By Chris Vincent, Practicology
I’ll be talking at Fashion Exposed Sydney in August about how to start-up and grow a successful ecommerce business.
In this series of articles I will be putting a bit of background together on the pre-work required in order to get your business online, this first installment is all around choosing the right platform partner to help your online dreams become reality.
Often times when I speak to startup or SME businesses in the formative stage of planning their online business they are very focused and fixated on the platform they want before anything else. I’m going to use Magento or Shopify or FourSquare! This is a mistake, it’s like choosing a house without taking into consideration the location the neighbors, the transportation links and services around you.
So the last thing you should be looking at when choosing the right software is the software itself, let me explain why.
Often times by selecting the platform first you are buying into the marketing and the sales spin rather than the reality. The market is littered with hard luck stories of businesses spending thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars on a platform only to find out that it doesn’t fit all of the needs of the business. This can lead to some real difficulties for a small business and often they live with the gaps and hopefully learn the lesson for next time. It is always good to do a bit of research first and I am going to outline the steps you should take before settling on the platform.
First you should understand how you want your business to run in some detail. This may be difficult for some people to conceptualise so look at similar businesses that perhaps may not be in your competitive set. Go out visit them, talk to them and get as much detail as possible. Some times the best lessons are seeing how other people have got it wrong! They key concept here is to build up enough knowledge to get a broad outline of the daily life of your business. How am I going to range, sell and fulfill products. How many sales do I expect to have, will the web store integrate with any other software or will it be standalone, will it just be me running the platform or will I have help etc.
Once you have a broad understanding of the structure of your business you then want to think about the features and functions within your actual online store. Do I want features like buy the look, live customer service, video content… What type of promotions do I want, will I have a loyalty program, will I run email campaigns etc. Without this you wont really understand what you need and want in a business, both for launch and immediately down the track.
Then once you have the basics down you can start doing some research to tie back your business to the right platform. Look at multiple options, this is key! The market is full of alternatives out there, gone are the days where you only had a few options. More importantly there are often dozens of platform providers for a single platform and this is where the trick comes into this equation.
In my mind the relationship with the vendor you are looking to implement your platform is almost more important than the platform itself. They will literally hold the success or failure of your business in their hands. So make sure you do your research; who have they worked with, for how long, how many customers do they have, are they familiar with your market segment and most important of all is are they aligned with where you are heading. There is no point teaming up with a business that is moving away from where you are heading, that is a recipe for disaster! I have seen many businesses choose the right platform but the wrong partner and it doesn’t make for a happy marriage.
Finally once you have selected the right platform AND partner ensure you spend as much time as possible planning and scoping out the detail of the project and the launch before you actually start. I’ll be talking about the pitfalls of implementing an online platform in the next installment. Stay tuned!
Chris is an eCommerce and multi-channel leader who has been delivering change projects for businesses for over 18 years in North America, the UK and Asia Pacific and has worked at the C level in multichannel retailers for a number of years in Australia.
He has had P&L ownership and the responsibility for the development of the online channel and the cross channel propositions for a number of leading retailers including General Pants and Surf Dive N Ski businesses.
Chris is now heading up the Asia Pacific office for Practicology, the UK’s fastest growing eCommerce and multi-channel retail consultancy. And therefore he also has benchmarks and best practice from the world’s leading online market at his fingertips.