7 Things to do before starting an e-commerce website

E-commerce  is the in thing today. Firms, even B2B ones, have no choice but to join the bandwagon or be left behind.  But that doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed for every e-commerce venture. Unless you do your homework thoroughly and plan well, chances are that your e-commerce solution will create more problems than it solves.

It is easy to be carried away by the euphoria, and the success stories of e-commerce firms.  But the fact remains that the goals of B2B sites are much more complex than those of B2C sites.  Most often companies do not have the skills needed to select the right solution. The ones who try to jump ahead often fall into trouble after adopting a solution that doesn’t suit them. And have to live with the effects for a long time.

So it is critical that you look before you make the leap into e-commerce. This article lists seven steps that you have to climb, before starting your e-commerce project.

Step 1 : Find out what the customer needs

The site you build has to make life easier for your customers and you. It has to help your customers become aware of the problems, evaluate the solutions and show them that your solution is the best.

But for that you need to know what your customer needs. And the best way to find that out is to ask them. Your own sales & marketing teams too will be able to provide valuable information in this regard.

Step 2 : Find out how the customer satisfies his needs

The next step is to understand your customer’s buying process. This is extremely crucial for the success of your e-com venture.

The B2B buying process happens in three stages –  Awareness, Evaluation and Decision. In the first stage, the customer becomes aware of the problem and the need for a product. In the next stage, he actively looks for the solution and evaluates the different products available in the market. In the third stage, he chooses the product and purchases it.

Different customers may be in different stages of the buying process. If you want to sell your product to the customer, you have to understand at which stage of the buying process they are in and supply them with the required details. For example if the buyer is in the awareness stage, you will have to make him aware of the problem and the solutions available through high-value blog posts, ebooks, videos, white papers and the like. When he moves to the evaluation stage, you have to highlight the advantages of your product with respect to the competitors in the market. And finally in the decision stage you might have to offer discounts or other services that would swing the deal in your favour. In short, understanding the buying process will help you define exactly what your site is supposed to do to support it.

Step 3 : Find out what your company needs

The e-commerce site is not just about satisfying the needs of your customers. It is about satisfying your company’s needs too. Your company will have some expectations of the returns it will get from its investment in terms of better brand image, increase in sales through more leads, conversions and customer loyalty. The employees might expect the system to make their lives easier by solving issues, providing them the right information at the right time, and simplifying the business processes.

You have to collect the requirements from all levels of the organisation to understand what the e-commerce solution means to the company.

Step 4 : Marry the needs of the customer and the company

The needs of the company and the customer might not go together in all cases. By contrasting the buyer’s requirements with that of the company’s you will get an idea of what your site has to do – to help buyers and the company meet their needs. In this process you will have to find out what is unique with your company and why the customers choose you over your competitors. You have to make sure that the site helps you maintain your unique advantage. You can also set the targets for the site, so that you can measure its success after it is goes live.

Step 5 : How can e-commerce help you meet these needs

Now that we are clear about your requirements, you have to find out how an e-commerce solution can help you solve the issues. You have to study about the e-commerce in general, the platforms that are available and their features.

Find out how to select a B2B e-commerce platform

Step 6 : Calculate the Impact

Find out what will be the impact of the new e-commerce solution on the organisation. Ask questions like

  • Is the solution in line with the long term plan of the organisation?
  • How much will the sales increase if we implement the solution?
  • In what time will we able to achieve the sales increase?
  • What will be the impact on other sales channels, once the solution is implemented?
  • What will happen if you choose not to implement the solution?
  • Do the gains justify the cost involved in implementing the solution?
  • Is the solution scalable with respect to Company’s expected growth
  • Is the solution Flexible and adaptable to change management and strategizing

Such questions help you get an idea of the impact that the e-commerce platform will have on the company. And if the payoff is negative, don’t shy away from putting off the project.

Step 7 : Identify risks and plan to mitigate them

Any change is bound to be met with resistance from some quarters in the organisation. Your e-commerce platform is no exception. You have to plan to meet the resistance and overcome the roadblocks that might be present on the way. If your organisation has attempted implementing an e-commerce solution earlier, that would be a right point to start. Find out all the reasons for the failure of the venture and plan to overcome them. You might need to win over key people who are not yet convinced of the need for an e-commerce solution.  And you might have to make sure that the solution will work seamlessly with the other systems that are already present in the organisation.

Now that you have looked around, you can be confident about taking the leap towards the online world, where new markets, more customers and revenues await you.

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