It’s not enough for online merchants to have technically sound websites to draw and convert browsers into buyers. User experience is just as important as technical functionality.
"Today’s online platforms need to be well-designed. Attractive. Even beautiful." says Matthew Bertulli, the co-founder and chief executive of Demac Media.
Make a roadmap – and stick to it
An e-commerce plan, or "roadmap" can keep entrepreneurs on track when they’re making strategic decisions about technology and tactics needed to keep a small business, and its e-commerce presence running.
In a recent blog post, Bertulli explains how even though roadmaps are fluid, they provide a general direction to aim for. From there, businesses can work backwards to determine which investments are needed to achieve their goals. They can determine how to staff up, what processes need to be adopted and the technology to support it all. Defining a roadmap allows businesses to execute these things strategically.
"With a roadmap, I have something to reference," he says. "I can read that roadmap, and I can look at it and say, 'I did this, in this order because I'm looking for this result.' It also gives you the ability to avoid the shiny objects that distract small businesses.”
Don’t let the complexity of your system clutter your process
As e-commerce technology becomes more specialized and affordable, Bertulli explains, retailers need to ensure they have the right technology elements.
In making this point, Bertulli returns to the value of a roadmap. "Without a roadmap, you will be hard-pressed to identify which legacy systems should be integrated into newer technology and which should simply be bypassed and built around, and earmarked to be sunset later. Don’t think of e-commerce technology as a cost centre for your business, it is your business!" Effective roadmaps don’t need to be complicated. In fact, Bertulli values simplicity in his process. "Like any journey, you pick a direction to head in, and then you outfit yourself with the gear you will need for the trip."
Pick a direction, but don’t get hung up in the details
Bertulli feels that a roadmap is more about laying out a sequence of things to do and a direction than the things themselves. He says, "Companies usually start by putting technology on the roadmap. You also have to put people and processes on it too. People say about technology, 'I know it’s going to change, and I know it’s fast.' But if you lay out a roadmap quarterly, and use it to create checks and balances, it can become a reference to make educated decisions against as an entrepreneur." Since e-commerce applications and tools change so quickly, you can always make ad hoc changes to technology. It’s harder to do so with people and process.
Prepare for the trip with the right equipment and team
Once your roadmap is in place, you can assign talented people to leverage their strengths to move your business in the direction your roadmap lays out. For example, visual designers can make sure your digital store reflects your branding. Copywriters can write relevant product descriptions and ensure page content is consistent with the way you talk to customers in the real world. User experience designers and developers can tailor the overall store navigation and structure to support the ideal customer journey from discovering products to arranging for delivery.
Simplify your technology
"Today, the average merchant has something like 25 different systems that comprise their entire business technology platform. In that world, the complexity is the sum of all the technology you’ve got, and how they work together."
Quality, though, should be more of a concern than quantity when it comes to systems, he says. "If it has purpose and if it is making your business efficient, it is making you more effective."
When it comes to buying the right e-commerce platform, Bertulli says, 'less is more'.
"I’m a big believer in starting with an MVP: Minimum Viable Product. I make pretty much every software buying decision that way. It’s really easy to go down a rabbit hole of 'I want these 500 features for my company.' I look at it another way: There are probably 10 that are going to impact 80 to 90% of your business."
Businesses looking to discover more insights about the value of technology roadmaps can find more of Bertulli’s views on his blog on the Dx3 Conference website.