Key e-commerce strategy factors
1. Integration with other systems
Because no e-commerce platform exists in a vacuum, business leaders evaluating new e-commerce platform options must first consider how well these platforms will integrate with their existing systems. Taking a step back to survey the organization’s overall tech infrastructure is key, as any new platform must work seamlessly with the rest of the architecture. Below are some important questions to ask:
- Does the platform interface efficiently with other commonly used internal systems such as SAP S/4 HANA, Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce, as well as with customer channels such as mobile, voice, call center and Ariba for procurement?
- Does the organization plan to upgrade or replace any other internal systems? If so, will the new e-commerce platform interface efficiently with these new technologies?
- As trends in technology move toward advanced customer systems, is the company’s legacy e-commerce platform equipped to handle these rapid changes?
When assessing current e-commerce platforms, leadership must also consider the organization’s long-term growth strategies. In the current environment, with major e-commerce advancements taking place in mere months instead of years, scalability in the context of right-sized targets for the business must be top of mind. Key considerations include the following:
- Can the current platform be scaled to meet ambitious growth projections?
- If the company meets or even exceeds its targets, will the proposed e-commerce solution have sufficient capabilities?
- Can the organization achieve scalability through an upgrade, or will a new system be needed?
Out-of-the-box solutions can serve as an efficient near-term solution for smaller enterprises, but as an e-commerce business grows and matures, the need for customization becomes apparent. It’s also important to consider that customer expectations have evolved beyond typical out-of-the-box software offerings. Self-service capabilities, spend management, invoicing and approval workflows are not one-size-fits-all options, and out-of-the-box software only provides basic capabilities in these areas. As such, leadership should consider the following:
- Does the organization have customization needs that have not yet been met?
- In the coming years, will additional customization be needed?
- Can the current technology provide the right capabilities for future customization?
As e-commerce systems age over time, their return on investment naturally declines as well, partly due to higher maintenance costs for legacy technology. Aging systems often lead to escalated maintenance issues, which can result in increased downtime and lost productivity. For this reason, leadership must continuously monitor systems efficiency to determine when the costs of upkeep are no longer fiscally viable. Some key questions around this calculus include the following:
- Does the organization struggle to find developers with the skills to work with aging systems?
- Have vendors stopped offering system updates and security patches?
- Does the cumulative cost of maintenance expenses and lost business exceed the cost of implementing a new system?
5. Customer experience
E-commerce solutions are successful because they offer consumers convenience and variety while also re-creating the benefits of in-store shopping or interacting with a sales agent. When customers buy items in-store, they can see and test out a product, and interface with sales staff. Unlocking these same benefits for online consumers has been key to e-commerce success, with game-changing approaches that instill consumer confidence. With regard to consumer experience, management should consider these key concerns:
- Does the organization’s current solution provide a user-friendly and intuitive customer experience?
- Can the current platform save customer information to facilitate easier reordering, provide shipment tracking capabilities and offer other e-commerce conveniences that today’s customers expect?
- How do the company’s customer experience offerings compare with those of its competitors?
As technology and customer preferences advance more rapidly than ever before, viable e-commerce platforms will prove instrumental for organizations that wish to stay ahead of the curve. Investing in a new platform now means enhancing the customer experience, keeping up with competitors and driving the long-term growth needed to maintain organizational resiliency for the long road ahead.