Whether you’re a brick and motor business running an online store or operate exclusively as a digital store, you know that the structure of your ecommerce platform has a significant influence on everything from customer experience to shipping. Oftentimes when planning a new site or site upgrade, the emphasis falls on design, product display, payment gateways, shipping services and other ecommerce fundamentals. But in our experience, companies that find the greatest satisfaction with their sites have been careful to consider how the new ecommerce platform will integrate with their business as a whole. Here are some common mistakes when building a new online store and ways you can be sure to avoid them.
Company size, experience and organizational structure will all impact how a business assigns responsibility for building and managing an ecommerce website. In our experience, site development proceeds most smoothly and efficiently when site owners identify and empower a specific individual (or small group) to communicate decisions regarding site features, budget and direction. Ideally this person(s) is identified in the earliest stages of the project.
Understanding that there are special areas of expertise in every organization, it can be perfectly acceptable to have more people involved in the process. Marketing, project managers, upper-level management, finance, shipping, and so forth all offer value and help drive direction. However, information should be funneled through to the lead project contact with the authority to parse competing priorities. Essentially this person acts as an internal project manager to keep the project on-task and the discussions relevant. There may be occasional exceptions to this strategy, but this is the recommended arrangement.
Implementing or changing an ecommerce solution will have an impact on how your business processes orders. It is a good idea to map out your current order fulfillment process to identify ways in which your new or updated online store might integrate or conflict with the status quo. Some examples of questions to consider include: Do you print an email, log into an ERP system, or look it up in the admin area? Does the order need to get automatically sent somewhere else, such as a fulfillment house or shipper? And how can an ecommerce solution support or impact these steps?
It is likely that your fulfillment process will change with a new ecommerce implementation. It would be very useful to know how this will impact your operations before finalizing the agreement to build an online store. There is no magic answer to this as everybody's processes are different, and some aspects may not be clear at first. But it is good to identify up-front what is unknown to get people thinking about it and help prepare for making decisions later on.
The choices you make about managing your online store’s orders, expenses and inventory will have a major influence on productivity, tax compliance and bottom line. When it comes to integrating your online store with accounting, the devil is in the details. Here’s a good list of questions to ask as you begin planning for the transition:
a. Will there be an order integration to an accounting or ERP system?
b. If so, what is the name and version of these products?
c. What type of integration is desired (order dump, email, automatic integration)? An automatic integration is defined as a service, running on either the ecommerce site or a third-party site, that does unidirectional or bidirectional data synchronization.
d. What is the data that needs to be synchronized? (Provide developers with a sample spreadsheet.)
e. Are there any special rules for order IDs, customer account numbers, customer groups, etc. that need to be followed? (Supply a sample of the data.)
Issues related to shipping present a challenge for ecommerce sites. Different shipping requirements can lead to vastly different recommendations and solutions. It is common for shipping requirements to get short shrift in a manager’s lengthy list of considerations when building an online store. Including someone deeply familiar with shipping rules in the development process will have a significant positive impact in the long run. This might be a warehouse foreman, shipping manager or possibly a customer account representative. Some questions that will come up:
a. What shippers are used (USPS, FedEx, UPS, local truck, etc.)?
b. How are boxes configured? Is it one product to a box, multiple products in a box?
c. Is some calculation needed to determine how products fit inside of standard boxes?
d. Are there any restrictions (such as perishable or hazardous items) that affect how and where a product might be shipped?
e. Is some shipping quoted for some products?
f. If some is quoted, how do you get paid?
There are dozens of ecommerce platforms and solutions available. Before settling on preferred options, it is important to conduct prequalification research. Bring that research to the table when planning your site with the development team to see if there is some bias in the findings, and if these solutions are the best option for site requirements.
There is a lot to keep in mind when setting up an online store, but a well-designed ecommerce site can have a substantial impact on sales success. Following these steps should help ensure that your site integrates with your business as seamlessly as possible.