Enterprise ecommerce solutions give organizations the capability to target business growth and increased revenue in an online environment. However, you may have found that these ecommerce solutions did not quite measure up to your expectations. “Off the peg” ecommerce software may be effective for some types of business, but enterprise-level organizations might need something a little different.
This is where custom ecommerce solutions can make a difference. These custom solutions enable you to develop an ecommerce website that not only meets your expectations but exceeds them. With a custom enterprise ecommerce platform, you will gain the solid foundation you need for future scalability.
But how do you know where to begin on your custom ecommerce development journey? You can start by identifying your needs and by understanding how a custom solution can provide a genuine benefit to your business.
How to identify business goals and objectives for the ecommerce solution
What exactly do you want to achieve with your custom ecommerce solution? By defining these goals, you will have a set of objectives you can work towards, as well as metrics that will tell you when you’ve reached these goals.
Start by coming up with general goals for the custom solution. Perhaps you want to increase sales for a certain product that has not been performing. Maybe you want to capitalize on a strong-performing product and drive upselling and add-on opportunities. Or it could be that you want to increase the full lifecycle value of each customer.
From here, you can begin to refine these goals. Focus on the SMART elements. Make sure each goal is:
- Specific – It is clearly and thoroughly defined.
- Measurable – You can observe your progress towards this goal.
- Achievable – It can be realistically attained.
- Relevant – It supports the growth and development of your business.
- Timely – You can set a time parameter for goal completion.
Defining your goals and objectives using this framework helps you learn more about what kind of digital commerce solution you need.
Evaluating current ecommerce capabilities and limitations
Anyone can sell products online. There are plenty of hosted ecommerce platforms out there that can help you list your wares and achieve direct revenue from customer purchases. What’s more, many of these platforms are really good, offering everything small businesses need to see real successes with ecommerce.
So, why do you need a custom ecommerce solution when you can invest in an “off the shelf” platform and experiment with the settings? If you are an enterprise-level business, there are plenty of reasons why an ecommerce platform might not fit your needs. However, you need to know precisely what these reasons are before you continue on the custom route. The best enterprise ecommerce platform is the one that supports your needs – this could be a custom solution or a standard SaaS platform.
Basically, the limitations of your current solution provide you with a basis for improvement. If you know what’s not working for you, you will have a better idea of what needs to change.
Common limitations include:
- Scale – Your current solution may not be giving you the scaling options you need and won’t permit you to list your full range of products.
- Personalized customer experiences – Different customers expect different things from your ecommerce pages. Standard solutions may not allow you to personalize the customer journey for those visiting your page.
- Brand identity – You may find that your current solution doesn’t allow you to differentiate your brand. Changing the settings on an ecommerce platform offers some control, but a custom solution will give you many more opportunities to stand out.
- Customized backend – Your business and your ecommerce team may need access to specific features and integrations that are not available in your current solution. You may also need a headless ecommerce platform so that your team members can make changes at the front end without affecting the back end.
These are just a few examples. Think about the specifics of your situation and the limitations you are struggling with when you use your current ecommerce solution.
Assessing customer needs and preferences for the enterprise ecommerce platform
Your customers – and their needs and expectations – should always come first when you approach ecommerce. It is these customers who will be using the store, and if they do not like what they find there, they won’t want to part with their money.
Customer needs and preferences can be classified as follows:
- Convenience – The ecommerce store needs to be easy to use. It needs a straightforward route through the product categories to the purchase page. Difficulties or points of friction could lead customers to head elsewhere.
- Reliability – All of your pages need to be stable and quick to load. If not, the customer experience will suffer, and you might take a search engine optimization hit based on Google’s Core Web Vitals.
- Consistency – Customers expect a degree of consistency when they shop. Irregular product pages or differing journeys through the ecommerce site may put customers off.
- Integration – Modern consumers are using different devices and browsers when they engage in online shopping. The experience should be the same for the customer, even if they switch from their mobile device’s Safari browser or another mobile app to the Chrome browser on their laptop.
- Personalization – We’ve touched on personalization above. Your business will have a number of different buyer profiles, each representing a specific type of customer with their own expectations.
- Support – In most cases, customers will enjoy a self-service experience, but they need to know where to find support if and when required.
Determining the scope and complexity of the ecommerce solution
Getting the scope and complexity right is a fairly delicate balance. Underestimate this and you’ll be left with a solution that’s not fit for purpose. Go too big and you might find the solution is a drain on resources and unnecessarily difficult to manage.
There are a few things to consider as you approach this:
Volume of products
First and foremost, how many different products will you be selling? You need to know that your ecommerce solution can handle your full range.
Product category complexity
Of these products, how many different options will there be? How many product categories do you need? For example, you might have t-shirts and jackets in separate product categories. Then, you might sell a certain t-shirt in blue, green, and gray versions. Then you might have different sizing options for each of these color versions. Mapping out your product category tree gives an idea of the kind of complexity you are dealing with.
Number of visits and actions
If you are expecting a high volume of visitors, your online shop must be equipped to deal with this level of traffic.
Number of separate sites
You may want to operate multiple online stores, in which case your solution will need multi-store management capabilities.
Returning to the clothing example above, your product mix seems fairly straightforward. Your customers choose as many items of clothing as they desire and add these to the basket. But what if your company offers a subscription service, providing a new t-shirt every month? Or how about bundle discounts, with a reduced price for buying a T-shirt, jacket, and pants together?
Your business may have a range of different products and services – from physical products to SaaS solutions – and your ecommerce solution will need to provide a great customer experience for all of these.
Specific feature requirements
You might need specific features built into the ecommerce page, like interactive review sections, social media channel integration, or 3D rendering of the products.
Reward schemes and subscriptions
Reward scheme members and subscribers may need their own specialized members-only area on the page, adding to the complexity.
You may need to integrate your enterprise ecommerce software with other solutions, like cloud storage structures or customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.
Artificial intelligence solutions
Support chatbots and other AI tools may also be required, depending on the nature of your business and the needs of your customers.
It’s also crucial to think about scalability. Your business is going to grow, and this means the complexity and scope of the project will grow too. Consider solutions that you can build upon over time, adding new elements that meet specific needs as and when they arise.
Defining the technical requirements of the ecommerce platform
Technical aspects are crucial as you consider your custom ecommerce needs. Basically, you need to make sure that your systems are capable of delivering the scope and capabilities you have mapped out.
We’ve already touched on how important page performance is for an ecommerce site, so you need to make sure your solution and the systems that run it are up to the job. Pages need to open quickly and remain stable across all user devices.
Data storage and access
Your ecommerce solution may handle data via a centralized database, using the relational database management system (RDBMS) model. This is great if you’ve got lots of similar products with the same attribute categories – for example, items of clothing will typically have a size and color attribute. For more complex ecommerce projects, you may need to use an Entity-Attribute-Value or EAV model – a more complex system with multiple data tables.
We’ll look at legal and regulatory compliance later on, but security is going to play a big role in this. An HTTPS protocol with TLS 1.2 encryption is a minimum standard, but your ecommerce solution may need other forms of protection to remain secure.
A custom ecommerce solution may include a custom content management system (CMS), which can be simple or complex depending on your own specific requirements. Factor the CMS in your considerations when you define the technical requirements.
Analyzing the ecommerce market and competitors
The main motivation behind your custom ecommerce project is to achieve a solution that meets your business’s specific needs. However, it’s still useful to look around in the market and learn more about what your competitors are up to. This should not be the driving force behind the project, but it could provide you with a bit of inspiration.
Identify your main competitors in the market. Now, take a look at their ecommerce pages. What are they doing well? What do you think they need to improve upon? Put yourself in the shoes of a customer, and think about possible points of friction in the experience they offer, as well as the positive aspects.
Building on this analysis, put yourself in the shoes of a developer – or ask one of your own developers to take a look at your competitors’ pages. Think about the “how” that underlines the whole experience. How is the competitor supporting the needs of the customer? How could they improve the technical aspects of their page?
While this analysis is not a foolproof method – for example, you might find that your competitors’ setup is not really relevant to what you want to achieve – it’s still important. If you want to dominate your market, you need to know what kind of landscape you’re currently dealing with.
Creating a project plan and timeline for the ecommerce solution
We discussed earlier how your goals need to be SMART – in which the T stands for Timely. Now that you know a bit more about what you need from the project and what sort of results you can expect, you need to create your project plan and timeline.
To develop your plan, consider what type of methodology you’re going to use. You may use an Agile methodology, for example – breaking projects down into distinct phases and adopting a flexible approach focused on results. However, you may decide to use a scrum approach or the slightly more adaptable Kanban approach.
Your timeline is more than just a series of deadlines. This takes into account all that you’ve learned up to now and provides a step-by-step run-through of the direction the project will take. Think about which functional elements need to be in place before you move on to the next phase. For example, you will need to have a CMS solution set up before you can start adding items for sale and fleshing out each product page.
Bear in mind that situations can change, and your plan and timeline need to remain flexible to respond to this.
Establishing a budget for the ecommerce project
At the core of your ecommerce project is profit. You want to sell products to generate revenue for your business, helping you to increase your profits and grow. This means a custom ecommerce solution is an investment – and so you need to know how much money you are investing and how much you expect to make in return.
Consult your project plan. What kind of outlay do you expect for each project phase? If you have an in-house team of developers, think about how much it’s going to cost you in terms of their salary and also in terms of putting other projects on hold for a while. If you’re working with a development partner, factor in their rates.
Do you expect any downtime on your current ecommerce platform during the project? If so, this also needs to be considered. Take into account any potential cost centers across the whole project timeline, and get a rough idea of how much investment is needed.
Of course, the project is going to make you money – so how much money is it going to make, and how long will this take? Refer to the project goals and objectives we talked about at the top of this article. Now that you have learned a bit more about the specifics of the project, have these goals changed? Appraising these objectives will help you understand your expected ROI, which will assist you as you build your budget.
Identifying key stakeholders and decision-makers for the ecommerce solution
Who stands to lose or gain from the project? Your management team, your employees, your investors and partners, and your customers are most likely to be your main stakeholders.
For each of these stakeholders, think about what they want to see from the project.
- Management – Increased revenue and improved profitability
- Employees – A better experience at work, with more straightforward and rewarding processes, as well as improved job security
- Investors and partners – Returns on investment and improved mutual profitability
- Customers – A better shopping experience and improved access to the products they need
Make sure your project goals align with the expectations of all stakeholders.
Next are the decision-makers. This may include:
- Upper management – They may want to sign off on any major project decisions.
- Project managers – Project managers will take a more hands-on role than upper management, overseeing the project in more detail.
- Team leaders – Team leaders will work on a more task-specific basis, liaising with project managers but making key decisions themselves.
- Staff members – Depending on their operational and web development experience, individual staff members may be able to make their own decisions during project implementation.
Communication between all levels of the decision-making hierarchy is vital here. Implement a transparent and reliable system of communication and keep everyone in the loop.
Ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements for the ecommerce platform
Whether your ecommerce business has a local focus or a global outlook, – you will need to make sure your solution adheres to all relevant legal and regulatory requirements.
- Federal Trade Commission – While there is no dedicated body for regulating ecommerce in the United States, it does fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
- Data protection – The way companies handle data is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Make sure your data protection protocols are legally compliant across all of the states you operate in.
- Other state-specific legislation – Different states operate their own rules and regulations when it comes to trade, including ecommerce. Your custom ecommerce solution and your business operations as a whole need to adhere to these rules across all the states where you have a presence.
Choosing the right ecommerce development partner or team
Building an enterprise ecommerce solution is a huge project. You may decide to handle this in-house, but it could prove to be a major drain on resources, inhibiting your other business processes. A better bet may be to choose an outsource partner who can work alongside you and your in-house teams.
So, how do you go about choosing the right enterprise software development partner? Start with this article. Over the course of this article, we’ve looked at a multitude of different aspects, all of which contribute to a successful ecommerce solution. You should now have a pretty good idea of what you need from the solution and of the results you expect to see.
Meet with potential partners and discuss these needs and expected results with them. Make sure you choose a partner who can deliver on all of these requirements – someone who is fully onboard with the vision you want to realize. The right partner also provides their own ideas as you develop the project together.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can custom ecommerce solutions benefit your business?
Custom solutions are designed to meet your specific needs and business goals. You won’t need to compromise with this sort of solution – instead, you’ll have a direct path to revenue growth.
What is an ecommerce enterprise business solution?
This is a solution that allows your enterprise to profit from ecommerce transactions. It includes a customer-facing page, payment processing gateways, shopping carts, inventory management tools, and more.
What are the main types of enterprise ecommerce?
The main types of ecommerce for enterprises are business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). Some organizations may offer a mixture of B2B and B2C products and services via their ecommerce pages.