Why read this? : We look at the benefits of doing a D2C post-launch review. Learn who needs to be involved, what it should cover, and when it should happen. We also look at how to turn the learnings into a clear and compelling story. Read this to learn how to do a D2C post-launch review.
There’s lots of steps involved in setting up an online store. Many challenges and issues to deal with. It’s usually a long hard slog to get it done.
But there’s one shining light at the end of the D2C tunnel, and that’s the post-launch review. This is when you close the “launch” phase of your store. You look back at what you’ve learned, and plan for the future. It’s a significant milestone, and one you shouldn’t overlook.
Why you need a post-launch review
In the run-up to the launch, and immediately afterwards, you have to deal with lots of uncertainty.
Will it work? How many customers will we get? Can we actually do this?
The post-launch review brings more certainty, because it forces you to reflect. To find answers to these types of questions. It forces you to think about what to do next.
It’s no longer will this work, but how do we make this work better?
That’s a big change in thinking.
Plus, it also helps you recognise the achievement of launching your store. Setting up D2C is hard work. Looking back at what you did, and what you learned helps make all the hard work feel more worthwhile. The post-launch review helps recognise people’s efforts and motivates them for what’s next.
They’re common on all types of projects (innovation launches and big advertising campaigns, for example), but they work especially well for D2C. D2C projects are often complex, with many different tasks. Gathering insights. Building your strategy. Building your culture and capability plan. Delivering a great D2C experience. The review helps you consolidate your thinking across all these activities.
When your nose has been on the D2C grindstone, it’s easy to spend all your time doing, not thinking. So the main purpose of the D2C post-launch review is to make you stop and think.
Your post-launch review documents what went well. What didn’t go well. What you’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight. You then share these lessons to help future D2C projects go better. The review becomes a how-to guide for doing D2C in your business.
When should you do a post-launch review?
It’s important you don’t let too much time pass between the launch and your post-launch review.
For a D2C store project, 3 months after the launch is usually about right. Certainly, no more than 6 months after you go live.
You need just enough time for everyone to have a mental “break” from the pressures of the launch.
That break helps everyone look back at the project with a fresh perspective.
But you don’t want to leave it so long that people forget what they did. Or that the people who worked on the project leave the business.
It also gives you time to gather actual data about the store’s performance. The post-launch review analyses how well your overall D2C experience is working compared to what you expected. How accurate your sales forecasts were, for example. How each of your activities in the customer journey is going.
You’d already have some of this in your D2C dashboard. But in the post-launch review, you go deeper into the numbers. You think longer-term about what’s needed to make the store work better.
Who needs to be involved?
First, you need someone to lead the post-launch review.
This could be the same person who led the project. There’s clear benefits to this approach. The project leader has the deepest, broadest knowledge of the overall project. They can help put together a complete story of what happened. And they’ll clearly be keen to show what was done, how hard the team worked, and what the benefits have been.
The only downside to the project leader doing the post-launch review thought is it’s hard for them to avoid being biased. They’ll want to present the project and the team in the best light. So, they might overemphasise the positives. Downplay the negatives.
It can be worth asking someone from outside the original project team to help run the post-launch review. In particular, gathering feedback from team members. Someone who can be more independent and objective in evaluating the project.
Whoever leads it needs to remind everyone involved, the point of the post-launch review is to review the project, not the people. You have separate HR processes for that. This is an objective review of the project. To focus on the facts and what happened. It’s about capturing lessons to apply to future D2C projects.
Which topics to cover?
Which topics get covered in a post-launch review varies by project. But broadly, we’d expect to see :-
- project learnings up to the launch.
- performance learnings from launch to the date of the review.
- planning learnings which can be applied to other projects.
You start by reviewing the original project task list, and checking all tasks were completed.
Then, you review tasks which ran over time or budget, and investigate what caused the issues.
You also note the consequences of these delays and overspends.
Taking our D2C dashboard as an example, this part of the review would broadly cover :-
- Project overall – including defining your target audience, your strategy and goals, and how your project team worked together.
- The store – including how you worked with your e-Commerce agency, and key website tasks like design, build and testing.
- Order to delivery – including how you set up payments, integration with IT systems, and how delivery and customer service was set up.
- Business plan – including forecasts and the profit and loss, the launch itself, and the set-up of the team who now manage the store.
For each area, you capture which activities worked well, and where there were any challenges on the project. You ask team members to share what they think they could’ve done better with the benefit of hindsight.
Next, you review the actual performance. You go through the goals, objectives and KPIs and analyse how well the store has done compared to how you thought it’d do.
Start at an overall sales and customer level.
For example, look at weekly orders, and do a topline profit and loss for the review period.
Then, go deeper into the sales patterns, and look for any anomalies.
For example, did orders start to grow sooner or later than forecast? When did your digital marketing activities kick in? How did they drive visits and sales? Are there any data quirks such as specific times or locations which over- or under-sell?
You’re looking for lessons you can apply to future forecasts. Before you launch, it’s hard to forecast accurately. It’s at best educated guesswork. But with a few months of actual data, you should be getting more accurate. The post-launch review helps you get better at forecasting.
Next, you review the data from each step of the D2C customer journey.
It should be easy to get as most of what you do is done online. Digital media, SEO and social media, for example. You analyse which channels drive traffic, and which drive conversions.
You also review your store website performance. Key Google Analytics metrics like bounce rates and clicks on call to action buttons, for example.
And of course, your specific e-Commerce metrics like conversions, abandoned carts, average basket size and repeat purchase rates.
Finally, you review the performance of your store’s back-end. This mainly covers payments, storage, deliveries and customer service.
On payments, that means checking your payment gateway data. You check how it’s preventing fraudulent transactions, and coping with refunds.
On storage, that means checking your stock levels. You don’t want any shortages, or out-of-stocks.
On deliveries, that means checking the speed and accuracy of delivery. You want to minimise lost, damaged or incomplete deliveries.
And finally, you review any issues raised by your customer service team. They get direct customer feedback. You want to make sure you’re listening to what your first customers are telling you.
The “project” learnings are the past. The “performance” learnings bring you up to the present. But with planning learnings, you look at how to turn those learnings into future actions.
You get the most value out of learning from the past when you can apply it to improve how you do things in the future. So, for each project and performance learning, you ask yourself “so what?”. Is it just interesting? Or does it mean you need to change what you do?
For example, doing more of an activity which worked well. Doing less of something which didn’t go well, or even cutting things which have no impact. Finding better ways to do things, now you know more than you did at the start. And identifying any gaps. Anything you missed, that you know should have been included.
It’s turning these lessons into recommendations where you get the most value out of a post-launch review. The next project team who have to do a D2C project can use these to make their plan better. They can learn from your mistakes, and deliver the next D2C project in a faster, smarter way.
How do you gather the data and information?
There’s 3 key ways you gather the data and information for a post-launch review.
First, you review and organise the original project documentation. The original plan and project timelines. Market research reports. Businesses cases. Internal presentations.
You pick out the key actions from these as your structure for the “project” part of the review.
Next you gather feedback from the project team.
Ideally, it’s a face to face conversation, but you could also send out a questionnaire.
You ask them to share what they learned, and what they’d do differently if they had to do it again. This is the part that’s often best run by someone from outside the team. The project leader should be an interviewee, not the interviewer. The team can then feel freer to give more honest feedback on the overall leadership of the project.
Lastly, there’s all the marketing data you gather for the performance learnings.
You should already have a regularly updated D2C dashboard showing headline metrics like sales, profit, website performance and order to delivery measures. But this is usually just a summary check-in on performance. In the post-launch review, you normally go deeper into the numbers.
For example, you dig into the performance of specific digital media campaigns and channels. You look at specific product pages. Check how your site navigation’s working. Review customer orders and CRM data to get a better picture of who’s buying.
The final step after all this, is to pull together a clear D2C learning story which you then present and share.
Presenting and sharing the post-launch review story
Crafting all these post-launch review learnings into a clear story is what makes them stick. It’s what makes people do something different.
This story’s key audience is mainly people who weren’t directly involved in the launch.
Leadership teams who need to support the investment. Colleagues in other divisions or markets who want to learn how to do D2C themselves. The team looking at improving the way the store works in the future. Everyone can learn something.
The story structure usually follows the project timeline.
It starts with a reminder of what you set out to do when the project kicked off. The objectives and plan you had going into the project.
Then, it tells the story of the key events which happened right up to the launch.
Next, the story covers the early “life” of the store with a review of its initial performance. And the story’s big finale shares clear learnings and recommendations about how to drive future e-Commerce growth.
You present this story to all relevant stakeholders. You circulate it, and make sure it’s accessible to anyone who needs to learn from it.
Conclusion - D2C post-launch review
The D2C post-launch review is an important milestone. It lets you look back on what you’ve achieved. Reflect on what you’ve learned. And sets the direction for the future of your D2C store.
Book in a time to do it well in advance. Put the date on your project timeline. Ideally, around 3 months post-launch as this gives you enough time to also review the store’s performance.
It should be part of your e-Commerce culture and capability plan to do a post-launch review after every major D2C initiative.
It helps you learn, and helps you improve. These are what help you grow your online sales.
Check out our articles on D2C post-launch issues and e-Commerce dashboards for more on this topic. Or contact us if we can help you with your own D2C post-launch review.
Lens (adapted) : Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash
Man looking at ceiling : Photo by Anton Danilov on Unsplash
Calendar : Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
Woman holding credit card near Macbook : Photo by Pickawood on Unsplash
Doorstep delivery (adapted) : Photo by MealPro on Unsplash
Dog ears : Photo by kyle smith on Unsplash
Woman presenting on stage : Photo by Product School on Unsplash