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3 pitfalls to avoid for a successful e-commerce project

  • Posted on August 2, 2016

E-commerce

In my work as a digital consultant, clients often ask me how they can increase sales through online channels and my answer is always the same and always twofold.

First, one must recognize that it is not easy to succeed with an e-commerce solution – it is a difficult task. Second, it requires close cooperation between marketing and IT if the project is to end up as a success.

Large e-commerce projects typically risk serious delays when they involve multiple stakeholders, several countries and a large number of legacy systems. These projects quickly become so complex that they might never finish. In order to avoid getting stuck along the way, it’s important to be aware of some of the pitfalls.

Here are three of the biggest pitfalls and my ideas about how, as a marketer, you can work with your IT department to avoid them.

Pitfall #1: Underestimating the Complexity

To create a true omni-channel experience requires alignment of multiple business stakeholders, IT systems and sometimes even a change in the way the organization measures and rewards its employees – to avoid internal silos with different goals. If the e-commerce project is too ambitious and attempts to solve all past problems, it can become a situation of trying to “boil the ocean,” which is simply too complex to ever happen.

For these reasons, I recommend adhering to a ’customer journey approach’ where the initial focus is to:

  • Be pragmatic
  • Accept legacy IT mostly as it is, and only change functionalities if it is absolutely unavoidable
  • Define a tight timeframe and use it to drive fast decisions, so that the project is not delayed

The key to avoiding the danger of complexity is focused leadership, execution and partnership between both the business and IT organizations.

Pitfall #2: Unrealistic Scoping

When researching requirements for an e-commerce solution, get inspiration from your own favorite websites. To ensure a realistic project and reduce overhead, I recommend an agile approach to the requirements:

  • Create your backlog of desired features and have all business and IT stakeholders rank them based on business needs
  • Identify the minimum set of features required for an initial pilot release early on
  • Only design and specify detailed requirements for the features you will build in the near future
  • Capture customer feedback after the first launch and work this into future requirements

The above approach avoids costly attempts at predicting all future needs and instead requirements for future solutions are based on actual customer feedback.

Pitfall #3: Too Much Manual Maintenance Work

Sometimes you will find that you have incorporated features that you really want, but that are hard to support. For instance, you want to create a dynamic webpage, but your product master data is not good enough to ensure a personalized online customer experience.

It can be tempting just to assume that the missing data will be easy to add, when the solution is being rolled out, and just design and build the feature anyway. However, such behavior can result in a bulk of manual content work for rolling out and maintaining the solution, so that the launch is delayed or, worst case, never happens.

To avoid this, I recommend:

  • Include a column with anticipated content maintenance effort in the backlog where you list the desired features
  • Early on, agree on the actual time that people from different departments will have available for creating and maintaining content and product data
  • When ranking desired features, include both the effort to build and maintain the features as key ranking criteria

If you follow these recommendations and work with your IT department, it is possible to significantly reduce the time and resources spent on your e-commerce solution; ensuring that it is quickly accepted by your organization, while ensuring the business can reap and enjoy the benefits of a successful e-commerce project.

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