Digital Commerce Canvas – the best way to plan Ecommerce project

Defining functionality for an Ecommerce project is a complex and daunting task.

When faced with a complex problem, I prefer to take a top-down approach to understand the challenge and find a solution. I want to see the big picture and all its components before diving into details. Even better if the top-down perspective can be presented in a structured and visual way.

We are all familiar with long spreadsheets with row after row of detailed requirements usually used for the RFP process. While they have their place in the implementation phase, they are not the best tools for understanding the big picture, highlighting the key points, and sharing your vision with the team. They are cumbersome to read, difficult to update and share, and one can easily get lost in numerous details.

While designing Ecommerce training courses, I was looking for a top-down approach to organize Digital Commerce functionality that can be used to plan and present an Ecommerce roadmap.  After experimenting for a while with different views and structures, I decided to use Canvas.

Many of you are familiar with the Business Model Canvas or their adaptation for startups – Lean Startup Canvas.

A canvas is usually a single page with several blocks to map out key points and define a shared language for describing and visualizing a model. Canvas offers a great way to force yourself to focus on your product’s most strategically essential elements.

 

Here is how we can apply the Canvas approach to Digital Commerce.

Let’s start with the four fundamental questions you need to answer for every Digital Commerce initiative:

That gives us four color-coded segments that make the backbone of the canvas.

  • In the first segment of the canvas, you define your customers (businesses or individuals) and what channels you use to reach them online and offline.
  • The second segment focuses on describing what you offer to your customers (products, services), how you organize them, and how you help your customers discover them and select products that best fit their needs.
  • The following (red) segment of the canvas defines how you price your products or services and what types of promotions and incentives you offer.
  • And we use the last segment to define the buying experience starting from a shopping cart, going through checkout, payments, and order fulfillment.

 

These four segments are further divided into eleven sections.

Digital Commerce Canvas

Here is a short description of how to use each section. You can find more information with many industry examples on the CommerceIsDigital site.

  1. You start with the Customers section to define your customers and how to implement segmentation and personalization.
  2. In the Channel section, define different channels you use to reach your customers (online stores, brick & mortar stores, social media, marketplaces, etc.). What countries are you going to serve, languages, and currencies to support.
  3. The third Products section is for documenting different types of products your business is offering. Are they physical products or services or both? Are you going to offer subscriptions, gift cards, product options like warranty or gift wrapping?
  4. Let’s move to the Merchandising section of the canvas. Here you list merchandising techniques that you plan to use to increase sales – cross-sell & up-sell, labeling, bundles, product sets, and personalized recommendations. An advanced and important part of merchandising is the configuration of the search engine to control and optimize search results. It is also called searchandising.
  5. The success of digital commerce depends on how easy it is for customers to find the products they need. Business needs to analyze Product Discovery functionality from both internal and external perspectives. Customers should discover your products on the web using search engines and find them when visiting your site. Product discovery from the outside includes optimizing for organic search and publishing your catalog to shopping comparison sites. When it comes to product discovery in the online shop, we need to look at site navigation, product category tree, on-site search, filters, and faced navigation.
  6. The Prices Every product has a price – a number with a currency sign. You can employ many different types of pricing in the business – sale prices, recurring, per usage, volume & tier prices, net or gross prices, customer-specific prices. In addition, some products (like configurable products) may require custom price calculations.
  7. Promotions come in a multitude of different forms. Depending on a business, these may be simple or highly complex. Like prices, promotions are configured by a product or category and may vary by channel, region, store, and validity period. Loyalty or referral programs also belong in this section.
  8. Now we move to the yellow section of the canvas, which defines the customer buying experience. The Shopping Cart section of the canvas includes features related to adding to cart, cart page implementation, cart validation, and calculation. You decide if you need to support multiple & shared carts, wish lists, and which tools to use to recover Abandoned Carts.
  9. The checkout flow is probably the most critical part of any e-commerce implementation. In the Checkout section, you define the checkout flow, mobile checkout, and shipment options, including click & collect.
  10. In the Payment section of the canvas, you select payment methods you want to offer (Credit Cards, Bank Transfers, Mobile Payments & eWallets, invoices, Recurring payments, Payment in installments, or payments with a Gift Card) and your payment providers.
  11. In the last section of the canvas (Orders), you focus on order placement and processing. Here you need to consider both – customer-facing features and backend processing. Customer-facing features include order confirmation, generating an invoice, returns and cancelations, and transactional email notifications. You also need to define how the fulfillment process will be implemented in the backend.

 

 

Here is an example of a completed Canvas.

Digital Commerce Canvas brings many benefits to your team.  The one-page canvas becomes the strategic foundation for your roadmap that shows all parts of your digital commerce vision.

It helps to understand your channels, customers, and products from the digital commerce perspective and discover how to apply the best Ecommerce practices to move beyond the limitations of your legacy systems.

Use it as a collaborative tool for the whole digital team to understand the scope of a project, reach agreements, adopt standard terminology, and facilitate dialogue between different groups in your company.

You can also use the canvas framework to analyze the competition. Choose some competitors and map their digital business. Armed with this information, you’ll have a deeper insight into market needs and opportunities to further grow your business.

Create Digital Commerce Canvas for your business! You can download a Canvas template with instructions on how to use it here.

Create Digital Commerce Canvas for your Business

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