Skip to content

Online store strategy

Why read this? : Your online story strategy is where you decide how you’ll sell online. Learn the 2 approaches you can take. We share the pros and cons of the fast approach, where you launch quickly and learn as you go. Then we go into more detail on the full approach. We go through the external analysis and internal capability plan you need to build your online store strategy. Read this to learn the key questions you need to answer before you start to sell online. 

Online store strategy

How this guide raises your game :-

  1. Understand the fast and full approaches to online store strategy, and decide which one works best for your store.
  2. The key elements to consider in an external analysis and an internal capability plan.
  3. Learn how the strategy drives the goal, the business case and your plan. 

There are many different ways to set up an online store.

You can choose to piggyback on someone else’s e-Commerce operation, such as selling through marketplaces or Print on Demand.

Or, you can set up a full e-Commerce D2C operation, where you manage every step of the e-Commerce experience. 

You have many options to choose from, and many decisions to make.

You need an online store strategy.

This doesn’t guarantee success. But it makes it far more likely you’ll succeed than if you don’t have a strategy.

Question mark spray painted onto a tree trunk among a wood of trees

Ready to test your knowledge?

What’s your starting level of knowledge about online store strategy?

Take the 2 minute, 5 question Three-brains online store strategy quiz and see how much you know about online store strategy already.

Online store strategy - fast or full approach?

The way you create your online store strategy will depend on the context of your business, and how you like to work. Many entrepreneurs are keen to launch quickly. They want to start selling as soon as possible.

So, we cover the basic steps you need for this “fast” approach.

With this approach, your online store strategy only covers very basic items. What you’ll sell. Where you’ll sell it. And, how you’ll manage payments and delivery. 

Your “store” is really just a page on someone else’s e-Commerce website. 

Relay sprinter holding a baton in his blocks about to start a sprint relay

It might have a rough idea of “How” you’ll sell, But you refine and evolve this “how” over time.  

The alternative is a “full” strategy process. 

You take more time to gather information, carry out research and have a more planned approach. It’s likely you’ll spend more before you launch. But, it’s also likely when you do launch, your strategy will be stronger, your store experience will be better for customers, and you’ll be more likely to drive sales. 

So, we’ll spend time in this guide covering how to do this “full” approach. 

We’ll cover the external analysis of key business areas like your target audience needs and the competition. Then, we’ll talk about what kind of internal capabilities you’ll need to support your online store strategy. And, we close with how you bring this external and internal analysis together to set your online store strategy and plan. 

When do you make the decision to go fast or full?

As per our guide to the e-Commerce planning process, the decision to set up your online store normally comes as part of your channel planning.

The decision comes after you identify what the e-Commerce opportunity is, and validate it. Setting up your own online store is one of the choices you make on “how” you will go after the opportunity. 

However, “your own store” can mean more than one thing. It can mean selling on marketplaces. Or having a “shop within a shop” with online retailers.

But normally, it means dropshipping or a full D2C model. So, it’s important to define what you mean when you talk about “your own store” within your online store strategy.

e-commerce planning process - The 5 key steps of the e-commerce process

The fast approach

For the three online retailer channels of marketplaces, bricks and clicks and pure players, the overall store clearly belongs to the online retailer.

But in each of those channels, you can have varying levels of control over how your brand appears. 

In marketplaces for example, you plug in key tangible assets from your brand identity like your logo, your colour palette, and your sales copy. 

Even though your online store is essentially your page within someone else’s website, to the online shopper, it’s a representation of your brand.

It’s the digital equivalent of hiring a space at a car boot sale, or renting a stall at a weekend market.

e-commerce 5 key channel options - on a x-y graph against level of complexity and control

And while bricks and clicks, and pure players sell your products on, some of them will offer more advanced options to set up a “shop within a shop”, where you set up a branded online experience within their overall site. To the online shopper, it will look like “your” brand’s space. It’s the digital equivalent of renting a concession in a department store, or opening a shop in a shopping centre or mall.

These options, particularly marketplaces enable a faster entry into online selling. You use the templates and infrastructure of the marketplace to manage the key functions of e-Commerce. There’s no HTML coding or CSS design work required.

Fast approach - 2 focus areas

So, your focus is really only on 2 things. It’s to make the products you put up for sale appealing. And it’s to carry out digital marketing activities like online digital media and social to create demand and drive traffic.

Because, you can launch via marketplaces relatively quickly and cheaply, it’s a common way to test if there’s demand for your products, services and brand. It means you don’t have to invest heavily in online store website design or worry about the back-end functions like finance and supply chain.

With this fast launch approach, you can build learnings quickly. Your market research comes from selling. You refine your online store strategy as you go.

At the most basic level, you only need to check three areas before you launch an online store with the fast approach.

Something to sell

First, you need a product or something to sell. 

That may be something you already own or make.These might be either one-off sales, or regular items that you sell. 

Or, you can work with dropshipping and / or print on demand suppliers to create “products” to sell.

These suppliers hold the actual products, and you act as an intermediary between the online shopper and the supplier.

The shopper orders from you, and you then forward the order to the supplier. 

Hand holding a small wrapper package marked fragile

Under both these ways of selling, the products technically don’t exist when you sell them on your store. They are either part of the suppliers existing stock, or will be printed when the order comes in. 

With dropshipping, it’s important to make sure you are connected to the suppliers stock levels, so you know they can fulfil your orders.

And, with print on demand, the suppliers holds “blank” versions of the products like T-shirts, caps and mugs. Your design is printed on the item as the order comes in.

This “on demand” selling is popular because it means you do not need to hold on to stock, or worry about storage and unsold products.

Somewhere to sell it

Once you know what you want to sell, then you need someplace to sell it. As per our guide to online retailers, marketplaces like Gumtree, ebay and Etsy make it easy for anyone to sell. 

With marketplaces, this is as straightforward as signing up for an account, listing the product and waiting for the buyer to get in touch. So, if this is Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace for example, the buyer will contact you directly to arrange the sale. 

If it’s ebay, you’ll get details of the order, and will need to work out how to deliver it.

Ebay home page - headline says Ebay Plus - start a 30 day free trial

With print on demand (POD), you can set up shop “pages” on the sites of the service provider, such as we’ve done with Redbubble and Spreadshirt, for example.

But other than adjusting the images, logo and some of the colour formats, you’ve very limited options to how you can optimise this sort of page.

You have no choice, but to use the supplier’s layout and user experience.

You also hand over control of the whole order to delivery process and customer CRM data. That goes to the POD supplier, not you. 

Screengrab of the Three-Brains Spreadshirt shop home page showing design topics for T-shirt designs

Dropshipping - needs a "full" approach

With dropshipping you will need to set up an online store website to handle the selling and order to delivery process.

With dropshipping, it’s usually better to follow the principles of the full strategic approach than the fast one, because you’re more exposed. If the customer orders from you, and your supplier can’t fulfill it for example. Or, there’s an issue with an order. You, as a dropshipper need to resolve those types of issues. Customer service is all on you. 

Also, every other person who chooses the “fast” online store strategy with marketplaces or Print on Demand will use the same template. 

The ordering, payment and delivery will be exactly the same for every order. 

So, the only point of difference will be your designs and brand identity. This limits your ability to look for further points of difference to make yourself stand out. You’ll end up with a customer experience that just doesn’t feel very different for your target audience.

Manage payments and delivery

Depending on the marketplace, you will also have to manage payments and / or delivery. 

With online retailer marketplaces, some, but not all offer payment options. If they don’t you need to look at Payment Gateways or options like Paypal. We cover these in more detail in our guide on how to start selling online.

And as hardly any of the marketplaces manage deliveries, you need to work out how you are going to store, and ship the products.

(Check our guide to functions of e-Commerce to read more about the challenges of storage and shipping).

Person paying for an e-Commerce purchase as they hold a credit card up in front of a laptop

With print on demand, they manage payments and delivery, so you take away those challenges. However, you then have little or no direct contact with the buyer as they are essentially buying a blank item with your design on it. As you are doing the marketing for your designs, you need to work out if the cost you need to pay in media for example, will be met by the amount of sales and profit you generate.

If it doesn’t, then your business isn’t profitable.

Whichever “fast” approach you take, you need to define your online selling business model. You need to make sure that your sales income will be more than your total costs, especially the delivery costs. It’s important to watch out for “extra” costs like credit card fees, marketplace fees, foreign exchange fees, chargeback (refund) costs and other online store operational costs.

Doing this will help you make sure your fast approach is profitable.

Or not.

The advantages of the fast approach

Because launching an online store front through a marketplace or print on demand supplier is relatively quick and easy, its biggest advantage is you can learn a lot about demand for your products without a lot of investment up-front. It’s relatively low-risk, as if it doesn’t work, you can walk away from it without having spent a lot of money. 

If you choose to sell via Print on Demand marketplaces like Redbubble or Spreadshirt, all you need to focus on are designs and marketing.

Its biggest advantages are speed to market and the ability to test and learn. Obviously, the faster your products are available to buy online, the faster you’ll drive your first online sales. Because you can set up on marketplaces relatively quickly and at low cost, you don’t have to find a lot of money up-front to get started. 

You’ll also start generating  some live digital data and insights faster, which will help you to refine and define your online retailer strategy. However, you’ll be limited to what the marketplace or print on demand supplier provides you. You won’t have the same access to data that you get when it’s your own website.

The disadvantages of the fast approach

Going fast in the world of digital is generally a good thing.

But, going fast can mean the quality of what you deliver suffers. Great e-Commerce experience can take time and expertise to do well. And just because you can sell online, doesn’t actually mean you will sell online. 

Because it’s quick and easy to set up this channel, many other sellers have gone into this approach already. It’s a cluttered space with lots of competition. 

Your product page within a marketplace won’t stand out or be found unless you invest in digital media to drive customers to the page. And it may well cost more than you think to drive a high level of sales. 

You have to work out how many items you think you’ll sell, and how much profit you make per sale. The profit needs to be more than the cost of generating the sale. 

That’s not so bad when you make your own products to sell on Etsy for example. Your craft or art items may not cost a lot to make, and can fetch a decent selling price. 

Print on Demand - Profit model

But for Print on Demand sites, you normally only make around 10-20% of the sale price. On a $30 T-shirt, you make $3 – $6 per sale.

But work out how much it costs to generate a sale, and Print on Demand starts to look less attractive.

The standard visits : sales conversion rate is usually around 2%. So to get, one sale, you need to pull in 50 visitors.

And if you assume a Click Through Rate from your digital media of 2%, your media needs to be seen by 2,500 people to get 50 visitors.

That’s 2,500 reach to get 1 sale. You could well be looking at $30 – $40 in Facebook ads to reach 2,500 people, so suddenly that $3 – $6 from the sale doesn’t look like such a good return.

This is a relatively normal scenario, and in fact, we’ve been generous with the Click Through Rate as the normal is more like 1%. To make a profit with marketplaces and print on demand, you need to reach large audiences without spending large amounts of money.

Instagram post saying No Network cables? Thank Dr John O'Sullivan and the team at CSIRO - with a picture of a woman wearing a T-shirt that shows a WiFi symbol and the words Australian Invention

Print on Demand - Brand identity matters

This means you need to have unique and appealing designs. The most profitable online stores are the ones which have a strong and relevant brand identity. And which have built up a strong following via social media.

Digital media channels like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest give you ways to grow your audience without spending a lot.

(Facebook unfortunately isn’t that helpful, unless you spend money).

So, it’s possible. But it’s tough.

There are many more people who don’t succeed this way, than those who do.

While the marketplace and print on demand marketplace model is nice and simple in the short-run, you may find the costs involved in driving sales make it more challenging in the long-run.

And of course, when you don’t have your own online store, you miss out on all the benefits of having your own website. Like being able to drive SEO search traffic, creating bespoke designs, adding extra features, and direct access to data.

And there’s one final challenge to consider, especially with Print on Demand designs.

Because when your designs do start to sell well, they’ll become more prominent and well-known. And that means you’ll suddenly start seeing lots of copycat designs. They may not be exactly like yours, but there are many online sellers looking for trends and bestsellers.

It’s part of the challenge to make your brand stand out. It’s worth checking out Print on Demand forums to see how often this happens.

The full approach

So with all those challenges in mind, sooner or later, most online store entrepreneurs will fall back into a fuller, more strategic and planned approach to online selling.

This usually means you have more control over the e-Commerce experience. You’re looking at dropshipping or a full direct-to-consumer (D2C) online store strategy. 

With both these options, you set up an online store website. You manage all the digital media to drive traffic to that site. The “front-end” of the e-Commerce experience belongs to you. Every interaction is between you and the shopper.

You manage the payments and orders. Either through the dropshipper, or through your own supply chain set-up.  

e-commerce planning process - 5 key steps in e-commerce experience

For every sale, you have direct contact with the shopper. And if there are any issues with an order, it’s your responsibility to sort them out. Customer service is your responsibility. 

The big advantage of this approach is you have the most control over all elements of the e-Commerce experience. But that control, also means you need to manage the complexity of setting up and running the online store.  And that can be a disadvantage. With this complexity comes a bigger need to plan ahead and have a defined online store strategy.

This online store strategy usually starts with the external opportunity review, and the internal capability plan.

External opportunity review

We cover the need to identify the external opportunity in our guide to the e-Commerce planning process.

But, what sort of areas should you specifically look for that would lead you to set up your own online store? 

Target Audience 

Your starting point for any external analysis should be the needs of your target audience.

You should carry out market research to help you find key insights on how to appeal to online shoppers.

Man's hand holding a camera lens in front of a lake with mountains and blue skies in the background

In Australia more than 73% of households shopped online in 2018. But, online sales still only account for around 10% of total retail sales.

Though online sales are growing fast and the majority of people do some online shopping, the default model for most shoppers in most categories is still traditional retail. 

This is still the case even in advanced e-Commerce markets like China, the US and the UK.

So, your target audience review can look at 2 opportunities.

Getting those who still buy from traditional channels to start buying online. Or, getting existing online buyers to switch to your store. 

For your online store to be successful, it has to fill a need that isn’t being satisfied through existing stores, either traditional or online. This usually means taking your segmentation, targeting and positioning work, and extending or re-doing it in the context of your online store strategy. 

Online shopper needs and wants

So, start with your product or service segments, targeting variables and positioning statement.

You need to update these to make it clear what the opportunity is for your online store. The key area to focus on is the online shopper needs and wants. 

As per our what online shoppers really want article, most online shoppers are looking for ease and convenience, access to a wider range or a better price. 

These are the key needs that relate to the ‘service’ element of online shopping. So, as part of your online store strategy, you need to show how your store can deliver against these types of needs.

Segment the overall market into groups of online shoppers who share these similar needs.

Then, quantify and prioritise the segments to identify your ideal target audience.

And then for this audience, define your e-Commerce positioning statement.

e-marketer amazon shopper driver study

What is the benefit that your store can deliver, that your target online shopper can’t get from buying from other online retailers?  Whats your competitive strategy? And what’s your reason why and reason to believe, that supports the benefit?

This process helps you position your online store and defines your point of difference.

Ease and convenience

Ease and convenience for online shopper usually means you remove the need for them to do something.

So, try to analyse how and where shoppers currently buy. 

How many clicks do they need to find and buy the product, for example? How much information do they need to enter to place an order? Can they order complimentary products at the same time? 

If you can deliver the same result for the online shopper, but make it so it’s less effort for them, that’s a strong e-Commerce proposition. 

Glass door to a shop with a sign saying "Open - Shop"

Online shopping is easier than traditional stores

So, for example, if your online store strategy positions yourself against traditional stores, you could highlight the convenience of not having to physically visit a store. Or, worry about when the store will be open. Online stores can be shopped at anytime, from anywhere. 

If the items are heavy or bulky, much easier to have it delivered to your doorstep than go to a store and collect it. 

It could be as simple as making product information easier to find and understand. Or, you could work to reduce the number of clicks they need to make before they buy. It could be as simple as making online and expert reviews more visible, to build trust and reassurance. 

But it’s not just on the website where you can add ease and convenience. You can also look to do it through the order to delivery process. 

With payments, you can include options like After Pay for example where the consumer can spread out payments. 

With delivery, you can work with delivery companies to offer more specific delivery times and shipment tracking. These add to ease and convenience for the shopper 

You can look at how to make repeat purchases easier by offering subscription services. This approach work best for products consumed on a regular and predictable basis like coffee modules, razors and toilet paper. It sets up automatic orders and deliveries. It’s more convenient because the customer doesn’t need to remember to re-order. 

Example - quantitative research

As an example, take a look at this extract from some e-Commerce quantitative research we worked on. 

The target audience for this online retailer were asked to rate the importance of different online shopping needs.

So, this target audience valued the ability to shop any time of day and night. And the time saved not having to visit a store as especially important. These were more important than price or range considerations. 

So, for this audience, these ease and convenience statements became part of the  advertising message. The media ran at times when the audience was likely to be online shopping. And we highlighted the convenience of getting the product delivered straight to their door.

Quantitative research results example


Online stores have less physical space limits than traditional stores. So, they can often offer a wider range and variety of products online. This wide range of choice can be important in categories where consumers expect choice and variety. 

So fashion, homewares or DIY products for example. Range, can be important in these types of categories. Range is important when online shoppers have more specific needs. 

If your online store strategy focuses on range as your point of difference, that has implications for how you set up your online store website. And more important how you set up your back-end functions like finance and supply chain. Your supply chain, in particular, will need to be able to store, pick and safely deliver a wide range of your products. 

But range doesn’t necessarily have to be just about the number of products. An alternative range strategy, and one that’s much easier to manage is to focus on online exclusives.

You limit availability of certain products, so that shoppers can only buy them from your online store.

This limited availability, as we cover in advanced e-Commerce techniqes article, can make your products more desirable by creating the idea of scarcity. (see our article on behavioural science for more on scarcity). 

A good example of this approach are alcohol manufacturers who offer “distillery shop” exclusive products. These are usually high value items not available in other channels, where you limit the availability to your own online store only.

Brands like Bundaberg for example build their brand identity and connect with core consumers by offering these exclusive types of products. 

Bundaberg rum website page showing their exclusive range of products


As per our e-Commerce planning process guide, it’s relatively easy for the online shopper to compare prices online. But this also means, your competitors – other online retailers – also have full visibility of your prices too. This openness and easy access to pricing is an opportunity. You can gather competitor pricing data quickly. But, it’s also a challenge. Everyone has access to the same information on price. 

This might be fine if you’re going after a cost leadership competitive strategy. But price  transparency creates challenges 

For example, if you sell the same products though an online retailer, and through your own online store, you need to consider the two different price points. You can set the price in your own store, but it’s up to the online retailer what price they charge. 

If your store price undercuts the online retailer, they’ll lose sales. They may well end up delisting your product. 

With your own online store strategy, it’s often worth finding ways to adjust the range of products available. So that it’s not such a direct price comparison to online retailers. 

You might want to sell larger or smaller formats in different channels, for example. Or, different colours, designs or patterns. You could look at added services or special offers that the online retailer can’t or won’t offer. It’s important from your online store strategy point of view to find a position that makes you different from other online retailers.

Delivery costs

It’s also worth remembering that the total price the online shopper pays covers more than just the product, it also covers the delivery costs.

So, you might look to find better or cheaper delivery options as part of your online store strategy, so you don’t compete directly with online retailers.

As per our cost of the last mile article, there are many areas where you can give extra service or reduce cost in delivery.

These have the potential to build a competitive advantage into your online store strategy. And to work out what that is, you first need to analyse your competitors.

Competitor analysis

Once you identify the overall segments, and your target audience, you still need to work out how you will get that audience to change from how they buy currently. And that means, you need to carry out some competitor analysis. 

You should look at other online retailers who sell products that meet those same needs. What features and benefits do they offer? Do they have specific strengths that you need to overcome? Or, weaknesses that you can exploit? 

Visit their websites, and see what it’s like to buy online from them. Is it easy and enjoyable? Or is it complicated and clunky? Look for areas where you know your online store could do it better.

You need to work out how you’ll position your online store. What do you want your target audience to think about buying from your store? Why would they buy from you? 

This means you need to identify who your competitors are (based on the frame of reference), what benefit you offer, and your reason why and reason to believe. 

This is important.

Let’s assume you establish why your target audience might buy your product online.

If you’re not clear though on why they should buy from your online store, then they won’t be either.

They’ll buy your product elsewhere.

Find your competitive point of difference

Think about why the target audience would choose your online store to make their purchase.

So, maybe you offer more or better content about the product itself? Maybe you make it easier to find products or customise products? Maybe, you give more and better options for payment and deliveries? So, clearer delivery charges, delivery tracking options and a wide range of delivery times for example.

These could be your opportunities if the competition don’t currently offer them.

It’s important to look for what customers need, but aren’t currently getting. As we’ll go on to cover next, this sets the direction for where you need to build your internal capabilities. And, it establishes and validates the opportunity for your business case.

Internal capabilities

If there’s an external opportunity, the next step in your online store strategy is to work out how you can set up your online store to take advantage of that opportunity.

Where you identify that opportunity helps define the key capabilities you need to build.

So, for example, if the opportunity is around building a distinctive brand, then you need marketing skills like brand development and advertising. 

If the opportunity is about the online store website experience, then you need digital marketing skills and technical skills like user experience, graphic design and expertise in marketing technology. 

e-commerce planning process - 5 key steps in e-commerce experience

And if the opportunity is part of the order to delivery process, then you need IT skills and support from other functions like finance and supply chain to make it all happen.

Who and when

It’s important to also work out “who” and “when” of your online store strategy and plan. These decisions help you work out costs with your business model. Can you manage to build these capabilities with your existing team? Do you need to recruit more staff? Or, can you bring in agencies to help you deliver?

There’s a trade-off between team and cost with these capabilities. The faster you want to go, the more you have to spend.

Working out a plan to build these internal capabilities to meet the external opportunities is what then drives your online store goal, online store strategy and business case.

Online store goal, strategy and business case

Now that you’ve looked at both external and internal factors around your online store plans, you need to bring those different elements together into a clear goal, strategy and business case.

Your goal will usually be a sales target to give you an idea of the size of business you are looking to go for.

“We will sell $1m of (our product) through our online store in 2021″ for example.

Or, “we will convert x% of our current sales into online store sales by the end of 2021”.

However, your goal doesn’t stand alone.

Your online store strategy then covers ‘how’ you will actually deliver the goal. It should be an easy to understand short summary, that outlines who the target audience is, why there’s an opportunity, what you are going to do about it, and why you believe it will work.

The target audience you will have identified as part of your external analysis. And, the opportunity should relate to a benefit or need that you believe is currently unmet or poorly met.

So, for example, this might be you offer a wider range of products than anyone else. Or you offer specific products that aren’t available elsewhere. Or, you offer a specific service such as faster delivery or subscriptions to make life easier for the online shopper.

Value proposition

The way your online store meets the opportunity is sometimes referred to as the value proposition. It defines in the words of the online shopper why they’d buy from your online store.

You then need to outline the key big steps you need to do to deliver against the opportunity or value proposition.

We’ll focus on maximising the range available on our website and in our warehouse.

We’ll make products X,Y and Z exclusives to our store.

Or, we’ll work with key delivery partners to get the products as fast as possible from warehouse to doorstep.

Close up of woman's hands holding a bunch of dollar bills and in the process of counting them

Of course, in reality, your strategy will usually be more refined and goal oriented, but this gives you a general idea of the sorts of things it can cover. Whatever, the factors are you also need to build some internal confidence that consumers will buy into what’s on offer. And that this will deliver profitable sales for you. 

That normally comes through in a business case. 

Validating a business case

At this point, you should try to collect together all the key information you’ve gathered from the external and internal reviews. You want to build a business case that explains to everyone else what you plan to do. It explains why and how it’s going to work.  

This online store business case is similar to the business case process when you launch a new product. (see our marketing innovation guide for more on this).

That’s because you are launching a new “product”.

Your online store is like a new product. There are always certain key questions with new product. For example, your business case needs to outline the store’s profit and loss.

Business case to launch plan - marketing innovation

Use your market research to work out a forecast of demand and sales. You want to quantify how many online shoppers you think will buy from you. And, how often. You can test out particular “offers” with market research. You can generate “intent to purchase” scores which you can then apply to the total market.

So, if you run quantitative research with let’s say a sample of 200 online shoppers, you might discover that 10% of them say they’d buy at least once a month. And if you know, your actual target audience is 1 million shoppers, then your potential sales are 100,000 shoppers a month.


But way over-simplified.

Interpreting market research for your business case

Because, of course, the reality is what people say in market research and what they actually do, don’t always match up. That’s not to say don’t do it. When you need funding for media, or to build your online store website, market research gives investors confidence. 

But just bear in mind, the best market research comes after you launch and start selling. 

For your business case, you should make both best and worst case estimates. Your actual sales target is likely to fall somewhere in between.

Your business case needs to set clear goals and KPIs. This helps you to track performance. These should prioritise sales. But, they can also include other metrics like visits to the website, % of conversions, delivery times, customer satisfaction and number of repeat loyal customers. 

Your online store strategy and business plan also needs a summary of the key marketing mix for your store. 

What’s your product mix, price plan and promotion for example? And, as your online store becomes your “place”, how’ll you use that to sell more online? 

What do you believe the reaction of competitors will be? Are there any risks you need to consider? And if so, what’re your mitigation plans? 

Implementation plan

You also want to set up a more detailed implementation plan. What are the key actions that sit under your overall online store strategy for example?

If it’s marketing, website, IT, supply chain or finance activity for example, do you have the right skills and resources to do what’s needed?

Have you identified when each action needs to happen? And, if there are any interdependencies?

As your online store strategy and plan develops, it’s important to keep track of all the different elements.

You want to keep all relevant people involved in the process aware of what’s been done. And, what still needs to be done.

D2C Online Store Status dashboard - Four column headed strategy and plan, the store, order to delivery and operations

A project dashboard like our own D2C dashboard, can help you make sure that all the different elements of your online store strategy and plan have been done.

It covers the strategy development which we’ve covered in this guide. But, it also includes key details on the online store website, the order to delivery process and how you’ll manage your own online store.

Online store strategy - pizza company example

So, to show how all these elements come together for your online store strategy, let’s look at a quick case study example. 

Let’s say that we’re a restaurant specialising in pineapple pizzas in Sydney. We want to sell and deliver pizzas via our own online store online. 

We’ve already done some segmentation, targeting and positioning to define the overall opportunity and brand positioning statement. 

Our actual online store strategy would need to be based on our analysis of all the external and internal factors. What are the opportunities in the market, and what capabilities do we need to build?

A graphic showing examples of how to do segmentation, targeting and positioning for a pizza shop company

Examples of what the online store strategy could be

This could lead us to focus on one key part of the consumer’s needs that are currently unmet or being poorly met.

So for example, our competitor review shows other pizza delivery companies prepare their pineapple well in advance. And this can makes the pizza go soggy.

So, the consumer’s need is to have fresh pineapple and unsoggy pizzas. Our unique online store strategy could be that we only use the freshest pineapple, and it’s cut just before it’s put on the pizza, so it doesn’t go soggy. We could send a picture of the pineapple being cut and put on the pizza just before it leaves to show how fresh it is.

So, we could state our strategy as we “deliver the freshest pineapple pizzas, backed up with photographic evidence.

This strategy then would be based on an enhanced service or offer.

Alternatively, our online store strategy could be to offer online exclusives. So, we could offer consumers a choice of different types of pineapple. So, they can choose Abacaxi, red Spanish or Smooth Cayenne pineapples for example rather than the generic “pineapple” option offered by competitors. This makes the offer more exclusive and not available elsewhere.

We could also consider loyalty offers. So, offering a $10 discount when customers spend more than $50 for example.

Or, we could add complementary products or services to drive engagement. So, for example, we could offer a limited edition branded pizza slicer when consumers spend $50 or more on an order.

Conclusion - online store strategy

The process to define your online store strategy through external and internal analysis gives you a great starting point as you put your online store goal and plans together.

This “full” approach to identity the opportunity, understand the competitors and define your internal capabilities will mean you take longer to get your first sale. But over, time, you do need to gather this information, write your plans and most importantly create great e-Commerce experiences for your target audience.

And the e-Commerce experiences are what we focus on in the other guides in this section. So, for example, how you build your online store website? How do you manage order to delivery? And what’s your day to day process for managing your online store?

As you work through the answers to these questions, keep checking back on the strategy to see if it still fits. Don’t be afraid to evolve the strategy and plan as your online store comes to life and starts selling. 

Three-brains and e-Commerce

We’ve worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across planning, working with online retailers and building D2C stores. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. 

Contact us, if you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business through our coaching and consulting services.

D2C Online Store Status dashboard - Four column headed strategy and plan, the store, order to delivery and operations
Click to download the pdf

Downloadable D2C status dashboard

Setting up an online store needs you to define your strategy and plan, work out the sales and marketing and also set up the whole operational side of the business including the finances and the delivery / supply chain model. It can be complex to manage.

That’s why we’ve used this project dashboard to great success in the past to have a simple one-page summary of the key actions require to set-up and manage a D2C online store. Download it here or from our resources section. 

Powerpoint and Keynote versions of this document available on request. 

Latest e-Commerce blog posts