There are nearly 8 million online retailers in the world, and 2.1 million are based in the United States. Are you looking to join these ranks?
Transitioning onto an eCommerce platform can be a transformative step for your company, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
With the right plan in place, you can make this transition as seamless and successful as possible. In other words, you should build an eCommerce implementation plan.
Selection & Implementation Case Study
We assisted this client with the selection process, while ensuring it obtained maximum discounts and favorable terms. We were then contracted to assist with implementation.
5 Tips for Building an eCommerce Implementation Plan
1. Define Your eCommerce Vision
While this is an implementation plan, it does need to be developed at the beginning of your project, meaning before software selection. As such, this plan should be comprehensive.
While the technical components of implementation are important, your plan should also include strategic aspects. In other words, before you dive too deeply into the online retail space, we recommend taking the time to define your goals.
What will it look like? Who will it serve? What are your ultimate goals with the implementation? A strategic business planning phase is critical to helping you iron out those details and more.
As you create your project plan, you’ll form a clear vision and mission for what you hope to achieve. You’ll also define key parameters, such as:
- How long you expect the project to take
- How much money you expect to spend on it
- Who from your organization will be involved
- Constraints and risks to consider
These initial brainstorming sessions might not be the most glamorous part of an eCommerce rollout, but they’re absolutely necessary. With a clear vision, you can achieve executive buy-in and business-IT alignment.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
When your eCommerce system isn’t yet live, it’s easy to get overly ambitious. For instance, you might set out to make “X” number of online sales in your first quarter before you even create your first listing.
It’s important to keep your expectations in check. This involves establishing a timeline within your project plan that you can reasonably adhere to, not an aggressive one that will leave your resources strained.
Pushing ahead at full speed can mean overlooking key business requirements. This can result in costly customizations and add-ons down the road, which could have been avoided by a more thoughtful planning process.
Integrations are important to consider because many organizations integrate their new eCommerce systems with their ERP system. While many of the top ERP systems have built-in eCommerce functionality, some organizations prefer the specialized functionality of a third-party eCommerce platform.
3. Include Organizational Change Management
In the rush to get started, many companies fail to realize how complex and intricate an eCommerce rollout is. They become so wrapped up in the technical details that they can’t figure out why milestones get missed and expectations go unmet.
Most of the time, these shortfalls can be traced back to a lack of an organizational change management strategy. This is about focusing on the people side of the change, taking into account how the new processes will affect employees’ roles and responsibilities.
Without change management in your implementation plan, you won’t have adequate budget or resources to execute it. As a result, employees will become increasingly resistant to the idea of using the new software. This is especially the case with long-term employees who have become accustomed to following certain workflows and doing things a particular way.
With the right approach, you can communicate the benefits of the new platform in a way that not only reduces change resistance but actually inspires your employees to use it.
4. Allocate Time for Process Work
When a customer interacts with an eCommerce business, the experience should be quick and simple. They might not be able to see the myriad back-office functions that are working behind the scenes, but they’ll appreciate the ease of use.
For example, customers like features, such as:
- Smart product recommendations
- Real-time order status updates
- Targeted follow-up emails
If all these tasks were manual, then your employees would never be able to go home. That’s why many companies employ automation.
However, you don’t want to automate an inefficient process. You need to understand and improve your processes before automating them. To do so, you need to include business process management in your project plan.
Business process management, and its closely related cousin, business process reengineering, help you clearly define your workflows, so you know which processes to automate and which to improve and then automate. Start by mapping all the business processes that will take place in the new platform. Then, define key areas that could benefit from automation.
A few areas to consider include are:
- Product information management
- Pricing updates
- Order processing and receiving
- Customer service and support
- Returns management
- Vendor relationship management
- Marketing campaign management
As you account for each of these elements, you might find that your current business processes require adjustments to be optimized for the online space. If this is the case, you may need to improve or reengineer them to make the best use of the new technology and serve your new customer base.
5. Determine Customer Acquisition, Engagement, and Retention Strategies
An eCommerce platform is only useful to your company if customers are actually finding it and using it. As such, your implementation plan should include a customer acquisition strategy that explains how you’ll attract and retain interested buyers.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy that works for every company, so you’ll need to consider the channels that make the most sense for your company. A few of the most common ways you can engage your target audience online include:
- Paid search engine marketing (cost-per-click, cost-per-thousand-impressions)
- Organic search engine optimization
- Online display advertisements
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing campaigns
- Customer referral programs
- Re-targeting campaigns
If you’ve never sold your products or services offline and are launching straight into an eCommerce model, then keep in mind that the cost associated with attracting a new online audience can be very high. Conversely, these costs are lower for organizations that have already established a successful offline presence.
In either case, once you create this strategy, remember to budget for it.
You’ll also need to plan ways that you can engage and retain your customers. Will you use social media channels to stay connected? What about offering special discounts and offers or creating a robust support tool for customer service inquiries?
To create an online brand presence that builds your bottom line, you’ll need to constantly look for ways to enhance the customer experience.
Build an eCommerce Implementation Plan that Works
The eCommerce space is ripe with opportunity, but maximizing your ROI means taking a careful, methodical approach. With the right eCommerce implementation plan, you can attract visitors to your new platform, create a seamless customer experience, and continue to meet customer expectations.