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Getting Started: Enhancements and Vendor Selection

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This is the sixth blog in our Getting Started series, designed to provide helpful information to guide the digital journeys you are creating for customers.

During the implementation of an eCommerce site, brands quickly start to strategize on additional features for post-launch, either as a “fast-follow” – something that will deploy quickly after launch – or as a future enhancement. As you begin to plan post-launch, it is important to remember that you can tackle these enhancements in phases and it may actually be more effective, rather than in another large project format.

Why Take a Phased Approach?

There’s a lot to consider when planning your enhancement roadmap. The first important factor is return on investment. How does the enhancement benefit the customer, and therefore your conversion rate, compared to the cost and timeline? Sometimes, a big change has minimal impact on revenue compared to a small one that may be a barrier to purchase. You must prioritize the small change ahead of the larger one and plan it to go live to see a more immediate benefit. Tackling enhancements in small bits, provides the flexibility to launch the update sooner than if you completed a roadmap of changes as part of a large project.

Another approach to consider is being iterative with your changes. This is especially important if you are not able to complete usability testing when making changes and you do not have feedback on how your customers will interact with these changes. Rather than large scale changes, iterating can let you understand the impact of each change and offer you another avenue of understanding your customers. This allows you to more thoughtfully plan the next update based on the impact. Did the change you made deliver the impact you needed? Can you then prioritize another, more immediate change rather than altering the same section that may not have a significant impact?

You should also consider limiting the amount of large usability changes you make to the site in a short time. By spacing them out, you allow consumers to become comfortable with their shopping experience. Any enhancement you make should feel like an extension of what is already there. You do not want to make changes that alienate your repeat customers. Think about your own shopping experience at your local grocery store. How frustrating is it when something you regularly purchase has been moved? Keep the core elements consistent, so that new, unintended barriers are not created.

Make Enhancements That Are Right for Your Business

It may seem that your list of enhancements needs to happen immediately. Trying to complete everything at once can actually be a detriment to your business if you are not ready. A common mistake that brands make is looking to internationalization when they do not have the infrastructure in place or do not understand their brand awareness in those markets. Every brand that wants to grow revenues online needs to have their eyes on international markets, but that does not mean you should start selling in multiple markets on the same timeline. Focus on growing your brand in your primary geography first. This will allow you to more effectively utilize your marketing spend rather than dissipating your dollars across markets.

This is also true of following trends in the online space. There are best practices for certain aspects of eCommerce but you want to adopt changes that align with your brand and target market, while providing relevancy to your consumers. For example, integrating social media content in your site for health and beauty is a common practice. But how you adopt it may not be the same as your competitors. Do you have a lot of followers with active hashtags? If so, then integrating user-generated content (UGC) from social media channels may be a fit. If, however, you are still building a following and do not have a lot of good UGC, then you may look at displaying your own social media content.

With any change, measure the before and after through your analytics platform. Analytics help reveal the value of your enhancements. They can help you make the case for one change over another and will also help you understand the impact your changes have. Going back to the international example, if you are looking to expand into new markets, understanding the countries with the largest traffic to your site today can help inform your country rollout plan and where you may want to focus first.

Do You Need Help With Your Enhancements?

Even with apps and extensions available for some of the most popular platforms in the market, many brands run into scenarios where they may need help with implementing their desired enhancements. With so many agencies in the space, how do you make sure you are choosing the right vendor?

First, consider their experience. You want to work with someone who not only has teams and developers experienced with the platform but also the range of technologies you are working with or wish to work with in the future. Can they consult on the best approach, which technology partner to work with, in addition to completing the implementation? This can make the difference in a successful implementation and your long-term satisfaction with a solution.

Do they have a standard “build” (development) process that they follow? This “build” process should be standard regardless of the size of the build even if the individual elements may change. This ensures that there is a level of consistency in the rollout of changes to your site.

Another important element to consider is the agency’s approach to testing. Will they complete the quality assurance testing or will you need to do so yourself? Most agencies complete quality assurance testing with each build cycle. Instead look to what they complete regarding testing. Are they testing for responsiveness across devices every time? Do they test for website accessibility and to what standard? Do they test for website performance? If a site page takes too long to load, a customer may leave. You want a partner that works to ensure the enhancements being released to your site are optimal at all levels.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, do you see yourself working with them effectively? You want to work with a partner who is collaborative. You need to ask yourself important questions that will  inform how the relationship will work once you move into an actual development plan. Does their communication structure and plan align with your business needs? Is there a level of transparency that ensures you remain informed? Can they provide you with the best tools and strategic ideas to grow your business?

Conclusion

Site enhancements are a necessary course of business when working in eCommerce. Maintaining a well converting site that is relevant to your customers, follows market trends while aligning with your brand and goals is the formula for success. Ensure that you carefully structure your enhancement roadmap in a way that you achieve a solid ROI. When you decide you need a partner to help with planning your strategy or execution,  chose an agency with a clear implementation approach, testing and communication strategy while offering the level of consultation you need for your partnership to be successful.

Need advice? Contact LiveArea with your questions.

Author

Alexandra Wood
Alex has worked in eCommerce for over 8 years supporting large multi-$100M companies and those just starting out. Today, she leads Small-Medium Business Solutions at LiveArea. When not working you can find her cheering on her sports teams and enjoying good weather with friends on a patio in Dallas.

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