I’ve gained indispensable insights through multiple ecommerce implementations across several industries. Here are vital methods, tactics, and actions for building or advancing a profit-bearing platform.
#1 The Numbers
Quantifiable OKRs (objectives and key results)
Set clearly formulated and specific Business Goals for each of these measurable performance metrics:
Commit to an Actionable and Achievable Timeline
Too often, the budget, timeline, and resources are not fully defined at the start. There may be general numbers put on paper, however a successful ecommerce initiative requires forecasting and accounting for each of the following:
- Ecommerce Software
- Set up, Servers, Database, Environments
- 3rd Party Integrations & APIs (Tax, Shipping, Payment Gateway, Technologies, Customer Service, Live Chat, etc.)
- Technology & Marketing Stack
- Back-End Integrations (CMS or DXP, CRM, PIM, Database etc.)
- Mobile Responsive
- Add Ons, Extensions, Mobile App
- Project Management
- Web Development
- UI / UX, Design, Multimedia
- Content and SEO
- Site Performance and Testing
- Domain, Hosting, SSL
- Training and Documentation
- Maintenance, Upgrades, Scaling
- Launch PR – Internal and External Communications
A more detailed list is available here: https://artofdigitalcommerce.com/ecommerce-archetype/
#2 The Brand
Collaborate and establish the following before your project starts:
- Brand Values and Vision
- Unique Selling Proposition
- Competitive Advantage
- Your Brand’s “Wow” Factor
- Markets, Competitor Landscape, and Industry Positioning
Be innovative, forward-thinking, and fully customer-centric in this process.
#3 The Customer
Perform extensive research to identify your target audiences. Build personas based on the following:
- Demographics and Psychographics
- Purchase Intent
- Product Preferences
- Online Buying Behaviors and Frequency
- Social Activity and Engagement
- Distinctive Solutions that are Problem-Based, Needs-Based, and Desire-Based
Recognize the interconnection between generational audiences. While a ‘Baby Boomer’ may have moved past the purchase of your product due to age or changes in usage, they will often have tremendous influence on the Millennials and Gen Xers in their life. For example, a son may ask his father, uncle, co-worker, or friend for his recommended brand for boots, a fishing rod, a mower etc. While maybe not a direct purchase, your brand reputation still matters to the Baby Boomers, and can drive new sales in substantial ways. Develop strategies that speak to different seasons of life.
#4 The Data
The most significant factor that can delay or derail an ecommerce initiative is data. Spend ample time doing preliminary planning of your database and data points for optimal performance, availability, and scalability, along with display and functionality that won’t compromise the customer experience.
Focus on data design and type of database, including:
- Data condition (cleansed and standardized)
- Data accuracy, integrity, and entirety
- Database set up (tables and relationships)
- Database scope (schema, indexing, functions)
- Database infrastructure
#5 The Power of Mobile
Mobile First means exactly that – plan mobile from the start. Industry experts are estimating that over 50% of online spend will occur on smartphones by 3Q 2022.
Prepare your strategy for user flows, form factors, navigation, on-site search, product comparison, interface ease of use, small screen design requisites, and many other feature set considerations.
Mobile strategy is far more than a smaller screen experience. For example, mobile search behaviors are different than query inputs from a desktop / keyboard. A deep understanding of keyword trends on mobile is essential for prominent placement in search results.
Your mobile action plan must include:
- Mobile algorithms, widgets, and control-cache
- Scalable vector graphics (SVG Tiny)
- XHTML for mobile
- Touchscreen target sizes
- Rescaling pixel values
- Rotation and orientation capabilities
- Optimization of input methods
- Roll up and collapse content features
- CTA designs (i.e., bars in place of buttons)
- Navigation techniques in place of a cursor
- Data delivery and downloads
- Lean formatting and reduction in file sizes
- Meta viewport tag
As mobile commerce grows, consider the option of PWA (Progressive Web App) technology to streamline the mobile experience using a single basis of code across all end points.
Responsive websites and native apps can have constraints with the interactions on different devices and browsers, and can require frequent bandwidth updates. PWAs are seen as the prudent alternative to achieve an optimal, high-performing mobile shopping experience.
With an estimated 60% of website interactions occurring on mobile devices, your ecommerce success will be significantly impacted by effective mobile engagement.
#6 The Content and SEO
While buying behaviors, habits, and intents are complex and disparate, there is a user activity that is common and expansive – it is consumption of information. People frequently go online to pursue insights, ideas, best practices, trends, research, and reviews. Search engines rank and serve relevant content that aligns with user queries.
Valuable and well-presented information comes in a wide variety of forms including:
- Landing Pages
- Guides, White Papers, and eBooks
- Blogs and Articles
- Videos and Infographics
- Case Studies and Testimonials
- Social Posts and Stories
- Demos, Webinars, and Podcasts
Content extends to critical information that helps to secure customer confidence and trust. Plan for messaging and placement of warranties, fulfillment options, citations, and guarantees.
Further, product & service details are essential for customers and search engines.
Consider the following:
- Cogent and convincing product names
- Elaborate service descriptions
- In-depth features and options
- Product parts, accessories, and replacements
Along with extensive information, you can influence buying with the following:
- Price checker
- Product comparison
- Buying guides
- Product lifecycles
- Quantity discounts
- Associated items
- Cross sell and up sell products
An Image is worth…
That’s right… a thousand words. Visual content is more likely to be consumed, and often is a more effective conduit for your message. When you communicate through images, graphics, icons, and video – you’ll increase engagement and brand sentiment.
For SEO, set your strategy based upon comprehensive keyword research, persuasive content, and technical SEO features.
Keep in mind, over 60% of searches performed globally result in zero (0) clicks. People know what they are looking for, and yet their queries sometime require interpretation and nuanced understanding. You need to constantly research keyword usage, competitive terms, and search trends to ensure your URL and copy instigate clicks on a SERP.
Visit my recent blog for an easy guide to improving your website’s SEO performance:
#7 The Interface
Wireframing alone won’t cut it. The greatest opportunity to garner sales is creating a superior and intuitive user interface.
Design must (1) blend the business needs with the customer needs, (2) work within technical parameters, and (3) account for system requisites, as well as the paragons of an exemplary and inspiring user experience.
Pay attention to the following:
- Layout and white space
- Framing and formatting
- Use of animation and motion
- Placement of features, panels, and CTAs
- Navigation and information architecture
- Content – hierarchy, value-based, and order of priority
- On-site search capability
- Conventions, standards, and familiar symbols
- Put ample effort into exploring interface options and evolving your design before committing to a single line of code.
#8 The Infrastructure
This is truly where the DNA of your business counts the most. I cringe when observing how many ecommerce platforms tout themselves as an ‘all-in-one’ fantastically easy-to-implement software that anyone can use.
The technology stack will be the foundation of your ecommerce engine. You must build an application that is agile, scalable, and high functioning, within a secure environment that has elasticity and full integration capabilities.
Extensive planning is critical to optimize the framework of the database, enterprise system, network, applications etc. There are hooks, transmissions, API calls, user inputs, data outputs, computing functions, automated processes, machine-based monitoring, and many other activities that must execute seamlessly, concurrently, and efficiently.
Some structures that merit your review include:
- Relational databases
- Cloud-native architecture
- Headless commerce
- CDNs and edge caching
- PIM (for product data)
- DAM (for digital assets)
- CMS (for the interface)
Security is paramount – create an IT governance across all aspects of your technology. And establish a cybersecurity plan with (1) software audits, upgrades, and lifecycles; (2) code standards; (3) data encryption; (4) access management and password integrity; (5) control protocols; and (6) performance alerts; and (7) steadfast testing.
From a seamless, secure checkout process to an impactful and intuitive interface, the building of an ecommerce platform is an intricate and highly strategic ‘digital edifice’. You need to delve into excruciating detail across a wide spectrum of elements and apply substantial creative, technical, and innovative know-how to achieve macro and micro goals.
Ecommerce is an inspiring and awesome journey. And please, never strip out the pure passion and joy of implementing something phenomenal, which is truly reflective of an exceptional brand and a valuable audience.