The convenience offered by e-commerce, especially leading companies such as Amazon, Alibaba or Lazada in Southeast Asia, has changed shopping habits, forcing other merchants to consider e-commerce for their own retail strategy to remain relevant with their customers. Though technological disruption is heating up the retail competition, traditional businesses rushing to release their new website may find themselves in over their head. According to Forbes, 84% of digital transformations end in failure. Building an e-commerce system is a complex process where some important factors could be overlooked.
Here are a few areas where things could be going wrong.
Not Using the Right Platform
There are around 120 e-commerce platforms out there and choosing a platform for your e-commerce website is probably the earliest decision you have to make. Switching between platforms once your website has been developed would cost a fortune. The expenses involved with rebuilding your website, migrating data, as well as finding a new development partner who has expertise in the new platform are extremely high.
Powerful platforms such as Hybris would be problematic and inefficient for small and medium projects, since it generally takes much longer time to develop the website and the cost for license, development and ongoing administration are significantly higher than many other available platforms. Smaller scale projects may benefit more from using Magento Community, or Shopify instead, with a pricing structure that will likely better reflect your budget. For mid-sized projects, Magento is likely the most appropriate choice available.
Right from the beginning, you should have a clear picture of what your e-commerce system will offer, such as the number of products, traffic, and transactions it will need to handle, as well as the revenue you expect from selling online. There are a number of successful e-commerce platforms, each of which is tailored to suit a different scope of business. There is ‘no one size fits all’ approach to e-commerce development. Based on your business needs, e-commerce priority and a thorough consultation, you can make a well-informed decision on the right platform for your use case.
Not Knowing How to Prioritize your Budget
While developing your e-commerce site, smart budgeting will save you from any over budget or cash flow bottleneck problems. There are two factors that will help you plan your budget effectively: knowing where the money goes during the development process and knowing your functionality priorities.
E-commerce platforms often come with a range of standard out of the box functionality which you can be used any way you want without extra cost. Due to this, asking your e-commerce partner to help you explain what available out of the box with each platform and seeing how their built in functionality fits with your needs could save you a lot of money by reducing the need for custom functions. The main costs of a project come from the customized functionality, integrations, and design that make your site look and feel unique.
When you launch your e-commerce site, you don’t necessarily have to have all the functions you want initially. For example, depending on your strategy, you may launch your mobile commerce application before your website, or vice versa. More advanced functionality can be added as your business grows. Some e-commerce AI engines will also benefit as your site grows, with the increased flow of visitors allowing it to collect data and giving more relevant offers to your customers. Scaling your functionality alongside your business is the best for return on investment, and adding new functions as they are needed will ease the tension on your budget along with your development process of your site.
Other costs to be considered include the time frame for your project, where the quicker you need to get it done, the more it costs, and continued support and maintenance.
Not Using Certified Development Partners
While e-commerce platforms offer many features and functions out of the box, your system will need custom functionality and design to fit the specific needs of the business. This involves coding and other backend integrations. While this is more of a technical aspect, it does fundamentally influence your website quality as well as the customer experience, so being aware of its effects will help you to build a strong foundation for the success of your system.
To ensure custom functions are well built, it is worth looking for a certified development agency to build on your platform of choice. These technology partners have an available pool of certified developers who are trained and tested with the standard practice of the platform. They are also active participants in the platform’s community and contributors to the platform, ensuring they can provide you with the well-known solutions.
Using standardized solutions and clean code will ease the transition for new development partners and other third-party technical partners. When your website is being developed, having clean code will not only make it easier to make adjustments and find bugs to fix, but it will also make it much easier to scale your website as needed. Moreover, development partners with a close relationship to the platform are often informed ahead of time about the next upgrade or changes, so they can prepare and adapt your website.
Not Allocating Time Effectively
Thanks to pre-built store templates and basic-functionality e-commerce stores, there is a low barrier of entry for the e-commerce market, meaning it is possible to start selling online within a day, with minimal technical knowledge needed to configure your website. However, this timeline doesn’t apply to enterprise level projects, which will normally last anywhere from 3 months to 6 months before the initial release of your website.
Having unrealistic deadlines for your project will lower the morale of the development team and lead to stress, dragging out the process further. Being pressured by unrealistic timelines, your development team may need to resort to shortcuts that will compromise the effectiveness and efficiency of your system. Having an uncompromised e-commerce development process with unique design and equipped with powerful functionalities tailored for your business will help to differentiate your business from the competition and delight your customers with personalized experiences.
Giving your e-commerce agency partner time to understand your business and your unique challenges will greatly save a lot of time later on. Consulting with the agency to learn about the timeline dependencies, the available resources and your budget will help you to arrive at a realistic timeline for a more smoothly executed project.
Not Maintaining Communication Guidelines
There are two types of communication that your company needs to maintain and manage effectively: internally within the organization and externally with your development partner.
An e-commerce project has a huge impact on all levels within an organization including IT, marketing, sales, accounting, supply chain management, operations, and customer service. A number of projects fail because they can’t balance the needs of these stakeholders, resulting in a disrupted customer experience and, in some cases, a cumbersome e-commerce system. Your e-commerce system should be a harmony of functionalities that reflect the needs of each department, with an overarching strategy and a capable team to orchestrate the whole process using effective communication. This team must also be tasked with realizing expectations and acting as a point of contact for your development partner.
With your development partner, regular communication will help you ensure that the end product fits your expectations, preventing many headaches. A clear service level agreement should be established to help you react quickly to any possible issue, build trust and build a mutual understanding between your technical team and development partner. In addition to weekly calls, chat platforms also can be used for instant messaging when it is needed. Using a mixture of these communication channels balances the need for fast responses with more in-depth progress updates.
Southeast Asia is the next frontier for e-commerce, and is expected to grow 32% year over year from $5.5 billion to reach $88 billion by 2025, according to a report by Google and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek. Timing is an important success factor at the moment and with reasonable resources and attention being allocated to the process of transforming your e-commerce system, you will be able to keep your business relevant with the market and ready to take on this golden opportunity.