5 pragmatic questions to consider when investing in a new e-commerce platform

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Over the last few years I was involved in many e-commerce projects. itelligence recently listed over 60 e-commerce projects within the past 4 years and more than 90% of them were integrated with SAP ERP.

Do you practice B2B e-commerce and are about to choose a new application? Of course you want to grow your (online) business, increase market share, engage with your customers and optimize commerce processes to lower costs. This should go hand-in-hand with known IT topics like: risk management, performance and reliability. Therefore I have collected five important and pragmatic questions you should consider when choosing your investment, because they have a high impact on the future of your business.

1. What is your ‘touch point strategy’?
Successful companies consider the customer journey as corner stone of their commerce strategy. Customer journey can be defined as the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. Instead of looking at just one part of a transaction or experience, the customer journey documents the full experience of being a customer. Touch points could be email, phone, catalog, store, web shop, field engineer on-site, sales agent or mobile application. The catalog is a good example one might not think about when considering a new e-commerce platform. Mainly due to the fact of high costs, catalogs are only published once every year or every two years. If you want to be more flexible and send segmented product offers to your customers and prospects, you should look for a platform that provides a catalog solution.

So the question is not only whether your web shop is organized to deliver an optimized experience, personalization and B2C best practice scenario’s to increase sales. It is also about how “easy” it is to be your customer. For example: Are your customers able to order products 24/7 on any device? Like scanning a barcode with a mobile device to re-order the product.

I strongly advice companies to analyze the customer journey as main element in the commerce strategy. A new platform approach could be the answer to optimize every touch point.

2. Is it possible to save costs on product information management while reduce time to market?
In recent years I witnessed many different applications for managing commercial product information. If your company acts internationally, you know that managing the translation, business aspects and cultural differences are adding extra dimensions that cause challenges. The application you will select, should offer great features for your team to collaborate effectively on maintaining product information and also deliver consistency in all different touch points. Time to market and saving costs should go hand-in-hand.

3. Is your analytics optimized?
Nowadays technology provides you with many possibilities to add intelligence to your customer interactions. What products should you offer? What prospects are potentially the best to approach? I can recommend to develop customer profiles and offer smart intelligence to your sales agents and platforms. Besides that it can be an eye opener to take a look at social media listening tools. You will learn a lot and will be able to engage quickly with your customers.

4. Is your platform delivering the performance that is satisfying your customers?
Choose a platform that performs in all circumstances. Probably like yourself, also your customers don’t like to wait. Performance can be analyzed upfront. Make sure to ask for proof that the platform is fast even when the volumes increases.

5. Have you taken the Total Cost of Ownership in consideration?
Probably you have analyzed the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). But did you also consider the costs and time to add new functionality to the platform as your business will grow and customers will address more needs? What about the touch points and the customer journey? How fast and to what costs can you keep your e-commerce platform in a period of 3-5 years up-to-date? I am advising you to take a close look at the topic “release management”. What will be offered as new functionality and to what costs can this be added to your platform while keeping the same performance and reliability?

Conclusion
Customers are digitally connected, have high expectations on service (24/7 any device) and competitors are just one click away (even when they are physically in china). Take the customer journey as starting point of your strategy. Discover in which area you can improve, design a plan and then start your journey! Learn and improve. I recommend to take a close look at hybris as omni-channel platform; probably a platform approach will be the most effective answer to your business – and IT requirements.

Hopefully you picked up some learnings from this post. I wish you all wisdom to make a good choice on a new platform.

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