September 23, 2021 | Written by Jennifer Thompson

6 Steps to Build your E-commerce Strategy

Today’s consumer is turning now more than ever to e-commerce for their shopping needs. You want to reach this audience, but where do you start?

Today’s consumer is turning now more than ever to e-commerce for their shopping needs. In Canada in 2020, 80% of Canadians shopped online and retail ecommerce sales reached $75 billion, up almost $10 million from the previous year (source: “The 2020 Canadian e-commerce report” from Canada Post). And those numbers are only going to increase in the coming years. If you don’t have an ecommerce website or strategy currently, now is the time to start.

There are many e-commerce platforms that pride themselves on being simple to use and set up, offering beautiful templates with little coding. If you build it, they say, the customers will come. Furthermore, with e-commerce soon to be growing to over 20% of retail sales and over a third of small businesses not even having a website, there is a blue ocean of market to grab.

The reality is, however, that simply setting up a website and waiting for the customers to come and sales to roll in is simply not enough. In 2021, the conversion rate for e-commerce reached an all-time high at 1.94%

(source: What is missed in this glossed-over narrative is all the pieces and strategies required for building an e-commerce store that can convert at 1.94% of user traffic.

So, where do you start when building an e-commerce strategy? Consider these 6 steps:

Step 1. Create Your Baseline - Understand the product you're selling and what your goals are

You know better than anyone the products you’re selling – but it’s always important to explain to customers not just the “what” of the product but the “why.” What problems do the products solve? Who is the target audience for them? What are the key features your audience truly cares about and why should they care? You’re not just selling blenders – you’re selling smoothies. Or better yet, you’re selling quick, healthy breakfasts to busy moms. It’s that kind of thinking that will allow you to showcase your product in a way that speaks to your customers.

You also need to consider the best way to visually feature your products, such as photos, videos, 3D rendering, etc. Something as simple as having all product photos taken at the exact same angle and in the same light could mean the difference between selling and not selling your products. 

It’s also equally important to understand the business goals of your company and how all the departments work together towards e-commerce sales. Having an amazing website is only part of e-commerce – there are many other processes to figure out: how will you manage inventory and shipping when all those orders come in? Have you thought about accounting and tax information, such as how refunds will be handled, or how much sales tax to charge? These are the types of questions you must ask yourself and processes that need to be in place before you even launch your website, or you risk disappointing your customers with a sub-par post-purchase experience full of delays and confusion.

Step 2. Understand Your Customer

What journey is your customer on when they’re considering buying your product? How will they find your website? What is the information they need to know, or the steps they need to take, to make a purchase? You want to make that buying journey seamless and intuitive on your website. Understanding your customer will help you build out the design and structure of your site. You may be able to use a Shopify theme, for example, or you may need to create a custom design for the look of the site. Plus, it will help you build your content, a cornerstone of your website. Whether that’s supplying customers with videos, product info, testimonials, etc., the placement of the right content at the right stage of the journey is just as important – and that will depend on your customer and the product you sell. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Perhaps you put more budget and time towards photography and copywriting, or your focus might be on videos for a more hands-on type of product.

You also need to tie together all of your business systems for a seamless experience. How can you tie in your  inventory management system to your e-commerce platform so customers know what’s in stock? The customer journey doesn’t just end at purchase either. To have an exceptional customer experience you need to consider what they need post-purchase – think automated shipping updates, an easy returns process, or a customer service platform for any questions or problems they have. These are all features customers expect they can access via your website.

Step 3. Create a Development Roadmap

You need a website solution now that fits your current needs. You need to sell your product. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a problem that isn’t there. But, it is important to think long-term about how you can scale your business and website when the time comes. Have you picked an e-commerce platform that will allow you to grow? Will you one day have more product offering or sell to other countries? Is the platform constantly being updated and what does that mean for updating your site?  Creating a roadmap of where you want to go ensures you have the basic infrastructure now to eventually get there.

Step 4. Create a Training Plan

Once your website is up and running, your work doesn’t stop. There will always be updates like new photos, adding new products, price updates etc. It’s essential for you your website team members to have training on the e-commerce platform to both understand how it works now, and any updates or new features the platform rolls out. This goes for all departments that have a hand in the e-commerce process: web and marketing, fulfillment, shipping, accounting, customer service and anyone part of the customer journey.

Step 5. Create a Launch Plan 

At this point in your strategy, you’ve designed a beautiful website, you understand your customer’s needs, your company is all working together to fulfill e-commerce orders. But now you need a strategy to get customers to come to your website. You may be lucky enough to have a popular brand or good referrals, but chances are you need to drive new traffic to site to make sales. Once you’ve defined your target customer profile, think about the best ways to reach them. What social media channels do they use? Will they be using Google to search? Do they need more in depth information like a blog post or white paper could offer? These will be the questions that help you determine what tactics to use to drive traffic, whether that’s social media ads, Google ads, blogs, emails and the list goes on.

Step 6. Monitor, Measure, Reflect, React

Once your website is up and running, take a step back, and watch and listen to your customers. You can use tools like Google Analytics to see trends on your site: what type of person is visiting, from where, what pages do they visit, where do they drop off and leave your site? What ads drove the most traffic to your website? You can see where a webpage might be confusing. Or is your checkout process too complex? What content is read (or not)? Let your visitors and customers guide the next features. Your customers will often request things you never really thought about. Put your effort towards what’s working and what your customers are engaging with.

Sound like a lot? We can help!

If this sound daunting to you, or even parts of it, we can guide you every step of the way to ensure the process is an exciting one, just as it should be. We create online storefronts for large and small business owners that drive traffic, convert leads and create a loyal customer base. We always start our e-commerce projects with an in-depth discovery session where we learn everything there is to know about your products. Our team will work with you to understand your e-commerce and overall company goals, your customer journey, and help you build a site that integrates with all your existing systems. We work closely with every client throughout each step of the process. You have insights about your customers and products that we just don’t have. We also provide robust training for you and your team members, so you can be confident in maintaining your site and all e-commerce processes.

Are you ready to get started creating your e-commerce website?

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