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Don’t get caught! Five traps to avoid when setting up your new ecommerce platform

(Image credit: Image Credit: Snowing / Freepik)

Creating an ecommerce platform, or migrating to a new one, can be a daunting task for any retailer or brand. The journey is packed with important decisions and considerations, any of which may be the difference between success and a disastrous waste of valuable time and budget. There is, of course no single way of creating ‘the’ perfect online experience.  Gita Samani, Digital Consultant at Astound Commerce has identified five traps that trip up a great number of retailers and brands:

1.            Get your dream team in place first if you’re starting from scratch

Starting a new ecommerce platform from scratch can be a gargantuan task – especially if it’s your first foray into online retail and you’re considering doing it in-house. It’s not like adding a few people to your existing bricks-and-mortar or wholesale setup, you’ll need to form an entirely new team.

Creating a dream team will take time, money and effort and will almost certainly occupy a large portion of your senior leaders’ time – which would otherwise be spent focusing on growth and strategy. 

And it’s not just a one-off effort. The hiring needs of your organisation will continue to fluctuate with the scale of your business, the goods you sell, and where you operate. Here are twelve key roles that make up an effective ecommerce team;

  • Director of ecommerce: Responsible for customer experience and commercial decisions
  • Head of digital tech/in-house architect:  Responsible for weaving digital technologies together, from platform and ERP integration to other third-party platforms, such as a ratings and reviews provider or customer service provider
  • Head of digital marketing/content: Responsible for content, content strategy, execution and brand direction
  • Web developer/front end developer/content exec: Responsible for on-site content execution
  • Web merchandiser: Responsible for product and onsite merchandising, i.e. the head that’s going to utilise the platform most
  • Digital operations manager: Responsible for digital operations, including inventory and supply chain, i.e. inbound stock and outbound orders
  • Include a Data Analyst: Responsible for onsite analytics and data layer implementation, google search console and onsite search optimisation
  • Digital marketing manager: Responsibilities include SEO, PPC, social, affiliates, CRM, email and onsite promotions
  • Customer service representatives
  • Head of finance: Responsible for online payment, fraud, financial reporting and reconciliation
  • Head of finance: Responsible for online payment, fraud, financial reporting and reconciliation
  • Test manager/analyst: Responsible for end-to-end testing and storefront acceptance of the solution

Looking at the headcount here and the increased risk this entails it’s not surprising that many retailers and brands decide to employ a specialist agency for certain areas, i.e. digital marketing agencies to support SEO, PPC, Affiliates, GA & Data Layer set up, while hiring a drastically slimmed-down in-house team to oversee the process.

2.            Avoid fuzzy accountability

It is essential that someone owns the programme, sells it into the business and ensures results are delivered. Without a named individual being accountable there’s a greater chance that lines of accountability can become fuzzy and objectives become confused. A growing number of market-leading ecommerce design agencies now provide consultancy services, covering off strategy/roadmap, platform selection and implementation, UX audits, measurement frameworks and digital marketing audits, but it is essential one person in-house has oversight and responsibility.

3.            Don’t slavishly copy an existing retailer’s efforts

Retailers and brands should be wary of digital agencies that are prepared to slavishly clone a competitor’s site. Instead, the best re-platforming partners will provide a thorough discovery and scoping phase, interrogating a wide range of factors, both technical and creative, before collaboratively proposing a solution designed to fit the unique needs of the retailer’s customers. During the discovery stage an effective partner will relate functional requirements back to business objectives and extract more information about pain points and brand rationale. By copying another retailer’s ecommerce solution, you will miss all the nuances that make your brand and your customers’ requirements unique. 

4.            Be sure to ignore industry hype

If you are going to sell at any kind of scale you need to leverage a third-party ecommerce platform. Just like anything else in business, don’t base your purchase solely on the marketing associated with that platform.

Take the time to do your homework on each of the platforms you’re considering. Speak to peers, request testimonials and ask as many questions as you need to. Make sure you fully understand what you’re signing up for, and confirm that the functionality that’s required for your business to operate successfully is included in the solution you’re paying for.

Make sure all lower level stakeholders who will use and manage the platform on a daily basis, such as traders and marketeers, preview the solution and confirm it will work operationally.

E-commerce platform companies have their own marketing strategies and it can be easy to believe the hype and read positive testimonials that make you believe it’s the next big thing out there. But that isn’t always the case; make sure you do your homework. Not every platform is right for every business.

5.            Put customer experience front and centre

When it comes to ecommerce platforming, every decision should be focused on customer need. Perhaps the most basic requirement is to know your customers’ expectations – what do they want from your site and how do they expect to get it? Once you know your customers’ expectations it is vital that you create frictionless purchasing journeys that will speed your customer to conversion, maximise engagement and minimise the risk of cart abandonment. Here are some other key ways to ensure customer centricity.

Understand your customers’ needs. Undertake analysis on user personas and the key tasks and requirements of your customer, whether it’s your current customer segment or a segment you want to convert. Make sure you are servicing their needs, get the basics right before any bells and whistles are added to your scope.

Mobile First But Responsive: Great ecommerce platforms are designed to look stunning on any device, but with the popularity of mobile increasing it’s important to major on the smartphone experience first. Other ways to ensure mobile shoppers are happy is to allow users to check out using their social media credentials to allow payment through mobile gateways, generally iOS and Android. Taking steps like these will also help cut cart abandonment.

Customer Appreciation: In the ecommerce sector, loyal customers are the best customers. And, to build a sustainable online store, it is important to appreciate your customers from time to time. This can be achieved through personalised customer experiences, referral and VIP coupons and customer reward programs.

High User Accessibility: Make exploring your ecommerce platform easy and stress-free. You can do this in a long list of ways, for example filtering products under a customisable price scale, streamlining checkout the process and ensuring navigation is intuitive with clear signposting.

Multiple Payment Methods: Integrating various payment options enhance the shopping experience for customers. Let your customers make payments via PayPal, Credit/Debit Cards, Google Pay, other digital methods. This provides high convenience and optimises user experience.

Gita Samani, Digital Consultant, Astound Commerce

Gita Samani, Digital Consultant at Astound Commerce.