When a client comes to us, nine times out of ten, they're looking to modify their website due to one of the following three reasons:
- They're unhappy with the conversion rate of their current website
- Their brand or products have changed substantially enough to warrant a new website
- There is an operational, management or technology issue grave enough to require migrating or updating their e-commerce platform
In any one of these three instances, it's our job to figure out what is the most effective means of addressing the issue. In order to do this, we need to articulate the e-commerce project requirements necessary for creating such a solution. Although it's likely to take the shape as some sort of website engagement, it's critical that we first analyze their business to determine other opportunities for growth and whether they might impact how we'd approach the e-commerce project. This analysis is assembled in a document we refer to as the E-Commerce Roadmap. Once those opportunities are identified, we can then more accurately assemble a plan for their initial website project and have other ideas in mind for subsequent improvements they can make to their business. This analysis is assembled in a document we refer to as the Project Scope.
Understanding an E-Commerce Roadmap
As described above, the E-Commerce Roadmap serves as a long-term growth plan for an e-commerce business. It utilizes the E-Commerce Customer Lifecycle framework to determine various opportunities for improvement across an e-commerce business in the following categories:
- Acquisition: How do you get people to your website?
- Conversion: How do you get them to buy once they're there?
- Fulfillment: How do you get them the product once they've purchased it?
- Retention: How do you get them to come back and buy again?
- Measurement: How do you utilize data to understand and improve your customer relationships?
The opportunities within each of these categorizes is looked at as an Initiative that could later be scoped out as a specific project. These Initiatives are then prioritized based on the likelihood of producing an impact on the business. Examples of the types of initiatives that might stem from an E-Commerce Roadmap include:
Product Merchandising Strategy
When it comes to e-commerce, Product Merchandising is the concept of creating unique 'thematic' collections of products outside of the traditional attributes of product type, color, size, etc. These merchandising collections use unique themes supported by rich narrative and design making them feel as if they were more of an editorial experience than simply a catalog. Think of the display tables seen in major retail stores with curated collections of products that share some sort of story. With a Product Merchandising Strategy, we'll create the landing pages, narrative and media necessary to support these unique collections.
Social Commerce Strategy
Many e-commerce platforms, such as Shopify, have built direct integrations with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest allowing merchants to display and sell their products directly on these networks. This ability opens up a huge opportunity to connect with customers in a unique means, directly in the places in which they spend the majority of their time. In a Social Commerce Strategy, we'll design the necessary collateral, setup the integrations and suggest approaches to promoting products through these social channels.
Support Management Strategy
Great customer service is an essential component to any retention marketing strategy. As such, creating accessible channels for support and providing a rich experience to customers is critical. In a Support Management Strategy, we'll look at means of integrating third-party support management channels directly with a website and designing a support process that is as seamless as possible for customers.
Understanding an E-Commerce Project Scope
A Project Scope is a document intended to define the various requirements necessary for an e-commerce project to meet its business objectives. It serves as the benchmark of which all cost and time estimates are created. As such, the more accurate of a Project Scope document we can create, the more accurately we can estimate the cost and time associated with an e-commerce project. Typically, a Project Scope document is composed of five primary elements:
The Project Objective simply states what the primary goal is for this specific Project Scope. Typically, it includes information on the motivation behind the project as well as the success metrics in measuring goal completion. In addition to providing clarity for a Project Scope, it also serves as a guide throughout the e-commerce project to ensure all decisions are in alignment with the higher objectives of the business.
When it comes to thinking about the Design Requirements associated with a project, the vast majority are driven by the number of unique templates that need to be designed and coded for a particular e-commerce website's theme. Through much analysis, we've found that although most e-commerce themes have between 10 and 20 unique templates, only a small handful influence the customer's buying decisions. As such, we differentiate between those templates that influence purchasing, called Core Templates, from those that are required for a functional e-commerce site but might not change customer behavior, called Non-Core Templates. In our Project Scope documents, we very deliberately select which templates should be considered Core, thus requiring 100% custom design, from those that are Non-Core, which can utilize standardized structures/features so long as they utilize the same branding elements as the Core Templates. This process of differentiating Core vs Non-Core Templates helps to greatly reduce the cost and time associated with the design of any e-commerce project.
The Functional Requirements refer to anything that might be a customer-facing or admin-facing feature or piece of functionality. Some examples include wishlist management, product zooming, social sharing buttons, currency conversion, etc. These features are addressed either natively through our client's selected e-commerce platform, via a third-party app/plugin or custom-built directly into their website. The cost/time associated with Functional Requirements is simply a reflection of how complicated it might be to implement those features within the website.
The Integration Requirements refer to the various external platforms that are used to run our client's e-commerce business that need to be 'connected' directly to their website. Some examples include inventory management, accounting, email marketing, etc. These integrations are addressed either natively through our client's selected e-commerce platform, via a third-party app/plugin or custom-connected via an API with their website. The cost/time associated with Integration Requirements is simply a reflection of how complicated it might be to implement those integrations within the website.
The Content Requirements refer to any custom content management, migration or settings necessary for the client's website. Content management is handled differently depending on the e-commerce platform used by a client, but most support some level of customization to make managing content and website settings easier. It's always our intention to build our client's websites in a way that is as 'self-sufficient' as possible, ensuring they can handle the day-to-day of their website after launch.
Often our clients come to us unsure of their exact project needs. Although going through the exercise of creating an E-Commerce Roadmap is a great first-step in defining potential e-commerce project requirements, we understand the necessity of having a 'ball park' understanding of what a project might cost. As such, we've put together a Project Requirements Survey that our clients can utilize to help determine a preliminary Project Scope that can be used for a rough estimate of potential cost and time for a project. We've made that survey freely available to anyone considering a major e-commerce website design or development engagement. Simply fill out our contact form below and we'll be in touch to provide you access to the survey.