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How Business Analysts Can Contribute to Online Retail Success

With low entry requirements and near-unlimited scope, ecommerce is a brutal industry.

Mostly anything you can sell is invariably on offer elsewhere, with any niche you care to mention already fought over by myriad competent merchants. Standing out through product quality is a challenge when most items come through generic supply chains. It’s possible to offer something totally original, but given the practical demands of production, it’s uncommon.

As a result, much of the recipe to ecommerce success involves factors aside from the products you offer or the prices you charge: factors such as how you market your brand, and — perhaps most importantly — how you run your website, encompassing both the technical elements and the level of customer service they present.

And when running such a website, it’s extremely valuable to work with a business analyst. Why is this, you might ask — what about business analysts makes them so useful for thriving in the ecommerce world? Well, here’s how they can meaningfully contribute:

They can boost efficiency to support scaling

What can’t you automate? High-level internal communications. While you can implement tools to help people communicate more effectively, it’s rarely a good idea to take staff off their primary roles for too long purely so you can get them talking. The point of a business analyst is that they have a dedicated and third-party perspective on your business, and can focus on dealing with obstacles for your staff members so they can focus on their workloads.

In essence, with a business analyst on your team (and the use of in-depth real-time analytics through platforms like Looker or Tableau), you can leave your technical developers to concentrate on development, your content production team to produce content, and all invested parties to their own devices — every group knowing that said analyst will keep them apprised of exactly what they need to be doing.


They can speed up store development

The difficulty here often lies in the clumsy communication between those savvy with tech-related matters and those knowing little about the digital world. The average online seller isn’t a web developer, and might know very little about how websites actually work — they just want a store that gets the job done and suits their needs.

Imagine that a layperson meets with a web developer to build a plan of action. They might be willing to sign off on certain basics (e.g. using Upwork over Fiverr to outsource content production, choosing one SaaS provider over another because of the support structure, or using particular colors to suit the brand guidelines), but they’ll probably run into difficulties when they start asking for certain features and expect them to be simple.

Once an organization moves beyond the early stages of growth, keeping up with the latest innovations and challenges gets more difficult. A business analyst can mediate this process of discussion, smoothing things along and ensuring that everyone knows what is expected of them and what can realistically be accomplished. Given that store development is an ongoing thing (ecommerce standards are fluid), this role can be hugely important.

They can action customer feedback

As much as a seller might like their store to be their personal vision of ecommerce, it’s always useful to remember that a store is built to please the shoppers. It has to be. The shoppers hold all the power over the company’s operations. What use is there in having a store that you think looks good if all the visitors leave in disgust? None at all, really.

And since shopper expectations change and develop over time, so too must your approach to business. That’s why you need to keep your finger on the pulse of your audience, learning what they like about your company, what they dislike, and what they’re indifferent about — but this isn’t easy. Not only is it tricky to seek direct feedback when you’re personally invested in what you’re doing, but it’s also tough not to let your personal opinions get involved.

A business analyst can serve as the voice of dispassionate reason for your store, gathering suggestions from your customers (and customer support team) and relaying them to you in a logical way. Through implementing and monitoring tools such as Heap (for customer analytics) and Yotpo (for maximizing customer value), they can make the most of every last customer.

They can also discuss prospective improvements with the IT team, again ensuring that all communications are fully logged and easy to understand. The result? Your store will keep getting better, and the disparate elements of your business will keep operating as usual without needing to waste time communicating poorly.

All things considered, scaling online retail is a tricky operation, with a pressing need to establish various internal teams to handle distinct elements: marketing, development, customer relations, shipping management, etc. By hiring a great business analyst, you can establish a strong fulcrum to support them all and keep everyone on the same page.