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Defining an eCommerce Operation – Solution Ownership

UPDATE 10/27/10 – I posted a mind map of my eCommerce Operation on mindmeister that replaces the original map contained in this post. This includes the latest updates to my organizational thoughts on an eCommerce team.

ecommerceoperationMy boss sent me a mind-map from MindMesiter last week for an eCommerce Operation. The map attempts to define the elements that make up an eCommerce operation in an organization. This type of thought and discussion is relevant for those that are running eCommerce and Internet Marketing groups. I’ll summarize my thoughts on the topic in this and future posts. The first area of the map is for solution ownership.  By the way, I don’t actively use the MindMeister site, so I’m converting the thoughts to a concept map using the software found at CmapTools.

Obviously there is not a single owner of an eCommerce operation. There are multiple individuals and team roles that serve as owners of specific elements. I see ownership or ultimate accountability in three key areas of the operation.

Feature Set

The product manager is responsible for sorting and prioritizing inputs from stakeholders that represent multiple functional areas of the business. It’s essential that the product manager know and understand the goals and objectives of the current business plan. These serve as the guide post by which decisions related to priority are made.

The features of a website may be grouped into high level categories such as communication, order entry, or customer relationship. Communication features are related to targeted messages, product display, guides, and instructions. These types of features aim to merchandise the products in the store effectively and to guide customers to targeted areas. Order entry features make sure the customer can put products into a cart and complete the sales funnel. Typical features in this area involve payments, delivery, and order processing. Customer relationship features involve the customer profile, self service ability, help pages, and contact-us type pages.

Results

Depending on the area being measured, the results of the eCommerce operation are owned by the product manager, marketing, or the IT group.

The product manager is responsible for ensuring the site content and functionality are aligned to business goals. This role should make sure that system stays up-to-date, contains fresh content, and does not contain elements that prevent customers from ordering. Results are measured in areas such as product accuracy, web site release cycle timing, and resolution of business needs.

The marketing group is responsible for defining programs and metrics that align to the three eCommerce key performance indicators:

  1. The number of customers to the store
  2. The number of customers that buy from the store
  3. The amount of money that customers spend in the store

The IT systems group is responsible for the availability and performance of the site. If you don’t have IT at the table as an accountable group for eCommerce results in your organization then you need to think twice. Sites that are unavailable to a customer when they choose to shop create a lost sale. There are plenty of sites on the Internet to shop from and chances are a competitor site is available. Slow speed? A definite customer turn-off. Make sure the store is open and the lights are on.

Competitive/Industry Alignment

Who is responsible for making sure  that your site content and offering are competitive with the current market or better yet distinguish you from your competition? This part of the operation should be assigned to Sales and Marketing. Sales because they have the closest relationships with customers and clients. They should be aware of how competitors are positioning their products and services. They’ll know why you’ve not been able to close deals in the past and they’ll know what customers are asking to have in the web site. The marketing group may contain a strategist that can analyze industry level trends or provide input on potential new products where there could be market demand. They can use tools such as SWOT analysis (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) to examine how the eCommerce site fits into its market space.

Certainly there are more team members in an eCommerce operation. Each team member is part owner of the overall system and responsible for their contributions. Let me know your thoughts on a eCommerce operation. Is your organization structured differently or do you think it should be structured differently?