is prudent to speak to the vendors in advance so there are no compatibility issues at a later stage.
- Documentation needed
#3. Have an SEO focus
In building a new e-commerce system the one aspect you cannot afford to ignore is your SEO preparedness. After all, that is one thing that will bring you visibility and sales. If you have an existing e-commerce store and are migrating to a new platform, once again an SEO transition plan is key. Some of the focus areas include:
- Ensuring a seamless navigational structure
- Proper tagging
- URL optimization
- Thorough keyword analysis
- 301 redirects, and more
#4 Define Internal Roles & Responsibilities
This is an oft-ignored aspect that can lead to a number of issues if not properly addressed. It is important that the responsibilities as far as your internal team is concerned are properly allocated so that there are no ambiguities or delayed decision-making. Some of the best practices here include:
- Having an internal project champion who leads the project and is also the one-point-contact for any technical decision making.
- Similarly, it is prudent to identify a person who will be responsible for conducting the design review.
- A QA review in charge will be needed, to assess quality issues
- A dedicated resource for data import
- Last, but not least, there has to be an allocated person who will have the authority to give the final sign-off for the project
Timely allocation of these roles and responsibilities will significantly streamline the process and stem any delays. Having said that, it is also important to set realistic timelines. It will be prudent to divide the project into phases and track progress.
Seamless data migration, when upgrading or switching to a better platform, will be difficult if you do not analyze the complexity of your data or select proper tools.
5. Ascertain Data Migration Needs
If you are looking at migrating your eCommerce platform to a new one, the one aspect that you need to pay careful attention to is seamless data migration. While it looks like a seemingly simple task, it is replete with complexities and can lead to fatal failures. A large number of data migration projects fail on account of budgetary or time overruns.
Some of the data that will need to be migrated includes:
- Catalogue data
- Customer accounts
- Order history
- Product reviews
In migrating data you need to take into account a number of best practices including but not limited to:
- Analyzing data complexity
- Assess and identify proper tools
- Have a risk management system in place.
#6.Select an eCommerce Platform (Hosted or Custom)
A crucial step in your journey is to identify the right e-commerce platform. The choice lies in choosing between a hosted and a custom solution. Some factors including your budget, volume of business and more, will help you choose between the two. While hosted solutions typically come with a low set up cost, they have limited flexibility.
The success of your eCommerce business highly depends on the platform you use. The eCommerce platform should resonate with the type of your business and must provide all the flexibility to run your business smoothly.
On the other hand, custom solutions such as Magento can be adapted to your bespoke needs by specialized developers.
# 7. Mobile Commerce Capabilities
No marks for guessing that it is imperative to consider the mobile capabilities of the eCommerce solution that you are planning to use, especially since the world’s mCommerce sales are expected to grow at a CAGR of 34.9% and are expected to reach 3901 Billion USD by 2026. Then, having a mobile-optimized version of your e-commerce site will significantly impact your reach and traffic. You also need to pay attention to the fact that the e-Commerce solution that you opt for has appropriate mobile marketing features.
#8 Store Design
Simply put, you need to design for success. The most important thing is to ensure that the website journey is user friendly. This includes simple navigation, CTAs that show where a customer can go next, appropriate links for information pages and more. A responsive website is one other aspect that is non-negotiable. Some of the other aspects that require due emphasis include:
- Using quality photos and videos
- Convenient filtering and search
- Clear visual hierarchy
- Appropriate use of colour, consistent branding
- Adding social proof
#9 Marketing features
Ensure that your website is equipped with the right marketing features that enable you to promote your site to a larger audience. Some of these include:
- Equipping the website with robust analytics to be able to make data-backed decisions.
- Ensuring the SEO aspects are taken care of at the development stage itself to keep you ahead of the curve.
- Integration of social media tools on your website to make it easier for your customers to talk about your products and services on social channels.
#10 Choosing the right agency for eCommerce development
This is a step you ignore at your peril. Whether you choose a hosted or custom solution, you need the expertise of an experienced partner who can implement the right solution. The right partner, in turn, will mean following the best practices that will lead you to success without having to reinvent the wheel. It will be a good idea to conduct thorough due diligence before arriving at your implementation partner. Some of the areas to consider include:
- The experience of the partner agency
- Do they have technically qualified resources?
- Their client portfolio
- Certifications, accreditations and more
With the above best practices you are sure to have a winner at hand! What is important post-implementation is also the fact that you undertake a process of active monitoring and continuous improvement? This will be made possible by drilling deep into web analytics as also having a strong feedback mechanism in place. Agility in responding to customer preferences is sure to keep you on top of your game.