Business InnovationUser Experience

Start With the End in Mind

July 9, 2011

How to Develop an Ecommerce Strategy to Guide Investments in Mobile, Tablets, and In-Store

image of a neon light sign at a store Step 1 – Where are you taking your business and what makes your brand compelling?

Once you’ve decided to develop a strategy to guide your ecommerce investments (as opposed to following a more bovine approach), it’s important to first establish a high level business ambition and clarify just what your brand stands for. Only then will you have the context for considering potential investments.

Your business ambition is just that. What business are you in, what target are you serving, and how are you delivering value to that target.  If you’re embarking on developing an ecommerce strategy and don’t have a sense of how that strategy fits into the broader business ambition . . . then nothing matters.

In reality, most companies are beginning to realize that ecommerce will soon drop the e and be central to nearly every purchase.  In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re visiting a store or shopping online – it will all qualify as some sort of ecommerce.

Next, once this business ambition is clear, it’s time to clarify your brand’s point of difference. Keeping things simple, most retailers tend to fit into one of three areas of strategic focus – products, service, or price. Note that this is an OR – it’s near impossible to have superior or unique products, remarkably high service levels, all delivered at the lowest price (at great volume).

Branded or specialty retailers tend to focus on delivering a compelling and differentiated product offering.  Companies selling products that target a professional audience or have a higher degree of complexity may find that service is a great way of differentiating. Note that service in this instance could be something like enabling same day delivery for an electronic part. Finally, many pure play ecommerce companies focus on delivering well known products at the lowest price.

ecommerce retailers would be smart to know which strategy is central to their success, while working to achieve parity on the other two dimensions.

Assuming that you’re able to clarify your brand’s point of difference, you’re finally ready to move on to the next step, thinking about how new technologies can help you deliver an experience that supports your brand and your business. I’ll cover that step in my next post.