Whenever we start a full project here at Fuel Made, our first step is always crafting an ecommerce strategy. It’s our roadmap, and informs every decision we make.
While industry best practices help businesses gain their footing, growth strategy is a specific plan of action for the individual store.
To start on ecommerce strategy, we zone in on these key questions:
- What are their ecommerce goals?
What does the data tell us about how customers currently interact with their store?
- How do we bridge the gap of where they are right now and where they want to go?
This post will explore these three questions to show you how an agency (us) approaches creating ecommerce strategies for clients. The goal is to provide you with a framework that you can use to craft a growth strategy for your own store.
1. What are your ecommerce goals?
Every business is unique.
You are the experts on your business, products and customers and we rely on your business knowledge is vital to create a beautiful, functional website that converts.
The first step is taking a step back and asking a series of questions that: 1) uncovers the pain points in your business 2) defines what has worked for you in the past, and what hasn’t 3) identifies key areas of opportunity.
The answers to these questions will give you a good look on what you know to be true about your business. This is important because it gives insight into how you think about your customers and your business, and it helps us understand why certain decisions may have been made on the existing site.
It also gives us some guidance in determining the right strategy to fit your goals while also meeting the needs of their customers.
Here are a few examples of the specific questions we ask when we first get started with them:
What are the main challenges you are facing that you want to address with your website?
Why we ask it: This helps us identify the main areas that you’re struggling with, and how you’ve attempted to address these issues in the past. Here we’ll learn what you view as important, and what challenges you’re facing in relation to your website.
What do you think are your top competitor threats?
Why we ask it: This is the type of information we sometimes can’t get from data. It helps us understand where you stand in your industry, and the challenges that keep you up at night.
What do you like about your current site? What do you think is successful?
Why we ask it: This gives us an understanding of what you feel is working on their current site. We can look at the data and determine if there is a disconnect between what you feel is successful, and what is actually working.
Defining the ecommerce mission
Based on the questions we ask, we learn what a brands’ overarching mission is for their business. Every change we make on their website will support this mission.
From here, we identify the top areas of opportunity and create a plan of action. To do that, we start by pinpointing the reasons shoppers buy from them - their ecommerce value propositions.
What you stand behind
Ecommerce value propositions are clear, measurable and demonstrable benefits customers receive when buying a product or service. Shoppers will normally see these values scattered throughout a store: on the homepage, footer and product detail page.
These are often intended to call out factors that differentiate your store from the competition, and may include things like shipping & returns, free trials, warranties and other policies.
What do you stand behind?
Once these values are identified, we ask:
How do their ecommerce value propositions compare to other stores in the market? For example, if your free shipping threshold currently sits at $50, but direct competitors sit at $30, you’ll want to address it.
- Are there any plans to change them? Since these values will be communicated as a primary message on the site, we need to ensure they are locked in before changing any page designs.
While all of this information gives us a better understanding on the business, it’s not quantifiable.
For that, we need to take a look at the data.
2. What does the data tell us about how customers currently interact with your store?
Data is about understanding how customers interact with your store.
While key metrics are important here (think conversion rate, average order value, lifetime value, etc.), they don’t tell us the full story of how users behave on a site. We start with high-level data, and then dig into more granular data to understand what is happening throughout the entire shopping journey.
Let’s take a look at our formula:
*We typically start with the last 12 months of data to gain a thorough understanding of the business.
First, we learn how the business performs. We review top-line metrics like sales, average order value, traffic and conversion rate: is business seasonal? Have sales been steadily growing? Have sales been declining? What do year-over-year trends look like?
This gives us a good understanding of where the business currently stands.
Once we determine those high-level trends listed above, we dive into segments, like device, demographics and channel.
From there, we analyze shopper behaviour based on points of contact on the site: how does their behaviour change based on page type? Based on where they land? Where they exit?
We get into the specifics here. For example, how is the product page performing on mobile? Does it perform well on desktop? Do visitors engage with the collection page when they arrive from Facebook? Or does the homepage perform better when visitors arrive from Facebook? How about from Google?
Who are our visitors? How do they behave differently based on age, gender and location?
- Lastly, we pair heatmap data with Google Analytics to understand exactly how customers interact with key pages. This helps us identify what is working on each page and what is not. (We recommend installing a heatmap on your site if you haven't done so!)
Now it’s time to plan.
3. How do we bridge the gap of where we are right now and where we want to go?
At this time, we ask ourselves: how do we fix the areas that aren’t working while preserving the areas that are?
As we mentioned above, defining your store’s overarching mission is important as we move through the strategy. It gives us direction on the areas to focus on that will have the most impact - all of which support that overarching mission.
For example, one of the top opportunities for growth in almost every store we work with lives in their mobile experience. Therefore, we create a plan of action to solve for this problem that was originally identified through data and user behaviour. If product pages are a frequent drop off point, we’ll call more attention to the brands’ ecommerce value propositions on their product pages.
By defining these top opportunities for growth, we’re able to keep a clear focus and direction as we move into visual design.
By taking this framework and implementing it for your own store, you’ll be able to identify the main areas of opportunity that will give you a clear focus as you work on growing your ecommerce business.