October 29, 2018 By Ryan M - VP Strategy & Growth,

Setting yourself up for ecommerce success come 2019 requires a lot of preparation. Much of your time will be spent reviewing your past year and trying to create a forecast for the coming year, and even though those two steps are part of our guide they are only a fraction of it. Today we’ll focus on how to dream BIG, identify what will/should really matter for your business this year and simple actions you can take to create a roadmap for the months to come. Overwhelming? Yes, but don’t worry all of this is included in our step-by-step guide below, carefully crafted by our Director of Strategy, Ryan Melamed.


Before starting on your plans for 2019 take a moment to look back at your year of accomplishments, celebrate the wins and acknowledge the failures, there is a lot to learn from both. You should continue capitalizing on your successes by bringing them into the new year with you, but you should also look at the projects that didn’t work to get some perspective and avoid the same pitfalls for the future.

Finally, before you start strategizing for 2019, you should take a look at the industry landscape for the year:

  • What are some of the rising trends?
  • Is any new technology disturbing your industry? Is it an opportunity? Or a threat?

Digital Operative’s CEO and Co-founder BJ Cook recently hosted an event about the current e-commerce landscape, if you missed it, go check it out.


The most important rule when it comes to setting goals is to have an honest view of your business, without this (almost) unbiased view, you might produce unrealistic goals and set yourself up for failure.

In the first few weeks of the year you will need to decide on the orientation of your business:

  • Are you going to be pursuing active growth?
  • Are you going to invest heavily in some part of your business?
  • Is your focus going to shift drastically compared to last year?
  • Or are you just trying to keep the lights on?

Once you have established this baseline, take a stab at the first forecast for 2019 by asking yourself what your expenses (fixed and variable costs) will be and by creating a conservative and aggressive revenue projection.

Now that you know where you’re at and where you are heading, filling this gap will be the goal of the following steps in this guide.


Looking back at 2018, if you were given the same budget, resources, and goals how would you go about planning and execution with the knowledge you’ve gained?

Ask yourself:

  • What would I have done bigger?
  • What would I have changed about my ecommerce strategy?
  • What would I have not done?
  • What did I wish I had been able to do?


    Now that you’ve set a baseline ecommerce forecast for 2019 it’s time to strategize the high-level growth opportunities. Think big and work your way backward, this might seem counterproductive since you won’t be able to implement some of the ideas you come up with but it will allow you to spot big opportunities for your business, and even if they are not achievable now, things might change down the road.

    • Generate high-level ecommerce growth opportunities by:
    • Using historical data to spot trends and opportunities
      • Creating a wishlist - without thinking of the budget - how would you build your:
      • Marketing Programs
      • Resources
      • Technologies
      • Media Spend
    • Assessing the costs and the impact of those plans


    As much as you’d like to do everything, don’t spread yourself too thin. Align your data with your future state objections and the opportunities will reveal themselves. Make sure you're partaking in the following:

    Ask yourself the right questions:

    • What are you doing really well in your ecommerce channel?
    • What are some of the challenges to overcome?
    • Do we need to plan for unchartered territory?
    • Are there any Game changers that can help me?

    Find the sweet spot between:

    Retention: Your strongest foundation is with customers already familiar and/or loyal to you and the channels you own. Gobble up this potential first, but save room for dinner.

    To optimize retention you might want to take actions on:

    • Site/Conversion Optimizations
    • Merchandising & Promotions
    • Technology Stack
    • Search Engine Marketing
    • Customer Service

    New acquisition: Key product launches, brand campaigns, and innovation can play a significant role in your marketing calendar, budget and resource allocation. Not to mention incremental revenue opportunities. Plan accordingly.

    • Hero product launches/Go-To-Market Campaigns
    • New product categories/markets
    • Key Brand Stories
    • Site Relaunches

    Customer experience: Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Keeping customers happy is a proven business philosophy. Your ability to create amazing experiences for repeat customers is just as important, if not more important, as first-time customers. It can be a high growth and predictable revenue stream. Spend time looking at the following:

    • Customer Lifetime Value
    • Repeat Customer / Visitation Rate
    • Spend Deciles
    • CRM & Loyalty
    • Reinventing the Customer Experience

    Digital Channels & Media Mix

    Try and save your acquisition planning for last. This is your most visible budgetary line item and the first to get eliminated. Align your organic and paid media budget with your key growth initiatives for the greatest opportunity of success and approval.

    It’s important to remember:

    • Establish ROAS for direct response media
    • Not all channels are created equal. Choose wisely
    • Branded media does have an ROI
    • The Medium Is The Message

    Don’t forget intangibles

    Not everything in your ecommerce planning process has a direct one-to-one revenue projection tied to it, but it’s still needed in support of those initiatives and/or business goals and processes. It all comes at a cost you’ll need to account for.

    Assess the following intangibles:

    • Content Production
    • Creative Services
    • Technology Investments
    • Operations
    • In-House Resources
    • Outsourcing Services

    Save room for experimentation

    Strive to make 85% of your budget dialed into your goals, and leave 15% for a healthy dose of innovation, research/testing or “slush fund” to amplify initiatives. Time change, don’t be afraid to fail.

    Save room for:

    • “The Big Idea”
    • Proof of concept innovation
    • Big Budget Production / Media
    • PR / Experiential Marketing
    • Surprise and delight
    • Omni Channel Experiences


      Now the hard part. SAYING NO.

      All your brilliant ideas have been laid out but if you want to excel, you can only do a few things great. The rest, you must kick down the road.

      Ecommerce Planning Action items:

      • Estimate costs and revenue projections
      • Assess what your good at
      • Does it align with short and long-term goals?
      • Can we execute with excellence?
      • Prioritize all of the above and place your bets


      You’ve made some hard decisions with your team. Time to put it down on paper and map out what your year will look like.

      What you will need to account for:

      • Brand Campaigns
      • Seasonal themes
      • Anniversaries events
      • Promotions
      • Key Acquisition / Retention Marketing Programs
      • Newness
      • The Big Idea

      You’re all set! Now the ball is in your court, what will your ecommerce strategy look like for you? If you’re elbow deep in numbers and stepping over multiple versions of forecasts trying to find your big ideas for 2019, book a time with our experts to talk about Strategy & Planning!

      Ryan About Author

      DO is one of the top Digital Agencies in the US.

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