eCommerce Guide: From Idea to a Working Online Solution

Updated! This is an updated version of the original article. Last Update: July 02, 2021

Are you getting yourself ready to launch your eCommerce project? We can help you nail every aspect of the process, and it is a long process. Let us start by including all the usual suspects that make the miracle of online selling possible.

Your existing eCommerce project can benefit from the benefits possible by cutting-edge technology? We can help you plan and execute your transition or migration.

This article aims to wrap everything you need to build and run a successful eCommerce. The wholesome process includes planning, selecting resources, choosing your project team, partners, and technology. And please remember to water the plants.

What makes an eCommerce project a success?

Success should be something with an absolute value, but its definition varies considerably across industries, subjects, and goals. In eCommerce, the word success bears a vague meaning, because of the constant challenges, like:

  • revenue can always use a boost
  • more potential customers are out there ready for a first contact
  • existing customers could be happier with the services they use

Running an online store is about constant maintenance, flawless communication, improvement, innovation, and persistence. None of these processes is a one-time job. They are always ongoing, continuous, and – overwhelming. Let us explore ways to see how to organize our objectives and stay focused on what’s important.

eCommerce Planning Guide - the perfect working online solution
eCommerce Planning Guide - the perfect working online solution

Set Clear Objectives

The main objective has to precede any planning, let alone the ‘build’ stage. If the initial idea has inherent flaws that remain unaddressed during the initial stages, eCommerce might automatically become a ticking bomb. Great ideas are hard to develop precisely because they also need to be doable within a limited resource scope. Your main eCommerce objective should be tightly related to solving an existing problem. Becoming a seller, no matter what, is a dire strategy with serious stakes.

Bulletproof Business Model

eCommerce brings merchandise out of the local area and into the global online pool of unlimited selling opportunities. When your target audience includes anyone worldwide, the effort necessary to engage those potential customers also grows in complexity. With new geographical areas, your ideal persona profile broadens considerably. Upon reaching a global reach with your eCommerce, your perfect client becomes a demographic puzzle, and the boundaries between casual visitors and potential clients become blurry.
Your business model must account for all the variables involved in selling to the end consumer and how the customers’ behavior changes over time. Customer relationships through online support are drastically different than their offline counterparts. Your eCommerce business model should clearly explain your approach to customer communications. Online stores don’t have the luxury of meeting their customers face-to-face. Fueled by the consequences of the ever-receding pandemic, we turn towards perfecting online presence and communication.
Your business can be more like a partnership between peers or a direct touchpoint with the end consumer. eCommerce now even supports a mixed combination of B2C and B2B models. A hybrid model approach is not uncommon in eCommerce. You can use the competitive advantages of this model fluidity to fine-tune your customer relations.

Unique Selling Point

Every product is unique — at least those that come under the label of a strong brand. Whether your merchandise, its qualities, and disadvantages, if you have nothing better or more enjoyable than your competition, you better have something different. For customers, bringing a distinct character to products or services paves the way to customers’ unconditional attachment.
If what you sell is no different than the next seller, price forming can be a good bet. However, some cost leadership strategies are dangerous. The low prices seem enticing, but only to a particular segment of your total buyers. What’s more, some customers are even scared to choose the least expensive option. To them, ‘inexpensive’ is a synonym of ‘low-quality.’ With aggressive cost strategies, you risk downgrading your company image to the point you will never fully recover.
Your unique selling points should be about: product quality, product features, and the overall price. But what about finding the right customer?

If your product is unique, so are its potential customers.

By segmenting your prospects, you narrow your customer base to people who show a genuine interest in your offer. Your product line suits a specific crowd – segmentation is a great way to churn your customer base and find out who your real prospects. Target only potential customers by learning to distinguish them from regular visitors.

Know Your Target Audience

If your chosen Business Model were a novel, ‘Customer Profile’ should be one of its main chapters. Your customers make your business possible. Employees represent the brand, but customers help define it. Customers directly contribute to the company’s uniqueness and the innovative power to become even more successful.

How to accurately define your target audience when going global?

In a sea of data involved in any international business, segmentation is one of the best approaches to make the customer more defined. There are a few ways to segment your audience intelligently and avoid preaching to the choir.
Start defining a persona profile for every geographical location and product line. This process helps you see your ideal client better. Personas help in the making of creative post-sales actions, like cross-sales opportunities.
Your ideal client does not have to fit a single persona. Your product lines might require a separate persona for each of the product lines. When the motivation behind the purchase of two given products is dissimilar, chances are you need two different approaches.

Getting ready to start an eCommerce: Quick Checklist

Objectives

  • What are your main eCommerce goals?
  • What is the minimum number of resources needed to achieve these goals?
  • What is the plan that will help you reach the goals with the available resources? Building the platform takes time, but so does filling in content, adjusting, or optimizing. Each of these should be regarded as a separate process, with individual dedication. Making accurate predictions about the timing of simultaneous processes can be confusing, even for master-level project managers. But it is possible, although it takes practice and discipline.
  • Outline the business model most suitable for your operation, and modify it to match your intent accurately.
  • Unexpected expenses are hard to predict but omnipresent. You maybe have a precise price tag for the eCommerce platform, but all the necessary follow-up actions will need additional coverage. Does your plan examine your budgetfrom a long-term perspective?
  • You always know where you are with the project, but can you see how you got there? The project roadmap helps with planning ahead but also great for retrospective analysis.
  • Have you found a solid eCommerce provider? One that knows a successful project and can lead you through the process with extreme transparency and professionalism

Team management

  • Are all the strategies, risk assessment, time frames, milestones, and deadlines thoroughly communicated with everyone on board with the project?
  • What is your internal management approach? Do you have a team leader?
  • What is your team’s approach to reaching objectives? How they delegate work, and how do they own responsibilities?
  • Does your team have the knowledge and practical capacity to pull through the goals?
  • How is your team’s productivity? Are all members compatible with each other?
  • What is the quality of your team communication? Does your team collaborate well?
  • Your team should also include your partners, suppliers, and the external stakeholders contributing to your eCommerce project. Do they all know their relation to each other and the project?

Target Audience § Selling Points

  • What are the minimum features and functionalities necessary to sustain your clients? Differentiate between a “good to have” and a “must-have.”
  • Who are your customers? Create persona(s) to see and understand your clients’ needs and expectations better
  • Do you maintain a constant alignment between the relationship client—product?
  • Quality content sells. Content should communicate all the unique features and selling points of products. Use only high-quality images and media.
  • Product lines should have a meaningful structure within the eCommerce product category pages

Common missteps in eCommerce

  • Getting overwhelmed by business management, consequently neglecting your customer’s management
  • Under- or overestimating your target audience
  • Not communicating project details to everyone participating in it
  • Sign off underdeveloped or non-realistic goals
  • Getting the wrong eCommerce platform

Let’s review the last point in a bit more detail. What does it mean to choose the right eCommerce platform? I think that this misstep is so important to avoid, I dedicated the section below to it.

Is your newly chosen platform flexible enough to sustain your present and future demands?

The role of your eCommerce provider

There is no shortage of eCommerce vendors out there, each with specific advantages to running a web store. Their task is to provide exactly what they advertise. As an eCommerce entrepreneur, your mission is to carefully bundle the services that best address the intent behind your unique project.
The options for platforms and adjacent tools are prolific. Whether your company is a startup project or an existing business in need of an upgrade, you will already be running some form of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).

More prominent companies use centralized software to manage business operations, usually in SaaS mode. However, even the most compact team need a business management tool to:

1) mitigate risk,

2) take advantage of growth opportunities, and

3) avoid process inefficiency.

Some ERPs have unique compatibilities with eCommerce platforms. Scouting the right platform may help you effortlessly integrate your shop with your trusted management system. An integrated eCommerce with an ERP is an excellent choice for existing businesses since there is no downtime due to technicalities or your staff having to learn new software.
Even though one of the main goals of ERP is to universalize all business processes from the pipeline, there are many options to use it in conjunction with external systems.

There are also third-party providers of extensions that could enhance your eStore, synchronizing your business operations with your eCommerce-specific tasks.
If your business involves many stakeholders, managing their contribution can be a nightmare (since every vendor uses their personally customized management systems). This is where options like interfaced eCommerce come to mind. Interfaced eCommerce systems provide an alternative to eCommerce integration, but they use a mediator (connector) between your front-end and your ERP.

After Your eCommerce Goes Live

Reaching this stage is a monumental milestone. However, at this point, the hard part is not over but straight ahead. You managed to put your digital outlet on the radar of the consumer. Good. Can you keep it alive? Let’s highlight some fundamental points that determine the success of your eCommerce during its post-live journey.

Flawless Communication

Successful eCommerce projects communicate their intent well to customers. Long before ideas reach the end-client in any shape, they should undergo rigorous brainstorming, testing, and development. By your trusted team.
Customer relationships would be impossible without team communication. Never forget that your team is your primary eCommerce building tool, and as such, it should face complex challenges, but at the same time, not panic or consider excuses when underperforming. As a business owner, trusting your team should be no different than trusting yourself. Successful eCommerce investors are those who are an inseparable part of their core team.

Continuous Analysis

Site performance is hard to improve without constant evaluation of the many changing factors. Immediately after launch is when customer behavior is most valuable as a source for analysis. Use it to find immediate points for improvement or, at the very least, save your projects from failing. Early customer feedback has always been a strong indicator of potential issues.
Use tools like Google Analytics or Hotjar to follow up on how customers perceive your website. Continuous analysis is more than staying up-to-date with software upgrades. Recurring optimization in eCommerce is vital. This process features standard maintenance for any third-party software updates or new feature releases. However, it should also include improvements in the platform’s performance, stability, and security.

Learn from the best

Doing it all by yourself is nerve-racking. We just finished emphasizing the considerable role your team has in the eCommerce building. Some new eCommerce projects with interesting ideas lack the knowledge or the expertise to move them forward. Use the time when your online shop is still on the drawing board, and glance at how the top players are doing. There is no shame in learning from the best. You can be original, even when using something already built – by making it better.

eCommerce Decision Chart

Choose your eCommerce’ flowchart (green arrow = yes; red arrow = no)

Final Thoughts: Before Launching Your eCommerce

With the right set of eyes, hands and minds, launching an eCommerce launching is possible and, when done right, a valid ticket to success. Use this document to construct your eCommerce checklist. Once you wrap it up, we recommend following it religiously.
Don’t be reluctant to put your eCommerce project to the ultimate test. Use the tricks, experience, and conclusions of all the industry leaders. They all contributed to a legacy you can take and use to build an even better alternative.
eCommerce is about consistency but also commitment. Your decision to run your dream online store is a few steps away. We hope our guide will help you make those steps.

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Author

David Dorr, Head of eCommerce

David is the Head of e-Commerce at CodeCoda where he is responsible to lead several teams of eCommerce specialists. In his previous role as a data scientist for London Metropolitan Police, he was developing deep learning NLP algorithms as part of the Crime Prediction initiative. He then switched over to combine AI with e-Commerce.
He received a B.Sc in Physics from the University of Surrey, Guildford in 1996. With this scientific background, he switched relatively early in his life towards Neural Networks and e-Commerce and has ever since been fascinated with what AI and Machine Learning can do for Online Commerce.