What are Some E-Commerce Fundamentals for Success?

e-commerce fundamentals

E-commerce is hardly static. New sales channels emerge and consumer wants and needs are always shifting. That said, there are still some core e-commerce fundamentals that brands and retailers can follow to best position themselves for success.

Let’s examine some of these e-commerce fundamentals and how you can succeed without unnecessary complexity.

E-Commerce Fundamentals

1. Speed matters in all things digital

Site speed, speed of testing and iterating, speed of changing prices: all are the foundation of e-commerce success. It’s better to be fast than completely accurate.

The most important feature is page load speed. If your page takes three seconds to load, it doesn’t matter what features you’ve built, the customer has already left.

2. Simple almost always wins

Most A/B tests fail to perform. Adding more features is usually just noise. The best-performing sites are the simple ones that just work.

3. Hire a designer and product manager

Do this if your channel mix is over 20% digital. Once you hire them, let them make decisions. A dedicated product manager will have deep insight into customer needs, allowing the designer to create experiences that meet their expectations.

4. Focus on product detail pages and checkout

These two always pay conversion dividends. Content on product detail pages (PDPs) should be engaging while expressing the unique value of the company. The checkout process should be as streamlined as possible, with no unnecessary friction.

5. Channel and distribution really, really matter

The growth plan for digital usually focuses on the wrong things (site UX and features). Instead, look to just expand your distribution to channels and locations where customers want to shop. This is usually the best opportunity for growth.

6. Make team skills and culture a priority

This is mandatory for digital transformation. It’s nearly impossible to change with your current team (the old school IT team and business folks who are operators). You must add digital change agents to your team to enact real digital transformation.

7. Have the CEO focus on digital transformation

If digital commerce is not a central focus to the CEO, digital transformation simply won’t stick. A great CEO knows the digital details including how many batch jobs are in production and the plan to retire for real-time data processing.

8. Invest in simple software

When evaluating software, don’t talk to the vendor sales rep. Ask to talk to their product manager. Think about the 80/20 rule. No software is perfect. Don’t hunt for the most features. Get the right features and quickly execute instead of waiting for committees and months to act.

9. Nail the basics

Don’t “prioritize” twenty new features if your product, pricing, inventory, and order services are broken. Get those four right first. Then get your site speed and UX for mobile right. Make them error-free, fast loading, and easy to change.

10. Measure a few input metrics that you can control

Actively monitor traffic per channel, page bounce rate, PDP stats, and the cart/checkout conversions you can impact. Revenue and margin are output metrics that are reported on, so focus on inputs to affect the outputs.

11. Don’t buy an expensive search engine

Instead, hire an analyst to tune the one you have. It will pay off 10 fold vs the money spent on a fancy ML/AI search.

12. Improve operational efficiencies before chasing new features

That next feature everyone else has (and that you want) probably won’t improve the quarterly results. But focusing on solving customer pain may. This could be removing returns or credit card declines, shipping on time, or any of the hundreds of operational issues you put your customers through daily.


The fundamentals of e-commerce can be summarized in a few key ideas. Hire right, have a clear goal, let the experts use your customer insights to develop the strategy, focus attention on the core things, and keep it all simple.

Topics: Commerce
Ryan Bartley

Co-founder @ fabric. Previously general manager @ Staples, eBay, and Dell Inc.

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