It’s common at this time of year to be looking at the coming year and making plans to take your company toward its future. As the leader of your company, you’re like the coach, holding the vision for the team. If digital isn’t already a part of your business model, it’s time to get started! Here are some starting points to get your digital commerce plans off the ground.
Start with your overall growth goals for your company. Every NFL team wants to win the Super Bowl. What’s your Super Bowl?
- Where do you want to be in 3-5 years?
- Are you looking to increase revenue to a specific level?
- What strategies are you planning to use to achieve your goals?
- Expanding geographically
- Rolling out a new product
- Acquiring another company
Ideally, your digital implementation should support your overall growth strategies to be even more effective.
Pick a Digital Goal Post
Seeing what large companies, or even your competitors, are doing online may give an unrealistic expectation. The future ideal state for your digital experience is likely large and complex to fully realize. I recommend picking a goal post to start with so you can see the process and results and move forward from there.
The question of where to start with your digital commerce implementation can be surprisingly complicated. Here are some possible goals posts:
- Start with a product line
- Start with a division
- Start with a percentage of sales (X% of our overall sales will come via digital by this date)
- Start with your highest margin products (many companies choose to start with parts ordering)
- Start with the items that are high volume and require limited consultation, freeing your sales reps to focus on higher-value opportunities.
Build your Playbook
Once you’ve picked a digital goal post, it’s time to create a plan for getting there. You’ll need to think through:
- Technology: Choosing the best software for your situation.
- Team: Will you need new roles and new hires to manage the digital platform? How will you shift priorities and equip your team for success?
- Budget: The digital transition will be a major investment. One that will pay off over time.
- Systems: Doing business online often requires some changes to your existing systems, processes, and practices.
- Partners: This one is key, as a good digital commerce development partner can help you think through your Goal Post and your PlayBook.
Start with Some Answers
Here are a few questions to help guide your process. Knowing this information when you talk to possible development partners will start you off on the right foot.
What are your highest volume sales?
- What are your highest margin products?
- What sales are time-consuming for sales reps, but don’t require a lot of consulting?
- Is there a business expansion that can be leveraged – geographic expansion or acquisition?
- Who in your internal team do you envision owning the responsibility for this project?
- Who should be on the cross-functional team that will plan for this initiative?
- What resources will you leverage to educate yourself and your team on what you need to know?
- What business systems will your digital commerce solution integrate with? Who on your team will represent the interfaces to those systems for the project?
- What do you believe will be the most challenging aspects of your business to replicate online?
- Do you have corporate customers that have multiple buyers per account? Do different buyers have specific limitations in what they can purchase or in their budget approval?
- Do you have certain products with shipping restrictions?
- Do you need to give a distributor credit for the order based on a territory or other business rules?
- Do you have 10,000+ SKUs with similarities that make it difficult for the customer to select the right item?
Your digital commerce solution shouldn’t be the goal in and of itself. It’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles or in what your competition is doing. However, your website should be implemented in a way that supports your overall vision and goals for your company.
Digital commerce should be part of your business planning. How does it look for your company?
Lori McDonald is the founder, president and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions, a web development firm that implements digital commerce solutions for manufacturers and distributors. Follow her on Twitter @lorimcd and on LinkedIn.Favorite