Five key success factors that ecommerce businesses need to strategically plan for

New research from Forrester, The Five Key Success Factors of Every Digital Business, has identified five key success factors that ecommerce businesses need to strategically plan for as they launch or expand their organisations.

Having the right people, the right organisational structure and an innovative idea for online sales is largely what defines a successful organisation. To flourish in the age of the customer, companies will need to tackle digital business transformation to increase their value to their customers and remain responsive to an ever-changing marketplace.

The most successful retail ecommerce organisations share five key leadership characteristics that positively impact their businesses. These characteristics include the ecommerce offering, competitive marketing differentiation, a skilled ecommerce team, technology resources and capabilities, and strong executive support. The first two are critical to any core strategic plan; the latter three are closely tied to the organisational structure of the firm.

Looking at the retail space an ecommerce strategy plan should:

  1. Offer functionality which meets distinct customer needs: Some examples of this include: providing inventory visibility online and in-store, ensuring that retailers aren’t missing out on a potential sale; testing new merchandising with online customers before rolling it out to bricks-and-mortar stores and; testing new ways to sell and deliver products. At the outset, digital leaders should identify what business they’re in, establish why online could be profitable for the business and assess the customer-led market opportunity.
  1. Have a plan to differentiate yourself: Some retailers have built digital solutions which allow customers to choose specific sales assistants and which allows them to browse together. Others allow their products (such as shoes) to be customised online, providing a bespoke product to each customer. Standing out by offering unique services will help businesses compete against mega-platforms like Amazon.
  1. Staff your business with digitally fluent employees:Attracting and retaining skills in a digital world is an ongoing challenge. Businesses must ensure they have sufficient staff to service key functions such as merchandising, marketing, fulfilment, customer service, and business technology. Digital leaders will need to plan both budgets and internal growth strategies to ensure that this is possible.
  1. Nurture technology partnerships: Successful digital leaders are allocating a growing portion of their budget to innovation and new technology. A large part of this budget is going towards building technology execution teams, toolkits, and support or service partners. Understanding and nurturing a technology support structure will assist in filling internal gaps and improving delivery capabilities.
  1. Build C-Level support: Ensuring one has support at the highest, decision-making, level will assist digital leaders to deliver on their strategy. It will also assist in securing the necessary budget and the resources to ensure successful delivery on their strategy.

The research acknowledges that creating a successful ecommerce strategy is neither easy, nor cheap.

Forrester suggests that digital leaders develop an iterative planning cycle and an ongoing business map. The best companies enjoy strong returns from a testing and incremental improvement plan that is universally understood and supported across the company. Evaluating organisational ecommerce readiness and making use of digital analytics will also ensure strategic plans are successful.

To further assist digital leaders, the report gives extensive real-world examples which show how some of the best-known ecommerce companies have achieved success. It has also published a digital maturity model tool to evaluate where companies need to invest to drive ecommerce success.

Ananda Chakravarty serves ebusiness and channel strategy professionals at Forrester.

Ananda Chakravarty


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