Nowadays, especially in the post-pandemic era, being present on the net is crucial for any business. The way people operate and where they look for goods and services changed drastically in the past few years. Even before the pandemic, we could see that the technological revolution we are part of plays a significant role in the whole process.
As a software house, we have seen a number of entrepreneurs and companies that understood the significance of either putting up their business out there or simply the need to upgrade what they already have. Thus, as professionals we worked on numerous projects that became the base for this text. We would like to give an insight into what should be taken into consideration to avoid mistakes and, as a result, avoid failures. For us as a whole BitBag team, it is crucial to deliver what is expected by the business and what in the long run boosts sales and skyrockets our client’s revenue. That is the sole goal of any eCommerce implementation.
In this article, you will find the list of factors that need to be taken into account once we want to start an eCommerce project.
Understanding of your own business
Before going through the details, a client must first know the idea behind your business. Questions that need to be answered are the following:
General for any project:
- What are your business goals – both short and long-term?
- Human factor – not only clients but also an internal team that will be working with the platform on a daily basis
- Who is the target client?
- What are your business’s strong points and weaknesses?
- How are your competitors doing and how can you overcome them?
- What is your standing out factor?
In addition to the above-mentioned
When you already have your eCommerce shop:
- What do you want to achieve by introducing a new eCommerce platform?
- What do your clients do and don’t like about your current website?
When you build your eCommerce website from scratch:
- What, to whom, where, and how would you like to sell?
- Any restrictions that may apply, e.g., legal
It is almost impossible to start without knowing the answers to these questions. An attitude like ‘We will cross this bridge when we get there” is a key factor leading to failure. Imagine being in a car where let’s say the development team is the driver that needs to take you to a desired destination – how can he does that if you yourself don’t know where you want to go ;). The driver knows the roads and can take you to your destination faster or show you more places on the way that you may like, but he will not be able to decide where you want to go – it is your obligation. If you let your diver choose the destination, there is a high chance that you will not like the place where you finally arrived.
There were many situations where the client was not sure what they wanted to achieve. As a result, the project fails.
Choosing the agency
First and foremost, choose an agency that specializes in eCommerce. They will have a much broader knowledge of the subject matter. DO spend time getting to know the company and people who will be working on your project. Ask if your business partners can recommend an agency. Choose a company that has an established reputation, case studies, etc. Meet up with their representatives – ask questions, investigate the documents, and sum ups of the meetings that you receive from them. Often on the workshop stage, it can be easily noticeable if the team knows what they are doing. In the end, you entrust them with your money and the future of your business online. Keep that in mind.
This stage is related to the first one – by knowing your priorities, it is much easier to plan your further actions. Here is a step called discovery. In BitBag, we often offer workshops that give us all the information regarding:
- The business
- External systems that may/are needed/used
Many entrepreneurs want to save money while creating a website and overlook the step of planning while focusing only on the business side. Telling from our experience as a software house, it’s the worst decision that can be made. With proper planning and risk management, further steps can be taken faster, easier, and with a smaller chance of things going wrong. Those discussions about the project and getting into details will inevitably need to take place anyway, but in the course of time, it will be even more time-consuming, possibly causing disruptions for the whole process, not to mention frustration on both sides. Keep in mind that the initial planning will save time and money later. Using our car metaphor – planning is like equipping your car with GPS. Without it, the driver needs to ask for directions a couple of times and possibly go off the initial road by mistake. Let’s use the equipment well then.
After the short and long-term plans are well-known and understood, another key factor is to choose the right platform. Here as a BitBag team, we also use our expertise to help our clients decide wisely. The work on the project starts only when we believe our expertise and the platforms we work on are the most suitable for the client. At the end of the day, we are the ones that are responsible for the final result equally to our client. Another vital thing is not to decide on the platform beforehand. Unfortunately, it’s a common case where people believe that a popular solution or the one they are familiar with is the best choice. In reality, it can be the other way around, so it’s important to trust the professionals that can guide you through and explain the strong and weak sides of a solution.
Process of developing the website
Now, we are going to start the actual work. Depending on the project, it will involve different stages; however, it usually consists of the following ones:
- Migration (in the case of an already existing website)
It is the actual sole of the project – if the previous steps were taken carefully with the proper amount of diligence, it should be a walk in the park – but will it be?
From the project management point of view, here are the crucial points that can lead either to the success or failure of the project:
One Product Owner
It is important to have a designated ONE person on the client’s side that will be responsible for making decisions. Nothing is more frustrating for the dev team and more harmful for the project when the client’s side insists on how certain aspects should look (even if it negatively impacts the whole project) or changes the course of actions pre-planned. It leaves everyone in awe and suspends their work, to say the least. It is strongly recommended to find a product owner to consult whoever needs to be consulted on the business side to come to the development team with one decision. This person needs to be available for the team – it improves the workflow when the dev team doesn’t have to wait for the answer for a couple of days.
Now is the time to discuss the engineers of your car – meaning the dev team. Obviously, when you want to fix a car, you will not go to the dentist – he will not be equipped or have enough knowledge about the matter. Unfortunately, such a situation occurred in the past when we were taking on numerous projects that were initially begun by someone else, and it turned out that the decisions that were taken were not the best ones. That is why it is so vitally important to choose the right agency. As previously mentioned, it is best to choose one that specializes in eCommerce, as their developers will have a much broader knowledge of the possibilities, challenges, and limitations of a platform you choose together.
Sometimes clients assume that if they will not mention something it will be easy to squeeze it in during the course of development – it is often affected by budget limitations. Again, being honest at the beginning builds trust and better cooperation. The skilled project manager that we at BitBag have on board will be able to run the project in such a way that the client will have full transparency on what is going on. By working together, the client is able to make better decisions to make sure the most valuable part of the project is done within the budget available. That is how agile works – magic. For example, the scope for MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is closed, but during the development, a client decides that he/she wants to expand one of the functionalities that were initially planned smaller. In this case, it can be done in two ways by either removing less valuable items from the scope or if the client wants to, increasing the budget to fit that change in. It’s up to the client what is the most important for the business.
The project manager will be responsible for the project and will adopt the most appropriate agile methodology. The project will be divided into stages, milestones, etc. It is important to make sure each step is clearly defined, understood, and the definition of done is the same for both the client and the dev team. That will involve meetings and communication. Each stage should be completed with full acceptance from the client’s side. If there is anything you would like to work/look differently, it is best to say it at a given moment, as developers were working on it most recently. Thus, they will be able to introduce changes much easier than after, for example. 6 months. At times some changes may not even be possible in the further stage of the development. Again we save money.
Naturally, if there are questions to be asked, they should be asked, and we encourage you to do that. However, in the end, and after the consultations are completed, the team should be left with one direction. The agile management that we adopt always allows room for changes. If, for instance, certain functionalities become obsolete, there is absolutely no point in developing them if they are unnecessary for the business. Nevertheless, changing the whole perspective or the main idea behind the project is a totally different thing. It’s important to stress the pre-project steps again – if they are done correctly, such situations should not occur. They cause chaos, cost money and effectively endanger the success of the whole project.
It is needless to say that the expectations need to be realistic. If the dev team determines the task/functionality cannot be done either faster or cheaper – believe them. Pushing the team will not help; on the contrary, it will only build frustration. Do not hide any information; whether it is an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system you plan to use or expanding certain functionalities in the future, it is best to inform the dev team immediately. Having this information will allow them to make better decisions on architecture and make it more customizable for the future. Especially for non-tech people, certain aspects seem minor from their perspective (for instance, they are a small change on the front) but may involve many man-days to be completed.
As we are talking mostly about long-term project development. They usually take months, at times even years. We as the BitBag team build relations with our clients based on transparency, honesty, and professional expertise. We create one team with our client and work to achieve the same goal. We cannot stress enough how important that human factor is. It decreases the doubt that usually causes stress or frustration on both ends. Especially when facing obstacles or problems (on both ends), only by cooperating closely, with mutual understanding, are we able to successfully finish the project.
Check which technology will be suitable for your eCommerce business
Your eCommerce store went live – a huge success – shall we stop here? Of course not! Each project is a live creature’ shaped by people inside and especially from the outside – your clients. That is the time when you should focus on gathering feedback. Ask their opinion and find weak spots – it may happen that the feedback you receive will surprise you. Perhaps your clients are missing something you have not thought about at all. It is one of the most valuable lessons. So other steps that should be considered here are as follows:
- Further development
No project is perfect or bug-proof, so be prepared to have a buffer for fixing the errors (support). As the tendencies are changing, the market is growing fast and developing as we speak. You need to keep a steady hand on the tiller. What is the trend today may not be in 6 months. Naturally, there is no point in introducing every change that you may think of or someone reports, but in order to not stay behind your competitors, you need to constantly monitor your website. Work on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and marketing, check what is working and what is not, and if needed, implement changes accordingly (further development and optimization).
As we prefer to stay on the bright side, to sum up, there are many factors that determine the success of the project. Failures teach us valuable lessons. The most important is to learn from them. Thus, before you start your eCommerce project make sure you know your business and your goals well. Choose a well-established agency that specializes in eCommerce. Use your gut instinct which often helps us make the best decisions. Once you choose the agency, cooperate closely with the team, and do not avoid the steps recommended by them. Spend a good amount of time on planning, making sure all requirements are clear, milestones are set, and everyone is on the same page. If you meet obstacles on the way, the relationship that you build with the team will help you go through any difficulty. If you made the right decision, you should feel you can trust their expertise. Once you launch the website, be sure to keep it under control. Your website should grow together with your business.
If you are looking for a team to develop your eCommerce, we can help you with that – please contact us.