By Kristy Blackmon
As you may already know, there are many business technology solutions that you can buy off the shelf and implement yourself. Ecommerce platforms are most definitely not one of them.
Online retailing is more than simply allowing a customer to buy a product online. An effective ecommerce solution is comprehensive, innovative, and customized to the needs and goals of the organization that’s implementing it. Does it integrate with your CRM or CMS? Does it require heightened levels of security? Will it ever need to be extended overseas?
Then there’s the customer experience to consider. The user experience (UX) is perhaps more important for online retailers than any other vertical. According to eMarketer, “Retail ecommerce sales worldwide will increase at four times the rate of retail sales this year, jumping 23.2% to $2.290 trillion.” The US Department of Commerce says that 53 percent of global internet users made an online purchase in 2016. To say it another way, there are 7.4 billion people in the world, and more than half of them are shopping online.
The retail sector is one of the most heavily regulated industries because it deals with customers’ credit card information and personally identifiable data. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) dictates how to process, store, and transmit users’ information, and the financial penalties for violations have the potential to cripple businesses. Online retailers cannot afford to take PCI for granted, and ecommerce platforms have to make it easy for them to comply while also adhering to regulations specific to that product or service offering. A person who makes all-natural soap and sells it only through an online channel will have very different rules to follow than a company that sells medications with a brick-and-mortar store that also takes orders over the internet.
Compliance and security go hand in hand, and many organizations hesitate to move their data from on-premise servers to the cloud. If you’re dubious about how secure your data in the cloud really is, consider this: It’s easier for cyber-attackers to hack their way into a network through a company’s many end-devices than it is to find and exploit an access point on AWS servers, which have Fort Knox-levels of security solutions in place. It’s also far easier to apply and implement additional layers of security through cloud applications, which offer simpler integrations and scalable solutions.
Let’s say that your brand only conducts business within the U.S., but you have long-term goals of expanding internationally. You must make sure that your ecommerce solution can grow alongside these ambitions. Your platform must be able to translate to other languages, currencies, and regulations without mistakes or lag time. To use another example, perhaps you are a highly technical provider that wants to be able to accept cryptocurrency as payment. The level of customization that comes with that strategic growth initiative is overwhelming in its complexity.
Business owners also have to allow for the addition of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, whether they’re developed in house or bought through a third-party provider. As technology becomes more important for every business in every industry, many organizations are developing their own proprietary applications and IPs. Your ecommerce platform should be able to integrate with these applications and provide a seamless experience for the customer.
You’ve leveraged social media and launched a highly successful Google Adwords campaign. Qualified leads are coming to your website in droves — but your sales remain unchanged. Before you spend money on a new digital campaign, take a look at your ecommerce user experience. Odds are, that’s where you’ll find the easiest fix to improve sales.
There are ways you can add bells and whistles to your conversion process, but let’s start at the beginning. How many clicks does it take for a customer to get to your checkout stage? If it’s more than two or three, you may lose prospects who have become used to an Amazon-like buying experience.
How many fields in a registration form do you require customers to fill out for your marketing database purposes? In this age, when every bit of personal data a customer has to share to make a purchase reminds them of events like the Equinox breach, you risk losing business if you ask consumers to divulge too much personal information. In fact, reports say that 37 percent of customers will quit an almost complete buying process if they’re forced to create a user account.
And have you thought about personalization? The modern shopper has AI-powered experiences every day through favorite apps, product recommendations, face and voice recognition, and more. Customers now expect these highly personalized, intelligent experiences across every brand they interact with — including yours. You need an ecommerce solution that offers AI-driven personalization that empowers both your business and your audience.