Defining E-Commerce Business Requirements

Defining E-Commerce Business Requirements

When you’re about to start a major e-commerce website engagement, you’ll likely have a number of in-depth conversations around the Design Requirements and Development Requirements associated with the project. Naturally, these represent the bulk of actual work associated with creating an e-commerce website. However, there is a third group that is just as necessary in making the project a success, what we call the Business Requirements. The E-Commerce Business Requirements are all those items that need to be addressed in order for the e-commerce business to run successfully. These span across everything from handling taxes to managing shipping rules.

Luckily, modern e-commerce platforms like Shopify make addressing these requirements fairly straightforward through various store settings and apps that are available. Despite the simplicity in addressing them, however, we often see a number of e-commerce companies waiting until only a few days prior to launch before they begin thinking through how these items should be tackled. This sort of procrastination can be quite costly in time, frustration and money.

In an effort to both avoid any hurried, last-minute efforts and ensure no additional development work is necessary, we suggest making it a point to identify the E-Commerce Business Requirements as early in the project as possible. When working with all of our clients, we have a distinct Planning Phase that allows us to bring up questions and spend time researching into the project’s various requirements, including the Business Requirements. Given how helpful some of our clients have found this process in the past, we’ve decided to share the questionnaire that we use during this phase of the project that helps uncover the various Business Requirements for any project.


Product Data Management

  • How many SKUs will you expect to initially launch with the website?
  • How do you expect to initially populate product data within the website?
  • How do you expect to continually update product data within the website?
  • If handled externally, what sort of automatic data synchronization is expected to happen with the website?

Design Compliance

  • Does your website need to comply with ADA or any other guidelines regarding accessibility?

Product Access Management

  • Are there any products that should be hidden?
  • Are there any products that should be gated behind a login or form?

Content Access Management

  • Is there any content that should be hidden?
  • Is there any content that should be gated behind a login or form?

User Accounts

  • Who should have access to your company’s e-commerce backend?
  • Do you need varying degrees of access to your company’s e-commerce backend?


  • Does your company offer free shipping?
  • Does your company offer discount codes?
  • Does your company offer bulk pricing discounts?
  • Does your company offer bundled pricing discounts?
  • What are the ‘rules’ associated with any of the pricing discounts that are offered?

Quantity Limits

  • Does your company have any minimum order size rules?
  • Does your company have any maximum order size rules?
  • Are any of your quantity limitations product-specific?

Gift Cards

  • Does your company accept gift cards?
  • If so, what sort of denominations should be offered?
  • Are these gift cards usable or purchasable offline as well as online?

Custom Order Processing

  • Will any phone orders need to be processed on behalf of customers?
  • Are there any instances in which custom orders will need to be processed manually on behalf of customers?

Customer Accounts

  • Should customers be required to create accounts during checkout, made optional or not available at all?
  • Should customers have the ability to view their past order history?
  • Should customers be able to view the status of an existing / outstanding orders?

Payment Processing

  • What payment gateway(s) does your online store need to support?
  • Should payment be immediately collected upon order once they’re placed or only after manual verification of available merchandise?
  • Are there any offline, split-payment or alternative payment methods that should be supported?

Refunds and Order Changes

  • What is your company’s policy and process for handling order cancellations and refunds?
  • What is your company’s policy and process for handling order modifications?

Order Notifications

  • Who should be notified internally when an order has been placed?
  • What third-party systems (i.e. order tracking, shipping management, financial management, etc) need to be notified when an order has been placed?

Shipping Rules

  • Which carrier(s) (i.e. FedEx, USPS, etc) do you want to offer during checkout?
  • What sort of ‘shipping zones’ do you want to setup (i.e. Massachusetts vs USA, New England vs USA, East Coast vs USA, etc)?
  • What are the shipping options (i.e. ground, air, etc) for each zone?
  • Are shipping costs based on order weight or order price?
  • How do rates change based on different units (i.e. 1lb – 5lb, 5lb – 10lbs) and shipping zones?
  • Do you have different packaging options (i.e. small boxes, big boxes) for shipping?
  • Do you want to offer in-store customer pickup?
  • Do you want to charge any sort of flat or percentage mark up on top of the carrier-calculate rates from your account?
  • Are any of your shipping rules product-specific?


  • What states do you have some sort of physical operation (i.e. warehouse, office, retail, etc) that might require taxation?
  • Do you have any products with certain tax overrides (higher or lower taxes) such as luxury goods?
  • Do you have any tax exempt status customers such as resellers that buy wholesale?
  • Do you need to charge VAT in the EU for digital goods?


Using the above survey as a guide, it’s important to think of the Business Requirements in three phases: Defining, Implementing and Testing. Simply by reviewing this survey early in the project, Defining the Business Requirements should be fairly easily. The next thing is to carve out a specific step in the project process where all Business Requirements will be implemented either through store settings or third-party apps. Finally, you’ll want to include a review of these Business Requirements during whatever QA process is in place for the project. Just as you would test the compatibility of Design Requirements and performance of Development Requirements, you’ll want to test whether all of the Business requirements are being properly met prior to launch. Assuming these three steps are carried out, you should be able to effectively address all requirements necessary to launch a successful e-commerce business.