A version of this post was initially published on Forbes. Last updated March 21, 2023.
As eCommerce gains popularity, the move to online selling remains far from a smooth and straightforward process. Many B2B brands are reluctant to uproot existing processes and end up worse off than when they started. They are uncertain about new technology and struggle to predict whether users and customers will benefit or suffer as a result of it.
B2B distributors, wholesalers, and manufacturers can benefit from exploring the value an eCommerce MVP (or minimum viable product) can bring to their organization. Just like an MVP is the most valuable player in sports, for businesses, it’s the most valuable way to test the effectiveness of transformative new technology.
What Is an MVP in eCommerce?
A simple MVP meaning in eCommerce follows this definition: the MVP is the minimum viable product needed for the success of the eCommerce project. The goal of an MVP is to deliver the new features necessary for a working and testable eCommerce website in the shortest amount of time.
The development of an MVP for an eCommerce website is about taking a minimum set of functionality (one or two features) that are viable (in other words, essential, and can work for your idea) and implementing these features into a product.
|An MVP Is:||An MVP Is Not:|
|A minimum effort for maximum learning, customer feedback, or failure.||A deployment with the fewest possible features.|
|A flexible, incremental, and iterative development process.||A prototype or an early version of a product.|
Throughout this process, you can tweak and improve your MVP B2B eCommerce approach to better match your desired shopping experience objectives or change the course of development entirely if so required.
Whether you’d like to start selling on digital channels or looking at revamping your existing eCommerce presence, an MVP helps you soften the transition period and minimize mistakes. Whatever form your MVP takes, whether it’s a trimmed-down store or a back-office integration, it’s a great way to test its effectiveness for the intended audience.
Reasons To Choose MVP For Online Store
Customers have spoken, and they prefer to shop online. While experts agree that these new shopping habits are here to stay, they likely won’t apply to all sellers universally.
That’s why sellers need a way to do some real-world testing to prove new eCommerce strategies will work for their business.
This is where an MVP comes into the picture. It helps brands visualize how B2B eCommerce benefits their business, employees, and customers. There are many other advantages and reasons to create an eCommerce MVP, including:
Smaller time and money investment for a working product
With an MVP, you can significantly reduce development costs. By focusing on the minimum set of features required for launch, you can avoid spending time and resources on unnecessary features that may not be critical to your product’s success.
Faster time to market
One of the primary reasons to choose a minimum viable project approach for an online store or marketplace is that it allows you to get your product to market much faster. By focusing on the minimum set of features required to launch, you can quickly build and launch your online store, allowing you to start generating revenue and testing your product in the market.
Fewer risks during planning, development, and marketing
By launching with a minimum set of features, you can test your product in the market and validate demand before investing more time and resources. This can help to reduce the risk of investing in a product that may not be successful.
Accurate feedback helps align transformation initiatives to customer needs
The development of an MVP for an eCommerce platform is always about identifying the customer’s wishes and requirements at an early stage and implementing them. By launching with a minimum set of features, you can quickly gather feedback from customers and use it to improve your product over time.
For example, Braskem, one of the largest petrochemical companies in the Americas, built a B2B MVP before committing to the full-scale development of an eCommerce portal. The idea was to prove there’s a demand for digitized purchases and collect customer feedback.
Using an iterative MVP process, the team built clickable wireframes and returned to the customers time and again until they knew they had what the customer would use. Only once they had all the necessary feedback did development start.
This incremental approach also enabled the Braskem team to test for bugs and workflows.
In other words, an MVP allows you to digitize your business on an incremental, step-by-step basis. There’s no need to draw up lofty plans and learn multiple technologies from top to bottom. Instead, you can start with launching an MVP while focusing on and refining what’s critical to your customers and internal teams.
Listen to Braskem's MVP Story in the B2B Commerce UnCut Podcast
What Are Some Common Elements of an eCommerce MVP?
Many brands have complex processes, and digitizing them takes effort. Naturally, this raises fears and concerns, and the first step is to address them. For example, if you’re concerned with the internal adoption of new product, focus on smooth integrations, ironing out your back-end processes and the admin interface.
Remain focused on your end goals and use your MVP to address doubt or risk. At the same time, monitor your resources as it’s easy to get carried away and address aspects not immediately relevant to your MVP. The most successful projects tend to include these elements:
Getting up-to-date data to your eCommerce MVP is crucial, so you’ll want to integrate your MVP with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software at the very least.
Your MVP must give customers and team members accurate inventory status and supply chain data – that is one way to enable adoption. Depending on your business, you may want to integrate with other tools such as your PIM eCommerce tool or external catalogs.
Brands unsure whether their customers will respond favorably to online purchasing will want to spend more time on the digital storefront. Depending on your desired digital experience, you may focus on specific storefront functions.
Things like a search engine that indexes a part of your product catalog, custom pricing options, and quick order forms are all critical to consumers. You can use the MVP to A/B test different features and versions to stay in line with user expectations.
Automating your workflows
Changing business processes with the help of technology may sound enticing on paper, but your staff may see it differently. If you’d like to introduce a new eCommerce workflow, the MVP will let you know if it helps employees or not.
Businesses with complex corporate structures, products, and services also benefit from a workflow automation MVP – they can discover workflows to save money, reduce bottlenecks, and make life easier for team members.
Your first steps to an eCommerce MVP
Step 1. Define goals and strategy
When developing an MVP, you should have a clear goal and address particular business needs. Some of the common goals are the following:
- Enable customers to purchase online and get them to purchase again.
- Empower internal teams with new technology to automate routine tasks and improve customer service.
- Determine customer readiness for eCommerce before investing further.
- Create a single source of truth connecting your systems.
Step 2. Identify and prioritize features
Once you outline the goals and the business processes associated with them, you’ll pinpoint the most unproductive and time-consuming elements of the chain. These weak links are prime candidates for a digital solution.
Determine what features will strengthen the chain. Then classify this set of features based on their importance to customers, internal processes, the difficulty of building them, and their value to your MVP goals.
Step 3. Soft launch
Release your project to a small audience, gain feedback, and iron out the initial kinks. Your eCommerce MVP soft launch tests site components, gathers data about user behavior, and supplies valuable customer feedback.
Step 4. Feedback loop
The MVP’s build-measure-learn approach increases the odds that your eCommerce project is headed in the right direction. Reprioritize your features and adjust your MVP as you gain more data and validate assumptions. Maintain the constant feedback loop with your target audience that will help your project improve.
Key Metrics for an MVP eCommerce Store
When launching an MVP eCommerce store, it is essential to track key metrics to measure the success and effectiveness of your product. Here are some key metrics to consider:
The conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who make a purchase on your eCommerce store. This metric is crucial as it measures the effectiveness of your store’s design, product offerings, and pricing strategy.
If you’re not seeing the results you want, it might be time to make changes to your SEO strategy, paid ads, and email campaigns. And if transactions are low, don’t hesitate to work with your UX and design teams to make your site more user-friendly.
Cart Abandonment Rate
One of the main reasons why B2B businesses have a higher rate of cart abandonment is that buyers have many requirements and touchpoints they have to handle before carrying on with their online purchases. Using your MVP, you should focus on identifying the friction points. If you notice any issues, try simplifying your forms and order fields, offering guest checkout, or adding more payment options.
Average Order Value
AOV tells you the average size of a sale, or value per order. The idea behind calculating AOV is to look at the size of sales, and try to maximize that number.
If you want to increase order size, consider how you present and recommend products on your website. Have you thought about saving items to customers’ carts in case they leave your site? This is a great way to increase order size and improve the overall shopping experience.
Conclusion: An MVP Is the First Step to B2B eCommerce Success
Changes bring opportunities, but without the right technology, it’s easy to fall behind. For the early adopters, the MVP approach can bridge the gap between new digital commerce technology and your B2B business, helping you save money during development and roll out a product that suits your unique needs.
For the MVP approach to work, you need sufficient features to launch an MVP, but also the flexibility to support every feedback/improvement loop that will follow.
Unfortunately, not every vendor can accommodate the MVP needs of every brand. Many technology products and solution providers are simply not agile and flexible enough to support the creation of MVPs.
Start by talking to your eCommerce solutions vendor and asking about their implementation solution providers. Don’t compromise on your MVP, and look for partners that offer the features and agility to meet your needs within a given time and budget.
MVP Approach to B2B eCommerce: A Comprehensive Guide
Ease your way into the new technology
MVP for eCommerce: Frequently Asked Questions
Is MVP possible in online retail business?
Yes, an MVP is possible in an online retail business. In fact, many successful online retailers have started with an MVP to test their business model idea and see if there is a market for their product. An MVP allows entrepreneurs to launch their business quickly and with minimal resources, while still providing a valuable product to their customers.
What are the 3 elements of an MVP?
The three essential elements of an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) are:
1. The MVP should have the minimum set of features required to solve the primary problem or provide value to the user.
2. The MVP should be a functional product that can be used by customers and provide them with a good user experience.
3. The MVP should be a product that can be sold to customers, even if it’s not a complete or fully-featured version of the final product.
By focusing on these three elements, businesses can create an MVP that allows them to test their product idea quickly, gather feedback, and iterate on their product to improve it over time.
What is MVP in product development?
MVP stands for Minimum Viable Product, which is a product development strategy that involves creating a basic version of a product with a minimum set of features required to solve the primary problem or provide value to the user. The goal of an MVP is to test the product idea, gather customer feedback, and iterate on the product to improve it over time.