Online retailers sometimes choose to run multiple e-commerce sites to cater for different audiences or provide a different experience.
This is often the case with sports apparel retailers where one website is used for the season’s collection and a second one handles custom apparel orders for clubs and corporate clients.
The custom apparel site usually allows for more flexibility around choosing fabrics, styles and placing own logos and names, and the sale process involves quoting, design review and custom manufacturing.
If you are about to launch a second e-commerce website, here are some aspects to consider so that you end up with an ecosystem that works. This method will also avoid frustrations down the track.
For this scenario, we will assume that your ecosystem comprises:
- an e-commerce platform (eg. Shopify, Magento, Neto and WooCommerce)
- an inventory system (like DEAR Inventory, Unleashed Systems or Cin7)
- an cloud accounting package (Xero or QuickBooks Online)
And that all these components are linked together.
1. Connect the new site to your cloud ecosystem
In a simple scenario you will build the new site on the same e-commerce platform that is already used for your retail site.
In this case, check that your inventory system supports linking to multiple online stores and that it records the source of each order.
For example, the DEAR inventory app supports linking to multiple Shopify stores to the same DEAR organisation. Not all integrations support multiple stores.
Sometimes you choose a different e-commerce platform for specific features, for example, quoting for custom products.
If you consider the sports club apparel scenario you may want to build a jersey design interface. A visitor could then choose a fabric, place logos and include individual player numbers and names on the back. Then the site would create a quote which they can come back to revisit before it turns into an actual order.
If you are introducing a new e-commerce platform, check whether it has a built-in integration with the inventory and order handling system you use. Otherwise consider using alternative ways to send information between them.
This could be via integration platforms such as Zapier, a custom integration, or a simple export/import process if you expect low volumes initially.
You also need to consider other integrations such as accounting, marketing and CRM. If you can connect to each of these websites you need to avoid duplicating data or creating silos of data in your system.
Sometimes you cannot avoid data silos but you want to know where they are and be comfortable with the implications.
2. Test the integrations yourself
Not all integrations are the same. Each platform comes with different scope and options around the integration.
For example, some create orders only, others handle payments as well. Some post each individual order and others support certain levels of batching.
And please DON’T rely on the documentation provided by the software company. Run test transactions with different scenarios that are likely in your business.
One scenario could be a new customer who pays immediately with shipping and a promo code added to the cart. Did the the e-commerce app deduct the inventory properly from the inventory app? Did it create an invoice in the accounting app for the correct amount with the appropriate tax code? Has the discount come across as a discount on the invoice line or as a separate negative line?
Try the different payment options on the site. If you provide options for credit card, Paypal and maybe AfterPay, see that the payments flow through to your accounting software with all the relevant information to simplify reconciliation.
If some of the data does not come across the way you expected it, consider whether this is still workable for you or if workarounds or custom integration are required.
3. Think about the customer’s experience
Now that you have two websites, you can end up with two customer databases. This will inevitably affect your interaction with your audience. Do you plan to send out promotions to both sets of customers? What happens if one customer is on both lists?
The key question you need to answer is, do your customers feel like they are dealing with a single business or with two separate businesses?
For example, do they need to sign up separately for email newsletters from each site?
Do they expect their settings such as special discounts and payment terms to carry across to the new site?
Make sure the setup and integrations will give your customers the experience they expect from you.
4. Map out your inventory
If both websites are going to integrate with the same inventory app, consider how this should be set up.
Will the sites share the same product list or separate lists? Decide which system will be the product master.
If you don’t decide which system is master, you may find yourself adding products to one site and then these products suddenly show up on the other site.
Typically each site will promote different products. In the above case, one site is selling retail sport apparel and the other targets customised apparel for sports clubs.
You may want to promote some products on both sites. For example, you may add stock products like socks, water bottles, bags, or other non-customised garments as add-ons to a customised club order.
To make this work check how you will control parameters for each site, such as different pricing or different minimum quantities.
If you don’t want your two sites competing for stock, you may need to set up separate warehouses so each site has separate stock guaranteed to it.
5. Sort out your reporting
Consider your reporting needs. Now that your data will be spread across multiple databases, you may want to run reports across the databases or separately.
If both websites sync their customers and sales into the one inventory app you may need some of way of tagging orders to identify which site made the sale. This is important if you will want to run reports separately.
If you want to gain business insights across the business, consider syncing all the information into a reporting dashboard. Then you won’t find yourself wasting time on merging data to see a report.
You don’t want a situation where it’s too much bother to create reports.
User experience has become so important to online stores that it makes sense to have two websites for two different types of customers. But you need to plan these projects carefully so that you don’t mess up your customer experience or your back office along the way.
If you need assistance in planning a good ecosystem with multiple websites please get in touch.
Image credit: almanaccogiallorosso