This guide has been created to help companies either review their existing ecommerce strategy or create an ecommerce proposition from scratch.

It includes a multitude of practical tips that can be applied to individual aspects of an ecommerce business to maximise results.

The report covers the entire customer journey, from when a user arrives on an ecommerce website, to when they have completed a purchase.

It also covers other important topics such as the role of customer acquisition, and how to think about marketplaces and newer channels, as well as fulfilment capabilities such as logistics and warehousing. However, the focus of the report is on what happens when the customer is on the ecommerce site, including how to project manage, build the site and where to guide the customer when they are on the site.

Contents include ecommerce frameworks, platform selection and integration, PIM and DAM systems, project management, Agile vs. Waterfall, third-party partners, design, operations, payments, personas, personalisation, products, ratings and reviews, propositions, performance, navigation, checkout, marketplaces, acquisition, conversion and D2C ecommerce.

Executive summary

  • Regardless of the channel, many decisions have to be made about the core technology or ‘platform’ that have the right functionality to sell online. The choice is now between the fast-growing cloud-based ecommerce platforms and in-house platforms such as Magento. When choosing a platform, brands must consider ease of integration with other existing systems, such as back office systems, flexibility and scalability, as the platform must be able to grow with the business.
  • Today, increasing specialism is the standard in ecommerce, both for development and operational requirements as well as strategy, management, technology and for ‘business as usual’. As a result, the people requirements in ecommerce are rapidly changing and becoming very specialist.
  • The notion of ‘digital shelf’ has resulted in a set of best practices for product choice, ranges, product data, how those products are searched and browsed for and how they are displayed on an ecommerce site. Combining the product and with a compelling proposition through a mixture of content, convenience and choice is at the heart of a good ecommerce strategy.
  • Understanding the customer persona, the customer journey and the role of personalisation will lead to an optimal choice of ecommerce customer acquisition channel, improved conversion rates and higher average basket sizes. If used well, personas can help put the most valuable types of customers at the heart of an ecommerce strategy. They allow marketing teams create more compelling, personalised messaging, as well as offering opportunities to focus digital marketing campaigns on retaining existing customers, or attract new customers with similar traits and behaviours. However, their successful adoption in a business hinges on buy-in from senior management.
  • Having the right people to manage ecommerce technology, which is changing rapidly, is paramount to success. An ecommerce project will involve contributions from the ecommerce vendor platform team and external ecommerce partners as well as the customer. Ecommerce businesses must work closely with platform vendors and third-party ecommerce partners for success in ecommerce, and maintain those relationships to remain agile.
  • Ecommerce is about more than just .com, as channels including Amazon, marketplaces such as eBay and social networks offer brands far greater reach to millions of new potential customers. This goes beyond product discovery; both Instagram and Pinterest have been experimenting with their own ecommerce functions. However, as these channels capture nearly all the customer information associated with each transactions, brands will have to weigh up whether pursuing social as a sales channel is worth the trade-off in data.
  • In the next few years, messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger will be the next frontier for ecommerce. Facebook is already investing heavily in new payment mechanisms that will let users make purchases in a messaging flow. For an idea of where ecommerce is headed in the world at large, look to China, where there is no need for wallets, cash or credit cards – virtually all transactions happen through smartphones. The market’s most noticeable feature, however, is its blurring of ecommerce and retail lines.
  • Ecommerce has developed a lot over the last 20 years. However, with the exponential growth of smartphones in all markets, ecommerce is really just beginning. Although many people are around the world are now online, most of the world’s retail expenditure is not. This is the true ecommerce opportunity.

Acknowledgments

This report was written by award-winning marketer, trainer and speaker Colin Lewis, and includes contributions from digital strategist Aileen O’Toole and ecommerce consultant Aidan Duffy. It also takes in insights from experts at the ecommerce coalface.

Econsultancy would like to thank the following individuals for their views and contributions to this report:

  • Kieron Branagan, CEO, OpenJaw Technologies
  • Richard Chapple, Partner, OsbornChapple; Former CMO, Gymshark; Former CEO, The Hut Group
  • Ian Cleary, Founder, RazorSocial
  • Iztok Franko, Founder, Diggin Travel
  • Russell Gould, CEO, Vesta Property
  • Claire Hennah, Global Ecommerce Director, Beauty and Personal Care, Unilever
  • Amanpreet Johal, Director, Myoutfit.co.uk
  • Vincent O’Brien, Ecommerce Director, Crua Outdoors; Founder, Ecommerce Summit
  • Emily Ross, Founder, Inkvine Consulting
  • Alex Tait, CEO and Founder, Entropy
  • Elvedin Velic, ecommerce consultant
  • Alan O’Rourke, Interim Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Growth Marketer