28 May 2019 Luke Goldsworthy

When is it too late to start your eCommerce project in time for Christmas?

Like the annoying supermarket tactic that sees Easter Eggs on the shelves ONE DAY after Christmas has finished, I’m putting tinsel and mistletoe on your hearth already.

So what gives and why am I being so annoying?  Well, it’s just that Christmas comes around every year at the exact same time but so often people are surprised by it.

“Is it Christmas already?” they gasp! Usually followed up by the thought  “I thought I would have achieved more this year.”

All too often, however, I’ve pitched to eager potential clients that think that they can still get their eCommerce project done in time for the Christmas rush.  What’s missing, even if they’ve worked backwards, is they usually have left no time for testing, fixing any bugs or a/b testing with actual customers. And this all leads to rushed decisions and a lot of room for error.

It’s a bit like shopping for presents on the 24th of December with no idea what to buy!

And there is a reason we do this.  Coined by psychologists Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky, this is called the planning fallacy.

As Roger Buehler, a professor of psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University explains:

“So the planning fallacy is a tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a project while knowing that similar projects have typically taken longer in the past. So it’s a combination of optimistic prediction about a particular case in the face of more general knowledge that would suggest otherwise.”

So it turns out, we are all just super optimistic about what we can achieve in the timeframes that we have.

Knowing this means, at the Playhouse Group, we are far more careful about estimating the timing of our projects, and far more accurate. And just so you know, a project really needs to be live in October in order to set yourself up for a great Christmas period.

So now, so you don’t get surprised by the silly season, let’s put down the 5 top things you need to consider for your project and meeting your KPI’s and business goals for a successful Christmas eCommerce experience.

1. Strategy

What is your overall strategy? And, what are the tactical initiatives you are trying to achieve to deliver on this strategy?  

Working to a plan is advised, but trying to deliver too much too soon is always perilous and leads to scope creep. Engage your stakeholders and get all suggested features and functionality up on a wall via Card Sorting. Decide on the Must-Have’s and Nice-To-have’s and what can be deferred to a later date. Don’t try and be overly ambitious and if you’re not sure then try asking your customers what they actually want.

A final recommendation is to then plot each item on a cost versus benefit matrix. This top-down versus bottom-up assessment will help you put a well thought out plan in place.

2. Funding

Unless you are a small business and have total say over the budget to even get your project over the line you will need to secure some funding.  And with the End of Financial Year happening mid-year, sometimes purse strings get a bit tight for organisations for a while, until the new budget is set in place.  So make sure you secure your funding early with a clear business case.

3. Size of Project

How big is your project? Are you rebuilding your website from scratch on a whole new platform.  Ie custom design and integrations? These kind of projects can sometimes take up to 24 weeks. If you don’t know maths, that’s nearly a full 6 months. But even if your project is on a smaller scale, you’ve got to give yourself time, not only for the project itself but for decision makers to make those decisions.  And to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Even getting an idea how long projects like yours take from your agency will be a good start, so then you can work backwards.

4. Key People and Decision-Makers

Who needs to be involved in your project?  And how quickly do decisions get made in your organisation?  If you know you will need longer than the timeframes your agency have set out for you for making decisions let them know, and don’t try to fudge it. It will alter their resourcing plans, the timeline AND the budget.  Best to be honest up-front than trying to scrounge for extra funding when you need it at the last minute.

5. Choosing an Agency

I once knew of an organisation that took 3.5 years to choose an agency because of office politics.  Thankfully, most companies that want to be able to turn a profit don’t have the luxury to sit around for that long. But, it will take you some time to choose an agency because it is an important relationship.

If you don’t have an incumbent on board or if you are looking to take a new direction then give yourself the time to assess a few agencies. We have a great article on what to look for in an agency that you can read here.

Set yourself up for success

Remember to set yourself up for success around the holidays and start looking at your eCommerce plans for Christmas now.  Check that your hosting is up to scratch, trial some new logistics if your shipping options didn’t deliver last year (pun intended), solidify your staffing plans and templates.

Now, can you get all this done by October?

If you need helpful tips, need to know how long your project is going to take, how to plan your eCommerce year for success or would like to do a website project, then maybe drop us a line so we can help at hello@theplayhousegroup.com