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The best e-commerce sites start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The opening of your new webshop is an exciting time for the life of your company. Whether you’re a startup trying to bring your first product to market, or a seasoned veteran branching out with a new product line that you want to test in a new market, it’s easy to get caught up in the thousands of possibilities available to your new ecommerce system. When your webshop wishlist is a mile long before you’ve acquired your first customer, it’s time take a step back and separate what you need to get started from what would be nice to add later on, when it’s more relevant. And you have a bigger budget.

Four Labs’ skilled programmers can develop a seriously impressive ecommerce system that will streamline your administrative functions and wow your customers. Want to offer one-hour delivery by integrating UberRUSH services into your system? We can do that for you. Automated email marketing can increase your conversion rates by reminding potential customers of their abandoned shopping cart items, but is it worth paying for accessories like this from the start, before you have any customers to apply them to?

Here’s where creating an MVP (minimum viable product) for your webshop becomes essential. What is an MVP? Ash Maurya, author of Running Lean and creator of the Lean Canvas 1 Page Business Model defines it as “the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value (and as a bonus captures some of that value back).”

Eric Ries, creator of the Lean Startup Methodology explains the function of an MVP by saying “We are going to take something to the customer that is as real as we can make it, but we’re not going to overdo it by trying to do something too elaborate.”

We think of this as starting with a core system, which includes the most important features and functions to best serve both you and your customers, and leaves out the extras that you can live without (for now). We can build all the fancy bells and whistles on your wishlist further down the road, when they’re more relevant and serve a greater purpose for your business. We set up your MVP core system so that these bolt-ons can be added on anytime as needed, for the same price and with the same amount of effort as it would take to include them at the start.

So what features are essential to your core ecommerce system? Although every business is different, we’ve come up with a list of the top 5 must-have components to build you a lean, fully-functional MVP webshop.

Web Analytics: It is vitally important for you to understand who your customers are, where they’re coming from and how they’re using your site in order to know where best to focus your future efforts. Analytics can show you not only how many visits your site has had, but also where your users are clicking and the amount of time they’re spending on each page. For example, if people are losing interest after the first 5 seconds on your frontpage, you may want to rethink its design or make your call to action more obvious.

Utilising analytics also allows you to keep track of how users are finding your site. Are they clicking on links from your social media posts, responding to your marketing email prompts, finding you through search engine results, etc? This information helps you to know what efforts are bringing the most results and where you should invest more marketing time and attention.

Mobile Responsiveness: Don’t underestimate the power of mobile ecommerce. Recent case studies have found that in the UK alone, nearly ⅓ of online purchases are made using a mobile device (Keith, 2015). People are spending an increasing amount of time on their smartphones and tablets, giving you more opportunities to capture your audience with a mobile-ready webstore. It’s estimated that this year, UK adults will spend on average 2 hours and 26 minutes per day on their mobile devices. That’s a 470% increase in daily mobile usage over the past 5 years.

Mobile ecommerce purchase rates are encroaching on PC webstore purchases all over the world. Maybe your webstore’s target market isn’t limited to the UK (the internet is a global network, after all). Data shows that US consumers also use their mobile devices for close to 30% of online purchases, and in China, an astonishing 70% of consumers are willing to make purchases on their smartphones (Keith, 2015).

You can capture this online audience without creating a mobile app. We will design your webstore to seamlessly work across any device, making it more accessible to a wider array of consumers. Due to the ever increasing usage of smartphones and tablets in the online consumer market, we believe that mobile-optimisation is an essential element to include in your MVP system.

Referral Programs: Referral incentive programs are a great way to increase sales rates and brand recognition when you’re starting out. “Study after study has proven that referral marketing is one of the best forms of marketing when it comes to sales and conversions. It’s a powerful marketing channel because people trust the opinions of other people in their lives and people they respect, whether that be family, friends, social media influencers or big stars.” (Lazazzara). It’s a cheaper advertising alternative, because there’s no cost once you have it integrated into your site.

How can we implement your referral program? There are several methods available that we can include in your core system. One way is to automate your site to deliver referral emails when your customers provide their friends’ email addresses. We can also give individualised links and voucher codes to new customers, which they can pass along to their friends. We’ll track related sign-ups and purchases and reward your customers for their loyalty. As one of today’s largest methods of viral growth, this is one MVP asset you don’t want to overlook.

Social Sharing: Keeping to the topic of word-of-mouth marketing and its significance for your business, social media sharing is another core feature you’ll want to include in your webstore. What is social sharing? It’s an opportunity for your customers to tell their friends, family and social media followers about your product, without even having to leave your website. Business To Consumer writer, Emily Faget, explains “social media is a direct route to brand loyalty and engagement with your audience.”

When we post social media buttons on your webshop, such as “like,” “follow” and “share,” we’re once again providing your customers with the ability to advertise for you, at no additional cost to you. And just like referral programs, social sharing efforts will more effectively zero in on your target market audience. People tend to follow social media pages of individuals whose tastes and preferences they trust and agree with, meaning when someone shares your site, they’re sharing it with people who will likely be interested, as well.

A Simple Homepage: We’ve established that creating an MVP ecommerce system means only including the elements that are most important for you and your customers. This includes the design of your homepage. The more content you put on this page, the more opportunity you have to confuse and lose your users. An effective and obvious call to action should be the most important feature of your homepage. User experience consultant, Paul Boag, explains that “A call to action provides:

• Focus to your site

• A way to measure your sites success

• Direction to your users”

When you clutter your homepage with extra content, it’s easy for your call to action to get lost in the crowd. Designing the layout of your webshop with an easy to use and straightforward user interface can be a complex task, and when you’re first starting out it’s wisest to stick to the “less is best” mindset.

It’s great to be enthusiastic about the development of your very own webshop, and creating an MVP list shouldn’t dampen that spirit. By all means, have fun creating your wishlist and don’t throw it out. Hopefully you’ll be able to put it to good use in the future. The goal of an effective MVP list is not to sacrifice quality, but rather how to provide you with the most value in the most important areas, according to your budget.

Collaborate with Four Labs London to design a customised core ecommerce system for your business. For help with your MVP list and to get started on your webshop, contact Paul Jones at or call +44 (0)20 7183 2018.

Boag, P.

Faget, E.

Keith, M. (2015)

Lazazzara, R.

Maurya, A.

Media Buying (2015)

Ries, E.

Written by

Co-founder @ Four Labs, London. Delivering UX-driven cloud solutions to fast growing businesses with unique requirements. Streamlining workflows and processes.

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