Understanding the relationship between long-term strategy and success for ecommerce
By the end of this blog, you should hopefully be able to:
- Identify when is ‘right’ to make a digital change
- Understand the thought process behind creating a digital strategy
- Start thinking about points of opportunity
- Understand where a partner can add value
- Start planning!
Firstly, I want to be very clear on this message before I proceed – no matter what I or anyone else tells you, there is no generic secret formula or strategy that an agency, consultant, or influencer can give you that will enable you to achieve whatever it is you’re setting out to do. Even if an agency has experience within your specific industry or niche, your strategy still needs to be tailored to you. That’s the only way you will be successful long term.
Digital transformation is a term that has been around the industry for a few years now and carries different meanings depending on who it is you’re talking to – it’s also way too broad to just decide one day that you’re going to go through a digital transformation.
Chances are if you’re speaking to a web developer, a digital transformation might include a new website or new platform (maybe even both). If you’re speaking to a marketeer, it might be getting more of a hold on who your target audience is or how to be more efficient with your spending by getting in front of the right people at the right time as opposed to a batch and blast to all of your contacts in the hope it resonates with someone. It might even be that you’re trying to integrate all your internal solutions to save time on manual processes.
All of these points are relevant to be ‘within’ a digital transformation but don’t cover it in its entirety. But having said all of this, carrying different meanings surely proves the point that there isn’t a one size fits all process or cheat sheet. Your digital transformation is unique to you – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
How to approach a digital transformation
Here’s my opinion on how to approach a digital transformation as part of that long term strategy to achieve success:
1. Start with ‘why?’
Sure, you’ve heard that you should consider changing your approach to lots of different moving parts of your digital operation but establishing why you do what you do and whether you genuinely need to change is a far more important consideration. After all, if you’re not bought into the idea that this is going to significantly change your results for the better, or a digital transformation doesn’t resonate with your ‘why?’ you’re going to become frustrated pretty quickly with the project. Not to mention that there’s not an agency or partner on earth that could fill the inevitable void that crops up when you’re not quite sure why things just aren’t moving in the way you’d like.
2. Influencers can be good…and bad
OK, so I don’t literally mean the TikTokkers of today that are getting us all to do some bizarre dance to music of questionable taste. I’m referring to your immediate influencers i.e. your network of people in your industry, family, friends, etc.
Don’t be swayed by what social media or other business owners say – again to reiterate the point from earlier, this has to be unique to you so even if someone has a success story in the same industry, that doesn’t necessarily make it right for you.
To use an analogy I recently read – you’re having a coffee with lots of successful business owners and you ask for advice on what you should do next to grow your business. One business owner says that you should start selling Oreo biscuits because she’s seen her turnover triple as a result. Another says you should start selling homemade chocolate cake because it’s increased her customer advocacy. Finally, the last business owner says you should start selling celery because it’s a great source of antioxidants.
Now, all these examples are a complete truth and make complete sense to the individuals selling them. But, say your brand is a healthy living one that promotes eating whole, good, nutritious foods – there’s really only one example from your business friends that applies to you despite them all experiencing various forms of success: the celery idea wins hands down.
It’s the same with your website. Just because onsite personalization has worked for someone else and they’re shouting rather loudly about it on LinkedIn, it doesn’t make it right for your company. Just because someone’s just spent over £1m bringing in a new ERP and has seen their internal efficiencies increase tenfold, it doesn’t make it right for you.
3. Sift through the noise
How? Well, reach out to a partner that is able to help you ask the right questions. I talk to lots of different types of people on a day-to-day basis as you can imagine and our process as an agency is to always recommend a discovery phase before ANYTHING.
Why? Well because discovery is much more than just a mere scope of work that an agency can build from, it’s time that enables everyone to take a back step and really thrash out exactly why and what needs to be done. A premium agency should always be asking provocative questions based on their previous experience of enabling success for their clients. If they don’t or you don’t want your chosen agency/partner to, you’re looking for a ‘yes’ agency – an agency that just says yes to whatever you ask from them.
Trust should always be a key component of any agency relationship and the only way to establish it is to prove your value and ultimately prompt your client to think and rethink everything that is being proposed. Think about the people in your life that you trust the most – I’ll bet that the majority of these people will give you the truth regardless of whether it’s perceived as positive or negative. I’ll also bet that you take these truths on board and give them proper thought – a working relationship is still a relationship between people. There shouldn’t be a difference.
What is strategy and what does it mean to long term success?
Firstly, let’s dig into what strategy literally means…
‘A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.’
‘A strategy is a set of coordinated actions which will guide you along a journey to reach a desired future state, over an established period of time.’
So, a digital strategy is essentially a plan put in place to achieve a certain goal or objective. This is where long-term success starts to filter into things a strategy shouldn’t exclusively have short-term goals in mind, it should be centered around the short-, medium- and long-term goals that coincide with your overarching ‘why’.
Have you ever had an idea placed on your desk by your manager or someone more senior that looks completely ridiculous because it feels like there’s no thought process behind it? This is the Oreo v celery analogy all over again – that person is listening to the wrong influencers.
Take a step back and evaluate with a view to creating a plan.
Similarly, and arguably more frustratingly, there are a lot of companies that come up with a grand, master plan yet do nothing with it. Why? The likelihood is that the results weren’t immediate or realistic.
We approach things in this way. First, establish what the MVP is. The MVP should be the baseline of where the project HAS to go and if nothing else changes, the project would still be a success providing the MVP was delivered. If as part of the MVP you need short-term wins to prove the value of the plan in the first place, then that’s completely OK – short-term wins to justify it is a very sensible and effective part of the strategy.
No strategic plan means wasted growth opportunities and wasted development time.
No prioritization of key initiatives and top-down decision-making driven by “the crisis of the moment” means you are setting yourself up for failure.
What is a ‘good strategy’
- An “Authentic” Vision of the Future:
A reasoned BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).
One that answers the “what,” “why,” “who,” and “how.” This plan supports a strategic view while implementing tasks.
- Strategic Milestones:
A charted course of actions aligned with objectives for reaching this vision.
For decision-making and change management guidelines (to support a long-term commitment to executing the strategy).
- The Right Team:
A committed, cross-functional and multi-level group. Strong, focused executive support.
What is NOT a good strategy?
- Forging ahead without data and rationale
- Lack of deep understanding of customer needs (not just what they will buy)
- No governance or contingency plans
- Vision with no clear direction or purpose
- Productivity for productivity’s sake
- Direction without measures of success (KPIs)
- Executive demand: HIPPO (highest paid person’s opinion)
- SPOTS= Strategic Plans On The Shelf
Want to know more? Visit www.youweagency.com
Luke Osborne, Commercial Director at Youwe
Working within the ecommerce and digital world for the last seven years, Luke has helped a vast quantity of businesses of all different shapes and sizes realize their digital potential. From start-ups to blue chip companies, Luke enjoys working with clients to understand the challenges that are blocking the path to achieving long term digital success and enabling them with the tools to remove such blockers.