A critical component of every business plan, crafting an ecommerce operational plan outlines your vision for the day-to-day functioning of your organization. This provides the reader an opportunity to gauge your understanding of what is required to execute your plan, including the methods you will employ to produce and distribute your wares.
In short, your operational plan defines the strategies by which you will accomplish the short-term goals contributing to your overall success. For this reason, before you begin working on your operational plan, you’ll need to develop your strategic plan. Once you get a handle on this, here are the elements you’ll need to consider for your operational plan.
Let’s say your goal is to open a furniture store online, you’ll need to consider all aspects of the business and define how you will conduct them. Who will be responsible for the overall administration of the operation? What does your management structure look like? How much staff support will be required and in what capacities? Here it’s important to consider every facet of your undertaking. Executive functions, accounting, site management, marketing, advertising, buying, order taking and processing, shipping and returns, customer service, complaints, refunds and etc.
Where will you get the furniture? Will you build it yourself, or will you buy from it manufacturers? If you’ll be manufacturing, you’ll need to cover how much time will be required to produce each of your products. Once your furniture gets out into the world, customers will have opinions. What mechanism(s) will you put in place to gather their feedback and incorporate it where appropriate? How will you assess prototypes and delivery systems? How will you test new designs, pricing structures and delivery methods? How will you adapt if you suddenly get a white-hot product, or a promotion is wildly successful and there’s a spike in demand?
Given you’ll be running an ecommerce store, you’ll also need to define how your site will be set up, maintained and updated. Will you use a third-party platform, open source platform, or will you have your site designed from a blank screen? Whichever method you choose, you’ll need to outline the workflow for the day-to-day care and feeding of the site, as well the number of personnel required for the tasks involved and how they will be managed.
Will you need a warehouse to give you complete control over shipping and inventory, or will you dropship from the manufacturer to the customer? If you’re building the furniture yourself, how many square feet of space will you need to conduct that operation? Where will it be located? You’ll likely need office space as well; how much will be needed, where will it be located? Will it share space with your warehouse and/or manufacturing facility?
If you’ll be relying upon dropshipping, this aspect of the plan can be defined rather simply. However, dropshipping comes with significant costs, so it may make more sense to conduct order fulfillment on your own. This means you’ll need to staff up for that function. You’ll also need trucks and storage. Your strategy for conducting each phase of this function should also be outlined in the operational plan.
Consider every one of the categories listed above and enumerate the equipment required to support each function. Desks, chairs, work stations, trucks, dollies, computers, laptops, every physical piece of equipment required to support each function should be included for each operational category.
Ultimately, your goal when crafting an ecommerce operational plan is to demonstrate you’ve thought through every aspect of running your business. You want to show you have plans in place for every foreseeable contingency—as well as the unforeseen ones.