With custom E-commerce development, you can build an entirely new system that corresponds to your idea, business vision, and most importantly, target audience. As a result, you give customers the service they need. 80% of customers are more likely to buy from companies that offer personalized experiences.
However, the implementation of tailor-made software is a multi-level process that requires understanding a lot of nuances, best approaches, current tendencies as well as customer expectations. In this guide, we will discuss in detail the main aspects to consider during the development of custom E-commerce platform.
Benefits of custom E-commerce development
Custom E-commerce development is an outside-the-box path that covers numerous stages such as ideation, customization, design, development, testing, deployment, migration, integration of new apps, maintenance, and even more. It is best suited for large and sophisticated projects that need complete control over their strategy.
Unlimited customization. Customers appreciate personalized service. Customized online retail stores, according to Invespcro, are preferred by 59% of online shoppers. With custom E-commerce development, you can use unlimited personalization options, change or add features at any time.
Creative freedom. There are no restrictions on how you can design your product. You can convert any idea to reality and perfectly align your solution with your business vision. And when it comes to competition in the market, being creative and unique is a big hit. How you present the product itself contributes to the overall project's success.
Full ownership of your product. When you create your own solution, you own it completely. There is no one between your software and your business. Having full ownership of your selling infrastructure gives you more flexibility to meet customer expectations, adapt to industry changes, and build resilience in your business.
Better customer retention & conversion rate. The greatest strategy to stay competitive in business is to retain your current customers and encourage them to spend more time with you. With custom-built products, you can take advantage of a growing traffic trend. Bounce rate and conversion rate may both be increased with a platform that is correctly adapted to your needs and makes it easier for customers to find what they are looking for on your platform.
Higher rank in search engines. Having a custom-built website can improve your company's search engine rankings. It's all because it gives you and your design team more power to rank higher in search engines by restoring control over the website's HTML, page linking, and structured metadata. If, on the other hand, you pick a standard or default theme, you will lose control over many critical ranking factors on your site, which may harm your SEO positions.
Custom E-commerce solution roadmap
We suggest defining clear roadmap for developing a custom product and dividing the process into manageable chunks. The correct sequence of steps sets all processes on the right track.
1. Generate ideas and conduct research
Everything starts with an idea, but to make it work, you need to possess a great understanding of your niche and the problems you are solving. Start by discussing your idea with a team, conducting market research, and identifying industry trends.
2. Identify your targeted audience
The next step is to identify the customers for whom you are solving the problem. Having a clear portrait of the targeted customers will help you create a more valid list of features to implement.
There are several aspects to consider here:
- Define the peculiarities of your buyer persona. A buyer persona can have a variety of characteristics, ranging from demographic data to beliefs and values, professional status, and pain points that they may face. Rely on things that are relevant to your project to make a portrait of your target customer.
- Create a customer journey map. The goal of customer journey mapping is to create a diagram that depicts the steps your customers take when interacting with your service. It is a detailed plan of every step a customer takes, from interest and awareness to consideration and conversion.
- Choose a suitable business model. Select what category your business will operate in. Here is a brief summary of the most popular business models in E-commerce.
- Business to business (B2B). Businesses sell directly to other businesses under this business strategy.
- Business to consumer (B2C). Typically, a business sells its products and services directly to its customers in this manner.
- Customer to customer (C2C). C2C examples include eBay, Etsy, Sotheby's, and Craigslist. This type of business operates based on auction software, allowing customers to buy and sell things directly to each other. It is preferable to use auction platform development for this model.
- Customer to business (C2B). Customers are the ones that generate value for businesses under this paradigm. For example, it's possible for customers to sell the information they've gathered to other businesses.
- Business to Government (B2G). Companies use this model to sell products to government entities. This model requires binding government contracts.
- Business to Business to Consumer (B2B2C). This model suggests that one business sells goods to another business, which then sells those goods online to customers.
3. Define critical features
Depending on your business model and target audience, create a list of features for your E-commerce app and prioritize them. Make a list of all the technical and functional requirements. Decide on preferred payment gateways and marketplace integrations. Add features that your company needs, such as automatic sales tax or shipping rate calculation.
The set of critical features for an E-commerce solution may include the following functionality.
4. Assemble tech stack
It is necessary to think of what technology stack is needed to cover all the functional and non-functional requirements in advance. A technology stack is a set of tools a development team will need to create an E-commerce solution. A tech stack can consist of a variety of tools, services, frameworks, and programming languages.
Here are some suggestions that can give you the right direction in selecting a tech stack:
- Analyze both functional and quality system requirements.
- Define core functionality and stick to it.
- Consult DevOps before writing any code.
- Consider project documentation as a long-term investment.
- Define success metrics and set up the analytics right from the start.
Read more about selecting a technology stack for custom development.
5. Build an MVP
Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is an optional step but it is very useful to test your product with minimum investments. As already mentioned, MVP helps you gather feedback from customers and validate the idea behind your business.
To determine whether your MVP addresses the pain points and reduces the risk of going in the wrong direction, consider taking the following steps:
- Define very specific assumptions to be tested.
- Set precise MVP objectives.
- Focus on the problems to solve. When you have a clear idea of the product's long-term capabilities, you can better communicate the vision to the development team.
6. Proceed to the development
The most crucial stage, that is, custom E-commerce development, should be continuous and iterative. In most cases, it is handled by the Agile methodology, and its main idea is to break down large tasks into smaller pieces so developers can launch the parts of the features that can be tested quickly and easily refined without significant impact if the need arises.
Another important piece of advice is to prepare a software requirements specification (SRS) and stick to it during the software development. This document serves as a roadmap for software engineers for an entire project since it collects all the information that is needed for technical implementation: use cases, functional and non-functional requirements, and descriptions of user interactions the software will provide.
One more useful document that can improve development is the software development statement of work (SoW). It also contains a description of the work to be performed. However, it is more relevant for business owners who collaborate with software development vendors. It highlights the scope of work to be done and conditions of collaboration (deadlines, payment, acceptance criteria).
7. Perform software testing
After the software has passed the development phase, it is tested to guarantee it is bug-free. QA engineers test the code's quality at this phase by employing various frameworks and testing methodologies to look for bugs. If the product fails the testing phase, it is returned to the development phase to be fixed. The software is delivered to beta testers during the testing phase to see how it interacts with users. UX tools can also be utilized for this purpose.
8. Launch the E-commerce platform
After passing the testing stage, the product is ready to be introduced into the market. However, once a product is released, it doesn't mean the development is over. Analyzing a product's performance is critical from the moment it goes live. Try to gather analytics and request feedback from customers on the usability, efficiency, and correctness of your product. It can improve your product and help you stay ahead of the competition in terms of functionality and user experience.
9. Support the work and scale
When you invest significant sums of money in custom E-commerce development, ongoing maintenance can be the right way to protect that investment. Software maintenance helps to keep a product fully functional and working at its best. It may include software upgrades, repairs, and fixes if the system breaks. It can also cover the development of new features and components. Over time, every project needs to change. Processes and workflows evolve as a business grows and scales.
Top-10 aspects to consider in custom E-commerce development
A web application is the first contact point between your brand and your customers. That's why it's important to give the strategy for development a boost with a number of things that make great solutions today.
You might have heard that the first impression is the last. It is true in the digital world as well, because the design forms 94% of a customer’s first impression, and that impression can’t be changed. How people perceive your visual identity decides if they pay you or not. Here’s what you should take into account to create an elegant design that is able to sell at the same time.
- Good Aesthetics. Take care of basic things such as whether the colors complement each other, or whether the fonts are consistent in size and style. Also, make proper use of every blank space. Attention to every detail makes your web app look elegant. At the same time, take into account your corporate style, and personal preferences that are intended to make your platform unique.
- E-commerce conversion funnel. Your E-commerce ecosystem should be designed so that each component of your website matches a sales funnel piece. Every design element is important here and should assist your customers in moving along the conversion route. Take into account four stages of the conversion funnel: awareness, interest, desire, and action.
- Follow trends. Video backgrounds, asymmetric layouts, simplicity, and a lot of white space paired with exceptional typography are current design trends for E-commerce websites. We suggest taking into account 2022's top five market shifts to quickly adapt to new trends.
2. Search and navigation
Users should be able to find what they're looking for in no more than three clicks, according to modern standards. That is why it is critical to give a clear, frictionless path to the things your consumers desire and to make it easier for them to buy from you. Adding on-site search is one method of achieving E-commerce optimization. On-site searchers contribute approximately 30-60% of total E-commerce site income.
The main goal of on-site search is to provide personalization or search-based product recommendations. To achieve this, you can utilize features like:
- Faceted search. It assists users in refining their search results once they have received a listing in answer to their inquiry. This might be done depending on a variety of additional characteristics such as size, color, brand, price, and so on. When facets are enabled, search results vary depending on the parameters that are set.
- Fuzzy search. A fuzzy search is a procedure that finds pages that are likely to be relevant to a search input even if the input does not perfectly correlate to the requested information. This setting lets you ignore typos, plural forms, and case forms, and it also lowers the number of zero-results pages.
- Sound-like & synonym search. There is a precise synonym range that your on-site search should be able to interpret for each industry to which you are offering items or services. You can create a thesaurus tailored to your industry and upload it to the search engine settings.
- AI-based search personalization. Search powered by artificial intelligence (AI) enables you to deliver tailored results to customers based on previous search activities, and purchases. To do this, the tech team is required to track and gather user signals, analyze them, and create meaningful user profiles. The algorithm will change the search results based on these profiles, but it won't ignore the textual relevance as well.
E-commerce search is a broad domain with many other factors to consider. To find out more details about the on-site search, we suggest getting acquainted with a general roadmap for search budgeting.
3. Product catalog
A product catalog for an E-commerce solution is a prime area for presenting your services. Make sure the product data is high quality, correct, well organized, and, most importantly, allows customers to easily find the products they want. According to statistics, 40% of users will abandon a store if it seems messy, and 79% may go to its competitors if they can't find what they're looking for promptly, like within 10 seconds.
One of the best ways to improve your product catalog is to build it around your targeted audience. A product description that is SEO-optimized and addresses the needs and intent of customers will improve search rankings and traffic. Avoid duplicating content and try to publish unique, complete, and precise product specs. Such things are the cornerstone of a great user experience (UX).
Customers may also find it useful when you add tags, interactive wizards, intelligent search, and filter functionality. The more products you sell, the more comprehensive your management, sorting, and categorization strategy should be. Integrating your product catalog into other systems such as enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) or email service providers (ESP) within your technology stack can also improve operations and drive more revenue.
The checkout process is the set of actions a customer can take to put a product into a shopping cart without registering an actual account on the site. Not all customers want to register for a service. Statistics show that 23% of shoppers abandon their cart if they can't check out as a guest.
However, just adding a checkout page is not enough. The process, design, and features of checkout should be well elaborated because they impact how satisfied customers are with your service and how likely they are to return to create an account and make more purchases.
Some of the strategies for improving the checkout page include:
- Designing a mobile-friendly checkout page. Most online purchasing is now done on a mobile device, and if you do not optimize your checkout page for mobile, you will be missing out on a huge segment of your customers.
- Use the progress bar to guide checkout. Customers may keep track of where they are in the process, evaluate the steps they've completed, and see what actions are still ahead of them.
- Remove unnecessary steps. Added steps take more time from the customer, making the experience less convenient. Besides, do not request unnecessary personal information from customers.
- Auto-save cart contents when abandoned. Customers are unlikely to look for an item again if they have already browsed for it, done their research, and considered purchasing it. Even if they are interested, they are unlikely to return and repeat the process.
5. Online payments
Provide appropriate payment methods to effortlessly accept online payments from customers. It is not necessary to build an entire system from scratch. You can use ready-made payment gateways such as Stripe, PayPal, Square, or others that work as a network through which your customers transfer funds to you.
- Multiple payment gateways. Include payment gateways that support existing payment methods: credit card payments and Automated Clearing House (ACH) transfers. For example, Dwolla processes only ACH transfers that are handled between two banks, and PayPal - credit cards and it supports a wide range of credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Venmo, and more.
- Taxing & invoicing. Use accounting software to customize reporting and automate routine procedures like taking into account calculating taxes in different locations or states. For instance, E-commerce that operates nationally or worldwide should calculate taxes per sale per state, which can be challenging without specially-designed software.
- Split and recurring payments. Offering a convenient split-payment facility can improve the shopping experience as well as customers' loyalty towards your store. Split payments allow customers to complete purchases using multiple payment methods, or enable several customers to jointly contribute to the order total. Major payment processing platforms like Stripe, PayPal, and Square support recurring and split billing.
- Payouts feature for marketplaces. There are various payout methods: bank transfers, cash payouts, payouts to wallets, and payouts to issued debit or prepaid cards. It will be beneficial if you include all or at least a few options. Other important points include making it easy to send payouts to more than one country and sending payouts in real time to third-party providers. Most importantly, your system should be able to easily, quickly, and safely handle one or more payout requests.
For each of the above points, it is important to consider the specifics of payment processing in the geographic area where you plan to operate and provide your services to customers. Make sure that the payment system you choose can work well in your country and can handle all the necessary currencies.
An E-commerce integration is a link that syncs data between several applications. A well-established integration strategy connects each application with your store, so data can flow to, from, or between them easily without any data breaches. There are several kinds of integrations to consider.
- CRM systems. If you use several Customer relationship management (CRM) software products, such as Copper CRM and Salesforce, being able to connect both systems and transfer customer data from Copper CRM orders to Salesforce, and to your store is essential.
- Marketing analytics & automation. Currently, 51% of companies are using marketing automation tools that allow them to manage and control repetitive tasks. Whether it's sending emails, scoring and nurturing leads, or posting on social media, these tools help streamline marketing efforts and make them more effective. - Shipping software. Customers expect to be automatically notified when their goods are dispatched and delivered. That’s why it is important to integrate reliable shipping software with your solution that can streamline the order fulfillment process.
Customers cannot trust you with their money if the website is not secure. E-commerce security is a broad topic, but you can start with these points.
- Secure HTTPS hosting with an SSL certificate. It will encrypt all types of communication taking place between you and your customers (your customer’s credit card information, billing address, and contact details will be safe).
- Ask customers to use strong, unique passwords. Passwords provide the first line of defense against unauthorized access to your store and the personal information of your customers. That's why urge customers to use strong passwords that contain at least eight characters, including upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Add additional authentication factors. Using 2-factor authentication, or multi-factor authentication, provides additional assurance that only you and your authorized users are logging into your store.
8. Mobile-friendly features
Smartphones are the most popular devices right now, so E-commerce is actively shifting to mobile devices. It is convenient to make purchases with the click of a button at any time and from anywhere on a mobile device. That's why it is so important to invest your time and money in M-commerce development.
Customers will enjoy the mobile-friendly version of your store that works well on all devices and has an adaptable user interface (UI). Take care of user experience (UX) as well and focus on simple designs, easy-to-read typefaces, interactive content, and mobile-friendly search functionalities. To keep an eye on current trends and user preferences, read our article on the best cases of mobile commerce applications.
9. E-commerce analytics
E-commerce analytics helps measure user behavior, performance trends, and ROI. It lets you dig deep into facts and figures, business data from the past, and predictions for the future, so you can make the best decisions. There are a variety of different types of E-commerce analytics that you can use to drive your strategy, and here are some key points worth considering.
- User behavior. How do visitors act once they reach your website? What products do consumers usually purchase? How many visitors leave your website right away rather than exploring it? If you know such information, you can easily figure out the typical journey people embark on when interacting with your store. As a result, you can improve certain parts of the store in the future.
- Sales analytics. Sales analytics is used to detect, model, explain, and anticipate sales trends and outcomes, as well as to assist you in improving your strategy. Metrics data to measure online sales channel success includes: conversion rates, bounce rates, transactions, order volume and value, abandoned carts, and more.
- Predictive analytics. With the rise of Big Data, Machine Learning (ML), and Predictive Analytics, insights are becoming the trend for enhancing customer experience. Predictive analytics is the use of large amounts of data, statistics, and modeling approaches to create predictions about the future. It looks at both current and past data and looks for patterns to see how likely it is that the same pattern will happen again in the future.
- Marketing activities. This analysis can help you figure out your exact return on investment (ROI) for various paid marketing campaigns. Analyze how much revenue you have generated from all channels where you handle marketing activities: social media, pay-per-click ads, email marketing campaigns, etc. Besides, it is important to figure out whether you earned more revenue than what you spent on creating the ads and promoting them.
10. Additional details
For a custom E-commerce solution, there is no limit to the features and information you may want to provide. So you are not obliged to follow one format, and you can easily skip unnecessary details. However, here are some more aspects that customers may enjoy seeing in the store.
- Story of your brand. Break down the traditional layout with a bit of a short story about your brand and the specifics of your products. Tell customers about your store and the story behind it. Share your values, some interesting facts, or things that inspired you to start it. Customers will appreciate learning more personal details. Through storytelling, you can show how you’re different and create a bond with users.
- Real reviews. Most customers trust online reviews and feedback from other customers. Reviews allow you to potentially create positive customer interaction as well as long-lasting relationships. Provide some of the real impressions from real people and avoid fake reviews.
- Social presence. When you present your store on social networks such as Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, then in this way you build your brand awareness and increase market reach. Profiles of your brand on social media networks can also serve as additional channels to communicate with customers and generate more sales.
- Chatbots. Chatbots can be used to instantly show customers relevant information 24/7 and 53% of customers are more likely to buy from a store they can message. If you want to optimize chatbots, it would be a great idea to power them with artificial intelligence (AI) that not only offers quick responses to inquiries but also learns from previous conversations with customers.
- Refund and delivery conditions. It will be beneficial for your store to offer a clear refund and delivery conditions. Product descriptions should include details about refund and return policies, so customers may quickly determine the cost of delivery and their choices if the product does not work or does not fit.
Now you have a better understanding of what aspects to consider during custom E-commerce development. As you can see, there are lots of things to be implemented. It’s all because a successful custom E-commerce solution is a stand-alone system that presents the unique concept of the store and answers the needs of your target audience. Every detail should be worth your attention and time.
If you need any help, advice, or want to enlist the help of a reliable partner to take care of all the engineering tasks, feel free to get in touch with us. We'd be happy to help you give your customers the best experience possible. Contact us to discuss the details of your project.