Involving the Right People in Your E-Commerce Planning
October 24, 2019 | Stephen G. Fry
If your business has never had E-Commerce, it is important to assemble a team of knowledgable people from across multiple departments. This steering committee should be made up of team members who are encouraged to freely express their ideas, experience and potential concerns.
The very first person needed is an executive sponsor. Depending on the size of the organization, this individual might be the owner, president or a division leader. Regardless of who it is, this person must have ultimate control over how E-Commerce will function within the company and be able to secure adequate budget to plan, build and grow your online sales efforts.
One word of caution about the executive sponsor role. This person should remain engaged in how your business conducts E-Commerce from this point forward. This doesn’t mean that they have to attend every meeting, but they do need to have a complete understanding of how your digital commerce will impact each part of your business. As key decisions about your new E-Commerce site are made, the executive sponsor needs to back up the team.
On occasion, we see executive sponsors attend initial planning sessions for new E-Commerce projects and then disappear until near the launch of a new store. Very late in the process, they start questioning why decisions have been made. This is incredibly tough on the team and development partner, if you have one. Creating new E-Commerce for a business involves countless choices. When done properly, a lot of thought, research and best practices go into a new site. While a sponsor’s personal preferences may be interesting, they should not drive E-Commerce decision-making. Our guidance is to have the executive sponsor stay involved to avoid confusion and team frustration after they’ve done all the hard work to get to launch.
Once you have identified the executive sponsor, you’ll want to invite a representative from finance, production, IT, sales, marketing and customer service departments. An ideal team size is 6-10 people. From our experience, if you get more than 10 people, your meetings will be cumbersome.
The people selected should really understand how their deparment works. They should know where information can be obtained, including:
- Customer lists and account numbers
- Product descriptions and specifications
- Product images, videos and manuals
- Schematic drawings of equipment
- Pricing tiers by customer/dealer type
- Promotional offers (and any restrictions)
- Inventory information
- Special order rules and processes
- Product packaging, including dimensions and weights
- Handling hazardous materials orders
- How to handle partial order shipments
- Shipping methods, rules and guidelines
- Collecting applicable federal, state and local taxes
- Applicable payment terms
- Payment processing
- Customer service of orders
- Returns processing
- Warranty registration
- Data security
- Website/E-Commerce hosting
- Digital marketing
Some of the expertise required to handle these many topics may be found in external partners. The point is that you need to assemble a team of experts who can navigate the entire sales process and determine what portion, if not all of it, can be handled online.
For most companies, the information needed to launch a new E-Commerce site is significant and almost always more time consuming to gather than anticipated. If your company engages in proper planning, clearly defining what is needed and who is responsible, this will make this process much less daunting.
The E-Commerce steering committee may need to continue meeting well beyond the launch of the E-Commerce site to oversee future modifications and enhancements. Because of inherent departmental knowledge and the experience gained from planning to launch, each team member should be able to offer effective guidance on how to keep online sales running smoothly and respond to unplanned situations that may arise once E-Commerce is underway.
This article is an excerpt from Spindustry’s new book, GETTING E-COMMERCE RIGHT: How to Plan, Build and Grow Online Sales, by Stephen Fry and Michael Bird. Steve and Michael have been leading Spindustry, an Iowa-based E-Commerce solutions company, for nearly 25 years. Email Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.