For your business to keep its competitive edge in today’s economy, it is vital that you have an ecommerce site. A webstore is not just a webstore anymore, it is an application that allows you to do business in a more scalable and measurable way. Before you start implementing your solution there are some essentials that you need to have in place to form a solid foundation for your ecommerce site and avoid any possible setbacks further down the line:
- The right team
You could have everything you need in place for the right ecommerce site, but if your workforce is not behind the plans then it may fail before you even get started. Assemble a team of trusted employees and put one person in charge of the operation to gain perspectives from different departments. You need your site to gain traction after it goes live and to do this, you need sales, category management and your IT department – amongst others – all working together towards the same goal. Commitment from management and internal alignment are key to making your ecommerce site a success.
How you position your online store is vital to its success. Ask yourself – will it be an integral part of your company, a stand-alone brand or a mixture of both? Will it target existing customers, new customers or both? These questions will help you pick the right position for you store. Don’t go for 123companynameoutlet.com and expect to allow only existing and registered B2B customers to buy via the store. This works both ways, do not use closedb2bportal.companyname.com and expect to attract new consumers.
- Business licence and permits
Making sure you have the correct business licence and permits is a must. These will vary depending the country you are operating from and the countries you’re hoping to sell to. Make sure you thoroughly research which sales tax licences and home business licences you’ll require before you begin trading.
- Ecommerce user stories
User stories are a great way for you to begin understanding your customer, their buying habits, and the journey they might take around your site. User stories are especially important for B2B webstores, due to the complexity of the products and usually require detailed information and images. Not only will they help you to map out your webstore, you can also use them to test your store once it has been built.
- The right vendor
You need a solution that meets your business needs. Refer to your goals and objectives and speak to your project team to help you create a prioritised list of requirements. It will be hard to find a solution that meets all of your needs, so try to find one that meets your ‘must-have’ requirements. Avoid ones that have too many customisations as this can set your timeline back and take you over budget. Remember not to assume that because one feature is standard for one platform then it will be for another – this is not always the case and can end up being a costly mistake. Begin with a proof of concept and review it after a month or so to evaluate whether it’s working as required.
Determine how you will attract your target audience to the store. Ask yourself if you will be using your salesforce. This is common with closed B2B portals, or will you use a mixture of SEO and social advertising which is more common for open B2C stores. By having the right communication, advertising or engagement strategy set up before activating your webstore, you can ensure your target audience will find and visit your site. This may seem obvious, but you must make sure that your company messaging is the same across all channels.
- The right software
If you don’t have any existing software, then a stand-alone website is still beneficial to a business. More mature businesses that are just getting into ecommerce should compile a list of what technology they have in place, including what can be cut and automated. If you have existing technology like an ERP system or a warehouse management system, then your webstore needs to be inclusive of this. Software can be incorporated into your ecommerce solution to help run your business smoothly and efficiently. Take a minute to explore software that supports areas like; project management, email marketing, customer support management and account management.
- Product data
Before you launch your ecommerce site, it’s important that you know the exact figures of your inventory, pricing and product specifications. Think about what products you are going to sell and decide what the structure, main categories and subcategories will be. If you already have an ERP system in place or decide to invest in one, this will make keeping track of your stock inventory a whole lot easier going forward. By centralising inventory and product information and integrating your ERP with your ecommerce solution, your webstore will always show an accurate, real-time representation of stock, price and product information.
- Website content
Each product listed on the site should have clear and concise details explaining exactly what the customer is buying. Keep your written content short and straight to the point, and make sure that you bring your keywords into the copy to help boost your SEO and drive traffic to your (open) site. The right data also helps customers find the right product and reduce the number of returns you might receive. Use high resolution images of your products that allow users to zoom in where necessary. Informative videos are a great addition to your website content but make sure you keep them short – no more than 15 seconds – this keeps the users informed without losing their interest.
There is no simple answer as to how much your ecommerce site should cost. With an array of platforms to choose from – ranging from free to millions of pounds – you should be able decide on one that delivers what you need while sticking to budget. The key rule to remember when budgeting is to consider your total cost of ownership (TCO). Always make sure that you are planning ahead for possible future costs and not just looking at the initial ecommerce platform implementation. Factor in any resources that you may need but don’t already have, such as licencing and maintenance costs, ERP partner and design or content agency fees. Remember to also take the cost of staff resources for overseeing the creation of the site into consideration, as well as what this will cost going forward. Some platforms are more automated than others and therefore they require less resources to keep them running, which is one of the key benefits of ERP-integrated ecommerce.
Time to get started!
Now that you have the essentials in place, you can start creating an ecommerce site that is right for your business needs. If you need any additional information, there are more helpful resources on Sana’s website.
Credit: Robert Pennings, Customer Success Manager at Sana Commerce