Selling goods in a B2C environment, whether they’re digital products or just skin care products, requires a solution for internal communications and customer relationship management — especially if we’re talking about a franchise. This solution should connect multiple stores in the same network, enable information and idea sharing, facilitate smooth cooperation between departments, and provide for effective customer interactions. 


The solution we’re talking about is an eCommerce CRM system. It enables e-businesses to create a buyer’s journey that results in repeat sales and true customer lifetime value. 

CRM development process
source: public domain

CRM software is nothing new. Healthcareandreal estate CRMs have proven successful and gained a lot of traction in the past few years. We’ve already talked about them, but today we’ll focus on custom CRMs for eCommerce.

For those who prefer slides to blogs, here's our presentation:

How eCommerce businesses benefit from CRMs

Before we get to the meat of the matter, let’s look at the critical advantages of CRM software in the eCommerce domain. 

CRM development process
source: steelkiwi.com

eCommerce CRM development

Building an eCommerce CRM from the ground up is a challenging process, requiring sound management and an understanding of the eCommerce context. To help you with the latter, we share our insights into eCommerce customer relationship management and outline important milestones of custom CRM development. 

#1 Strategize, plan, and prioritize

 

Every product starts with an idea. Surely, good design and solid code are important to your project’s success. But having a well-designed platform won’t bring you the desired results if it doesn’t address your pains and business needs. Would you go shopping for your week’s groceries blindfolded, randomly choosing items without even looking at the price tags and products? Not a good idea. The same goes for software development. If you don’t plan correctly when starting out, you can jeopardize your chances of project success.

Therefore, we suggest getting your team together to brainstorm. Analyze your business processes, outline pain points and challenges of customer relationship management, and be clear about what you want to accomplish with your solution. 

Steelkiwi’s advice: Interact with internal stakeholders, system users, and the development team to scope out exactly what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. Collect and document project requirements.

#2 Craft a user experience that resonates with your CRM processes

A seamless experience matters a lot, especially in complex systems like CRMs. The problem is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all design formula for eCommerce CRM success. Much depends on your business specifics and process flows. However, there are a few things every business looking into developing a CRM should consider.

  • Make sure your design is user-centered. Understand your users. This isn’t about imagining what you’d do if you were the user. It’s about spending some time with your future users and interviewing them to learn about their needs and what they want to achieve with your software.
  • Design for multiple user types.CRM development is a collaborative effort between different departments including marketing, sales, and customer support. Therefore, find out the different needs, wants, and goals of different users. Make a list of associated user roles and their permissions to access specific content and functionality. Also, make sure you understand how different departments are going to work together and be connected within your system.
  • Put your findings together and start mapping the user journey,ensuring users are always at the heart of the design process. 

Another thing that’s important when designing your CRM system is your buyer’s journey, or the customer lifecycle. Understanding what stages your customers go through when they build a relationship with your business is fundamental to a good CRM user experience design. You should be aware of how customers move through your sales funnel and which department is responsible for which buying stage.


A typical customer lifecycle looks like this:

CRM customer lifecycle
source: steelkiwi.com

Ideally, your customer lifecycle should define your CRM processes. Say your buyer’s journey is like the one we described above. In this case, your CRM processes should look like this:

CRM process
source: steelkiwi.com

Q: What are the most important features of an eCommerce CRM?

You should look to the most successful software for inspiration to create your own. We looked for the best CRMs for eCommerce on the market and singled out the top three providers ― Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho ― to highlight the modules they offer. 

ModuleDescriptionFeatures
ModuleContact managementDescriptionA contact management module puts relevant data about your leads, prospects, and customers at your fingertips, allowing you to store, organize, and track that data  to have a complete picture of your audience.Features- Contact details
- Communication history
- Notifications to alert you of pings/mentions from your customers, prospects, and leads on social media
- Suggestions for the best time to send messages
ModuleLead managementDescriptionThis module is about tracking leads’ activities and behavior as well as qualifying leads ― activities aimed at making leads sales-ready.Features- Timeline overview
- Lead scoring and routing
- Cross-channel campaign management
ModuleWorkflow automationDescriptionDo you sometimes miss follow-ups? With workflow automation, you can master your sales and marketing follow-ups and never miss out on leads.Features- Automatic email alerts
- Drag-and-drop actions such as rescheduling, file uploading, and moving panels 
- Automatic task assignment 
ModuleFile sync and shareDescriptionMulti-user collaboration is key to successful customer relationship management. Your departments including sales, marketing, and technical support should be able to share any data they collect from customers.Features- Ability to track file history, comments, and updates
- Fast & easy uploads of contract documents, product specs, and price lists
- Document control capabilities: manage who has viewing, commenting, and editing rights
- Tags to classify content
ModuleOpportunity managementDescription

Every business generates leads. The question is how to convert them into paying customers.

An opportunity management module enables you to control the sales process by recognizing and managing opportunities, tracking details of deals, and streamlining marketing and sales processes.

Features- Highlighting of critical details
- Activity tracking
- Updates when action is required
- Revenue & quantity schedules to mirror delivery and payment terms
- Built-in quoting capabilities: create and send quotes from within the CRM
- Built-in integrations and feeds with different live chat solutions to pull in teammates and stakeholders to share progress and coordinate sales activities

We’d be wrong to say that must-have CRM features end here. You can develop unique features from scratch to meet your specific needs and concerns. That’s what custom development is all about. 

#3 Good-looking, branded, and usable user interface

One of the reasons why companies go for custom software development is that they want to maintain brand consistency across their product lines. A CRM is no exception in this respect. Custom development allows you to decide on every single element of your CRM system, from design elements to functionality, while reflecting your brand identity. 

As for qualities of a successful CRM user interface design, the most important are usability, simplicity, clarity, consistency, and responsiveness.

  • Usability. Ensure users can accomplish tasks easily and quickly without any (or at least much) training.
  • Simplicity. eCommerce CRMs are complex systems. Just don’t overdo the complexity. A great user interface comprises only necessary and logical elements.
  • Clarity. Users should understand how your CRM works and be able to easily find what they’re looking for.
  • Consistency.Keep your CRM clear and simple, but also keep it consistent. Your CRM system should always behave the same way so users don’t have to find new ways of doing what they need to each time they take a similar action.
  • Responsiveness. Your employees are more likely to use your CRM on their mobile devices. Make sure your CRM app adjusts smoothly to different screen sizes, providing consistency across devices.

#4 Tech stack & integrations

Another key decision is your technology stack. There are dozens of programming languages, frameworks, and libraries to use in your CRM project. How can you choose the right ones? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all language. You should choose a language whose libraries, tools, and support align with your project.

CRM development
Source: steelkiwi.com

We’ve already discussed the top programming languages to choose for your project:

What Are the Best Languages for Web Application Development in 2021?

Since our focus is on Python and Django, we’ve also shared our insights on when it’s reasonable to go with Python — and when it isn’t:

  1. What Is Python & Django and Why Are They Considered a Top Choice for Web Development?
  2. How Strong Is the Demand for Python on the Software Development Market in 2021?
  3. When It Makes Sense to Use Python to Build an eCommerce Website
  4. Advantages and Disadvantages of Python for Product Development

#5 Code, test, review, and launch

Continuous testing and feedback loops are critical. You should get user feedback during the development process. By doing so regularly, you’ll be able to validate your user journey, user interface, and features and prove they’re a success before your CRM is available to everyone. You may even need to ask for real feedback before you commit your ideas to code — for example, to build a CRM roadmap. 

CRM development process
source: steelkiwi.com

Salesforce vs custom development: What’s right for your eCommerce business?

Why develop a CRM from scratch with so many ready-to-use platforms? Of course, if you own a small eCommerce company, custom CRM software development can be to your disadvantage. But if you serve hundreds of customers daily, have a lot of employees and departments that use a CRM, require more features than a ready-made solution can offer, and have unique workflows, investing in a custom CRM is likely the best choice. Let’s discuss these cases in more detail.

#1 Are you okay with functionality that already exists in Salesforce?

What CRM features do I need? This should be the main question you ask when making the build vs buy decision. 

Check out Salesforce CRM features to find out if they cover your needs. If you’re okay with the functionality in Salesforce and don’t have any specific requirements, go with it. But if you require sophisticated features (that doesn’t exist in a ready-made solution) and have unique workflows, custom development is the best choice for you.

#2 How many employees/departments are going to use the CRM?

Salesforce charges by the user. So the more employees are using the CRM, the more you’ll pay. Say you’ve decided to go with the Salesforce Enterprise plan. If you have five employees using it, Salesforce will cost you $750 every month, which is $9,000 a year. That’s bearable. But if you have 20 employees using it, it’ll cost you $3,000 per month.

#3 What’s your budget and timeframe for the project?

If you require a quick solution and have a tight budget, then custom CRM development is out of the question. Again, building an eCommerce solution from scratch is a sophisticated process, requiring lots of effort and time. Don’t go custom unless you have the necessary resources. 

#4 Are you reflecting your brand identity across product lines?

Custom eCommerce CRM development is the best way to go if you’re a big-name company that wants to maintain its brand identity across product lines. Or if you want to decide on every design element in your CRM, from navigation to the UI concept to content and fonts.

When should you build an eCommerce system from scratch vs use a ready-made solution?

 Use SalesforceGo custom
 FunctionalityUse SalesforceYou only need functionality that already exists in the Salesforce CRM system.Go customYou require custom functionality to align with your unique business processes.
 Access levels & user rolesUse SalesforceYou won’t have many employees and departments using the CRM.Go customYou’ll have many employees and departments using the CRM.
 Budget & timeUse SalesforceYou need a quick solution and are short on money.Go customYou have the resources necessary to build a CRM system from scratch.
 DesignUse SalesforceYou’re okay with Salesforce’s customizable design options.Go customYou want to reflect your brand identity across product lines.


At Steelkiwi, we offer custom CRM development services. Read about how we developed a custom CRM for a consulting firm, allowing them to efficiently manage clients and track financial performance. 

Message us with your CRM idea and we’ll get back to you with our advice and a rough estimate.