So, your company has decided to start selling products online and you’re in charge of devising the eCommerce project plan. Where should you start? What type of platform will work best? Who should your development team be?
These are questions every business has had to ask themselves when starting their online venture and the answers aren’t simple.
Keep the following considerations in mind when planning for an eCommerce project:
Develop a Requirements Document
Before you start designing, write one line of code, or sign any vendor contracts, you need to figure out the business requirements for the project.
By business requirements, I mean business requirements, not IT requirements.
This has nothing to do with the software platform, database or programming language. In fact, leave IT out of these initial discussions.
This process should include five things: Marketing, Customer Service, Order Fulfillment, Accounting, and Upper Management.
The marketing department knows your company’s target market and competitors. In order to drive traffic and convert users the eCommerce platform must provide the tools your marketing department requires. Marketing should outline their requirements for:
- Email Triggers
- Content Management
- Marketing Automation
The Customer Service team is on the front-lines when interacting with customers and they are a key element in the success of the store front. You have to understand what customers want, expect and desire from eCommerce sites. In order to do that, you should gather their input on:
- Account Management
- Order Management
- Order Workflow
- Admin Comments
- Access Permissions
The warehouse works hard to get your product out the door everyday to your clients. When planning your eCommerce project, you need to learn about their:
- Shipping software
- Shipping paperwork
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Inventory Receiving process
- Returns procedure
In order to effectively manage transactions from your online sales, you need to coordinate with your accounting department to make sure you account for specific financial aspects in your planning. Become familiar with how they deal with:
- Financial package integration
The C Level is going to want to know every detail of performance so make sure you have specified the reporting they will want to see.
Don't let technology drive the choice of platform.
It's important not to let a specific technology preference lead the way in this process. Just because someone believes that you have to use "x" language or "y" product, doesn't mean it is right for your business model.
Once you have developed a solid requirement document, then make your decision about the platform.
Spend the time to find the right development partner.
I don't know how many times clients have told us that the "sales team" for a particular product did a fantastic presentation and they promised to deliver on all of their requirements only to find out that the reality was much different.
It is critical to the success of your project that the actual development team is involved in the project engineering.
These are the people who have to deliver, so let them tell you how feasible it is to implement your complex order workflow, or integrate with the custom ERP system or deliver within a certain time frame.
And remember that the project to build and launch a new eCommerce site is just the beginning. The team you choose to work with should be a long term partner, working closely with you to understanding your ongoing requirements and helping you capitalize on opportunities.
Most organizations have the misconception that eCommerce success relies strictly on the software, but in reality a new eCommerce platform goes beyond the IT details. You must strategize how each department works and how you can incorporate their knowledge into implementing the new solution.