Online store strategy

To build your online store strategy, you need to look at key external factors like the target audience and their needs. The competitors should be reviewed. You need to look at internal factors like your brand and service offer. Then you start to make choices for what your online store strategy should be. 

Online store strategy

How this guide raises your game.

  1. Learn the importance of building target audience insights and needs into your online store strategy. 
  2. How to define and build the value proposition for your online store. 
  3. Bring external and internal insights together to define your online store goal and how you will achieve it.

There are three key steps for you to consider. What is the external market opportunity for your business? Are there online shoppers who have an unfilled need that your e-Commerce offer can support? Do current competitors that provide that service have gaps or weaknesses you can exploit?

If there is an external opportunity, can you put together the right internal resources to profitably deliver to that opportunity? This requires a mix of marketing, IT, finance and supply chain skills which we cover in more detail in the article below.

Finally, you need to put those external and internal frameworks together to build out your online store strategy. What choices will you make on what to do and how to do it? 

Forest and tree image with question mark symbolisinging strategy

External factors

Many of the factors to establish if there is an opportunity overlap with the work you will have already done. In your market research and creating your brand identity for example.

Target Audience 

Your first step should be focussing on your target audience.

What are the different segments to choose from? And which ones are you targeting? What is the insight or need that would lead them to firstly shop online and secondly, shop online at your online store? 

Looking external through a lens

In Australia more than 73% of households shopped online in 2018 but online sales still only account for around 10 per cent of total retail sales. Though online sales are growing fast and the majority of people do some online shopping, the default model for most shoppers in most categories is still traditional retail. This is still the case even in advanced e-Commerce markets like China, the US and the UK.

So for your online store to be successful, it needs to fill a need for the consumer that isn’t being satisfied through existing stores. Why is buying online going to be a better option?

Reasons to shop online

There is the convenience of being able to place on order at any time of day. And if the items are are heavy or bulky it is easier have them delivered to your door.

Does the product or service have a lot of technical features? These can be explained through providing product information pages. And links to research online and expert reviews and opinions can help drive online sales conversions.

Is there a lot of choice for shoppers in the category you are looking at? Online stores are less limited by physical space as traditional stores are so can often offer a wider range and variety of products online.

And how does pricing fit into the shopper decision? There is usually a delivery charge for online shopping. But for larger purchases, it is easy for shoppers to compare prices and find a bargain, particularly if there is a sale or promotion on.

Competitor review

Let’s assume you establish why your target audience might buy your product online. Your next challenge is to look at competitor offers and work out how your D2C service will be different to other stores.

Why would the target audience choose your online store to make their purchase? It is worth taking the time to visit competitor retail sites and simulate buying from them. What is their online shopping experience like? Are there areas where your D2C service could do it better?

For example, is the content (images, information) they provide about the product clear and helpful? Is the shopping experience smooth and simple or is it clunky and complicated? How many clicks does it take you to get from landing on the website to placing an order? A really strong e-Commerce site can do this in only a few clicks. But we’ve seen major retailers create a complicated buying process that can take up to 18 clicks to buy.

Look at the delivery options your competitors are offering. One of the major gripes we hear from people shopping online are hidden delivery charges. Are the competitor stores clear and upfront about their delivery charges? Or do they sneak them in at the end? Do they offer different time slots for delivery? Are they able to offer delivery tracking so shoppers know when their delivery will arrive?

The more of these types of services competitor online stores offer, the bigger the challenge it will be for your new online store website to stand out.

Internal factors

If you are clear on your target audience and the competitive landscape, you need to work out what you will do to meet the opportunity. What is the offer or service your D2C store can provide that matches the needs of your target audience and makes it different from competitors?

This is sometimes referred to (usually by agencies) as the ‘value proposition’. How this is articulated depends on the category you operate in and the level of maturity of your brand.


Blurry street scene with person holding glasses one metre in from of them - getting clear vision is part of market research skills

At it’s very simplest level, if you are a new or small brand you might decide to only sell your brands or products through your own online store. In this case, your D2C value proposition is “exclusive supply”. You choose not to make the products available anywhere else, the D2C shopper can only get those items from you.

While this is simple, it is highly dependent on the work you’ve done to build your brand identity and communications. Your products have to be desirable to purchase in the first place. If your products are of poor quality or not relevant for the target audience, the shopper won’t buy anyway.

More established businesses will typically have D2C as one of their sales channels, but not their only sales channel. They may well have a selection of products that are exclusively or limited to the D2C store. This creates a value for the shopper to come and shop through the D2C channel. But allows for more scale selling through multiple channels.


Your competitor analysis might also have shown some opportunities to build an advantage through the shopping experience itself. Could you make it easier to buy for the consumer? Could you add alternative payment options that competitors don’t offer. Are you able to offer a better price or a faster or more convenient delivery offer?

The final area to consider here is beyond the product itself. Are there any additional services you could offer that would benefit the consumer? Something as simple as a mailing list to be notified of future promotions can be highly effective in increasing sales.

Some businesses which are based on repeat orders (e.g. coffee modules, razors, toilet paper) work well when they set up a subscription model with order sent out on a regular basis. This model does come with added complexities though. We don’t recommend it if you are just starting out.

Your online store strategy

Now that you’ve looked at both external and internal factors impacting your D2C store plans, now you need to bring those different elements together into a clear goal and strategy.

Your goal will usually be a sales target to give you an idea of the size of business you are looking to go for. “We will sell $1m of (our product) through D2C in 2020″ for example. Or, “we will convert x% of our current sales into D2C sales by the end of 2020”.


Strategy - Chess player

However, your goal doesn’t stand alone, and you need to define the strategy that you have decided on to achieve that goal. This usually follows on from the goal and is ‘how’ you will actually deliver the goal. 


Rather than talk in generalities, it may be easier to work through an actual (fictional) business example. Let’s say that we a small manufacturer of a range of ice creams in Sydney. We are looking to deliver ice cream via a D2C store online. 

Based on all the external and internal factors, our D2C strategy could be to focus on one particular part of the consumer’s needs that are currently unmet e.g. maybe customers need to wait 2-3 days for grocery deliveries via mainstream retailers. So, our strategy could be something like “… by ensuring same day delivery of all (our ice creams) in (Sydney)”.

Our strategy could be to offer something different or better to the consumer. Maybe we have 2 or 3 especially popular flavours that we hold back for D2C.  So our strategy could be “… by developing salted caramel and blueberry ice creams that only sell in our D2C store”.

We could also consider loyalty offers “ … by offering a $10 discount when consumers spend more than $50 on an order” or adding complimentary products or services to drive engagement “… by offering a limited edition branded ice cream scoop when consumers spend $50 or more on an order”

Your D2C strategy should be the summation of your external and internal analysis and articulate in a clear way the key decsion or activity you will undertake to deliver against your goal. There are many strategies you can choose from, and we’ve given you some examples in our fictional ice cream example above.

In conclusion

The process of defining your online store strategy through external and internal analysis gives you a great starting point as you put your D2C plans together. However, there are still many operational factors to consider as we go over in the rest of the articles this section. What is your marketing and website approach? How do you manage an order to delivery? And what is your day to day process for managing your online store?

As you work through the answers to these questions, keep checking back on the strategy to see if it still fits. Don’t be afraid to evolve the strategy and plan as your D2C store comes to life and starts selling. 

Three-brains and e-Commerce

We have worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across strategy, working with retailers and building D2C stores. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. 

If you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business  through our coaching and consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.

We can coach you to reach the top of your competitive game.

D2C Online Store Status dashboard
Click to download the pdf

Downloadable D2C status dashboard

Setting up an online store needs you to define your strategy and plan, work out the sales and marketing and also set up the whole operational side of the business including the finances and the delivery / supply chain model. It can be complex to manage.

That’s why we’ve used this project dashboard to great success in the past to have a simple one-page summary of the key actions require to set-up and manage a D2C online store. Download it here or from our resources section. 

Powerpoint and Keynote versions of this document available on request. 

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