Web project management can be a challenge for the most experienced project managers, much less for relative newcomers, and when e-commerce is involved, the stakes are that much higher. 

With this in mind we recently commissioned e-commerce expert Martin Newman to compile a best practice report to help steer you down the right path, called ‘Delivering Successful E-commerce Projects’. It has more than 400 individual recommendations and is a terrific investment for anybody working in this area (as with all of our research, it is priced at just £150 / $215, or is free for Econsultancy subscribers).

The report focuses on client-side challenges, supplier challenges, and joint challenges. I thought I’d give you a taste of what’s contained within the guide by publishing a few extracts. Here’s the first one, which focuses on multichannel integration.

Multichannel Integration

Changes in retail are being driven by the consumer, as well as by the proliferation of new channels and the increased choice that this provides. Retailers are having to rethink their business models to find new ways to interact with customers to add more value to the overall shopping experience.

Consumers are now very much empowered by technology. They can choose where to buy, and who to buy from, with tremendous ease. As such it has never been easier to lose a customer. Your competitors are never more than two or three clicks away. 

Quite simply it is no longer enough to just be aware of your customer. You need to understand them and to accommodate their needs and behaviour. Make it easy for consumers to find and interact with your brand (online, offline, kiosks, stores, mobile, catalogues, telephone…).

Nowadays consumers demand a good experience, and they won’t tolerate a bad one. As such you must deliver a fantastic experience across all touchpoints, seamlessly. Remember that if you don’t, your competitors will have the chance to impress…

It’s probably a good time to mention our training team, which has a course on Multichannel Marketing taking place next week, should you need it (there’s one on in October too).

Best practice recommendations for multichannel integration:

  1. Joined-up thinking. E-commerce is all too often still thought of as a silo, and is therefore thought of in isolation. Whether you’re developing an e-commerce solution for your business for the first time or moving on to the next iteration of your site, it is the optimum time to think about integrating all of your channels.
  2. Engage your call centres. Are you going to provide your contact centre with the ability to take sales from customers over the phone? What happens if the site’s down or if they need additional assistance to help ensure they buy the right product? It’s a great idea to enable operator supported orders.
  3. Assist shoppers, in real time. Live chat will enable your customer contact centre to help guide your customer’s choices. This can be both reactive, through a ‘click to chat option’, or proactive through ‘rules based live chat’. In the latter case you prompt a customer with the offer of chatting to a CSA (customer service advisor) when they behave in a certain way (such as adding multiple items to their basket but not checking out).
  4. Visibility. You should develop the capability for the customer and the CSA to view the same cart concurrently.
  5. Collect information. In order to deliver the optimum customer service experience, you should funnel all customer communication into a customer contact database.
  6. Provision for self-service. Provide a knowledge base/dynamic FAQs that will serve the needs of self service customers who prefer not to interact with CSAs.
  7. Provide a store locator showing store product ranges available at each store, and use Google Maps to provide all contact information.
  8. Buy in store for home delivery. This could be through a Kiosk solution in store that’s provided to meet demand when there’s a shortage of stock, specific  sizes, or particular styles in a store.
  9. Click and collect. Allow customers to buy or reserve products online and pick them up in store. You should also allow customers to reserve products in store for purchase in store. Enable customers to select from a list of stores by their proximity for in store pick up.
  10. Multichannel returns policy. Provide the ability to buy products online and return in store. Make sure offline budgets reflect this to avoid staff resentment at having to do extra work, and do not subtract these offline refunds from offline sales! Give the store a credit for multichannel refunds (but manage it to avoid abuse).
  11. Is it in stock? Allow customers to check product inventory levels at nearby stores. Save them a wasted journey.
  12. Don’t hide the telephone! Promote contact centre number prominently above top navigation and at key stages on the purchase path. Let customers know that help is only a phone call or a click away.
  13. Multichannel commissions for staff. Make sure staff are incentivised to promote the sale of products through all of your channels… otherwise why should they bother?

Do you agree? What did we miss? Leave your comments below…