Planning for success: e-commerce and project management

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

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If you are thinking about starting your own e-commerce business, we think you would find our guide very useful: How to start your e-commerce business from scratch.

Currently, e-commerce represents 14% of all retail sales and by the end of 2021, the market will be worth approximately 4.5 trillion dollars. Having said that over 80% of e-commerce businesses fail. While there may be a myriad of reasons for these failures, the biggest of these have been attributed to poor planning and bad project management. The world of online retail has become a very noisy space and for those stores that aren’t visually appealing, easy to use and managed well, you might as well submit your application to the startup cemetery now (really worthwhile having a look at this link to learn more about start-up failures, so you can ensure you don’t make the same mistakes).

What type of project management strategy should you adopt? 

Before we go into the fairly long list of tasks you need to include in your project management task list, let’s first look into the different types of project management strategies you can use to ensure ongoing success for your business. There are several different methodologies you can use, all of which are tried and tested through the maturation of the IT industry and its related projects. In the past, we’ve written about almost all of these methodologies in greater detail, so we’ll just touch on each here. 

Lean

This particular type of management is all about constant improvement, using a model that allows for continuous workflow. At each stage of the project, you may add additional elements to focus on to ensure increased customer satisfaction and platform usability. With Lean the key idea is speed. When you use the 5 principles of Lean PM – identify value, map the value stream, create flow, establish pull and seek perfection – your focus is almost entirely on your customer which can be a really good thing. Establishing your audience needs and catering to them is never a bad bet. However, it is important to not become myopic and focus on only one area of e-commerce even if it is the most important part.  

Agile

While Agile is also an iterative process, the key difference is that elements of the final product are worked on at each stage of development. The greatest value that comes from this methodology is its flexibility. By not sticking to a strict plan and allowing for adaptation based on customer feedback you’re more likely to see greater customer satisfaction. Development teams are organised into cross-functional units which work on iterations over time, with the goal of each iteration producing a working product.

Scrum

The hallmark of this methodology is daily stand-ups and weekly sprints. With this method, your team will work in unison on a particular part of the project to ensure that it is looked at holistically. Each week reviews are set-up to ensure that goals are being reached. You also will make use of the backlog to keep track of projects and features you’d like to investigate further down the line. This method of tracking is far more structured and it makes it easier to see whether or not team members are falling behind and why this is happening. 

Kanban

Another methodology that is helpful in the development and maintenance of your e-commerce platform is Kanban. While it is similar to scrum in that sprints are used and that you are able to implement changes throughout the sprint, the key difference with Kanban is that it puts focus on smaller sprints, smaller tasks and the lifecycle to completion is often shorter between each sprint. This is all in order to shorten the time to deploy new features.

What tasks should you include in your project plan? 

Once you’ve decided which project management methodology you plan on using for your e-commerce project, it’s time to start planning each task out. Here are just a few elements you should include:

  • Competitor analysis
  • Website planning
  • Payment process organization
  • Design and layout of your site 
  • Copywriting
  • Product photography and optimization
  • Email and social media marketing
  • Paid advertising

Now that you see that launching your e-commerce business is not just about setting up a platform, it becomes clear why a project management strategy is necessary. Using one of these management methodologies mentioned above will help keep things organised and moving along properly. When you combine a solid methodology with good tools you are likely to see better results, faster. 

Using the right tools for the job

There are various project management tools on the market and your end goal is to try and find the type that helps you automate your e-commerce tasks. Some of the better-known tools like Trello and Jira really do make things more simple but choosing the right one for your project will come down to your needs and preferences. For ease of use, we put together this handy list of the tools out there, highlighting their different features. 

What’s next? 

Now that you’ve selected your methodology, outlined your tasks and chosen your project management tool, you’re all set to begin planning your e-commerce project. To help you kickstart your e-commerce strategy we have put together a suggested project plan that you can use and adapt as you see fit. But, before you begin plotting your project, it is important to do a full audit of the competitor landscape. Work out what they’re doing well and where they’re failing so you can copy the positives while avoiding the same mistakes. From there you’ll want to consider the following: 

  • Set goals and determine your objectives – if you don’t know what you want to achieve how can you know if you’ve been successful.
  • Work out the various roles you need to fill – getting the right people on the job will be essential to success.
  • Set yourself a time frame to work towards – having a due date is very important, without one you may be iterating forever and never go live. 
  • Remember to put each portion of the project into separate tasks and assign them to the relevant people. If you are using sprints be sure that the tasks you’ve created can feasibly be completed during one sprint. If not, then you need to rethink things a bit. 
  • Test – many projects fall apart simply because business owners don’t test their platforms and their beliefs. What makes sense to you might not make sense to your customers. Compile all your learnings in one place – what worked, what didn’t and what areas still need work. 
  • Iterate – continual improvement and upgrades are the name of the game. Make sure you stay current and don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks. 

If you follow these broad scope practices you’ll be able to see where the holes are and you’ll be able to fix them. When everything is all bundled together it makes finding the solution more complicated. By approaching your project with intention and planning you’ll already be setting yourself apart from 80% of your competition.

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Last modified: July 14, 2021
Author info
Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.
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