10 Do’s and Don’ts of eCommerce
Let’s cut to the chase – you want to build a good eCommerce website.
Maybe even a great one. A site that runs well, is easy to maintain, and delights your customers so much they come back time and again because they just can’t resist your brilliant service. But there are so many slow, messy, mistake-riddled websites out there – so how do you avoid that?
Well, choosing and working with a reputable, experienced agency that is able to support and advise on your eCommerce strategy is a must. As a starting point though – and to help you make the right choice, whoever you decide to work with – we’re compiled this no-nonsense list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ to get you thinking about early considerations. We hope you find it helpful!
1. Do… Research and plan the customer journey
There’s a reason our client projects always start with a discovery workshop – not only do you need to know your goals, you need to know how your customers can help you reach them. What features and elements of your site are going to support your users’ journey, to ensure your customers have a brilliant experience? Where is your offering falling down right now, and what can you do to rectify that?
One of the reasons it’s so important to get your head around this right at the start is that it helps all your work to be scalable. As an example: something as integral as your website navigation needs to be robust and futureproofed – you don’t want to be redesigning it from scratch every time you add a new product range. Imagine that every time you went to Tesco, they’d rearranged all the aisles, leaving you wondering helplessly looking for the cheese. Not great, eh? Not only is that costly for your business, it’s frustrating for your returning customers, who don’t want to be learning how to find your products all over again every few months.
2. Don’t… Copy someone else’s design
The design of your eCommerce site should be informed by your customer journey, not the other way around. When we start building a site, or working on a client project – one of the first things we’ll explore is the customers’ needs. The design decisions are all based around what will serve the customer best.
When you directly copy another site, this doesn’t happen. Say you sell, for instance, a range of interior paints; you come across a site selling trainers that you really love, and want to use the design and layout for your site. The problem? It’s very unlikely a direct copy of another site will work for your brand and products. Customers shopping for trainers don’t have the same requirements as those shopping for paints – there’s a reason ASOS and B&Q have different site layouts.
That said, it is totally okay to look at other sites for inspiration – the key here is, what specific elements do you like, and why do they work well? Getting to the root of why you like features, layouts and design elements will help you translate ideas into a format that can help you to achieve your own goals.
3. Do… Prioritise quality over quantity
Quality over quantity is everything in eCommerce. In the simplest terms – you’ll get much farther with 1 really well-presented product, with all the information your customer needs, than you will with 100 products each with 1 line of copy. The same goes for product photography, content marketing, social media, email marketing – all those avenues that make up an eCommerce business.
It might be tempting at the start to have a huge long list of things you want to achieve with your site – but this might actually be holding you back. Much better to prioritise the things that will really make an immediate impact to your business, and then re-invest the additional resources they provide you with (like time efficiency, or increased profits) back into future projects.
4. Don’t… Neglect logistics implementation
The front end of a website is nothing without the back end – and the same applies to logistics. The two should work in harmony, so don’t neglect upgrades and changes in logistics while you’re working on your eCommerce project.
We’ve had plenty of experience implementing upgrades and workflows for our clients that help cut down on manual processes – but all these time-saving systems ideally need to be implemented during the site build, not slapped on at the end. Get your logistics and warehouse teams involved in the process right from the start, and you’ll be well on your way to solving problems before they even become an issue in the first place.
5. Do… Set a realistic timeline
Ah, the deadline. A wonderful beast… But so hard to tame. Every project has unforeseen issues, challenges and changes that can cause readjustments to the timeline. So we always advocate setting a realistic one – and giving yourself wiggle room to make sure that setbacks don’t veer your entire project off course, down a cliff, into a ravine… figuratively speaking, anyway.
A great agency will be able give you a rough timeline for any project, and build wiggle room into this from the start. Pushing your agency to deliver things faster than their initial estimates may actually have the opposite effect – squeezing their timelines to remove the wiggle room, and stopping them from dealing with problems before they start causing delays.
Even if everything goes well, a bit of wiggle room is never a bad thing. That extra time might mean you get to implement an extra feature or upgrade you didn’t think you had time for; allow you the time to triple-check all your copy and internal links before launch; or even just give you a day’s breathing room to get in the right headspace before launch day. If nothing else, your marketing team will thank you for picking a firm date and sticking to it, because it’ll make their job of preparing for the launch so much easier.
6. Don’t… Under-invest in the project
With many things, it can be tempting to go for the most affordable option. More money to spend on advertising, marketing campaigns, and promotions, right?
Well… with eCommerce, it’s not quite that simple. Sure, you could save a bit of money by outsourcing to another country, or opting for a cheaper platform. But under-investment can cause project delays, technical constraints and could even lead to you shell out for expensive add-ons or having to start your project over from scratch not that far down the line.
Not to mention that all roads (or backlinks) lead to your site – you can pour money into advertising, but if your site is slow, frustrating to use, or doesn’t offer your customers what they need, you can bet they won’t be coming back, rendering your ad spend effectively wasted.
eCommerce projects work best when they’re futureproofed – so it’s important to map out your plan at the start, select the best options for you, and build upon those. Maybe it will cost a little more up front – or maybe you can add extra features in stages as the site grows – but in the long run, improvements in conversion rates and customer service efficiency are very likely to justify the initial investment.
7. Do… Choose carefully when selecting your project management
This advice works for both in-house project managers and when making a decision on which agencies to work with. In the most blunt of terms – are they fit for the job?
You can work with the best agency in the world, but if the project manager from your business doesn’t know your products, services and target audience inside out, that could become a big sticking point. Equally, you might run into issues if you ask an agency to deliver a project or platform worlds away from everything they’ve done before.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to a website launch (or re-launch), and it’ll be key for your team and agency to work closely together so everything aligns just right. Even if you know there are weak points – knowing what they are in advance means you can take extra care so ensure they don’t become an issue.
8. Don’t… Bring too much work in-house
One tactic when you’re trying to stretch your budget is to bring as much work possible in-house, and only outsource what’s absolutely necessary. But how will your team react to this?
They could be the most incredible in-house team ever, but suddenly having a whole new slew of responsibilities lumped on their (likely already full) plates probably isn’t going to go down well. Will you have to recruit additional staff? Will other areas of the business suffer? Are the tasks and areas you need focus for even within your teams’ current skillsets?
This is where working with an agency really comes into its own – a great agency will become an extension of your internal team, delivering what you need right now while supporting and training your own staff to be able to take on only the responsibilities that are truly necessary.
9. Do… Dedicate time and resource for internal training
New software. New platforms. New branding, workflows, processes and ideas. All this takes time to learn, and much of it will impact on your existing team – outside of your customers, your internal team are the biggest end users of your eCommerce site.
Throughout the process of your build – and after launch – be sure to set aside time and resource for your teams to really get to grips with the new systems. Encourage self-directed and peer-to-peer training, but don’t solely rely on that. Supporting your staff in this will go a long way to encourage future brand advocacy and accountability.
And crucially – spread the new knowledge as wide as you can within your teams, because there’s nothing worse than 6 months down the line realising the one person who knew how to work that key thing has moved on, taking that knowledge with them!
10. Don’t… Pay for advice you then don’t implement
Hiring an agency, consultant or any other kind of specialist to audit your site and point out issues is all very well – but if you don’t set aside the time and people-power to implement the suggestions, you’re effectively throwing money down the drain.
Once you’ve got your recommendations or action list, develop a plan – with deadlines – to implement the findings, and allocate the responsibilities accordingly. Having accountability for achieving growth is really important – we apply this method to all our internal projects too, so even after the initial 3 month discovery and implementation period, the long-term or tasks-you-can’t-do-right-now never get forgotten about.