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June 7, 2017

Why a collaborative discovery process is key to ecommerce project success

When embarking on an ecommerce project with your chosen development agency, you’ll enter into a “Discovery” process. This is where the partnership between brand and developer forms and the collaboration begins. It enables both parties to be on the same page with the project’s vision, to head towards the same path to success.

Ecommerce projects can only really be successful when there’s an open and collaborative relationship between you and your ecommerce developers.

Here we’ll take you through the key stages of the Discovery process:

Business overview

Developers need to understand where your business came from, where it’s at now and where you want to get to. The initial stage establishes your business objectives and creates an awareness landscape, so both sides are clear about the project’s aims and your business’ future vision.

The overview defines your key competitors and where your business sits within your sector. It’s important to understand the reasons why certain competitors may have an advantage and your key differentiators, whether it’s size, budget, technology, longevity, etc. It includes collating customer feedback and understanding specific pain points, challenges and trends.

Milestones and success criteria

It’s crucial to sketch out your preferred timelines and goals for the proposed project. As the Discovery process develops, it will become clear how realistic these goals are. Key trading periods will affect timings and steer your project start date and expectations for short and long-term impact and success.

What does the success of your project look like? How will you effectively measure your success? It’s important to translate your picture of success to your development agency, through words and visuals. Define what the journey to success looks like, whilst establishing the key metrics which will determine the project’s success, both technically and commercially.

The business case

Your RFP (request for proposal) should be your rough project plan. Within your RFP form, you should have built your business case for the project. Review this business case with your developers and understand the journey from the past to the point at which the project was proposed. What were the key events, issues and motives for conceiving the project, have you done the necessary research and has a website audit and risk analysis been carried out?

Roles and responsibilities

Now it’s time to form your project team. Who will be involved in the process from your side? Who are the key stakeholders and what do they need to sign-off on? What level of support do you require from your development agency? Good communication is critical at this point, to make sure your expectations are met and so your developers assign the right people to the project. Scope out the partnership dynamic and find out if any training is required. Transparency and collaboration is key to starting the project off on the right footing.

Personas exercise

Who are your key personas? What are their buying behaviours? You may already have clearly-defined personas for your ecommerce business and this stage of Discovery can use analytics and research to refresh them. If you’ve not got clearly-defined personas in place, you need to do this, both for your proposed project and your overarching ecommerce strategy.

Align your personas with your business objectives to establish how your ecommerce site, customer experience and products benefit your key personas and their needs.


Every ecommerce development agency will have their own formula for the Discovery process, but we split our workshops into three stages: Functional, Creative and Marketing. Here’s a summary of each workshop:



  • Functional workshop





This is all about the technical side of things, defining the current specifications of your ecommerce website – platforms, third-party integrations, hosting, infrastructure, features, cataloguing, inventory, security, data protection, etc – and deciding what the new-world spec should look like. This will reveal potential barriers and give developers the full technical picture.



  • Creative workshop





The creative workshop focuses on the design and UX side of your ecommerce project. This includes providing current branding and style guidelines and is an opportunity to discuss and present websites and brands that have inspired the vision of the project proposal.



  • Marketing workshop





This is where the focus shifts to marketing activities, channels and integration opportunities. The aim of this workshop is to build commercial strategies, customer retention plans and analyse the suitability of certain channels.


Sometimes perceived issues with products, design or marketing, are actually down to site performance. Page loading speeds can massively impact conversions, as frustrated consumers navigate elsewhere if there are hindrances to their browsing experience.

We’ll monitor and assess current site performance levels and carry out competitor comparisons. This enables developers to manage expectations and equate the cost of performance level improvements for your new project.

Pre-Discovery Ecommerce Grader

Before Discovery can begin, we use our “Ecommerce Grader” to scope out strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. It’s an essential assessment document we fill out to grade businesses on a range of aspects related to ecommerce, and pinpoint areas of potential growth.

The Grader establishes opportunities by calculating the scores across each area, whilst helping to benchmark businesses against competitors. It may highlight additional elements to incorporate in the project or trigger separate projects.


Every ecommerce project is unique and, at Space 48, we’re proud of our agile and collaborative Discovery process. Our proven approach has helped us create award-winning ecommerce websites for big-name brands.

Space 48 is a leading UK ecommerce agency. Our Magento developers specialise in Magento websites and Magento 2 ecommerce strategy.