Think outside the platform

Posted on: 10 March 2017
by: Arul Mony
Posted on: 10 March 2017
by Arul Mony

Commerce Solutions Manager at Cnetric Enterprise Solutions [P] Ltd.

“I’ve spent so much on my eCommerce platform but my online revenues aren’t picking up. The platform is clearly faulty.” This plaintive cry (or variation thereof) of an eCommerce manager trying to prove ROI to their management is something I’ve come across during interactions with clients for whom we’ve implemented eCommerce solutions. Customers taking their first steps into eCommerce have high, and not unreasonable, expectations from their eCommerce platform of choice, especially if it is an enterprise grade product. But the blame for poor adoption cannot be placed squarely on the platform alone.

Think about this; if you were to hand over a set of Ferrari SF16-H parts to a team that’s only used to building consumer cars, would you expect a race-worthy F1 car to emerge? After all the ‘platform’ – the engine, chassis, tyres etc. – are those of a race car, right? But even with the right platform, not having the right team, the right processes and, above all, the right mindset will ultimately lead to a poor end result. Successful eCommerce is as much a function of the ecosystem that surrounds the platform, as it is of the platform itself.

So, while you’re deciding on an eCommerce platform, take some time to focus on these key eCommerce success factors as well;

It has to be an enterprise level initiative: Brands investing in eCommerce often create a separate digital commerce team to avoid straining their existing operations. However, in some cases this can also lead to the digital team operating in a silo where they make their own merchandising and marketing decisions, completely independent of merchandisers and marketers in other sections of the enterprise. With such a narrow focus, decisions that are made for the online business support that channel alone but break downwhen a customer is trying to engage across multiple digital and offline channels.

Enabling omni-channel across the enterprise, therefore, goes far beyond technology and requires everyone in the organization to back the initiative. The whole-hearted support of all stakeholders across the organization makes for successful eCommerce.

This means that store staff need to be able to pack and ship online orders and also handle online returns. Marketing teams have to design promotions that are accessible in stores and online, and merchandisers need to ensure that the collections in stores and online match up. Initiatives like this foster a healthy, complementary relationship of all channels while also boosting customer experience and satisfaction.

Data has to be your best friend: There is tons of data sitting in every enterprise which is not being utilized to derive

meaningful information. In the process, organizations are losing out on key customer insights, positive or negative consumer sentiment, opportunities for operational efficiencies and much more.

In the past, enterprises had balked at the considerable manpower required to analyze large volumes of unstructured data stored within documents, emails, images, call center records etc. But recent advances in cognitive computing and machine learning have enabled these organizations to take concrete steps towards leveraging this hitherto untouched treasure trove of data.

Already enterprises that have taken the early steps into this exciting new world are seeing incredible benefits in being able to engage with their customers in new ways that were previously unheard of.

Make content work for you: Till recently, content was only considered an adjunct to the products on sale and no more.

This attitude has been slowly but surely changed as enterprises have realized how important content is to engaging and converting customers.

As purchasers seek validation that the product they’re buying is right for them, content plays a vital role in providing the right information to help them overcome their doubts and take the plunge.

This was the role that knowledgeable sales staff played in physical stores, but in the lonesome world of online shopping, content must step up to take their place.

This can go all the way from well written site and product copy to leveraging ratings and reviews, cleverly using video to illustrate how to make the best use of your purchase, or bringing in customers’ Instagram photos to show how others have worn the same style. Marrying this with the insights gleaned from deep data analysis helps personalize content so that every customer journey is truly unique.

Personalize beyond your site: Personalized site experiences are a given these days. But is that enough? Customers who are used to seeing products, content and recommendations based on their preferences and purchase history now expect the same experience in every brand interaction.

This expectation presents new challenges to the enterprise. Standard communication strategies like mass email and SMS campaigns leave customers cold, while store and call center staff who recommend unrelated products leave them unimpressed. Extending personalization across all these channels is becoming critical to making sure that the unique customer experience created through the online storefront continues across all touchpoints.

Some enterprises are now leveraging digital marketing platforms to personalize communications, while others are experimenting with in-store beacons to push relevant notifications to shoppers, and still others are enabling call center staff with in-depth customer knowledge in real-time so that they can present them with relevant offers. All of these organizations are beginning to realize the real benefits of cross-channel personalization.

Look beyond standard channels: Straddling the traditional channels to market (web, mobile, store, call center etc) is commendable but where do you go from there? That’s where organizations are seeking to market to segments outside their immediate scope so as to rapidly grow their customer base.

Conglomerates that are making strides into eCommerce have the ability to drive traffic across business units by smartly advertising, cross-selling and bundling complementary products. Others are building strong affiliate programs by tying up with partners with whom they can share the spoils of a joint marketing effort. The rise of social media has also brought with it the Youtube/Instagram/Pinterest star who can ‘influence’ a brand’s sales figures by vouching/wearing/using their products.

As the world shrinks, getting the word out is getting easier. Leveraging additional channels to market is critical to building traffic which you can then target, engage and convert.

Make no mistake, selecting the right platform is a key ingredient to making your eCommerce successful. It is, however, not the only one. Defining and executing an effective eCommerce strategy requires careful consideration of multiple factors, like the ones stated above, along with constant reviews and adjustments so as to stay up to date on what your customers want.

For over a decade, we at Cnetric have been enabling eCommerce for clients across a range of domains, and we can leverage this vast experience to help you conceptualize the right eCommerce strategy for your enterprise. Reach out to us today for a discussion on how we can help super-charge your eCommerce efforts.

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