Bespoke e-commerce platform. How to cooperate with the Client effectively
Regardless of whether it is a new business that is being introduced to the market, an existing one that is moved to the world of online, or a migration to a more advanced IT platform is made, the investor must decide on the issue of the right IT partner. It is crucial for the development of the project in the subsequent years, therefore the capacity of achieving all the assumed needs and goals is important. The biggest challenge affecting the success of a project is often communication between the Client's team and the Software House's project team.
Companies for which e-commerce is a key source of income usually have advanced platforms with a wide range of dedicated modules, they integrate with many external systems, and support numerous business processes. The creation, support, maintenance, and development of this type of platform requires extensive and comprehensive knowledge, supported by experience - not only the technical one.
The "pocket" solutions available on the market are usually not able to meet the established objectives and guiding principles of the project or to respond to all the needs of such a large business. Then, a fully adapted e-commerce systems works best. Platforms of this type enable integration with many internal and external systems and also guarantee future development if the need arises.
Usually, small service providers offer clients low costs of implementing a given website or project. Due to this type of service, they can provide clients with a very quick implementation time. For example, Magento offers a wide range of possibilities in creating an interesting project that, without large modifications, can meet the most important needs of not that expanded businesses. Where necessary, the use of open-source software enables the problem-free transfer of work done to another company.
However, the contractor who takes over the project does not always want to continue the work of the previous service providers. In such situations, the implementation of the project from the beginning may very often turn out to be cheaper and faster than the further development of an existing solution.
There may be another problem to arise - in the case of employing a small agency, a quitting of even one member of the staff may affect the ability to effectively develop the client's sales platform. Then the assurance about the constant development of the project cannot be true, because the contractor is not able to meet this expectation. Reducing the number of members of the project team (or even the entire company) causes that it is the Client who bears the consequences.
Business vs. IT team - how is it possible to reach an agreement
On the one hand, there is the client and his employees who are responsible for the implementation of processes and the development of the company in terms of business. On the other, there is an IT team whose task is to create a system on the basis of objectives of the Client within the specified period of time. The biggest challenge when it comes to a project's success is usually in the area of communication. The client does not understand what the work of the development team is all about, and in turn, even the most experienced developers may not know how the client's business functions. Such a situation may have a negative impact both on the time of order execution and also on the final result.
Documentation and "theoretical" definitions may be confusing. In turn, the client may not mention certain issues because he considers them obvious and forgets that the implementation team is not used to the problems of a given business branch. In order to avoid such situations, it is best to use the time for meetings or teleconferences. When the process lasts, all doubts should be dispelled and questions related to a given process or data structure should be asked.
The IT team, having thoroughly familiarized themselves with all the processes and understanding of what they result from, can recreate them more accurately in the e-commerce project. It is then possible to design and prepare such a solution, which will not have to be modified at a later time, and thus - it will not generate additional costs.
Of course, the introduction of such an operation mode may slightly delay the design and programming of the product, but ultimately it is more profitable and will shorten the implementation time of the entire project.
Work methodology and investing in an extensive task system
What the work will look like depends on many factors: the very characteristics of the project, the requirements set by the client, and even the experience of the team members implementing the service. However, for every experienced development team, work organization and a constant overview of the implemented tasks are key.
I cannot imagine creating a large e-commerce project without providing a support system for project management. It is crucial for such a system to comprehensively support the activities of the design and development teams working on the basis of a given methodology.
A tool that works very well in the Scrum model is the Jira system. This solution gives a huge amount of possibilities while managing the team, controlling work, testing, and reporting. Built-in Scrum boards enables you to create and manage tasks and sprints. From the moment the project is launched, it is possible to have a view of various stages of software development and different stages of work. Also, reporting or describing errors that appear during software testing is very practical.
Jira also offers work time tracking and real-time performance reporting, which enables a high level of control over the team's productivity. This type of solution is also useful for the client, who may have an insight into the development stage of a given phase of the project. Thanks to this, if there is such a need, such a person can intervene at any time, e.g. when it comes to the speed of work progress.
Such a system is a tool that is worth investing in when it comes to the implementation of extensive e-commerce systems, on which a large team is working and whose maintenance is important. If a development company has a license for a tool tailored to the needs of a given project, the client is then not obliged to pay any additional costs.
The most important resource focused on the goal / process - time is money
Very often there are situations when a given solution was supposed to be done "asap". Meeting all the requirements within the time limit sometimes may be extremely difficult or even impossible. These types of projects must be conducted in a specific manner, the purpose of which is to achieve the overriding business goal, support high sales of services or products, or ensure the availability of the website at a given time.
It will not be important for your target group whether behind the scenes everything is ready and automated or whether the design of the administration panel with regard to the UX is fully refined. The platform is supposed to meet the users' expectations, which are to receive a specific product or service while using the website problem-free - so smoothly and quickly receiving the information of his interest.
Another significant feature is the process itself - e-commerce platforms are subjects of constant change and development. Pausing work for a prolonged period of time can result in downtime that affects other elements of the project. Managing the team's forces is crucial. Because of that, it will be possible to launch the service within the time limit, and thus it will enable its owner to derive measurable effects. Thanks to this, the team has time to develop supporting details and increase the efficiency of back-office processes, which are key aspects of the entire project.This happens mainly in large projects when the division of the implementation into stages affects the speed of the entire order.
Designing the purchasing process - SEO / Marketing
A large e-commerce system must take advantage of professional marketing facilities and regular movement analysis. The best solution is when the company that is implementing the development project also has a marketing department. There is a possibility for the marketing department to be permanently involved in creating an overriding purchasing process from the beginning of work. Another option is to involve, in the stage of designing, an external agency as an expert in a given area.
Unfortunately, most often these two teams start working during completely different phases of the project. Implementing a marketing plan very often happens when the development work is at its end. Then, marketing is forced to introduce a whole range of functionalities, which in turn generate other programming works or sometimes even change the assumptions of the project established at the beginning of the whole process.
Tracking users' behavior that leads to a purchase or abandonment of the cart is important for the development of the dedicated tool. The statistics of viewing product cards, various categories, or promotional pages enable you to optimize the website and its content for a specific target group.
It is also worth paying attention to the use of marketing automation software. On some level, integration with external systems is necessary. Marketers also use these platforms to prepare and automate bespoke content and marketing messages.
The most important functions of marketing automation platforms:
- Managing information campaigns. The systems enable the management of e-mail campaigns in the sales process. In that way, the support and informing about all purchases performed is possible.
- Control over a potential customer. It is possible thanks to the series of messages that are automatically sent in order to arouse interest, using information tailored to the needs of the client.
- Integration with the CRM system. It supports the consolidation of customer information taken from marketing and sales departments. It is then possible to better understand customers and, consequently, tailor the offer to suit their needs.
- Social media management. It is a source of content dissemination on the vast majority of SM platforms. In addition, it aggregates their management at a single point.
- Forms and landing pages. They facilitate the aggregation of data about clients potentially interested in services.
Actions related to the modification of the website or integration with external marketing systems must be consulted and clarified with the development team at an early stage. This will translate, among others, into shortening the implementation time of the entire project.
Business Intelligence analysis in e-commerce
Business Intelligence (BI) systems support the collection of business data and their further analysis. Business knowledge enables enterprises to make quick and accurate decisions about sales, marketing, and a number of other subjects. The data obtained from BI enable the reduction of expenses in the enterprise, as well as the creation of more effective processes.
What are the functions that BI uses for the e-commerce?
In order to effectively manage a company in the field of e-commerce, a business analysis dedicated to e-commerce is more than necessary. According to reports related to e-commerce, specific functions are to be indicated:
1. Trends interpreting. Business Intelligence observes the trend towards the changing tendencies and behaviors of customers.
2. The first on the market. This technology enables the most profitable customers, advertising campaigns, goods, and modules to be decomposed into prime factors, on the basis of relevant data. As a result, e-commerce business receives reliable support in the field of marketing management.
3. Marketing reports. BI analyses the goods that are inside of the card and those in abandoned cards, as well as recently entered phrases, etc. On the basis of this data, a live marketing report is prepared.
4. Margin interpretation. Business Intelligence immerses into profits and costs. A list of products and their lines is also prepared - a plane that indicates where it is possible to increase the margin.
5. Reserve reports. Business analysis shows, inter alia, items that are sold out, checkout and online orders, goods to reorder, number of items in the magazine, and much more. These data are interpreted in order to be able to manage them more efficiently.
6. Sales summary. Through Business Intelligence, it is possible to obtain a sales report, discount vouchers, promotional offers, or credit cards.
Architectural design and structure development in terms of project development after the release of the first production version.
When undertaking the implementation of the client's assumptions, it is necessary to develop the architecture of the entire system, which in the final phase will be the center of business. The detailing of the structure depends on the documentation and materials provided by the client and the assumed project completion time.
A properly designed system is a scalable system that gives the client the option of constant development and support. The system architecture must be open to further improvements, constant increases in the amount of data, and the changing number of visits on the website.
One of the most significant programming principles is the "Open-closed principle", which deals with the fact that code should be closed to modification and open to extensions.
Its usage also translates into the entire IT system. This is proof of well-matched and implemented functionalities that already work and do not require constant modifications. It also indicates development options by adding more modules and functions. The implementation of the first fully functioning production version is not a synonym for success. It is the maintenance and development of a system that will not lag behind the competition for years to come.
There are a number of issues that are worth a deeper analysis before implementing an extensive e-commerce system. Ongoing consultations, a well-chosen methodology of work as well as the correct sequence and prioritization of activities enable the launch of a functional system within the agreed time and budget.
Krzysztof Charchut, Software Developer, Ideo Software
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