4 minute read 7 Apr 2021
EY - Business people joining gears

Five factors for a winning e-commerce strategy

Authors
Erik Larson

EY Americas Customer Experience Technology Leader

Father. Husband. Curator of ideas. Builder of businesses. Analytical Driver.

Melissa Dallmeyer

EY Global Consulting Alliance Relationship Director

Growth through trying what scares you. Boldly curious about a rapidly changing world. Fan of the three S’s: swimming, skiing, singing (albiet not always well). Proud mama of two crazy kiddos.

Giri Durbhakula

Executive Director, Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

25+ years of consulting and industry experience in Fortune 500 and SMB companies, including CIO, CTO, SVP, VP and director roles. Passionate about giving back and making the world a better place.

4 minute read 7 Apr 2021

Evaluate e-commerce systems with five factors in mind: systems integration, scalability, customization, maintenance and customer experience.

In brief

  • The global pandemic has accelerated the already-rapid pace of migration to e-commerce across every industry.
  • As management navigates competing considerations, it’s helpful to begin by evaluating current e-commerce systems with five key factors in mind.

With a global pandemic that has accelerated the already-rapid pace of migration to e-commerce across every industry, more organizations than ever are utilizing e-commerce channels to drive growth, deepen brand loyalty and more. The ever-increasing adoption of these strategies, along with rapid technological advancements, underscores the fact that change is the only constant in today’s e-commerce landscape.

As companies address near-term logistical challenges while simultaneously developing long-term strategies for organizational resilience, several key e-commerce considerations should be top of mind for business leaders — and platform selection is chief among them. Whether the organization is preparing to enter the e-commerce space for the first time or updating its existing platform to keep up with changes in the marketplace, implementing new e-commerce platforms can be costly and time-consuming. These challenges could prompt some enterprises to leave outdated systems in place much longer than their prescribed shelf life.

While this approach may yield near-term cost savings, it can also leave e-commerce clients behind the curve — especially in the area of customer experience — which can jeopardize future growth and more. In practice, minor platform upgrades can be the best option when only minor improvements are needed. However, when older systems are simply unable to keep up with the fast-moving e-commerce landscape, selecting a new platform becomes an imperative in order for the business to stay competitive.

As management navigates these competing considerations, it’s helpful to begin by evaluating current systems with five key factors in mind: integration with other systems, scalability, customization, maintenance and customer experience.

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? 

2. Scalability

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?

3. Customization

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?

4. Maintenance

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.

Summary

Increasing advancements in e-commerce underscores the fact that change is the only constant in today’s commerce landscape. Whether an organization is preparing to enter the e-commerce space for the first time or updating existing systems, several key considerations should be top of mind for business leaders. Evaluating current systems with five key factors in mind — integration with other systems, scalability, customization, maintenance and customer experience –  can help leaders determine if their current system is fit for the future. 

About this article

Authors
Erik Larson

EY Americas Customer Experience Technology Leader

Father. Husband. Curator of ideas. Builder of businesses. Analytical Driver.

Melissa Dallmeyer

EY Global Consulting Alliance Relationship Director

Growth through trying what scares you. Boldly curious about a rapidly changing world. Fan of the three S’s: swimming, skiing, singing (albiet not always well). Proud mama of two crazy kiddos.

Giri Durbhakula

Executive Director, Technology Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

25+ years of consulting and industry experience in Fortune 500 and SMB companies, including CIO, CTO, SVP, VP and director roles. Passionate about giving back and making the world a better place.