How we launched an eCommerce site in 20 days

Person holding a credit card while browsing an e-commerce website.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are needing to shift almost everything to stay relevant. Even if they aren’t shifting, they are accelerating efforts that might have been on the back burner or been put off in the past.

We had a prospect reach out to us a few weeks before Governor Wolf set the stay-at-home order and we started to discuss setting up an eCommerce site for their 8,000 products. The day after Wolf made the stay-at-home order they called me and said, “I need to get this store up”. They had been working with another agency for the last two years and the store still wasn’t “live”.

We got to work right away.

Spending the time upfront

Our process, for any project, has an initial upfront discovery session where we identify users, brand and any technical integrations needed. We’ve found that if we spend more time in the initial stages of a project, then things like scope creep or miscommunications don’t happen as frequently.

In this project’s case, we needed to spend a lot of time trying to understand site architecture and integrations to the Point-of-Sale system. As you can imagine, an eCommerce site that has so many products also has a lot of categories. So the challenge became how to showcase all the categories but not feel overwhelming to the visitors. We accomplished that by creating a mega menu with an image so the user can get a true feel for the category group and quickly find the item they were looking for.

Then came the dreaded integration into the Point-of-Sale system. This actually wasn’t as brutal as we thought it was going to be. The Point-of-Sale was Vend and they integrated in Shopify very nicely and we were able to match up product items between Vend and Shopify, therefore allowing the client to manage her products in one place moving forward.

Challenges faced

I won’t lie to you and say that this was a 100% smooth sailing project; both of us faced challenges that we needed to address.

For them

Since we were using the POS as the home base, they needed to identify an internal process and categorization system before they would build on it into their eCommerce store. They needed to go through and modify terms, product details, and industry lingo. We didn’t want them to change everything for the eCommerce store because this needed to serve them in their brick-and-mortar store.

For us

We already talked about maximizing an extensive site architecture previously but the challenge increased when we needed to list all the brands they carried as well as product types. We added an additional filter layer to the sidebar which allowed people to find the brands they wanted in a specific product type. We showed the first 10 with a “Show All” link that expands them all, in a scrollable list allowing a visitor to see the full list but not have the list take over the page.

We couldn’t have done it without them

One of the things that can make or break a project is client collaboration: How quickly do they respond? Are they willing to collaborate or take direction? Do they do their part? The only reason that we were able to get such an extensive site launched within the 20 days is that our client worked tirelessly to provide us input and feedback or materials needed. They were an absolute dream to work with, much like our other clients, and because of the collaboration, we were able to get a site up for them to start generating income.

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