Annual Planning Checklist
- Creating an eCommerce Framework
Creating An eCommerce Framework
Taking the time to plan out an eCommerce framework is beneficial for businesses in the long run. To help you write out your business plan and ensure that you’re on track to meet your company’s goals, we’re sharing tactical strategies to help you grow your business.
Evaluate Past Performance
One of the most important steps to creating an eCommerce framework for the year is to evaluate strategies that worked well for your business in the past year or two. If you notice that a particular channel is driving more traffic to your website or that contacts who are enrolled in specific promotions tend to convert more than other people, continue what you’re doing and focus on amplifying that strategy. The same goes for areas that need improvement.
Could increasing your SEO health score benefit your business? Think about how fixing this will dramatically affect your organic search presence and reach. If you don’t know what an SEO health score is, then your organic rankings could use some TLC. We recommend checking out these eCommerce SEO tools to inform your SEO strategy and convert more searchers into website visitors.
Calculate Your Business Expenses
Before establishing specific business goals for the new year, it’s important to consider how much money your business has spent in the last year. Calculate expenses by accounting for past purchases and future costs. In addition to rent, employee salaries, product costs and other business upkeep expenses, take into consideration marketing expenses, eCommerce platform fees, software subscriptions, etc. This will help you prepare your wallet for the year, establish realistic goals and determine areas in which you could cut down on.
Find Opportunities For Growth
In addition to assessing your business’s performance, it’s important to create the right strategy that will help grow your business in the foreseeable future. This may be overwhelming at first, so break it down into small steps to identify where you can improve.
Invest In A Platform That Enables Growth
Take a look at your overall website in the past year. Does your current eCommerce platform support your business’s unique needs, or do you think that migrating eCommerce platforms will help scale your business and grow revenue? If you recently migrated platforms, compare revenue year-over-year to see how an optimized eCommerce website impacted sales and growth. Capitalize on every opportunity available to generate more leads, customers, sales and revenue.
We encourage eCommerce brands to invest in a SaaS platform, like BigCommerce or Shopify, as opposed to an on-premise solution like Magento. SaaS platforms take less time to develop, customize and launch. Plus, they integrate seamlessly with external ERP and CRM systems. We’re big advocates for BigCommerce - see why in our BigCommerce vs Magento and BigCommerce vs Shopify guides.
Take A Look At Your Competitors
For some people, coming up with new ideas is easier when you take a look at what other people are doing. Analyze your competition to determine their weaknesses, and identify areas where your business is outperforming your competitors. Not only will this help you gain a competitive advantage in your industry, but it will also help you discover what your customers are looking for.
We recommend using an eCommerce SEO tool, like any of the ones we shared in the above link, to compare keyword performance and optimize your SEO strategy. This data shows the keywords that your competitors are ranking for and you’re not, and vice versa. Use this information to enhance your strategy and focus on the areas that will help your business rank at the top of organic search results pages.
Also, don’t be afraid to look at the things your competitors are doing well. For example, check their social media accounts to see what they’re doing to drive the most engagement. Compare their strategies with your own to determine where yours could use improvement. Then, implement it.
Establish SMART Goals For The Year
One of the most important components of this annual planning checklist is to establish goals at the beginning of the year. Think about where you want your company to be at the end of the year to gauge your eCommerce framework. We like to use the term “SMART” goals, which stands for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.
Let’s pretend your goal is to increase revenue (because what business owner doesn’t strive to meet this goal?) Begin by specifying this goal, making it easily measurable and ensuring it's attainable and realistic and fits within your business’s timeline. Instead of setting a goal like, “Increase revenue by the end of the first quarter” change it to “Sell $20,000 in inventory by April 1st to increase Q1 revenue by 15%.” Creating SMART goals ahead of time provides you with a valid benchmark to evaluate your business’s future performance.
Implement Tactical Strategies To Achieve Your Goals
Understand Buyer Personas
Creating buyer personas is a key piece to establishing your target audience and ideal customer. There are a ton of factors to consider when assembling buyer personas, like a customer’s demographic information or a customer’s problems, needs and and goals. Demographics can include anything from age, gender and religion to income, location and family background. Figuring out a customer’s needs and wants, however, is more challenging because businesses must take into consideration a customer’s personality, communication preferences, goals, challenges and thought processes.
To get started, analyze your current customers. Ask them what attracted them to your business and why they chose your business over the competition. This can be done over the phone, through customer surveys, etc. Also, converse with your sales team to discover any behavior patterns of the leads they’ve been in contact with. Determine the stage of the buyer’s journey in which your audience is consuming the most content. Then, tailor this content to further accelerate the consumer purchase decision process
Determine Your Marketing Approach
It’s important to determine what marketing channels you plan to use to attract, engage and delight your audience throughout the year. This may change with time depending on performance, and that’s okay. However, we recommend creating a marketing plan and establishing a cadence so that your audience knows when to expect to see your content.
Whether you’re writing blogs, hosting webinars or releasing new product launches, it’s pivotal to plan out when and how you want to promote your content and your products/services. Consider the marketing funnel and each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Early in the awareness stage is where you should focus on attracting your audience to your brand. In the middle of the funnel during the consideration stage, focus on engaging your audience and nurturing them with your content. At the bottom of the funnel in the decision/loyalty stage, focus on satisfying your customers even after they’ve made a purchase. Below, we break down some eCommerce marketing strategies to help you win customers at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Attracting Your Audience
Establishing an optimized eCommerce SEO strategy at the beginning of the year will help fuel your site’s organic search presence. Determining a strategic approach (and implementing that strategy) throughout the year will help to improve rankings and drive traffic. We often encourage clients to use these two strategies: keyword research and page optimization.
Conduct Keyword Research
Use a keyword research tool (our favorites are Ahrefs and SpyFu) to determine keywords relevant to your industry that you are trying to rank for. Ideal keywords have a high search volume (meaning the average monthly searches is high) and low ranking difficulty (meaning that the competition to rank for a keyword is low).
Keywords will vary depending on the type of page you want to rank for - whether it be a product detail page, category page, blog post, etc. That’s why it’s important to understand the two different types of keywords: broad keywords and long-tail keywords.
Broad keywords are nonspecific and provide an array of search results. Think about what shows on the first page of search results when just the word “dress” is typed into Google - thousands of results populate and mainly take the searcher to product detail pages or category pages. On the other hand, if you’ve written a blog post along the lines of “dresses you need for this upcoming holiday season,” we recommend opting for long-tail keywords. This term is more specific, which means it’s likely to have a lower search volume, but the chances of visitors converting from this page is higher.
Optimize Web Pages
As you continue to update your site throughout the year - whether it be adding new products to your eCommerce store or creating new gated landing pages for visitors to download content - it’s important that all web pages are optimized for mobile eCommerce, SEO and the user experience.
In addition to following website design best practices when creating a new web page, make sure that your page titles are optimized for the keyword you intend to rank for. Also, include the keyword(s) in alt text and image file names. Not only does this help keep your website accessible to all users, but it also helps improve organic rankings.
Engaging & Nurturing Your Audience
Segment Contacts Into Lists
Let’s pretend one of your goals for the new year is to increase the number of purchases from existing customers. To achieve this goal, you must first segment your existing customers into groups. Consider their last order date, for example. Segment those who purchased in the last 90 days, 180 days and/or 365 days (or choose time frames that are relevant to your business.)
Sometimes, all a customer needs to make another purchase is a reminder that your business is there for them. Rather than sending everyone in your database the same message, segmentation gives way to personalization and an improved customer experience.
Show Your Customers That You Care!
A valuable CMS provides you with important customer data, like their birthdays, first purchase date and more. Use this information to celebrate your customers! Don’t be afraid to send them a small (yet affordable) gift for their birthday or a discount code for celebrating one year of being a customer. Show your customers that you’re thinking of them over the holidays and provide them with an incentive to make a purchase. Just be careful not to send out discount codes too often because then your audience will start to expect it and only shop at your store when there’s a sale.
Also, don’t forget to repost and engage with user-generated content. If your customers are posting their new clothes all over social media and tagging your business account, be sure to like, comment and reshare their posts to make them feel like part of a larger community. This shows that you care about them individually and appreciate them choosing your brand.
Delighting Your Customers
Just because a visitor converts into a customer doesn’t mean your job is over. We’ve all heard the statistic - it’s 7 times more expensive to win a new customer than it is to get an older one to make a purchase again. If you want to save money, focus on retaining your current customers and encouraging them to make another purchase.
We hope that these strategies and tips help you establish an eCommerce framework that keeps your business on track in the new year. If you have any questions about how Groove Commerce can help grow your eCommerce store and enhance your marketing strategy, feel free to contact our team with any questions or concerns. We’re happy to help you build, design and grow your eCommerce business.