Every Magento project involves making hundreds of decisions. From web host to payment processor to advanced features and functionality, the earlier each decision is made, the better. The most efficient project discovery processes will have all major decisions clearly scoped, planned, documented, and agreed upon before beginning development. We’ve outlined some of our best advice for getting the most possible value out of this most important phase of your Magento project.
Get to know Magento
Perhaps the first part of the project discovery process should be introducing the merchant to the Magento platform. Throughout the rest of the discovery process, the answer to the project’s most difficult questions will all come back to the fundamental capabilities of the platform and the customizations it sometimes requires.
A simple understanding of the platform will likely cause the merchant to re-think some of their processes to conform with Magento’s built-in functionality. It will also inspire ideas and spark creative conversation about the best ways to leverage or customize what Magento already has built-in.
At times, we’ve made the mistake of assuming our clients know how Magento works out-of-the-box, and the merchant assumes that we know how their business runs. The project discovery process should shine light on the Magento platform and the way that it can be leveraged or customized to fulfill the merchant’s requirements.
Meet the customers & map out the customer journey
Getting to know the customers is just as important as getting to know the merchant. It’s an excellent exercise for the Magento partner and for the merchant to understand customer demographics, styles, and personalities. The customer journey should be designed with several customer personas in mind.
Here are some good conversation starters when discussing or building customer personas:
- Demographics (age, gender, salary, location, etc.)
- Customers buying for themselves vs. buying gifts
- How familiar are the customers with the products?
- What might a customer do with the product when shopping for it / handling it in person?
- How price-conscious are the customers?
- What kind of rapport / trust is already built with customers?
- How do customers prefer to contact the merchant for support or with questions? Should they be encouraged them to contact more or less?
With this in mind, establish possible shopping patterns for those looking to browse, those looking to buy, and those looking to learn. Understand that you cannot force your customers to shop in a certain way, but rather must allow them to shop on their own terms while making suggestions and adding information along the way where needed.
Involve the right people
It is critical that the right people are involved in the project discovery process. This probably means involving key stakeholders during initial discovery to set goals, measurables, and establish the brand mission and voice. Throughout the discovery process, separate and more technical or detailed conversations should be had with the experts who know the most about them.
Translating all key information through a project manager often results in misunderstanding and frustration. Merchants should involve their technical teams to share detailed information with the technical members of the Magento team where needed. While developers should not be involved during every step of the discovery process, it is often helpful and most productive to include them during technical discovery sessions.
Avoid surprises but understand that you haven’t thought of everything
The entire point of a detailed project discovery process is to set a clear goal and roadmap for the development of the project. If done successfully, both the merchant and the Magento partner will move forward with clear goals and feel excited for the success to come. It is impossible, though, to account for unexpected project adjustments. For this reason, there must be a certain level of flexibility built into the project plan, and all teams involved should embrace this flexibility. Specifically, this means regular check-ins and testing to ensure satisfaction.
This means making sure the merchant understands every aspect of the site by providing training and documentation. It also means maintaining an open line of communication to solve difficult problems and clear up confusion throughout the development process.
Establish clear, measurable and attainable goals
Building a Magento store is a significant investment for any business. Those of us who have worked with it, understand that the possibilities for growth are endless on this highly scalable and open-source platform. That’s why we are excited to work with it every day.
Before beginning a project, it’s important to understand how the project’s success will be measured. Some merchants already utilize specific KPI’s and monitor all of their data closely. Others aren’t sure how to establish or even track that kind of data.
Commonly utilized KPI’s include:
- Conversion Rates (on Desktop and Mobile devices)
- Average Order Value
- Churn (Percentage of customers who do not return)
- Site traffic & traffic source
- Customer service emails & calls
- Positive customer engagement and feedback
Sometimes Magento reporting combined with Google Analytics will provide all of the info you need, but for more advanced analysis we recommend extending Magento’s reporting capabilities with an extension like AheadWorks advanced reporting or by using an analytics partner like Glew.
Get inspired & check out the competition
One of the most fun parts of project discovery is looking for inspiration. There are endless opportunities to review the websites of competitors and those who are clearly doing it right. And it’s almost more fun to point out websites you hate! Both teams introducing each other to designers or developers they admire is a great exercise, generally leading to thought-provoking and productive conversation.
Understand what’s part of the project, and what’s not
It’s absolutely critical that everyone involved with the project understands the time and scope of the work that will be completed. Even more critical is for the teams to agree on what is not within the scope of the project. Again, this is another situation where either team can get in trouble by making assumptions, so it’s important to review the project scope together in detail, line by line.
If and when the project scope must be adjusted throughout, all project changes agreed upon should be clearly documented.