The Intricacies of eCommerce Part 2: Defining Requirements
Now that you’ve created your personas (Part 1: Customer Personas and the Intricacies of eCommerce), it’s time to start thinking about requirements. This step is essential as it will have an end effect towards the cost, implementation, and timeline; all of which will be beneficial for your project. I will focus on high-level aspects here, since drawing out lower-level detailed requirements can be facilitated in a variety of ways and are generally more technical oriented in nature.
Getting Started with Your Requirements
There are three main areas to focus on when you start to think about your requirements at a high level:
Content and Management
Each of these areas addresses essential pieces of the requirements puzzle. Let’s review each of these high-level requirements in more detail so that you will be in a better position to articulate what needs to be done.
Your leading requirement is around the kind of functionality you want your site to deliver to your customers. This can be one of the most satisfying aspects to work on because it helps provide an expression of your vision. However, it can also be one of the most frustrating depending on the method of approach.
Initially, you want to figure out the essence of what you want your site to do, in other words, to have some of the basics sorted out. I would suggest you not be too concerned about the “how” in terms of the way it will all fit in together. This is where the strengths of your solution developers can be of immense help and value.
If you haven’t done so already, start checking out other websites in detail. You’ll want to place a strong focus on your competitors’ websites, such as how they operate and what they do. But don’t stop there! Put yourself in the shoes of your customers as well and check out other websites that your target market—your personas—would identify with.
By doing this, you will be able to—and should—start listing some of the main features and functionality that your eCommerce solution should or could have, and that is the best place to start since many aspects can become very technical in nature. This doesn’t need to be one of those parts.
High performing eCommerce solutions place a significant focus on user experience, and that is the essence of what you are drawing out here; what your customers will be able to do and how they will be able to interact with your site in ways that resound with them most.
Once you have prepared your list of the ideal experiences you want your site to deliver to your customers, you can begin to place focus on the core connectors you will require to integrate. For this step, you don’t need to start searching out connectors unless you want to. It’s simply necessary to list what you need to integrate with. As an example, one such connector you will likely require is an online payment processor. There are a variety of payment processors to choose from, and their costs, implementation, and features vary greatly. Your solution provider can help you narrow the field of choices.
It’s possible that other connectors would also be of value concerning your business processes. These are all worth consideration before getting started on development as it can impact the implementation process. Common connections that are sought after are ones which integrate with CRM or ERP systems, support systems, and custom marketing systems. Include all the connectors and services that you anticipate needing on your list. They can be prioritized and fleshed out further when detailed requirements are created.
Content and Management
As I mentioned above, the user experience is one of the most vital aspects of ensuring your eCommerce offering provides the most impact. Part of this user experience comes from how your site is designed and how it operates, but an equally important part is your content strategy. Well managed content forms part of the user experience and is, in most cases, the part which requires continual effort.
Some questions to begin asking yourself to get you thinking about content management (CM) should be around how involved your company wants to be—and will be—in your CM on an ongoing basis.
Does your company have the right skillsets and internal resources necessary to complete some or all of the ongoing work effectively, or will you harness the expertise of your solution provider?
Who will write or edit marketing content, and who will be creating your marketing images?
Will your company manage your site and its content, or would that be handled best by your solution provider?
You may not be able to answer these questions yet, and that’s to be expected. Quite often the answers involve both internal and external expertise, but it’s necessary to start thinking about it as this area will need to be thoroughly discussed and will factor heavily into the detailed requirements.
We’re Not Done Yet!
Watch for Part 3 in my article series where we begin to explore some of the other fundamental pieces that are essential in getting the best impact for your business from an eCommerce solution.