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Dx eCommerceAn Affordable eCommerce Platform For An Ambitious Merchant

Sometime in July of 2014, DX Retail Store (Not the real name, due to a non-disclosure agreement with the client) approached Icelark with a vision of creating an online digital experience similar to the then Nigeria's ecommerce market exclusives Jumia and Konga.

Being an obscure and small one-location retail store for various kinds of goods ranging from household electronics to furniture, to security equipment, DX was relatively well experienced within its traditional commerce arena. But they needed more reach and visibility in order to effectively expand their operations and gain a significant percentage of their market share.

They recognized the potentials of digital to help them achieve this corporate goal. Their first challenge, like a whole lot other businesses in a similar situation, was in choosing the right digital solution provider with the needed capability to enable them get there.

The Value Of Finding The Right Strategic Digital Partner

After a few bad experiences with the wrong digital services providers, they approached Icelark cautiously, for initial discussions. With some rightful skepticism, as they later confessed, they related their vision of taking their offline retail experience online to the CEO of Icelark at the initial meeting at a popular fast food joint somewhere at Surulere, Lagos.

Their confidence on Icelark's capability grew as the Icelark representative fleshed out their vision with specific potentialities as it relates to the current state of the ecommerce scene in the global arena, and how they could leverage it to push their vision beyond their wildest dreams. And most importantly to them, doing so at an insignificant fraction of the cost their future competitors, Jumia and Konga, were spending on their platforms.

The outcome of that first meeting seemed too good to be true for the DX team, but the clarity and authority with which the Icelark representative restated and fleshed out their initial vague vision statement convinced them to give it a shot.

Establishing Project Objectives And Overcoming Initial Challenges

Within two weeks of the initial meetings the papers were drawn and the project contract awarded. After a few other meetings the project objectives was established and outlined in concrete terms. The two teams identified and agreed on a three-phased project timelines to account for the logistics limitations of DX at the time that would not allow the full extent of the ultimate goal to be achieved at once.

This challenge, logistics, is typical of ecommerce website that deals with physical good, and DX case was not different. So this necessitated that the initial roll out of their digital commerce platform will have to be scaled down to account for this shortcoming, while the solid foundation for the full expansion in the future would be laid with the first phase.

The first and pilot phase would limit the area of operations of DX to with Lagos state only. Then subsequent phase would branch out to the surrounding state in the next phase, and ultimately they would become nation wide.

Research And Analysis, Value Propostion Creation

After the project objectives and general milestones has been established, the Icelark team started off with their standard research and analysis programs that included primary and secondary customer, competitor's and industry research.

From the result and insights gained we crafted a customer journey map for the new DX digital customer experience we would be creating.

We focused on identifying and providing solutions to the potential pain points within the customer journey with DX new experience, based on customer needs, expectations and preferences identified. The end result was a digital user experience tailor-made specifically for the identified Dx's primary target audience.

We then brainstormed, articulated and clarified a suitable value proposition for the primary target audience. This would become central to all DX's messaging, not just online, but offline equally, for a unified brand experience at all touchpoints.

Creating A Commerce-Based Business Model And A Mobile Experience

Working with the DX management team, Icelark analysed and crafted a unique ecommerce-based business model for DX that would enable them deliver on their brand promises, at the same time align closely with its business objectives optimally. The result was a management and operational model that would straddle both DX's online and offline worlds and integrates them seamlessly.

The DX management were very excited by the resulting customer experience proposal and gave their nod of approval for Icelark to go ahead with the next phase of the project: Creating the digital strategy that would outline and detail the roadmap from bring it to life.

Recognizing the increasing importance of mobile at the time one of the main objectives for the project was to create a mobile-friendly, responsive website experience.

Digital Strategy Phase

The digital strategy phase identified and detailed all the digital initiatives that would be integrated into the wholesome digital experience DX desired. This included the technology architecture, information architecture, content strategy, content management, inventory management, third-party integrations, custom functionalities, among a lot of other necessities.

The final result of the digital strategy initiative was a comprehensive roadmap that detailed each initiative clearly, including their priorities, timelines and expected outcomes. With the detailed digital roadmap at hand, Icelark set out to implement it.

Founded On A Solid Technology Foundation: Drupal Framework

Given the specific requirements for the project which included, security, robustness, performance, extensibility, custom functionality, data-driven, low-cost, etc, the choice of a technology foundation for the project was evident: Drupal and Drupal Commerce platforms, for the content management and ecommerce functionality respectively.

Drupal and Drupal Commerce pair proved to be an excellent choice in the post-launch period. Thanks to the infinite extensibility power of the Drupal platform, every relevant extra/custom enhancement and functionality that was identified through feedback for actual use by customers, were easily achieved. Of course, it took the long-standing Drupal expertise and experience of the Icelark team to make some of those customization efforts seem easy to pull off.

The Result

The decision by DX to go digital with its retail brand at that time proved to be a very wise and rewarding one. In less than one year after the DX Commerce digital platform was launched, the revenue and profit from the online experience surpassed that of the direct store experience. And this was in spite of the fact that the online operations was responsible for the improved results from the in-store sales over the same period.

What Next?

A little over a year after launch of the DX Commerce web platform, the initiative proved so successful that DX kicked off into the next phase without a second thought, expanding their operations to cover neighboring states around Lagos.

DX is already on its way to becoming national with operations already into a few major states within Nigeria that are further away from Lagos, including Port-Harcourt and Abuja. The logistics requirements of a complete nation-wide expansion would be enormous, but with innovativeness, resourcefulness and the right technology partner DX could pull it off, no doubt.

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