Eric Deschambault
Eric Deschambault
Business Analyst

Selling online is a great adventure, with outstanding growth potential for your business. And what’s truly exciting is that when done right, not only will your ecommerce site drive online sales and build engaging relationships with your customers, it can also drive traffic to stores and boost loyalty. While the path to success is never a straight line, with a superior e-commerce foundation and the right knowledge, you’ll be paving the way to a better and more profitable omnichannel business faster than you might think.

Here are some do’s and don’ts when building or upgrading your e-commerce website guaranteed to help you achieve your omnichannel goals.

And these tips apply no matter what your business model (traditional retail, grocery, franchise, manufacturer selling direct-to-consumer), or the complexity of your product offering and number of regions you cover. 

#1. Don’t underestimate the work, but do remember that if you plan well, it will definitely pay off

Getting your business online is a huge endeavor that involves a significant amount of time, effort and restless nights thinking about what you’d like to do versus what you can do. But there’s no place for improvisation here. As such, a good start is to define a strong project plan and identify early on all the tasks required, the people that will be involved, the features that you need to have and the ones you wish to have, the resources on hand and resources to acquire, and the deadlines that must be respected.

When estimating the tasks required, pay special attention to the integration of your e-commerce site with the existing assets of the business: product offerings, pricing, taxes, payment options, brick and mortar stores, orders, promotions, customer profiles, etc.

Integrating the data from these systems is often underestimated and can really create scope creep with significant impact on implementation time and your budget if not carefully sized from the beginning. Read more about the risks of scope creep on an ecommerce replatforming project in our blog dedicated to that topic.

The business and operational side of your e-commerce site must also be clarified early in the process, such as the shipping/delivery/pick-up model you want to offer online, the pricing and promotions model, required languages and currencies, the strategy for mobile and tablet browsing, the omni-channel integration to the other sides of your business, or the marketing campaigns you will want to run. These are all considerations you should discuss early in the process to ensure you maximize the unlimited business potential that a streamlined online and offlinebusiness affords you when done right.   

Tip: Ensure you take all of the above into consideration when choosing an ecommerce platform. If it does not offer you the flexibility to adapt to your current and foreseeable business needs, and allow you to scale for growth, it's probably not the right investment.

#2. Do make sure you address current market needs, but don't forget about potential new touchpoints - this is the evolution of omnichannel

Another common pitfall is not fully understanding the market concerns and business problems you are trying to solve with your e-commerce site. Success will come by making sure you are addressing the right concerns and taking into consideration the needs of your end-users as well as presenting a unique offering in the market.

A good way to address this concern is by building a strong business plan from the beginning and explicating all the requirements that your website needs, and therefore the functionalities of your e-commerce platform. You’ll need to talk to the sponsors of the e-commerce site, to look at what the competition is doing, and to survey your existing and prospect customers.

In order to carefully scope your e-commerce solution, every feature you are planning should be evaluated against their return on investment (ROI) and business value, and a release plan with multiple phases should be put in place in order to release features with high value first. In other words, try to define a minimum viable product (MVP) that will allow you to go online fast with just the right set of features that address the needs of the market.

Tip: Never hesitate to question the value of a new request by one of your business users or sponsors, and try to build early on a framework that will help you asses the business value of every new feature. For example, if the business problem you are trying to solve is the ability to pick up an order in store, then a new feature regarding the ability to create swanky promotions will probably be evaluated as a low priority for a first release. It can be added later, once the site is online and generating revenues.

#3. Do take advantage of the tremendous potential of onlinemerchandising

The web offers unbeatable possibilities for customer-centric merchandising, and this is often underestimated or undervalued, especially if you're migrating your product catalogue from an in-store offering, where only SKUs and prices are displayed. 

Best practice would be to host your product information in a PIM(Product Information Management) system that seamlessly integrates with your e-commerce platform; it's the ideal environment and will significantly reduce implementation time.

On the web and other digital channels (in-store displays, kiosks, mobile apps), products can and should be enhanced with rich content - descriptions, highlights, keywords, reviews, related products and media such as images, videos and manuals. Product images are especially important on an e-commerce website, where the customers don’t have the distinct appeal of touching and feeling the items. They should be able to view the images from different angles and in high-quality in order to zoom-in for details. Think about the way your catalogue will be structured online, making it convenient and easy for your customer to discover your products, while respecting your brand standards.

Tip: Hire a photographer to take pictures of your entire catalogue for quality and consistency to clearly communicate you brand to the customers. You catalogue browsing and landing pages should also be customizable and communicate your brand values.

#4. Don’t push search engine optimization (SEO) and analytics aside, they're critical to your online success

Once your e-commerce website is online, you’ll want existing and new customers to be able to find you first and fast, using Google or any other search engine. This is where SEO comes in place. A common mistake is to forget about these requirements, making it costly to implement once the website is online.

When explicated from the beginning, optimizing your pages for search engines can be done at almost no cost. It's important to think about all the aspects of SEO, from on-page code optimization, to the format of URLs, architecture of the site, internal links, external links, e-commerce sitemap, rich snippets, social media integration and keywords portfolio. As for the analytics part, you'll want to start monitoring onsite activity and your customers’ online journey as they navigate your site, starting from the day it’s deployed online. 

Bonus points if you're able to link your online customers' activity to their in-store one. 

In order to succeed, a tracking code such as GoogleAnalyticsGoogle Tag Manager or Adobe Analytics should be included in the site, and a strategy should be put in place to monitor the right events, customer segments and objectives. Leveraging this data will give you invaluable insights to take decisions and bring true agility to the execution of your omnichannel business strategy.

Tip: Search engine optimization is an always evolving area, don't hesitate to get help from a certified SEO expert early in the process.

Summing it all up

Bringing your business online is an exciting challenge that’s almost inevitable nowadays but in order to do it right means taking it further than building an ecommerce website.

Think omnichannel. Actually, think beyond omnichannel. Think consistent customer experiences with your brand across every and all touchpoints. Your ecommerce site is the backbone.

It’s an endeavor that must be properly planned in advance and well thought through, but it's become the cost of doing business in an omnichannel world. Don’t underestimate the work to be accomplished, make sure to address the right concerns of your market, don’t forget about the unique ways you can merchandise your products online, and bring SEO and other optimization strategies into play from the beginning.

Once you have a solid business plan and a clear understanding of your omnichannel needs, take the time to consider what e-commerce platforms are available to you, and make sure to pick one that molds to your unique business needs. Flexibility and scalability are key. Then, you’ll be ready to embark on a wonderful journey to omnichannel success.

Eric.