Whether you already have an online store and are in the process of upgrading it, or are starting from scratch with your digital sales, commissioning an ecommerce store is an exciting challenge for any brand.
However, even relatively straightforward ecommerce projects can quickly snowball. There is the potential for your project to fall victim to an inadequate project specification, a botched SEO migration, or worst of all, a major dip in customer satisfaction.
On the other hand, a new online store can help you improve your customer experience, boost your online sales and diversify revenue, and meaningfully track your data and inventory. A well-managed ecommerce store can also be a strategic asset for international expansion and commerce.
Here are some of our key takeaways from managing, coding, and deploying hundreds of ecommerce projects. Learn from these lessons before embarking on your next ecommerce venture.
What tends to go wrong: inadequate project specification
The importance of adequate project specification cannot be overstated. We have seen a lack of in-depth scoping trip up ecommerce projects time and time again.
There are literally 100s of potential things that go into an ecommerce project, including many small details and complex workflows that are easy to overlook.
Think very clearly about the following aspects when creating your project specification:
- Customer journey pillars: product, content, navigation
- Inventory management and integrations to back-end systems
- Data architecture and data storage
- Error management and support queries
- Futureproofing and scalability, especially internationally.
Feed these into a detailed project specification for your ecommerce migration project. It is also important to go back to your specification on a regular basis and update it so that your project reflects current realities, as you will find that things change as the project matures.
Top tip: include resourcing and targets in your specification for maximum accountability. At the same time, you want to balance ambitious targets with flexibility. Sometimes an extra week in development is worth it if you get a site that’s properly configured. A rushed go-live might not be the solution you think it is.
Are you ready to take this on?
It can be easy to jump into a digital transformation project like this without really appreciating its scope. “It’s just a standard online store” is a phrase we hear thrown about …. but there really is no such thing as a “standard” store. Even if you use a purpose-built ecommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce, there are still a bunch of decisions to make. The sophistication of digital commerce means there are lots of options and opportunities you will need to consider and possibly leverage for your brand.
Before diving into the deep end, it might be a good idea to pause and consider whether you have the right resources and technical partner to take this project on.
- Is this the right time to commit to a project like this?
- Have you got the right project team in place?
- Is there enough buy-in across the organisation?
- What are the specific goals of this project?
- Is there a plan B?
Managing your project well
You need good project management to succeed with your redesign project. An ecommerce store is a complex undertaking that intersects with different departments, so ensure that there is a clear project plan in place. Good project management is an underrated skill, but it will bring a lot of harmony to a venture like this.
- Operate in sprints to maximise buy-in and visibility – this way, you can show incremental results and get people within the organisation to have more ownership as the project develops.
- Have flexible resourcing and make sure teams are clear on their roles (e.g. who has final approval).
- Some weeks are all-in, others less intense, but someone should always be doing something. Don’t let it stagnate.
- Harmonise copy with design early on in the process and keep them talking to each other.
- Involve SEOs earlier in the process so that you can factor in SEO from the beginning – especially important when considering content archives and URL structures.
Understanding customer needs should be at the heart of your project
It is tempting to assume things about your customers: we all do it! But to succeed as a merchant, you really need to understand your customer needs. These should be at the heart of the project, whether it’s designing your navigation, organising your product catalogue, or creating content.
There are lots of great user testing services and software out there; you should also be looking through your analytics and user data, as well as running customer consultations. Be open-minded when it comes to absorbing and implementing feedback.
Use user feedback to help structure your store and create a harmonious experience.
Little details matter
Cookie management, review aggregation, multilingual blog elements, social media integrations, log-in pages – sometimes it’s the little details that trip a project up and end up causing unnecessary stress and friction.
Even with a solid project plan you can’t always know everything beforehand, but it’s safe to say that the devil is in the details.
- Keep your decision-making team as lean as you can. Ensure you have a clear stakeholder and task owner for key areas such as content, SEO etc. This will help you keep your eye on the prize.
- Be clear on GDPR and data protection requirements early on. Research other ecommerce stores to help you gauge rules in practice.
- Speak to your technical partner and map out likely scenario: you should be able to lean on their expertise and experience when it comes to tackling potential ‘blind spots’.
- Collect development issues and map them onto sprints, keeping a clear sense of priorities.
Don’t rush things towards the end… and always priority security patches.
Have a migration plan for SEO
Too often a good website launch is ruined due to a lack of forethought when it comes to an SEO migration plan. It is easy to end up in a situation where you have a brand-new online store, but you have significantly lost rankings for top performing keywords and are bringing in less organic traffic. Not a position you want to be in after an expensive ecommerce project. For commercially competitive keywords, you want to do as much damage control as possible and ensure your new ecommerce site is robust enough from a content perspective.
You should consider:
- Redirects, preferably server-side. Review old PDFs as they tend to be poorly redirected. Do not axe popular pages or product categories without a good redirect.
- Sitemaps, robots.txt: these little indexing details are important with any new site launch.
- Social metadata, page titles, meta descriptions, featured images, image alt text: these are all important opportunities for your brand, so ensure you have a good plan for these.
Why not include a website launch email campaign as part of your plan? This is a great marketing opportunity and will help drive traffic. Start collecting analytics data to benchmark your new online store.
Set time aside for adequate testing and training
Your store will benefit from a relatively in-depth testing period where your tech team can iron out any performance kinks, and internal teams can get to grips with any new processes. Don’t skimp on testing as it will also help you build a robust cybersecurity culture: you need to stress test and benchmark your store.
Another important consideration is training. Make sure you have adequate resources for training to ensure that you can make the most of these new technology and marketing opportunities.
Internal champions are also key to the success of training initiatives, so consider nominating an internal ecommerce expert to help embed the new store.
Be prepared for the challenges by prioritising longevity
There is loads of competition out there for every niche – find it, study it, and better it. Be diligent in your market research, go international with it even, and really focus on how you can compete in the market and stand out. You will want to carefully balance standardisation and innovation.
Really see this as a long-term investment for your brand and don’t underestimate its power.
Other common ecommerce project mistakes to avoid:
- Following fads and trends (will AR shopping really enhance your product?)
- Inadequate technical resource: both in-house and external
- Not investing in the project enough (time, resource, budget).
Feeling more ready to take on an ecommerce project now? Want some more information on ecommerce migrations? Get in touch with our team today to talk about ecommerce opportunities.