Leaping to an ecommerce technology as a first step is a big mistake!
The world has moved on
If an ecommerce re-platform project is relatively new territory for you then there is a danger that your frame of reference becomes heavily influenced by the marketing muscle of the ecommerce system vendors. There are a lot of them, they do a lot of product marketing and inevitably, with all that noise, it’s actually quite hard to ignore. That’s not to say their advice or offerings are unworthy, but the danger is that you start to base your decisioning on the technology in isolation.
More seasoned ecommerce veterans have the benefit of previous experience across re-platform projects and are more acutely aware that you cannot rely alone on a functional wishlist and some technical must-haves. That type of narrow thinking typically leads to the old fashioned RFP, which in turn leads to a vendor shortlist, slick product demos and the hope that the vendor can recommend a decent implementation partner.
The world has moved on. Ecommerce transformation today takes the customer experience far more seriously, and the pressure to deliver fast is paramount. What we are seeing is that today’s ecommerce leaders want to deliver more customer centric value, stay agile and see value from their deliverables in just a few months.
Ecommerce through the customer lens
Every business wants to “prioritise the customer”, but they often just don’t know how to do that in a way that quickly and effectively translates into their digital architecture and delivers business outcomes. Instead, they list out hundreds of requirements in a tender or RFP document. As an observation, we haven’t formally responded to an RFP with any client for a few years now. Instead, we follow a proven process that starts with understanding the end-customer and their ecommerce journey, and iterates into a rapid series of high-value releases. This delivers faster ecommerce time-to-value and is definitely more customer centered.
In a number of cases, clients have actually halted their RFP process and pivoted to our process because it is, frankly, a much better business decision. It delivers value far quicker.
It all starts with a healthy dose of customer insight. Fast pragmatic research surfaces this customer insight and enables far better decisioning. It also ensures greater internal support, particularly from your senior budget-holders. It includes journey maps, behaviours, motivations, painpoints and intent – the stuff you never fully get from website analytic and survey tools. It provides the customer evidence (alongside your commercial ambition) to inform all the ensuing decisions, from operational dependencies to design. It also provides all the user stories that dictate the functional and technical requirements for the ecommerce journey. User stories are infinitely more powerful because now you are creating an ecommerce experience based on genuine desired customer outcomes (instead of just implementing another technology to escape some system pains).
UX Design – The vital front-end experience
Customer insight also informs the user experience (UX) design, so the creative and front-end aesthetic is no longer subjective – it is customer-evidenced, which is hard to argue against. Designers love this because they are now working with insight that makes the creative treatment appealing, inspiration content more relevant, and on-site signposting much sharper.
The insight also surfaces useful nuggets for digital marketers, like whether you really need that monthly newsletter, promotion or price discount. Are there better, more relevant ways to engage your audience? Can search and merchandising be better optimised? Do you need more inspirational content in the path-to-purchase? It’s all really valuable customer evidence.
When you blend this insight with the reality of your current ecommerce infrastructure (stock, orders, warehousing, logistics, payments, fulfilment, product information, digital marketing needs) you can also assess where to prioritise any operational changes, or indeed any new system selection.
Finally, there’s the technology selection. Notice this is the last step – after all the insight and user stories have been gathered. This is a radical shift for some organisations who are engrained in the old way of jumping straight to the technology choice, only to find themselves trying to shoe-horn a burgeoning customer experience into an inadequate solution. Again – it’s the customer evidence and user stories combined with your commercial ambition that should be informing this decision. It’s not just about “having a better system and more features than the last one”. You can also remove a lot of uncertainty. Modern next-generation systems allow for rapid proof of concepts (POC’s) – so your system selection can be tested up front and de-risked.
Every business wants a “futureproof” solution which means implementing a platform that can surface content (including the checkout) to any current or future channel or device, be centrally managed, and remain free from the pain of upgrades, hosting issues and demand spikes. This explains the major shift to choosing headless, microservice based systems with their cloud-based, blistering performance, API-first integration approach, and relief from all those infrastructure headaches. Companies are choosing this ability to compose their ecommerce architecture (CMS/Ecomm/PIM/DAM etc) using these headless systems, rather than sink all their hopes into one giant monolithic system that lacks the long-term agility their customer experience demands.
Delivery at pace
In our experience the whole foundational process described above is achieved in about 6 -8 weeks of intense Discovery and research activity. With that solid foundation in place, the re-platform project can begin. Adopting an Agile project framework ensures you see regular releases delivering value more quickly, and the flexibility to adapt to changing needs or priorities.
As the project iterates you move into continuous improvement, and your ecommerce re-platform becomes an ongoing optimisation programme for maximum conversion. Across various B2C and B2B projects, taking this approach, we have been able to deliver a complete enterprise re-platform in as little as 90 days, with others anywhere from to 6 to 9 months – the important things is that you are not locked into a lengthy project that suffers “implementation fatigue” and slow time-to-value.
Time to re-think?
This rapid time-to-value approach, grounding every decision in up-to-date customer evidence, is delivering fantastic results for both B2C and B2B brands, and whilst not every business out there is prepared to adopt this “transformation through the customer lens” approach today, eventually, when they realise that the customer experience they deliver is probably their one true differentiator, they’ll have to.
Contact Profound today and request a free initial consultation about your next ecommerce project.