The store wasn’t built in a day…
Working on an e-commerce project is a long-term story. Many factors contribute to the success of the implementation, and one of them, if not the most important, is building good communication with the client. In the following article, I present what the design process looks like from the inside. I pay special attention to what is the key to achieving effective cooperation.
I invite you to read about the e-commerce project as seen through the eyes of the Project Manager.
It starts with a big idea
I always look forward to the first meeting with a client.
How do I know how to prepare for it? Usually, at the beginning, I get a description of the requirements that our sales department has prepared. Although I know the initial expectations, the meeting in person is necessary. After all, the client is the originator of its dream store…
Why dream store? Because that’s where we start the meeting. We allow the client to share its perception of the perfect e-commerce solution.
Our customer has in mind a key aspect or problem in the current e-shop. From its description, I try to extract as much information as possible to help us plan the following stages of the project. Based on them, we are able, among other things, to choose the appropriate tools and functionalities that we will implement on the new platform.
The end of the first talks opens the stage of preparing the offer. The customer will find both ideas and solutions to its pressing problems, as well as all the functionalities of future e-commerce. As a Project Manager, I have to add even the most standard features, which may not be a breakthrough but are necessary for the proper functioning of the e-store. This way, the offer also includes functionalities such as website footer, header, domain overruns, pre-deployment testing, adding products, database migration, implementation of omnibus directive recommendations and a few others, which usually do not belong to the “exciting” part of the conversation with the client.
Pricing, how to read it?
Project valuation usually comes down to an Excel file. From the very beginning, I made sure that the document was perfected in every way. The quotation is divided into thematic segments and includes a detailed work breakdown.
Is it not an exaggeration when it comes to the valuation of the project establishing a small store with 100-priced items? In my opinion – no. From experience, I know that the original version of the “dream portal” is often too far to start. That is why I talk to clients to raise their awareness of the expectations and the financial capabilities. Finally, we usually drop the offer to the MVP (Minimal Valuable Product) and postpone the rest of the tasks until the store increases its profit. With such a fast-changing market, the method I mentioned is the best way to start. At first, we focus on the store within the initial budget and then improve it gradually.
However, the use of MVP is not only beneficial for financial reasons. It allows you to build an e-shop based on current feedback. As the platform progresses, we learn about new customer needs. Thanks to this, functionalities are implied gradually, considering changes that did not apply to the initially adopted implementation plan.
That is why pricing, which includes a detailed breakdown of costs, is so valuable. Thanks to such preparation, the client can select which functionalities we do immediately and which will be implemented in the longer term.
Handover and mock-ups
Before starting the project, both parties, i.e. the customer and e-commerce agency, should carefully define the execution of all functionalities in the future e-commerce. The critical issue is to determine the form of project handover.
How does it look in practice?
At Media4U, if the project is small and takes up to two months to complete, the client receives it immediately. If it takes longer, we divide the project handover into stages.
This method allows us to check regularly whether the executive team correctly understands the requirements.
You can imagine a situation where, cut off from any feedback, the team does its job, and then it turns out that the client had a completely different vision of the result. To prevent this, at Media4U, we prefer an agile approach, in which the client periodically receives successive parts of its e-commerce. At each reception, we check its functionality and accept comments, questions and suggestions. We can also change the concept if it does not deviate significantly from the original assumptions. We adhere to a simple rule: if we have current contact, we can make some changes and reorganize tasks in the project. After all, it is all about customer satisfaction at working with us.
It is worth noting that Project Manager is one of many people involved in external communication. Developers often come to meetings with the client. I appreciate the opportunity to meet two worlds: the visionary creator and the technical programmer’s point of view.
Developers can verify reality by adding valuable remarks to the project. With their specialist knowledge, they can propose simple and intuitive solutions within a few moments.
An indispensable person at meetings before and during the project is also a graphic designer who, after listening to the client’s needs, in collaboration with the UX department, creates mock-ups of the portal.
Thanks to the visualization of the platform design before its implementation, we can easily present our plan without saving even a single line of code. At this stage, we can talk about the page layout, colours, button sizes, or the placement of elements without involving the front-end developers. Mock-ups are the basis and guarantee that we present a coherent vision to the client.
Testing and training
Before handing over the e-shop to the customer, we carry out its tests. At Media4U, we make sure that the platform undergoes a detailed verification.
After each performed functionality, the tester checks whether it agrees with the assumptions. Thanks to this approach, we can identify shortcomings and apply the necessary changes.
At the end of each stage and after the whole project, our testers verify the results with the guidelines. They test many scenarios describing user paths on the finished store. For the customer, this means a guarantee of a solid solution in line with expectations.
The last element is the training on how to use the administration panel. At first glance, it may seem unnecessary. The customer may fall into the mistaken belief that from now on, the e-shop will be self-sufficient in user service. However, in reality, the platform could grow only with human support. After the implementation, many issues need to be taken care of. Examples are security, changes to the store in fixed parts, adding and removing new products or changes to the customer base in unexpected situations.
The client should be aware of post-implementation processes. Education about using the service is crucial because it allows one to manage the business effectively, shaping the platform’s development by adapting it to changing trends and introducing new ideas. In case of problems, the client stays in constant contact with me.
The shop is done, so it is over?
In conclusion, I need to debunk the myth of the perfect e-commerce, which is self-sufficient and needs no attention after implementation. I usually encounter this approach at the beginning of a project, which fortunately changes at the end.
The customer must know that running an e-store involves many changes and related investments. Behind this approach is a dynamic market whose growth is dictated by technological progress. Every day, the e-commerce industry observes new solutions, which soon will become a guarantor of maintaining a competitive edge. Therefore, today, the modernization of the platform should be an integral part of the constant process, which is called the development of the e-store.
From the Project Manager’s perspective, the most important thing is that the final result of the project means efficient e-commerce, which will meet the expectations of users, bring assumed profits and, consequently, customer satisfaction. I wish such results to everyone.