Together with Terry Hunter, Managing Director Astound Commerce UK & MENA we explain how you can avoid falling into the same trap.

If you are in the business of selling beautiful brands on line, then of course, you want the web site to be beautiful as well, to reflect your brand, particularly for customers who will buy on line without being able to touch in store. The creative team will go to extraordinary lengths to remove the digital barriers to accessing the products, but what if the product is not available in stock? Or the product is vaguely or incorrectly described? Or the returns policy is unreasonable?  Or a hundred other reasons why potential customers leave the site early or abandon basket?

Naturally, most retailers building new sites will consider most if not all these factors, so what’s the problem?

In most cases, there is a big gap between what a retailer wants to do and what it is able to do. If it can’t even do the basics, then no amount of smart web building is going to fix things, with the result that the retailer goes on line and the problems it had all along are suddenly exacerbated; the expectations raised by the new site are simply shot down by dismissive or even angry customers who go straight to Twitter or customer reviews.

The problem of not being able to do the basics may be down to the way the retailer is structured. Ecommerce, merchandising, marketing and supply chain may simply not be able to collaborate around shared goals, and one thing is very true about ecommerce; everyone has to be collaborating. Or these departments may simply not have the tools to offer what the modern customer now expects – easy, immersive, personal, fast and responsive service.

The best performing web sites therefore, in terms of the KPIs that matter – sales, margins, AOV, repeat business – are the ones that start with the customer and end with the customer, and never lose site of the customer on the journey.

In the days when there was hardly any competition on line and customers had very low expectations, none of this was a problem, but today, with some retailers discovering that trading on line can actually be more expensive than selling through stores, putting the customer anywhere but at the very centre of planning and execution simply doesn’t work.

So, building the web site you want does at least prove that you are thinking big, dreaming of a business that others will look up to, applaud when you win the awards and guarantee your bonus. But that may not be the web site you need; that requires a different approach.

If you look at those retailers you admire, because you have checked their financial results and can see they are growing faster than the average, then consider the following statements that are true for them.

Firstly, ecommerce will be run by someone with an autocratic side to their nature. Sure, they are collaborative, invite criticism and try to marshal all the talents, but they are also good at making sure that creativity, commerce and delivery are all in sync, and will run the project with a tough hand. Or they may work with a systems integrator that takes a similar approach – get it right, first time and beat all the averages.

Secondly, if the rest of the business can’t help you deliver on the promise you want to make to your customers, then it makes sense to call that out early. You may not want to be the ecommerce director that went down in flames trying to tell everyone else how to do their job, but you will get the blame if the web site does not perform.

Thirdly, if you can’t be the best, at least aspire to be better by finding out what successful people do. Sure, your business is always trying to assert its differences and not be like everyone else, but when it comes to ecommerce, getting all the basics right is probably 75-85% of the job. Take as much credit as you deserve for the site looking beautiful as well but only you and the CFO know that you made or even exceeded your bonus.