What does it take to enable sustainable growth in today’s omni-channel landscape? Do you go cross-border, multi-brand, or embrace different business models? Should you stick to the existing solution or choose a different platform? What factors are important here?
Establish what you need
Establishing your requirements is easier said than done. Who has the requisite expertise, how do you work out whether the old platform is no longer fit for purpose, or whether the new platform you have selected is the right one? The first step is to determine exactly what you need:
- Identify your key business objectives (driving down costs, multi-channeling, reducing lock-in, enhancing online visibility).
- Define the current platform’s limitations.
- What critical features are non-negotiable?
- What nice-to-have requirements do you want?
- What innovations do you anticipate?
- What type of integration issues might emerge?
- Consider operational requirements, such as product configurations, product packages, and other specifics.
When establishing your requirements, all stakeholders within the organization must be represented!
Ask, ask, and ask again!
The platform: attracting customers and ...
What effects will the new platform have on attracting customers, and in particular, how does that work with the current platform? Discovery is an important part of the customer journey. Is it supported properly? A platform’s search function largely determines whether a customer can find what he or she is looking for. The conversion rate for customers using the search function is higher than for customers not using this functionality. A platform’s CMS functionality also has a significant impact on customer behavior, with people being attracted or repelled by the way products are presented. And typically, a customer who walks away doesn’t come back. Integration with other systems is another important consideration. Are their connecting systems and analysis environments in place?
Manhattan Associates 2016: “Seamless engagement regardless of channel lets the customer start their purchase online but finish in the store or vice versa”
Internal considerations: skills, skills, and budget
Does the organization have an integrated e-commerce strategy? Is e-commerce genuinely being embraced by the organization? Are all stakeholders involved? Are the requisite skills available in-house? Has the budget been subjected to proper scrutiny? This definitely entails looking further than normal– an e-commerce project doesn’t finish when the platform goes live. In fact, that's when it starts! In short: skills, skills, and budget.
Marketing integration: the sky's the limit
Does the platform provide the right marketing opportunities for the organization and can it be integrated into the existing marketing systems? Or will additional functionality be required for marketing? It is vital to consider such things as newsletters, cross-media promotions, social networks, SEO, SEM, loyalty options, and affiliate programs. Here again, each factor will have its own budget and individual timeline.
System integration: the bitter pill
The organization already has existing ERP, CRM, warehouse, and fulfillment, order management, accounting, and financial systems. It is apparent that these areas require meticulous attention. An e-commerce platform obviously has an impact on how this infrastructure functions and there are major dependencies. Next-day delivery requires seamless system integration.
64% of customers deem it important to be able to return an online purchase and get a cash refund immediately!
Multi-channel considerations: the icing on the cake
Does the platform allow the organization to look beyond the web store alone? Can you provide extra service through offline stores, a call center, chat functionality, mobile devices, and marketplaces? Is it also possible to sell products or services via other online channels without any problems?
Search for a platform and then a partner who will implement it. Importantly, the questions above will all be reviewed again in the process. So nothing is set in stone yet!
I wish you every success.
* This article has been developed with support of Jerry van Leeuwen, Managing Director of SYcommerce