3 key steps for a successful start in e-commerce

In Quebec in 2017, 6 out of 10 people made a purchase online (CEFRIO, NETendances) and the trend is still growing. Today, e-commerce is a must for retailers. For those who want to start selling online, there are three key steps to ensure success: develop a realistic digital strategy, choose a technology that fits your current and future needs, and set up effective budgets and operations to support this new line of business. CEFRIO has developed several tools to guide businesses that want to launch e-commerce activities.

STEP 1: Define your digital strategy

E-commerce is not a part-time job. Before investing, businesses must clearly define their digital strategy. This strategy starts with making a detailed portrait of your situation and reviewing the context in which you will launch your new online shop. A digital strategy involves:

  • Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses
  • Defining market opportunities
  • Positioning your offer, especially in relation to the competition
  • Having realistic sales objectives that will allow you to measure ROI
  • Implementing marketing tactics and strategies to generate traffic
  • Setting up budgets to support this new business activity

In e-commerce, the phrase “no traffic, no sales” is particularly relevant. To ensure the visibility of your site and its offering, you will need to pay for online advertisement to attract new clientele and to continue investing in customer loyalty. Some ingredients of a successful e-merchant, or any online marketing campaign, are clear calls to action, information collection on the site’s visitors, a calendar for editorial content to publish on social media and targeted newsletter promotions.

Watch a video on the case of Blush Lingerie, a business that successfully integrated e-commerce (in French only).

A tool to help you define your strategy
» The digital plan (in french only).

STEP 2: Choose a technology

The online sales strategy that you establish will guide you in your choice of technology. There are many technological platforms on the market, but which should you choose? To help you in your search, consider the following elements:

  • The project’s budget
  • The number of SKU to sell online
  • The types of products sold (for example, clothing and cars need more complex product specifications)
  • The amount of customizability you want for the online shop
  • The technological integrations to make between the shop and other inventory management systems
  • The intensity of sales and marketing actions related to the platforms or of integration with other marketing technologies

Once you choose a technology, it is important to clearly define your needs and to write up technical specifications for your strategic intentions and required features. This will allow you to make a request for proposals from suppliers with a common ground for evaluation.

To learn more, see the case of Montréal retailer Ça va de soi (in French only).

Take a few seconds to make informed technological choices!
» See our questionnaire.

STEP 3: Launch support operations for the online store

Selling online also means changing your internal processes. You’ll need to develop many skills, not only for online marketing, but also for issues relating to inventory management, customer service, delivery and management of returns. All retailers looking to sell online must set up at least five key operations supported by their teams:

  1. Defining the offer of products sold online
  2. Receiving and processing orders
  3. Expediting orders
  4. Processing returns
  5. Remote customer service

Launching an online shop is a relatively complex operation that requires the establishment of new business processes, the creation of a competent e-commerce team and the participation of all your staff in promoting the shop to your current customers.

» Consult the Getting started in e-commerce guide to plan the impact of online sales on your operations (in French only).

Follow these three key steps to start your online sales project on the right foot and ensure the longevity of the investment and of your business. We highly recommended that you seek the support of an independent expert to validate the feasibility of your digital strategy, make an informed technological choice and set up the logistic and HR operations of your online business effectively.

Most of all, remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your shop does not have to have the most advanced online business features to be successful with your target clientele.

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For 30 years, CEFRIO has been supporting public and private organizations in transforming their processes and business practices by incorporating digital technology. A member of QuébecInnove, CEFRIO is mandated by the Government of Quebec to act as a digital culture accelerator for organizations. It researches, tests, investigates and shares the uses of digital technology at all levels of society. Its activities are carried out by an experienced team, a network of more than 90 researchers and more than 250 committed members.

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