The statement “time is money” is perhaps one of the most important for any business. In particular, it is also relevant during the initial launch of an online trading platform. However, when budgets are tight or deadlines are tight, online store owners and managers have to make decisions about where to focus their resources first and where to wait. That's what we're talking about today.
Why is it important to launch an online store faster
Owners of new online stores are usually divided into two diametrically opposed categories...
As a rule, new owners give little thought to any sales strategy. They just open the website builder and post the products they see fit. This is an acceptable technique for testing a niche or starting online sales, but it is not suitable for everyone. Many stores, having started quickly, close just as quickly - the goods did not go, the budget was not calculated, or some organizational difficulties arose.
- Those who think that starting an online store is easy.
The owner studies the market knows competitors and tries to create the most functional store and service. The product is selected, and the assortment is formed - now the task is to build processes. The website is an important part of these business processes. However, in some cases, the process of launching a website becomes too complicated and becomes a permanent problem.
- Those who think that an online store is serious.
In this article, we will talk about the owners at number 2. About those who have already tested their product, have decided on a niche, have collected a serious assortment, and want to open a store that will grow from small to large in the future.
If this is your first or even second online store, it can often be difficult to separate the main from the unimportant. Especially when big colleagues who have hundreds of thousands of clients in the database, Big Data, full automation, and other intricate things “scare”. Needless to say, all this functionality costs a lot of money.
However, the most important thing when launching an online store is to launch it quickly and without delay. But at the same time, keep within the limits of profitability, because the store is usually launched to make a profit.
Why is fast startup important?
Because the market is constantly changing. Your choice:
a) have time to increase power before such changes occur
b) constantly change the conditions of the start, which can become extremely disadvantageous for you.
In addition, the delay in launching an online store is your lost profit, which can be roughly calculated using the formula:
Lost profit for the period = Number of planned orders * Average bill of the order - Costs for the purchase of goods - Costs for advertising - Tax and other costs
Let's say your new store is supposed to deliver 10 orders every day with an average check of $3,000 and a margin of 50%. And the launch has been delayed for a month. In total, we get the following calculation in a rough approximation:
Lost profit per month = 300 orders * 50$ — Purchase of 7500$. — Advertising 2500$. - The salary of the store manager is 900$. — Income tax 15% 800$ = 4500$.
Here is the amount that you did not earn this month, although you could.
In other words, speed to market is critical to your business.
What features are needed to launch a small and medium store website?
We have already found out that the faster we start working, the faster we start earning. But what needs to be done on the store's website before opening so that it helps to earn?
We need to define a certain starting set of functionality that is sufficient for organizing sales and effective customer service. That is, the MVP (Minimum Valuable Product or Minimum Viable Product) of your online store.
Important! MVP is not the final edition of your product. This is just a starter version, where there is the most necessary. Once you have launched your store, you can immediately start expanding it by introducing new services and adding content.
Another important point is which store is considered small and which is medium?
In this article, we will assume that:
is a point that can be fully served by 1-2 people. Usually, it is up to 15 orders per day. In a small store, it is important not to miss a single customer; full automation of processes is possible but unprofitable;
- a small store -
the number of orders is in the tens per day, customers are served by several people, often there is a shift work schedule. In an average store, it is important to automate all routine functions to the maximum, gradually eliminating the possibility of errors associated with the human factor.
- average store -
Before our eyes is the experience of giant colleagues, and large stores, where everything is complicated: personal recommendations, a complex buyer's account, a sea of various promotions, bonus programs, cash back, automation, and other interesting opportunities.
It begins to seem that without all this - it is indispensable, and all this costs a lot of money and has been developed for a long time.
And at our launch stage, it will not be superfluous to remember that the main goal of the store is to sell.
Your small store may not have all the conveniences at first - but it must meet its main goal: to sell goods and not prevent the owner from getting paid for them.
Therefore, for you - a small summary table of functionality will help you prioritize modules. Cells marked "Yes" mean that this functionality must be ready to open a store of the specified type. If “No” is checked, it only means that the functionality can be implemented later, after the project is launched.
The basic principle of implementing the functionality is set out in the table:
- sufficiency for effective customer service;
- the complexity of development;
- the need to maintain the functionality in the process of the store.
For example, does a small store need a catalog integration with the 1C system? It depends on the quantity and completeness of the nomenclature information, but most likely not. If you do not keep inventory records in the 1C Trade Management system or My Warehouse, then starting the entire range anew, and setting up integration is a disproportionate investment of time and money.
Whereas it is much easier to use the regular functions of your content management system and download the entire range through Excel - simple, fast, minimum costs. But in medium-sized stores, automation of warehouse accounting becomes, on the contrary, extremely necessary - without it, you will not have time to serve customers, you will not be able to work out the bookkeeping correctly, and there is also a risk of many errors due to the haste and inattention of the staff.
Or, for example, is it necessary to start an e-mail newsletter on a newly created small store? Also, most likely not. Let's say you created it. How will you collect the subscriber base, is there a separate marketing budget for this? Who will send your newsletters, is there a content manager? If not, will an ordinary store manager have time to make mailings, does he have the competence? At the same time, customers who order goods from you leave their contact details. You can leave customers the option to specify at checkout if they want to receive emails in the future. The base will gradually accumulate.
But in an average store, the mailing is necessary and is already turning into a loyalty tool - the flow of customers and visitors is sufficient to collect the base and pay for this procedure. By periodically reminding subscribers and customers about yourself, you can increase the flow of orders.
Another opportunity that online store owners almost always remember is a bonus program. In my opinion, it is too unjustified work to introduce bonus programs in small stores, and very questionable in medium ones. The fact is that bonus programs are not only a technical solution. Along the way, questions immediately arise about accounting for bonuses in warehouse and accounting systems, and the integration of online and offline sales. Plus, complex issues of information security - how to protect data from hacking and unscrupulous buyers.
Total. If we add the functionality of the table with the “Yes” marker, we will get the minimum viable product of your online store. The functionality is necessary for the organization of sales and correct customer service.
The process of launching an online store website
The classic development methodology implies that you write the most thorough terms of reference with all the smallest details. Then you give it to the developer - the developer evaluates and develops. You can describe the development planning process for a long time - of course, various methods such as the Critical Path Method or Waterfall are used, and Gantt charts or process charts are built ... We are not talking about details, but about development principles.
- during planning, you forgot something or did not take into account some detail that surfaced during the development stage. And this affects the structure of the project. This happens not just often, but almost always. You can't design a "whole project in a vacuum" ahead of time, especially without discussion with the development team;
- the situation on the market is changing, and it is necessary to introduce functionality different from what has already been discussed. And this is also a fairly common situation;
- at each stage of the project, control of developers is required - is the functionality described in the terms of reference understood correctly? Is it understood the way the customer imagines all this or otherwise? If your expectations do not match reality, the project will fail.
Lean agile development (and its variant Agile in particular) can help you streamline the process. In the case of a small store, you can initially agree with the developer that:
- you have a certain development budget that you need to meet;
- there is a set of modules that must be present on the site - and this set must also meet the budget. Implementation methods for these modules are discussed with the developer;
- the sequence of module development. In the general case, the project starts with strictly defined modules, since development is possible strictly in a certain sequence (there is no ordering without a product catalog). But this set, again, is not rigidly defined. It is discussed with the developer.
Having determined the composition of the modules and the total budget of the project, you can submit the terms of reference in parts as the project develops. The terms of reference for the design are formed separately from the development, and it is desirable to present it to the developer in its entirety, and not in parts. As for development, as a rule, they start with the implementation of the catalog - accordingly, first of all, you give the developer a description of the general structure of the project and a detailed description of the catalog and its integration with 1C, if any. And further down the list of modules.
Agile means that you "keep your finger on the pulse" of the project. Planning allows you to break the project into small pieces that can be taken in the development process in parts - for example, a separate product card or separate news. You can combine these task pieces into longer sprints, but this is not necessary. It is much more important than the developers presenting you with the finished result for each small task within the agreed time frame.
Some developers find such control inconvenient - you seem to interfere in the process and show distrust. But the point here is not distrust, but correct communication. Firstly, there is no 100% guarantee that you and the developer understand each other completely identically. Getting rid of this effect is easiest in small areas of the project - fixing one mistake is easier than fixing the entire project. Secondly, in parallel with development, you can start doing some work on the site - for example, uploading content to a “freshly accepted” directory. This reduces development time.
How not to turn a project into a long-term construction
“It was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines.” In reality, the developers of the project often offer both the procedures and the development schedule themselves, especially if it is a web studio. It is extremely difficult to influence these procedures. One way or another, the project can be delivered according to the schedule of the selected web studio, or it can drag on forever. Much depends on you.
The main mistake that beginners often make is the desire to do everything perfectly. Take into account all the nuances. To achieve that everything “flew” and “scaled”. Such perfectionism results in the following situation.
For example, your store is almost ready - it remains to add a couple of sections, set up contacts... And suddenly...
“Listen, you have a poorly optimized product property database in the catalog,” the programmer suggests. - If you upload all this into a separate directory, and also make all the properties lists, then you can easily and freely add to the site ...
The point is that you already have a ready-made commodity base. She is formed. Work with it is configured on the site. Now you are offered to redo half of this base in the name of future convenience. Technically the programmer is right, he wants the best. And how will you do it?
I suppose that the store manager at this moment begins to painfully think about what is better: to optimize these properties right now, so that later, at the full speed of the store’s work, do not redo half of the site ... Or postpone it for later.
In 90% of cases, the decision is: "postpone."
The point is, that you're almost done with development. And your store is up and running. Starting a rework right now means lost profits for you and ... the beginning of long-term construction. Your store will never, never, never be launched if you try to anticipate all the desires of future customers and staff in advance.
Another reason against endless “improving” is that you are making a store for customers, and not for your developer portfolio. Buyers evaluate what functionality is on the site and what is not.
After the launch of the store, you will be able to conduct analytics: find out which sections users visit most often, whether it is convenient for them to use the basket, sorting, etc. Next, you will make an organizational and financial decision to change or add some functionality to the site. But at the same time, your imperfect site will already work and bring you income.
What is the difference between a technical solution and an organizational one?
Now we are approaching the solemn moment - the definition of the difference between technical and organizational solutions. But first, a quick question: which is better - to choose the fastest content management system (CMS) or the most popular?
- Technical solution: the fastest.
- Organizational decision: the most popular.
In management practice, we operate mainly with organizational and financial decisions. Why? Because any element of the business system is part of the whole complex, where many people and material assets are involved. For example, the site that we are developing, at least the employees who will serve the site, are attached.
Below is just an example of decision-making logic, nothing more. You can set your own rules for making managerial decisions. But we offer the following express scheme. Ask yourself:
- What does the license cost and development cost?
- How difficult is it to find staff to support and maintain the chosen solution?
- How expensive is the service?
- How soon can the system be put into operation?
- What functionality does the system include?
- Is it easy or difficult to connect new modules if necessary, are there any ready-made solutions?
- Does the chosen solution take into account legal requirements?
The answers to all these questions allow us to make the best decision for our particular business.
In the most general case, if your company does not have an IT structure and does not have a staff of programmers, it is advisable to choose favor of the most popular software solutions. Even if they are not ideal from a technical point of view.
The reason here is very simple: easier to find staff, easier to maintain, more reference information, more additional ready-made modules in case of increasing functionality, and faster launch.
Non-standard, although advanced solutions, will entail technical difficulties. Not only will you have to look for programmers with specific qualifications, but also the line and management personnel of the project are involved - the project director, marketer, content manager, and other specialists who must be competent in these technologies.
Employees must be familiar with the system or be ready to learn it as soon as possible. If the system is unfamiliar and new, you have additional costs for implementation and training.
I repeat, your decision is an organizational one, and you must have not only a technical but also an economic justification for such a decision. Calculate the forecast, how many products you will sell with a “non-ideal” system, and how many with an “ideal” one, calculate the profit, subtract the development, configuration, and training costs from it, and ... Everything will be clear.
After all, our primary goal is to sell. The entire technical infrastructure is just a way to facilitate this activity.
And this article is just a way to make your decisions easier. I hope it was at least a little helpful to you. Good luck with your sales!
Launching an online store: what can and should you save on? Expert advice
An economical and fast way to create an online store is to use a ready-made boxed solution, plus a ready-made design template based on well-known CMS such as 1C-Bitrix, OpenCart, etc. Such a step allows you to immediately implement approximately 80% of the functionality that exists in nature and start-up in the shortest possible time.
It makes sense to operate such a solution for 6-8 months. This will allow the owner to understand what he expects from his site, what functions are missing for visitors, what is needed for normal integration with the CRM system, etc.
And only after such a test drive can you proceed to the next stage of work - creating a detailed technical assignment for the modernization of the online store for specific requirements and tasks.
You should not try to draw a unique store design or get carried away with visual effects at the first stage. Yes, this is important for attracting users, but it would be better if the designer’s work is based on the already optimized functionality of the store.
The only things to think about right away are the “one-click shopping” feature and adaptive layout, because. in modern conditions it is vital.
If we talk about the development of a typical B2C store from scratch, in many cases, to start, it is enough to install a boxed solution, stylize it in the style of your brand and start trading, finalizing it at an accelerated pace in the process.
But for most customers, this option seems unacceptable, and unhealthy perfectionism (both ours and customers') makes us do "candy" already at the stage of launching the pilot version. It is very pleasant to launch a polished and full-fledged project, but it is often meaningless for business if you calculate the economic effect of both options.
In addition, in real life, 50-80% of the functionality of the store is used by a small proportion of customers (for example, we love filters in complex catalogs, but as practice shows, not all users work with filters even on a large selection of products). Therefore, all unpopular features of the store can be brought to the development stage without delaying the start for them. But for this, it’s good to know what functions are really in demand for the selected segment (product matrix + audience).
If we talk about the functionality that should be postponed “for later” to save the budget, then this can include functionality that is not directly related to the sales process (required: product selection, ordering, delivery, and payment).
For example, you can postpone the bonus system, since a real working system is time-consuming and requires a lot of effort from the designer.
We also put aside “for later” the experimental functionality that we would like to implement or the customer proposes, there is a risk that site visitors will not use this functionality, and, therefore, it is not worth spending a limited budget on it at the first stage.
- Custom development. There is no need to waste time and money if there is no clear understanding of business processes and the business as a whole. We take a SaaS solution and start in a few days, including with ready-made necessary integrations.
- Complex mechanics (discount, pricing, etc.) are not needed on the store’s website at the start stage, you can dig into them forever, and their presence is not critical for a start.
- Drawing banners, playing with fonts, developing “like Lamoda, only better”. To start, it is best to take a minimalistic adaptive design template and further refine it based on customer feedback.
- One of the most economical and fastest ways to launch an online store is to use a ready-made boxed solution and a ready-made design template based on them.
- Such an approach can give a business a head start of 6-8 months. During this time, you can not only accumulate the necessary amount of finance for further development but also test the current version, and understand what the website visitors need.
- Modern technologies allow you to implement the necessary modules and functions in stages, and the process of updates can go on almost endlessly. The key is to get your priorities right.
- The fastest option is to use SaaS, which allows you to start in just a few days.
- In this regard, it is worth emphasizing that one of the key points that the owner of the future online store must initially decide on is the choice of platform.
- The "beautifulness" and "unusualness" of marketplaces are something that can be sacrificed in conditions of limited budgets.
- In general, among the functionality, the implementation of which in the conditions of burning deadlines or budget deficit, can be postponed: a bonus system, filters in complex catalogs, integration with ERP systems, CRM, etc.
- Almost all experts agree that at the start, in no case should you save on convenience and adaptability.
- An important point - saving on the launch of the "alpha version" of the site, you need to be prepared for the fact that subsequent costs for its development may be comparable to or even exceed the initial budget.