Building a Client centric ecommerce strategy and roadmap


“Many ecommerce executives leap in their roles with both limited experience and competitive management expectations. Trying to wade through the ocean of information available is hard and frequently frustrating. I wish I’d had a series like this for when I […]

“Many ecommerce executives leap in their roles with both limited experience and competitive management expectations. Trying to wade through the ocean of information available is hard and frequently frustrating. I wish I’d had a series like this for when I was starting out in B2B ecommerce,” — Mike McMahon

Whether you are a novice or expert in the area, building a successful ecommerce strategy starts with an aggregation of different viewpoints. Asking stakeholders from several business units what the main ecommerce goals are will often yield an assortment of contradictory perspectives and project requests. This is due to every stakeholder having different motives and perspectives on the situation.

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  • C-Suite Executives need the ecommerce jobs to be fast and affordable. All of us know the impact that has on quality (but it is their job to ask for it!) .
  • The Marketing Team may wish to wow the consumer with strong content, imagery and brand-supporting collateral.
  • The IT Team will probably strive to get a smooth systems integration and might push for an elongated timeline that contains an inordinate quantity of testing built into it.

So how can you incorporate all these requests (and others) into a cohesive ecommerce strategy? The easy answer is to just allow these inputs to inform your strategy not dictate it.

Your ecommerce strategy (and installation roadmap) is finally determined by serving the interests of the 1 thing everyone in your business ultimately reports to – your clients.

When planning initiatives or making daily decisions, ecommerce executives will need to always ask themselves: How does this make things better for the client? Think of this as the”Client Centric Consideration”

Like many initiatives, this involves distinct phases of Discovery, Definition and Deployment. Following are key components to building a holistic ecommerce strategy, That’s based on being very client centric:

  • Recognizing the”Jobs to Be Done” concept
  • Finding customer roles/personas
  • Conducting a Readiness Assessment/Gap Evaluation
  • Prioritizing key initiatives into a customer centric roadmap

Recognizing the”Jobs to Be Done” Concept

Delivering a excellent customer experience relies on you having a clear comprehension of what the user intends to achieve with their interaction with your organization. Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen coined the expression”The Jobs to Be Done” (let us call it JBD) as a method of describing what folks are actually trying to do, versus what we might believe they’re trying to do. Which are often quite distinct.

It’s critically important for ecommerce operators to be more focused on ethnography (the study of what people actually do) versus speculation (what you believe they have to do). This can be accomplished in a number of ways:

  • Analyzing various software tools that monitor site pathing and, sometimes, can literally capture a video of the comprehensive visit so it is possible to identify several points of battle and JBD completion points.
  • Talk directly to, or even better visit actual end user clients. They generally LOVE being a part of an initiative to make things better for them. Simply say to them”my job is to make your job easier and more efficient. How do I make things better for you?” You stop talking and start taking great notes.
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Client Centric Consideration: This is a foundational element of ecommerce; everything has to be built with client needs/interests in the heart of functionality. If you do not have this properly defined, you’re sending your clients down a path to frustration.

Understanding Customer Roles/Personas

Recognizing customer use cases is just as important to understanding the”JBD” concept. In case you’ve got a clear understanding of how people interact with your site (and understand their JBD), you’re positioned for success in properly addressing those requirements. B2B ecommerce executives have to be aware that various individuals within a company use the web site for very different purposes.

Following is an example that combines the JBD concept and classic use case discovery.

Let’s say you perform an investigation and discover that 47 percent of your clients follow up on orders within 24 hours of order placement; and 32 percent of that group is truly seeing shipping/tracking data for their orders. It is easy to speculate that clients are doing regular follow up on their orders and therefore make a use case called”Routine Order Follow Up”. However, there can be more to this however. Consider the following possibilities:

  • Buyers are trying to see if any items are backordered, and in that case, they might want to seek out alternative items or even purchase from another supplier.
  • Warehouse supervisors are assessing the tracking information so that they can get an approximate delivery time to ensure they are staffed to receive the shipment into inventory.
  • Accounting is performing a transport costs audit and is seeing orders to guarantee shipping costs are kept to the specified goal.

Each of these different JBD are actually another use case, and as such need attention to make certain the customer experience is up to a”client centric” criteria. To put it differently, you don’t need to leave anything to chance.


Client Centric Consideration: Your clients aren’t companies. They’re people, in particular roles within a business, and they have particular tasks they would like to achieve whenever they interact with your organization. They’re just as busy as you are, and they need to do their job and continue to the next thing on their to do list. Make that easier and quicker for them, and you’ve delivered a fantastic customer experience (CX).

Running a Digital Readiness Assessment and Gap Analysis

Having completed your client centric research, you must have a great grasp of who you’re targeting (functions ) and what they’re trying to achieve (JBD). Now it is time to guide the research internally and begin figuring out how your company can satisfy these customer requirements.

What functionality and experiences do you will need to deliver, to put a smile on your client’s face? The perfect state is to make them say”wow” – this is where you will need to end up. Your near-term destination (you will continue progressing this over time), let us refer to this as your”desired state” is where you will proudly and emphatically invite client interaction.

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Readiness Assessment

Getting to your preferred state requires an honest assessment of your current state. This needs some soul searching and is almost as important as your client focused research. Deficiency of organizational tools, procedures or necessary infrastructure can quickly derail your ecommerce efforts, leaving your customers scratching their heads. Or worst yet, leaving all together.

Examples of questions to answer:

  • Can we have executive management service for our ecommerce transformation?
  • Can we have efficient, scalable internal procedures that will support the essential ecommerce initiatives?
  • Is our technology infrastructure capable of supporting the dynamic landscape of ecommerce invention?
  • Can we have enough internal resources which are effective at ridding the initiatives?
  • Are we ordered to properly manage and regulate all the essential data that feed the numerous functionalities?

The list of questions could be extensive and is unique to your unique circumstances. Be aware that the more comprehensive your appraisal is, the more likely you’ll succeed with your own initiatives and experience fewer cost and timeline overruns. Lots of the assessment questions will activate a series of talks and maybe some challenging meetings. That’s OK — it is quite healthy to have these intense discussions. It’s extremely possible that these conversations will bring about a deeper dive into the specific topics.

Gap Analysis

At this time you’re almost ready to define your strategy and build your electronic roadmap. The Readiness Assessment (present state) is the starting point, along with your preferred state is where you will need to go. The key now is to identify those initiatives that will”build a bridge” to get you to wherever your company needs to go.

Each recognized need has a related initiative to improve your business from current to desired state. Some of these needs can be rather straightforward, like the”need to update the version of X platform to allow Y functionality”. Some can be somewhat complex and might require a separate cross-functional group to execute. An example of this could be installing a new platform, such as PIM/DAM, CRM, CMS, etc..

Take care not to shortcut this procedure. Ensure that you do the proper due diligence for each identified need. Most problematic is underestimating the tools necessary to complete a particular initiative. What might appear small in effect initially will be magnified downstream and may jeopardize different initiatives and, sometimes, impact the whole project.

Client Centric Consideration: This one is constructed in. This whole campaign is predicated on serving formerly identified customer requirements. If you encounter any friction in this procedure (which is probably as you begin looking under stones ) remind those involved that they’re not doing this for YOU, you’re only acting as an advocate for the clients’ best interests.

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Prioritizing Key Initiatives to a Roadmap

At this time, according to your background research you’re now positioned to start defining your ecommerce strategy and related roadmap. Your gap analysis likely revealed a large number of tasks which will need to be completed, but the burning question is; which actions would you tackle first?

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All of them seem somewhat important and have varying degrees of requirement determined by the associated internal host. This makes prioritization a challenging, but absolutely necessary procedure.

There are two ways to tackle this that will offer a customer centric roadmap that’s not influenced by internal prejudice.

1. Rank each initiative based on the calculated”advantage to client” into”cost to execute” ratio. This Customer Benefit to Cost Ratio shows the”biggest bang for the buck” in terms of positive impact to the clients – an objective yardstick for initiative prioritization. An example is provided below:

Client Benefit to Cost Ratio Calculation*

*Notice: This case is supplied only to illustrate the concept only. Benefits to clients and execution cost/difficulty vary widely and have to be assessed for your particular circumstance.

2. Equipped with this particular organizational ranking of priorities, you can schedule a Digital Prioritization Meeting to examine the ranked list of priorities. This assembly is powerful for a number of reasons:

    • By organizing a cross-functional meeting with key stakeholders, you’re offering a forum to examine and possibly challenge ranked priorities. Occasionally attendees will explain why they think initiatives should have a higher or possibly lesser priority.
    • Once the meeting is adjourned, you walk out with organizational consensus among key internal stakeholders.
    • You’ve taken the first step in change management; key stakeholder consensus and notifying them of changes on the horizon.

Client Centric Consideration: because your prioritization is principally based on what initiatives provide positive customer effect – by definition it’s customer centric.

With the insights and recommendations provided above, you are now prepared to tackle the first phase of your ecommerce project. Share your experience and any questions in the comments below. And make sure to tune in next month for our next installment of B2B Ecommerce: Mastering the Basics where we handle the customer/user experience.

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