We often hear about companies taking a short-term view of their approach to b2b ecommerce, rather than thinking about systems and solutions that will be best-fit for meeting longer term business goals. In our experience, looking past the quick-fix and adopting a more strategic view usually results in better decisions – particularly when it comes to technology investment. Here are some thoughts on a fast and effective way to create a basic strategic ecommerce plan.
Setting the backdrop
To kick-start the process, get together with your team and review your company’s vision, mission statement and overall corporate objectives. Then take a closer look at what defines your brand, your product mix, service offering and unique selling proposition. With some consensus around these areas, ask yourself how you can shape your ecommerce model to gain competitive advantage. Think about the kind of unique experiences you can develop for your customers, the online tools you can offer to make the purchasing process easier, features that will better support mobile users – and what KPIs you’ll use to evaluate progress.
Prioritising your strategic routes
With these foundations in place and some clear objectives to work towards, you can begin to prioritise your goals and consider ecommerce strategies that will help to capitalise on opportunities and address pain points. For additional input into your plans and to broaden your perspective, it’s worth examining the approach taken by your competitors and other companies in similar sectors. For example, it could be faster Internet connection speed, a slicker experience on mobile devices, smarter search facilities or going the extra mile with personalised offers – if they’re factors that could leverage value from your own plans, they’re factors that should be considered in your planning.
Taking a longer term view
Once your strategic priorities are clear, you can focus more on the longer timeframe. How will your ecommerce platform shape up over the next three to four years? Will it have the capabilities to deliver on your goals and how will it need to evolve to ensure you stay ahead of the competition? Will you be able to add software to your solution to enhance its capabilities in the future – or is now the right time to invest in a new system? And if you’re looking at establishing a new ecommerce platform, how do the capital and operating costs of different systems stack up over, say, five years?
For example, solution X might cost less than Y in the first year, but over five years solution Y might work out 20% less. What’s more, if Y comes with more advanced features, (such as seamless integration with business and accounting systems like Sage or Pegasus Opera), the likelihood is that it will require less customisation or software upgrades in the future to deliver on your business objectives. Licensing structures vary too – some cost the same every year, others have higher up-front charges, and some are based on the revenue generated by your site. And then there are hosting, support, and maintenance costs to consider as well.
If you’d like to discuss your longer term b2b ecommerce plans in more detail, please get in touch – we help many companies establish a clearer vision of their future goals and a better understanding of the technology they need to achieve them.