The Annual Roadmap for Growing Your Ecommerce Store in 2021

The Annual Roadmap for Growing Your Ecommerce Store in 2021

Did you know that back in 2019 ecommerce sales worldwide were $3.5 trillion?

We don’t have the data for 2020 yet, but worldwide sales last year were projected to reach $4.2 trillion, though they have almost certainly exceeded that due to the pandemic.

And the ecommerce market is likely to continue growing in the foreseeable future, with the projected worldwide sales for 2022 being $6.54 trillion.

To ensure that your company continues to get a piece of the ever-expanding ecommerce pie, you must research, think strategically and plan your objectives annually by creating a roadmap.

In this post, we are going to discuss exactly how to create an ecommerce roadmap. It will display where your ecommerce store is going and the steps it will take to get there.

We will cover:

  • Setting goals
  • Creating a budget
  • Building a team
  • Managing that team
  • Project planning

…and more.

Let’s dive in.

Analyze Your 2020 Performance

Okay, so before we start discussing the 2021 roadmap, it’s important to look back at the previous year. 

Seasonal Trends and Peak Periods From the Previous Year

Every ecommerce business is subject to seasonality.

Some are seasonal in nature, such as those that sell winter sports gear.

But the vast majority of them see spikes in sales on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and winter holidays.

You need to analyze the performance of the entire previous year if you want to properly prepare for 2021.

  • Which month was the busiest?
  • Which month was the least busy?
  • Which products brought in the most sales during specific seasons?

Understanding this will help you create a more robust budget that won’t be thrown off by the seasonal ebb and flow of sales.

Moreover, once you know which periods resulted in the biggest increase in sales, you will be able to allocate your marketing spend more effectively. Tim Katz, Co-Founder of DYODE explains why this is important:

“Ensure that you have your merchandise, marketing communications, and project calendar planned out for the year; while this may seem like a trivial task it is a helpful habit to ensure cross-functional partners are aligned and in sync to support your growth. Look to refresh your remarketing efforts with relevant creative and messages and exclusive content and offers in order to ensure you are maximizing your most loyal audience.”

He continues:

“As online competition increases so does the cost of acquisition. Because of this, you should focus on nurturing your biggest fans with exclusive content, product, and communication. This is a new world that we live in and you should continue to evaluate your branding and product mix in order to stay relevant.”

Which of Your Channels Were Strongest/Weakest and Why?

Look at the campaigns you ran in the previous year and what marketing channels they utilized. 

You need to figure out which of these marketing channels are the right ones to get your store the most ROI. Marketing channels can range from search engine optimization, PPC, social media, referrals, email and more.

Ask yourself:

  • Which marketing channels brought the most sales?
  • Which marketing channels brought the least sales?

You may want to apply the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, which states that:

For many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.

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The odds are that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your marketing channels while only 20% of your sales come from the remaining 80% of marketing channels.

Once you have identified the 20% of the marketing channels that generate 80% of your sales, consider allocating a significant amount of your marketing budget there.

Note: the exact ratio may be different, but a few marketing channels are likely producing disproportionate results. You want to double down on them.

Set Long Term and Short Term Goals for Your Ecommerce Store

Now that you have analyzed the previous year’s performance, it’s time to set goals for 2021.

Make Sure That Your Goals Are SMART

Arguably the most common mistake that people make when setting goals is being too vague.

That’s why it’s so important to set SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific. What exactly are you trying to achieve?
  • Measurable. How will you measure whether you have achieved?
  • Achievable. Is it realistic?
  • Relevant. How does it fit into the big picture?
  • Time-bound. By when do you intend to achieve it?
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For example:

Instead of saying that you want to “make more money”, you can set a goal to “increase the annual profit by 25%”.

Why You Need Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Which metrics should you use to measure your progress towards your goals?

That’s where the Key Performance Indicators, also known as KPIs, come in. 

Here’s the KPI definition:

A KPI is a business metric that is directly relevant to a specific business goal.

For example:

Let’s say that your goal is to increase the annual profit by 25%. 

Obviously, the main KPI here is the annual profit, but what other metrics are relevant?

  • Revenue
  • Profit margin
  • Number of sales
  • Average order value
  • Cost per customer acquisition

They are directly relevant to the goal because improving them would lead to an increase in annual profit.

You want to pick 3-5 KPIs to focus on.

Now let’s take a quick look at the important ecommerce metrics that you want to pay attention to in more detail:

Cart Abandonment Rate

Cart abandonment rate is the percentage of customers who put items in their carts but do not finalize the purchase.

For example:

Let’s say that 100 people put an item in their carts.

Out of those 100 people, 88 of them left without buying.

That means that your cart abandonment rate is 88%.

And if that number seems crazy high to you, note that the average cart abandonment rate worldwide in March 2020 was 88.05%.

Customer Acquisition Cost

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a metric that shows how much it costs you to acquire a new customer.

Its basic formula is this:

Marketing Expenses + Sales Expenses / The Number of New Customers Acquired = CAC

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is a metric that shows how much an average customer spends throughout their “lifetime” as a customer.

It’s a more complicated metric, but here’s the main equation:

Average Order Value x Purchase Frequency x Estimated Customer Lifespan = CLV

Average Order Value

Average Order Value (AOV) is a metric that shows the average value of a sale.

It’s a simple metric to calculate:

Revenue / The Number of Orders = Average Order Value

Note that all these metrics have a direct impact on the bottom line which is why it makes sense to consider using them as KPIs.

Create a Budget

Cash is the lifeblood of any business.

Once you run out of it, that’s it, you’re done.

That is why it’s so important to be financially responsible, manage cashflow well, and establish an emergency fund.

In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called the planning fallacy:

“The tendency to underestimate the time, costs, and risks of future actions and at the same time overestimate the benefits of the same actions.”

Basically, everything will probably take longer, cost more, involve more risk, and yield fewer benefits than you think.

It’s crucial to keep the planning fallacy in mind when creating the budget for the upcoming year for your ecommerce store.

Make sure to:

  • Be realistic. Look at the historic cashflow data. What can you reasonably expect?
  • Add slack. Once again, everything will likely cost more than you think, so don’t make your budget so tight that every cent is allocated before it is even earned. Leave some slack in your budget.

Your top priority should be the growth of your ecommerce store.

Build Your Team

Ecommerce growth requires constant human resources and infrastructure. 

This is why it’s crucial that you recognize there’s only so much that your current team can do to successfully scale your store. In fact, the chances are that in order to achieve your goals you may need to hire more employees throughout the year. 

Begin this process by accurately determining your staffing needs.

Who Should Hire And When Should You Hire?

Company leadership should be working on the business, and not in the business. However if you are currently without an HR department, you may need to dedicate some time to finding the right hires and training them.

That’s why it makes sense to start hiring as soon as you map out what departments need additional roles.

Hiring Full-Time Vs. Hiring a Freelancer

When it comes to expanding an ecommerce team, you have two options for most positions:

Full-time employees and freelancers.

Full-time employees can be expensive. It’s not only their salary that you need to think about. There’s also sick leave, vacation days, health insurance, etc. 

However, when you hire a full-time employee, you can expect them to give your business their undivided attention. Moreover, a full-time employee is likely to feel invested in the success of your company. Why? Simple. They don’t want to suddenly find themselves out of a job!

You only hire freelancers when you need them, you only pay for the work they do, you don’t need to provide any employee benefits. 

However, they are likely juggling a bunch of clients, projects, and deadlines, which means that they won’t be as focused on your business.

It’s up to you to decide what is more suited to your ecommerce store.

Where To Find Top Performers?

Hiring a full-time employee?

Then your best bet is probably DynamiteJobs job board, assuming that you are hiring for a location independent position.

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Meanwhile, if you are looking for a freelancer, then UpWork is a good place to start.

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You may also want to post your job ad on skill-specific job boards.

Problogger job board is the most popular writing job board, so if you need written content, you can probably find a writer there.

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Manage Your Team

Building a great team is not enough.

You also need to manage it well if you want your team members to do their best work.

Create a Job Description for Each Role

You want to have a specific job description for each role that explains exactly what that role entails.

That way you’ll avoid confusion, resentment, and shifting of responsibility (e.g. “I thought John was supposed to do that!”).

Assign Key Performance Indicators to Each Role

You should also assign KPIs to each role so that each team member would know what they should focus on. Dan LeBlanc, Founder of CEO Daasity explains:

“For the Merchants we worked with that saw triple-digit-growth in the past year they heavily invested in aligning their teams around the essential metrics to prioritize key initiatives. They ruthlessly tracked performance across their teams to make quick decisions on where to invest and where to reallocate budget.”

This also makes it easy to evaluate their performance. 

Create a Timeline and Set Milestones

You also need to manage each project correctly if you want it to be done on time and at the expected cost. 

Mapping out milestones and timelines in detail will do exactly that, by helping your team members know exactly what they need to do to get their tasks completed.

Step 1: Write a Project Scope Statement That Outlines the Deliverables

Every project should start with outlining the deliverables and what needs to be accomplished for it to be a success.

These deliverables should be specific. 

For example:

If you want to build a blog this year, then one of the deliverables could be to publish one article per week for the entire year (52 articles in total).

Note that this is a deliverable that the person who owns this project can control.

Articulate the steps it will take to achieve your objectives.

Step 2: Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Once you have defined the deliverables for the project, you need to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). What’s that?

Here’s one definition:

“Deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.

Here’s an example:

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Step 3: Create a To-Do List for Each Work Package and Assign It to the Right Team Member or Department

Once you have created your Work Breakdown Structure, it’s time to assign each work package to the team member who will own it.

You also want to create a to-do list for each work package so that the person would know exactly what is expected of them. To-do lists are essentially checklists that list the actions one needs to take to perform a specific task. They reduce the number of mistakes team members make. 

Step 4: Determine Total Time for Each Task and Therefore for Each Deliverable

Now that everyone has their work packages and to-do lists, you should estimate the total time required to complete each task.

Once you have these estimates, use them to determine the time required for each deliverable. This will speed up the process because the person working on a task doesn’t need to waste cognitive energy thinking about how long they should set aside.

Just remember the previously mentioned planning fallacy. Everything will probably take longer than you thought it would. Make sure to account for that.

Organize Quarterly Reviews

It’s crucial to regularly evaluate your progress if you want your team to stay on track throughout the year. 

You can do that by organizing quarterly reviews where you:

  • Evaluate the progress of each team member
  • Evaluate the progress of the entire team
  • Determine how you can help people to get back on schedule if they have fallen behind
  • Evaluate each marketing campaign
  • Evaluate analytics closely
  • Decide on the next steps to take

Now let’s take a look at the marketing strategies of your roadmap.

Q1: SEO Planning and Content Creation

Want to get more organic traffic from Google?

Then you need to step up your SEO game. First, you must:

Conduct a website audit

You should start with auditing your ecommerce website. Site preformance is particularly important, as Ben Crudo, CEO of Diff agency explains:

“Don’t let your store slow down. Customer experience, sales, the Google ranking of your website, and mobile performance are all impacted by site performance. Making a habit of regularly auditing your site for speed, and taking steps to optimize it will ensure that your store keeps up with customer’s expectations for performance.”

Here’s what you want to know:

  • Is your website mobile-friendly?
  • Are there any outdated pages, broken links, etc. that need to be updated?
  • Which content gets the most organic traffic?
  • How is product organization?
  • How are usability and speed?
  • How is the customer experience?

You also want to critically evaluate your content. How can you make it better?

Choose keywords

Next, you want to identify keywords that you could rank for.

Here’s an overview of the keyword research process:

Find Keyword Ideas

You can use your knowledge of your niche to find keyword ideas. What are your potential customers interested in? Brainstorm these seed keywords.

You may also want to go where your customers hang out online and observe the conversations happening there. 

Finally, be sure to check out what your competitors are doing, especially what content ranks well on Google.

Create a Keyword List 

Once you have identified enough promising keywords, you should compile them into a keyword list.

Do Keyword Analysis

Once you have your keyword ideas, use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze the relevant keywords. 

Which ones seem promising? Look at metrics like keyword difficulty, search volume, clicks and traffic potential.

Note that you want to focus on keywords that you can realistically rank for.

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Develop a content strategy

Now that you have a keyword list, it’s time to develop a content strategy.

Go through your keyword list and turn each of these keywords into an article topic.

Then create a content calendar so that you would know when each article should be published.

Content creation

Once you have a content calendar, it’s time to start writing.

You can write the articles yourself or you can hire a writer to do it for you. 

You may want to post a job ad on the previously mentioned ProBlogger job board if you choose the latter option.

Plan link building opportunities

It’s important to understand that creating great content is not enough. You also need other people to link to that content. Why?

Google uses backlinks as one of the top ranking factors to determine how valuable the page is to the visitors and where it should be placed in the search results pages for that keyword.

But not all links are made equal. The higher the domain authority of a website, the more valuable the link. 

You can use the Moz free Website Domain SEO Analysis Tool to see the domain authority of a specific website. 

Your aim should be to get as many backlinks as you can from authoritative websites so that your content will rank and in return, your ecommerce store will gain organic traffic.

Tackle the technical SEO basics

You also need to have your technical SEO on point if you want your content to rank on Google.

Here are a few basics of you need to optimize:

  • Site structure
  • Site speed
  • Indexing issues

Q2: Focus on your website

Okay, so now you are on track to increasing your organic traffic, but how can you make the most of it? By optimizing your website.

That’s what you should focus on in the second quarter of the year.

Customer Journey Analysis

You want to start by analyzing the customer journey. 

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Look at your data.

What steps do the customers take to get from that first interaction with your company to completing a purchase? 

You want to map this out so that you can then improve this process by finding the answer to questions like:

  • Why did that customer not find what they searched for?
  • Did this person not complete their order?
  • What changes do I need to make to the layout of my ecommerce site to increase conversions?

Create a customer support powerhouse

There is often a lack of personal interaction between consumers and companies. This has led to a growth in customers feeling frustrated, since they often run into issues and can't easily find a customer support agent to talk to. 

Even worse, some companies make their customers wait a long time for a response or don’t get back to them at all.

And since 95% of consumers say that customer service is important for brand loyalty, your ecommerce store needs to implement a fast and proactive customer support strategy that guides visitors through the customer journey.

The following tactics will delight your customers and keep them coming back for more.

Reduce your first response time

First response time (FRT) is the time elapsed between a customer submitting a query and how long it takes a customer service agent to get back to them. 

Today, customers expect a fast response. In fact, data shows that 88% of customers expect a response to their email within 60 minutes and 30% expect a response within 15 minutes or less.

Fortunately, a helpdesk like Gorgias now offers the ability to create macros. 

Macros are canned responses that agents can use for dealing with specific topics. This makes it much easier and faster to answer your customer’s queries. You can also add other pieces of information to your macro, such as Shopify data, like a customer’s order number. 

Reduce your resolution time

Resolution time is the average amount of time it takes your customer service agents to close a ticket after it has been opened. 

To reduce your resolution time, all of your customer’s tickets must be managed from one centralized hub in a multichannel helpdesk. This means your customer support team will have a full view of all your customer’s messages, no matter what channel they reach out from. 

Keep in mind that your customers reach out through various channels, (i.e. social, chat, email, phone).

The number of your one-touch closed tickets will also increase, which is important. After all, 33% of all consumers consider the most important aspect of good customer service experiences to be being able to get their problem solved in one single interaction. 

High customer satisfaction (CSAT) score

One way ecommerce stores measure their success is with the key performance indicator Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT). It is a survey that determines a customer’s level of satisfaction at key interaction times, such as a support ticket exchange.

The types of questions you would ask in your survey would be variations of “How would you rate the support you received?”.

Then, respondents answer by using the following 1 to 5 scale:

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very satisfied

I recommend that you present a CSAT survey after a ticket resolution, since this would be the perfect time to gather customer sentiment. 

Then, take onboard their feedback and see how you can make your other customers happier by improving your customer support strategy.

Frequently asked questions

Michelle Deery
The customer service platform built for ecommerce brands

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