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The Ultimate Guide to eCommerce

eCommerce

Before we tackle eCommerce, it's good to have a fair idea about what commerce is. Simply put, commerce is the the act of buying and selling goods and services, especially on a large scale. Now eCommerce is essentially the same, with the sole difference being that the exchange is done over the internet.

Most people associate eCommerce with online shopping, however, the term can extend to several activities like peer-to-peer money transfer, auctions, digital entertainment, online ticketing and banking services. Broadly speaking, eCommerce can be divided into three segments : online retail, electronic markets and auctions.

In a short span of just 40 years, eCommerce has become an all pervasive technology that massively amplifies convenience and time saving. Do you remember buying concert tickets before the internet? You actually had to arrive several hours before the show and que up for hours after. Or doing a simple bank transfer entailed losing out half a day's work and filling up lengthy forms.

eCommerce’s history is a short yet utterly fascinating one. Over the course of four decades, it has undergone rapid evolution thanks to exponential growth in computing technology. So how did eCommerce really start? And who were the early adopters who saw the massive business opportunity ahead of everyone else? Read on to find out :

Timeline

Michael Aldrich invented the first online shopping system

Michael Aldrich connected a telephone line into a modified domestic television to create a 'computer' that was capable of real-time, multi-user transactions.

Current Trends in eCommerce

The Retail Shakeup

Rapidly changing customer behaviour has sent shockwaves that rocked some of the biggest names in retail like Sears, Toys 'R' Us and GAP. The message is loud and clear - innovate and adapt or get sidelined and be forgotten. As with most things in life, there are two ways to look at this - as a crisis or an opportunity. For those who chose the latter, there is great news as there are plethora of technological solutions and services like Omnichannel loyalty program, hyper personalization, AI-powered store insights and advanced retail analytics that are precisely aimed at solving many of the problems that led to the downfall of several major retailers in the first place.

Hyper personalization

In the retail industry, where customer experience can make or break a brand, the concept of mass marketing doesn't cut it anymore. In fact, according to a Salesforce report, 51% of consumers expect that by 2020, companies will anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions even before the first brand touchpoint. Retail giants like Sephora, Costco and Tesco have already started hyperpersonalizing their communications, however, the need of the hour is to refine and extend it to a multitude of things like price, product, discounts and promotions. While the rapid evolution in AI and Machine Learning is helping retailers to deliver an incredibly personalized shopping experience for both online as well offline customers, we still have a long way to go.

Rise of Augmented Reality

The interest in Augmented Reality, or Mixed Reality has gone through the roof in recent years and the technology offers exciting possibilities for retailers. Several major retailers, the likes of IKEA, Lowes and Adidas have already jumped onto the AR bandwagon.For instance, IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant allows customers to envision how a specific furniture or decor will look in their living room via its app. Adidas has partnered with Microsoft to fit a body scanner in their retail stores which will allow customers to virtually try on an endless collection of sports wear. Other major apparel retailers like GAP, Uniqlo and Ralph Lauren are also experimenting with allowing customers to steer clear of the hassle of trying out multiple clothing.

A New Breed of Brick and Mortar Stores

Retailers are reimagining their physical stores by turning them into experiential zones where customers are treated to a unique, memorable brand experience. Nespresso has executed this concept pretty well in their new concept stores where customers can learn more about the latest coffee machines and take part in coffee tasting sessions. Another great example of concept stores is the Nordstorm Local in Los Angeles which doesn't stock any merchandise but rather offers styling, manicures and tailoring for its customers. The shop, which also houses a beverage bar, even acts as a drop zone for returning products purchased from the Nordstormm website.

Data Reigns Supreme

According to a TimeTrade study, 70% of consumers would like it if the in-store knew the contents of their online shopping cart/wishlist. While there have been increasing concerns around data privacy and protection, the takeaway is loud and clear : customers don't mind parting with data if it helps them have a better experience. And thanks to multiple brand touchpoints like website, app, in-store and social channels, retailers now have access to gigatons of customer data which can be leveraged to provide a stellar customer experience. Top brands are investing in complex, AI-powered CRM and data processing systems that are capable of transforming this massive data dump into valuable and actionable customer insights.

Seamless Omnichannel Experience

The term Omnichannel has become common place in retail glossary, however, more than 60% of retailers still don't have a complete grasp of the concept and often confuse the term with 'Multichannel'; however, they are completely differnet concepts.

Impact of eCommerce on Business

In a short span of time eCommerce has had far reaching positive and negative impact on businesses across the globe. On one hand, eCommerce paved the way for businesses to reach a massive audience at a fraction of the cost of traditional retail.

While the cost and effort that goes into building a website is substantial, it pales in comparison to the rent and overheads involved to maintain an expensive high street storefront. eCommerce allowed businesses to store their inventory in remote warehouses and still display their wares to millions of people instantly. However, eCommerce hasn't been kind to old school, vertically integrated businesses who are facing fierce competition from digital-focused, agile competitors.

A classic case in point is the Blockbuster vs Netflix story. Before Netflix arrived, Blockbuster was a leading video rental service that enjoyed a loyal fan following and many years of success. When Netflix, the eCommerce streaming service entered the fray, it immediately took away the market share of Blockbuster, which in turn had to redesign its business model by offering online services.

Another popular example is that of how Amazon's online books stores send brick and mortar bookstores into a frenzy and they eventually had to establish an online presence to compete with the eCommerce mammoth.




Here are some of the other top impact of eCommerce on large and small retailers :



The Evolution of Supply Chain Management

According to this report eCommerce has significantly shortened product life cycles. This has resulted in manufacturers presenting a wider and deeper assortment of products to cushion the effects of price erosion. The rapid rise of eCommerce has also resulted in more stocks moving and in and out of warehouse facilities. Several warehouses have adapted to this higher stock traffic by offering value added services like separation of stock (online vs retail), packaging services and logistic analytics.

Streamlining of B2B Commerce

Ecommerce solutions like online ordering platform has enabled a simple, fast and easy way for B2B brands to compare prices and maintain a unified inventory across multiple marketplaces. Research shows that 79% of B2B brands expect to digitize their ordering and supply chain by 2020.

Positive & Negative Impact on Jobs

Since 2002, eCommerce has contributed to a whopping 334% increase in jobs. Retail experts say that eCommerce will continue to create more jobs particularly in high-skill domains like software development and information security. However, the shift away from traditional retail may lead to certain jobs becoming irrelevant or disposable.

Customers Shop Differently

Ecommerce and Omnichannel retail has had a huge impact in shaping consumer behaviour and purchase patterns. As of 2018, 96% of Omnichannel shoppers spend an average 4% more every time they are in a brick-and-mortar store, and spend 10% more when shopping online.

Global eCommerce is Growing Fast

The impact of eCommerce on large economies like China has been massive. It is projected that by 2019, China alone will account for $2 billion in retail eCommerce sales. The takeaway here is simple, brands will need look beyond their borders and widen their audience to leverage the full benefits of eCommerce.

Advantages of eCommerce

Your physical store has can cater to customers only within a geographical area. With an eCommerce business, you can cut across vast geographical barriers and engage customers from far flung corners of the world. This unlocks immense potential for business growth and revenue. However, just having an eCommerce site doesn't guarantee a stream of visitors to your online store so try to ensure your website is Search Engine Optimized and has good search visibility on popular search engines.

Types of eCommerce

Ecommerce transactions can be broadly classified into six types based on the type of transaction between consumers and businesses

B2B (BUSINESS TO BUSINESS)

B2B eCommerce refers to all electronic transactions of service or goods between two companies. Traditional wholesalers, retailers and producers typically function within this mode of electronic commerce.

B2C (BUSINESS TO CONSUMER)

B2C eCommerce is related to transaction of services or products between companies and the end customer. A customer typically visits a website from where they place an order for a product or a service. After receiving the order, the company sends the product directly to the customer. Companies like Amazon, Tmall and Flipkart come under this mode of eCommerce.

C2C (CUSTOMER TO CONSUMER)

C2C eCommerce involves consumers selling a product or service to another customer over the internet. It usually involves one customer wanting to sell a product, eg:- a bike, furniture etc to another and the website simply acts a medium for the two consumers to interact and finalize their transaction. Most online classified websites like Craiglist, Oodle, Olx and Locanto fall under this type of eCommerce.

C2B (CONSUMER TO BUSINESS)

C2B is a recent eCommerce model that involves individual customers selling products or services to organizations. Most freelancing platforms like Upwork, PeopleHour and Fiverr operate in this type of eCommerce space.

B2A (BUSINESS TO ADMINISTRATION)

B2A is also referred to as Business to Government (B2G) commerce. It's basically a type of B2B eCommerce since it involves companies and government agencies using a digital platform to conduct business and exchange information.

C2A (CONSUMER TO ADMINISTRATION)

C2A eCommerce model emerged in the last decade due to digitization of various government portals. Examples of C2A model include e-democracy, consumers posting concerns or giving information directly to local government authorities.

Making Your Enterprise Digital Ready

If there is a single word that encapsulates a digital enterprise, it will be 'agile'. Digital-first enterprises are capable of pivoting within days, hours or even minutes to respond to new threats and opportunities. In comparison, traditional businesses take months, or even years to adapt to changing market scenarios.

The biggest challenge with digital transformation is not a one-time project or a single piece of technology that you can buy, implement and forget. At its core, digital-first is a capability; one that must be built over time and will involve extensive investment in resources and technology.

Here are some tips and hacks to ensure your enterprise is ready to take the plunge into the digital universe:

Letting Go of Industrial Era Paradigms)

In many ways, modern enterprises are vestiges of the Industrial era. They were conceptualized and built for a different time and for a different audience. The remnants of the Industrial era is visible in almost every aspect of an organization: buildings, investments, policies, hierarchies, procedures and most importantly, its culture. The first step in digital transformation is, surprisingly, not in fact a technology-based endeavour. It actually involves bringing about a change in the culture and the way an organization goes about its day-to-day activities.

The digital universe will force enterprises to act in ways that's an exact contradiction of the paradigms of the past. Multi-year planning strategies will have to be replaced by short-term dynamic ones, product lifecycles and developments will be shortened dramatically as new competitors emerge rapidly from unexpected quarters thanks to lower barriers of entry. Several industries, and especially the retail sector is witnessing this happening right now. As a business leader tasked with digital transformation, your first and foremost endeavour will get your organization culturally ready for the digital era by carefully understanding older policies and strategies that are being roadblocks for success.

Creating Organizational Agility

Organizational agility is a cornerstone for a successful digital transformation. Regardless of which industry you are in, its critical to be ready for change and respond it to in a way that maximises your market advantage. Organizational agility is not merely about changing directions, it involves changing the structure, functions and operations of your enterprise down to a fundamental level in order to respond rapidly to changes. This is especially critical if your business is to survive in today's highly uncertain, volatile globalized markets. Many organizations make the mistake of going too deep into one end of the spectrum and end up chaotic and totally unstructured. The idea is to balance it out, i.e, have the bare minimum to be operationally stable and efficient and shed the excess fluff that's holding you back from responding to change quickly.

Merging Physical & Digital Data

With everything from coffee machines and mattresses getting digitized, IoT is quickly becoming an omnipresent technology. This has left many CIOs scratching their head in trying to figure out to manage and monetize this data. The key to managing diverse data sources is to have a 21st century architecture that will allow you to sort and manage these diverse data into a seamless and unified pool. Before investing in any technology platform, try to ensure if it allows for unified data management and how good it is at helping you profitable insights about customers.

Create a Disruptive Culture

While organizational agility is critical for a successful digital transformation, its imperative that the core culture of your business is ready for a digital shift. Business leaders and Chief Digital Officers will need to continuously work towards shedding the traditional top-down, hierarchical decision-making model which will impede the innovative and 'fast failure' mode of operations inherent in digital-first companies. The new age companies will need to continuously assess market conditions and be comfortable with challenging all aspects of how the business is done including product development, marketing, technology and distribution.

Evaluate Your IT Infrastructure

It's supremely hard, if not impossible to scale your digital initiatives with an aging IT infrastructure. While the core transaction-focussed elements which deal with sensitive data can be kept intact, business leaders with a digital mindset should focus on building a separate, nimble customer-facing system. This will allow you to deploy new apps, interfaces and databases without altering your underlying core systems. This secondary system will aid in high-speed prototyping and form a nimble, dynamic layer that will help you respond to real-time customer behaviour.

To sum it up, enterprises should quickly move into the digital era if they need to stave off agile, nimble competitors. Secondly, the shift to digital will be a challenging and arduous one and digital leaders should start readying their organizations for the shift. And the time to act is now!

Choosing the Right Enterprise eCommerce Platform

Before we get into choosing the right platform for enterprise business, its essential to define what an Enterprise eCommerce company is. Being an enterprise business doesn't really have to do with the number of customers you serve or the employees in your roster. If your company sells multiple products, has multiple departments that utilize the same pool of financial and technical resources and if your net revenue exceeds $7 million in annual revenue (this is a ballpark figure and not meant to be treated as a metric), you're an Enterprise eCommerce business.

What is an Enterprise eCommerce Software?

An Enterprise eCommerce Software is a platform designed to serve diverse need of a large organization by connecting them under a single, large umbrella. This centralized system helps multiple departments like Accounting, Order Processing, Logistics and Marketing to communicate with each other seamlessly and in real-time. While eCommerce Platforms can either be cloud-hosted, installed or hybrid, most Enterprise eCommerce Platforms tend to be cloud-hosted. Enterprise eCommerce Softwares don't come cheap (a Magento subscription can set you back by ~$30,000 a year), and is resource intensive, so its important to do an in-depth research about your business requirements before making a commitment.

Essential Features of an Enterprise eCommerce Software:

  • No limitations on number of products, product variations, online storage, bandwidth, site traffic, etc.
  • Premium web features like custom SSL certificates, SSO and Google Trusted Store tags
  • Order and inventory management
  • Omnichannel capabilities
  • Intelligent personalization capabilities
  • Multi-channel and multi-store features
  • Integrated Point of Sale (POS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Personal account managers, assisting in training, and technical support

Enterprise eCommerce Software - a Need or a Necessity?

Well, the short answer is, it depends. Once your eCommerce business hits millions in annual revenue, even minor glitches in your eCommerce Platform can have catastrophic consequences. A case in point is Toys R Us - a fledgling brand that once enjoyed 25 percent of the American retail toy market; it suffered massive loses in sales and revenue due to a faulty eCommerce strategy. The brand's tale of woes started during the Thanksgiving of 1999 when it ran a massive campaign that promised priority delivery by Christmas for orders placed till December 14, 1999. The campaign was a huge success and the website was inundated with millions of visitors and orders. Unfortunately, the Toys R Us website wasn't ready to handle the massive surge in traffic and demand. The result? Site downtimes, mixed up orders and oversold inventory.

The event made a severe dent on the brand's reputation and revenue:

  • Thousands of customers sued the company for service failures
  • It suffered a drop in market capitalization of 20 cents per share
  • The brand had to refund millions of dollars to unhappy customers
  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined the brand $350,000 for its failure

This series of unfortunate events imparts an all important lesson - an eCommerce Platform impact a critical, cornerstone aspect of your business - Customer Experience. And any brand that slacks on customer experience in this hypercompetitive market is assured of a swift demise.

Investing in an Enterprise eCommerce Software

The process of selecting an eCommerce Platform is a critical business-level decision. For this reason, the selection should always be a group effort that involves people from multiple departments like technology, marketing, accounting and customer service. During the research phase, it's important to list down the important specific functional and non-functional requirements based on interactions with every department. Try to resist the urge to look at different platform features before listing down your own business requirements as this will result in making a biased and incorrect selection.

To help you with the research phase, here are some questions you should be asking your employees

  • What's primary business objective for selecting a new platform (eg: scalability, cost optimization, agility etc.)
  • What are the major bottlenecks in the current platform (eg: customizations, integrations, scalability etc.)
  • What are must have features in the existing platform (eg: catalog setup, Omnichannel, multi-store feature, data integrations etc.)
  • What are the nice to have existing features that your department needs (eg: personalization, CRM integration, customer segmentation etc)
  • What are the new features that is currently missing in the existing platform (eg: endless aisle, Omnichannel capabilities, advanced personalisation, store customization)?
  • What are the primary systems integrations required for launch (eg: WMS, OMS, CRM etc)?
  • What are the integrations required for phase two (e.g. marketplace, endless aisle)?
  • What are the key operational requirements (e.g. configurable products, real-time offers, advanced email segmentation etc)?

While doing this research, it’s important to bucket the features into must have, should have, could have, needn't have based on the business objectives. This will help you separate the business critical features from the non-essential ones

What is an Enterprise eCommerce Software?

An Enterprise eCommerce Software is a platform designed to serve diverse need of a large organization by connecting them under a single, large umbrella. This centralized system helps multiple departments like Accounting, Order Processing, Logistics and Marketing to communicate with each other seamlessly and in real-time. While eCommerce Platforms can either be cloud-hosted, installed or hybrid, most Enterprise eCommerce Platforms tend to be cloud-hosted. Enterprise eCommerce Softwares don't come cheap (a Magento subscription can set you back by ~$30,000 a year), and is resource intensive, so its important to do an in-depth research about your business requirements before making a commitment.

Essential Features of an Enterprise eCommerce Software:

  • No limitations on number of products, product variations, online storage, bandwidth, site traffic, etc.
  • Premium web features like custom SSL certificates, SSO and Google Trusted Store tags
  • Order and inventory management
  • Omnichannel capabilities
  • Intelligent personalization capabilities
  • Multi-channel and multi-store features
  • Integrated Point of Sale (POS)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Personal account managers, assisting in training, and technical support

Enterprise eCommerce Software - a Need or a Necessity?

Well, the short answer is, it depends. Once your eCommerce business hits millions in annual revenue, even minor glitches in your eCommerce Platform can have catastrophic consequences. A case in point is Toys R Us - a fledgling brand that once enjoyed 25 percent of the American retail toy market; it suffered massive loses in sales and revenue due to a faulty eCommerce strategy. The brand's tale of woes started during the Thanksgiving of 1999 when it ran a massive campaign that promised priority delivery by Christmas for orders placed till December 14, 1999. The campaign was a huge success and the website was inundated with millions of visitors and orders. Unfortunately, the Toys R Us website wasn't ready to handle the massive surge in traffic and demand. The result? Site downtimes, mixed up orders and oversold inventory.

The event made a severe dent on the brand's reputation and revenue:

  • Thousands of customers sued the company for service failures
  • It suffered a drop in market capitalization of 20 cents per share
  • The brand had to refund millions of dollars to unhappy customers
  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined the brand $350,000 for its failure

This series of unfortunate events imparts an all important lesson - an eCommerce Platform impact a critical, cornerstone aspect of your business - Customer Experience. And any brand that slacks on customer experience in this hypercompetitive market is assured of a swift demise.

Investing in an Enterprise eCommerce Software

The process of selecting an eCommerce Platform is a critical business-level decision. For this reason, the selection should always be a group effort that involves people from multiple departments like technology, marketing, accounting and customer service. During the research phase, it's important to list down the important specific functional and non-functional requirements based on interactions with every department. Try to resist the urge to look at different platform features before listing down your own business requirements as this will result in making a biased and incorrect selection.

To help you with the research phase, here are some questions you should be asking your employees

  • What's primary business objective for selecting a new platform (eg: scalability, cost optimization, agility etc.)
  • What are the major bottlenecks in the current platform (eg: customizations, integrations, scalability etc.)
  • What are must have features in the existing platform (eg: catalog setup, Omnichannel, multi-store feature, data integrations etc.)
  • What are the nice to have existing features that your department needs (eg: personalization, CRM integration, customer segmentation etc)
  • What are the new features that is currently missing in the existing platform (eg: endless aisle, Omnichannel capabilities, advanced personalisation, store customization)?
  • What are the primary systems integrations required for launch (eg: WMS, OMS, CRM etc)?
  • What are the integrations required for phase two (e.g. marketplace, endless aisle)?
  • What are the key operational requirements (e.g. configurable products, real-time offers, advanced email segmentation etc)?

While doing this research, it’s important to bucket the features into must have, should have, could have, needn't have based on the business objectives. This will help you separate the business critical features from the non-essential ones

What is a SaaS eCommerce Platform?

There's a crazy number of Enterprise eCommerce Platforms out there so choosing the right one can be quite a task. Here are some useful information that will help you find your way in getting the right one for your business. Today, most of the Enterprise eCommerce Platforms are cloud-based as it reduces the overhead costs for the merchants. Especially in the last 2 years, there has been a major shift amongst enterprise retailers who are preferring the versionless, lower maintenance advantages of cloud-based platforms. SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is simply a model of software that is delivered on the cloud as part of an on-going subscription. A SaaS eCommerce Software is therefore a cloud-based platform delivered to the merchant for an ongoing subscription basis. The platform would usually be hosted and maintained by the software provider and the merchant is allowed various levels of customization through server writes and updates.

Advantages of SaaS eCommerce Platforms

One of the biggest advantages of SaaS platforms is that the software isn’t installed on-premise or maintained by the user themselves. Instead, your eCommerce system runs on the SaaS provider hosted servers. Your 3rd party provider then is responsible for the security, performance, and maintenance of the application on their servers. Apart from this, here are some advantages of a SaaS eCommerce Platform

  • Clearer (and often lower) pricing – in most instances, costs for the platform would include platform maintenance, upgrades and patching, server maintenance and monitoring, a CDN, SSL certificates etc
  • Reduced maintenance overhead – less platform bugs and management of technical issues at a platform level as all of this is managed as part of the delivery of the service.
  • Less security concerns – the platform would generally manage things like patches and would take responsibility for all other ongoing security tasks, which would be managed at a platform level. The codebase would generally be locked down too and customisation would be limited to, again, reduce risk in this area.
  • Built to scale – most of these platforms have been built on top of an auto-scaling or at least highly scalable architectures designed to allow thousands of stores to scale through peaks.

Disadvantages of SaaS-based eCommerce Platforms

The main disadvantage of cloud-based platforms is usually around rigidity and them either slowing things down or not allowing for heavy customisation. This is usually a benefit for conventional retailers, however, if you handle a really complex business case, this would quickly become a major bottleneck.

What is a Headless Commerce?

Headless eCommerce is being heralded as the future of eCommerce by many and for a good reason. Compared to traditional eCommerce setup, it confers a whole lot of advantages. So what exactly is headless eCommerce? In very simple terms, it means the 'decoupling' of the front end (customer facing) aspects of your eCommerce business from your back-end (logistics, eCommerce logic)

  • Hyperpersonalization

    A headless commerce solution allows brands to offer a more personalized and highly engaging user experience with the flexibility of a WordPress like CMS while still leveraging the security and scalability of an eCommerce Platform like Anywhere Commerce in the backend.

  • Better multi-platform shopping experiences

    A headless CMS allows you to pick the best frontend tooling for a variety of devices like mobile, desktop, endless aisle. This gives you the freedom to scale your business much easier because your backend can sync with multiple frontend solutions.

  • Maximize Marketing Effectiveness

    Marketing teams need to get campaigns up and running quickly, A/B test them and lock down on the most effective one in a matter of hours or even minutes. The trouble is marketers who are technically-challenged will find it difficult to work on unfamiliar CMS platforms. With an headless eCommerce setup, you can give your marketing team the freedom to choose the most intuitive and user-friendly CMS while still ensuring enterprise-grade backend security, inventory syncing and data orchestration.

  • Save Money

    The biggest advantage of headless eCommerce architecture is that you don't need to buy packaged software deals which you don't need. Instead, you can get to pick and choose the technology that will actually impact your bottom line.

How an eCommerce Platform Impacts your Enterprise Business

Customer Experience

Customer experience is one of the critical factors you should consider while shopping for an Enterprise eCommerce Platform. This will allow you take full control of the experience you're providing and in turn maximize your sales and conversions. Ecommerce platforms offer several features that directly impact or improve the overall customer experience.

The common ones include AI-powered personalization, product listing, advanced product search, deep customer segmentations, complex content management systems etc. While these features sound good on paper, they will require extensive financial and human resources to pull off. A good way to filter out the good to have from the must haves is to think in terms of long term impact on business objectives. Do keep in mind that some Enterprise eCommerce Platforms like Anywhere Commerce+ offer certain functionalities like Omnichannel readiness straight out of the box while others offer it as an additional integration (paid/free).

Here are some other customer experience aspects you will need to factor before investing in an eCommerce Platform:

Personalisation

A competitive landscape and rapidly changing customer behaviour has made personalization indispensable part of retailing. Any eCommerce Platform you choose should have the ability to provide customized experiences for customers that are in real-time or based on their previous engagement with your brand. The concept of personalization can be and ideally should be every interaction a customer has with your brand starting from purchase to delivery to customer service to recommendations.

AI-powered eCommerce Platforms are capable of building accurate data models by piecing together multiple data sets like order history,website behaviour, loyalty point redemption etc to predict and recommend items that has the highest buying probability for a specific customer.

Here’s how an AI-powered eCommerce Platform can maximize sales & conversions:

  • Product RecommendationsProvides automated merchandising and high purchase probability product recommendations to customers
  • Powerful Customer InsightsEmpowers eCommerce marketers with powerful insights around customer purchase patterns and other shopping basket metrics, thereby allowing to plan and execute effective marketing strategies.
  • Predictive SortAutomatically personalizes product, category and promotional pages with tailored product sorting for every visitor
  • Search DictionariesIntelligently identifies popular search terms and matches missing terms with an appropriate synonym list to generate relevant search results

Communication

How you communicate with your customers can make or break your retail brand. Make sure you identify all the channels that customers are currently using to engage with your brand. The usual suspects are email, phone, chat, and in-store interactions. If you intend to personalize these communications, make sure the eCommerce Platform supports these capabilities.

Here are some other things you may have to consider:

  • Marketplace IntegrationsThis will be important if you are using affiliate marketing channels like Google Shopping.
  • Email MarketingThe new eCommerce Platform should be able to integrate with your ESP or any other marketing automation solutions you are currently using.
  • CRMYour existing CRM setup should be able to sync with your eCommerce Platform to enable seamless personalization and engagement across multiple channels.
  • SEO featuresThis is an area where most Enterprise eCommerce Softwares fare rather poorly. While some of them offer basic customizations out-of-the-box, the majority of them will require modules and additional integrations. Try to check for dynamic page generations, international SEO compatibility, URL structure and XML sitemap control.
Supply Chain Management

Order Fulfillment If you are a retailer with both offline and online presence, this is a particularly important aspect to consider before investing in an eCommerce Platform. Do you offer hybrid e commerce models like Endless Aisle or 'Click and Collect'? Then it’s important for you to consider if the eCommerce Software supports seamless integration with your existing fulfilment and warehousing systems.

Inventory ManagementManaging your inventory effectively unlocks a plethora of benefits like reduced logistic costs, improve customer experience and reduce stockouts. Moreover, inventory is usually the largest asset a company will hold in its assets, that's why its critical to monitor it and optimize it for maximum profitability.

Purchase Channels

A good understanding of 'how' your customers prefer to engage with your brand helps you in choosing an eCommerce Platform that's right for your business. Maybe your customers prefer visiting your store before completing the purchase from the website. Then you should probably invest in a platform that offers powerful Omnichannel features. Or maybe the majority of your customers are using their mobiles to complete their purchases. This insight tells you that your new eCommerce Platform should have robust mobile capabilities and maybe even support PWA and other front-end frameworks.


  • Mobile ReadyWith a branded mobile application, you can give your customers the ultimate mobile shopping experience and in return, you’ll have a captive audience for your products, free from the distractions of other stores, web searches and ads. If this is part of your retail strategy, then look for a platform that offers mobile apps as a sales channel, as developing an app yourself can take a lot of time, money, and effort!
  • The PWA TrendSeveral major retailers have been investing in Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the recent years to offer a better mobile experience. A PWA is similar to an app with push notification and offline capabilities but operates within the browser. It has become a major trend amongst eCommerce retailers and anyone looking to create a new website should definitely consider it.
  • Rise of Omnichannel CommerceOmnichannel is quickly becoming the buzz word among retailers across the world, especially in developing markets like India and Southeast Asia.

What is Omnichannel Commerce?

The ability to deliver a seamless and unified experience across channels, while factoring in the different devices that consumers are using to interact with your business. The surge in the popularity of Omnichannel is not a random or happenstance. It evolved as a reaction to the changes in how consumers engage with brands. The new-age, connected customer interacts with a brand across multiple touch-points like mobile, website, social and store-front. This presented brands and businesses with a unique challenge and opportunity : be present everywhere (omni) where the customers are.

Benefits of Omnichannel Commerce

Omni-channel retailing offer benefits that far transcend the challenges of implementation. Any retailer who has the vision of attracting and retaining high value customers and driving greater sales can afford to ignore this and focus on implementing it at the earliest. An Omnichannel strategy impacts everything from customer acquisition, customer experience, sales, conversions, customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

  • Enhanced Customer Perception

    ‘The Digital Natives’ (born in the age of the PC and raised in the era of the internet) have integrated technology into their shopping habits - they search, compare and often purchase using technology. The even younger generation “the Digital Dependents’, born since the web was invented are getting increasingly frustrated with this non-integrated world. Their primary platform for engagement is the mobile phone and expect that retailers will increasingly allow them to connect through this platform - not just to interact but also to transact. Retailers who are seen as laggards by this generation will end up finding themselves out of the race.

  • Higher Sales

    All eyes are on eCommerce, and with good reason. Currently eCommerce sales constitutes 9% of the overall retail sales1. However, digital influenced sales is significantly higher than this number. Retailers should not only consider direct eCommerce sales but also digital influenced sales (online product discovery, facebook engagement, locating the nearest availability of a product etc). Omni-channel capabilities allow retailers to access to the whole pie (brick and mortar, eCommerce, emerging mCommerce, social commerce and much more) while leveraging the strengths of each channel.

  • Tracking of Marketing ROI

    From a spray and pray advertising phenomenon to Track every cent you spend phenomenon, digital powered Omnichannel retailing aids retailers reaching out to the right audience at the right time at the right place. If you are a luxury retailer, you can reach out to females who are in the age group of 35-45, staying in a specific area and are looking for a luxury handbag. This is possible because the digital platforms amass customer demographic and shopping behavior data.

  • Effective Data Aggregation

    Tracking consumer behaviour across channels can help retailers better understand consumer motivations and preferences. Armed with this information they can increase sales through cross sell and upsell, make right offers at the right time and delight customers. They can also engage and encourage customers to come to the stores with specific targeted communication where the probabilities of impulse purchase are higher.

Roadmap for Omnichannel Commerce

The primary goal of an Omnichannel Commerce strategy is to deliver a One Brand, One Experience customer experience anywhere, anytime.

The event made a severe dent on the brand's reputation and revenue:

  • ONE Inventory View: Real-time, accurate visibility of inventory across the supply chain is one of the key tenets of a winning Omni-channel strategy. By supporting truly channel-agnostic fulfillment, inventory visibility enables retailers satisfy customer expectations, grow assortments, and improve merchandising and planning accuracy. To accomplish this, retailers will need seamlessly integrated systems, accessible to entire customer facing workforce.
  • ONE Product View: Rich product catalogue builds trust, creates engagement and drives conversion. Content rich digital catalogues typically have high quality images, unique product description and in depth product specifications. Digital catalogues should be accessible across all digital channels and should be made available in-store through engagement kiosks.
  • ONE Customer View: As customers demand a unified experience, it’s very critical to have all the customer information in one place - purchase information, recency, frequency, likes and dislikes,loyalty rewards, demographics etc. The magic happens when this data is crunched and relevant insights are provided to all the customer touch points resulting in customer experience wows. For example: When a customer enters the store, relevant offers are made on his phone. At the checkout counter he is made a scrumptious offer on his favourite product which he has not bought in the current purchase cycle.

The Building Blocks for the Power of One

  • Stakeholder Buy-in

    Stakeholder buy-in is the most important stepping stone for the successful implementation l of any Omni-channel strategy. The entire management team and relevant on-the-ground employees should be involved right from the beginning of the Omni-channel Journey - readiness assessment. An individual or a small cross functional team should be made responsible for assessing Omni-channel readiness and presenting the findings to the management team.

  • Customer Centricity

    Seamless Experience: When customers make a purchase or inquire on a product, they include all the possible channels available, be it a physical store, online e-commerce, social media or a call center and expect that there will be no boundaries obstructing his experience. Customers are increasingly gaining a mindset which leads them to just “call, click or come in” depending on their preferences at the given moment and retailers should be able to respond effectively to that requirement for a seamless experience.


    Tracking across Channels: It’s extremely important to recognize a returning customer irrespective of where they log in. A retailer can easily execute this to this by using a loyalty program, video surveillance, wi-fi sensors and indoor mapping. Studies show that the best way to do this is through the customer managed relationships which empower customers to choose the information they provide to retailers in exchange for spot-on recommendations, exclusive deals and relevant direct marketing offers.


    Engaging Content: Engaging Content is becoming the main driver for consumer engagement in the digital world. Businesses need to become consumer centric to retail their products today. Informing and empowering consumers through insightful content leads them to shop more confidently from your eCommerce site. Creating engaging content cuts down the buying cycle considerably by creating impulsiveness.

  •  Enhanced In-store Experience

    Stores still remain the core of the retailers' relationship with the customers. Making your in-store shopping experience memorable, interactive and engaging is key to making an impact. This can be done in number of ways, for example, using in-store mobile devices, tablets and smartphones to make payments, demonstrate products, and offer more product information. In addition to the tablets, we anticipate that the major retailers will implement immersive experiences with the use of large and interactive displays that engross the customers to an extent where they kind of forget that they're inside a physical store. Best examples of the retailers implementing such immersive experiences are the Nike Fuel Station in London which has a huge LCD that displays the shoppers as they move through the store and the Gucci store which has recently set up five columns of super high resolution display that enables the shoppers to browse various products using hand gestures.

  •  Asset Utilization

    In the past, stores were used only for selling products with service being handled through other channels. Today, stores are the branded customer experience centres handling an increasing array of roles and responsibilities which include sales, distribution and fulfilment. The digital and physical channels need to work together to a greater extent as the increased movement to the online sales may actually drive the customers to the retail channel as a supplement to the online experience. Though a significant segment of consumers research products through the digital channel, actual acquisition quite often takes place in a physical store.

  •  Operational Efficiency

    All the business functions - marketing, sales, service, training, product management and supply chain - must work harmoniously to meet the anytime anywhere demand of consumers. For instance, marketing and brand management will need to work in tandem with the front-end store team to ensure that the customer experience on the shop floor reflects the online experience.


    As retailers must be in coherence in terms of placement and promotion of brand, merchandise and inventory need to be managed at the enterprise level. This means that supply chain needs to develop the ability to holistically manage the inventory in every direction and ideally with the flexibility to deliver products to the highest-return opportunities. Seamlessness amongst teams will be critical before seamless experience can be delivered to the customer.

  •  Manpower & Training

    Magic selling is a term coined by Macy’s that encompasses training and coaching of the associates to improve customer engagements and selling skills. This is probably the most under-utilized technique in retailing. One of the goals of this strategy is to teach the associates to "think Omni-channel" which means selling merchandize to the customers that may not be available in the online-store.

  •  Right Technology & Platform

    A critical part of this lies in choosing a powerful and agile Omnichannel eCommerce Platform. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right Omnichannel eCommerce Platform.

How to Choose an Omnichannel eCommerce Platform

These are key technological capabilities an eCommerce Platform should posses to deliver a truly seamless Omnichannel experience. Here are things you'll need to keep in mind while scouting for an Omnichannel eCommerce Platform.

  • Multi-Channel Listing

    A multichannel selling strategy is core to a successful Omnichannel retailing strategy as it gives customers to continue to pause and start the purchase journey across multiple platforms. To successfully pull off a multichannel retailing experience, your eCommerce Platform should support at least these 5 major seamless integrations.

    • Web Store
    • In Store
    • Mobile App
    • Native Social Commerce Integration
    • Marketplace Integration
  • Point-of-Sale Integration

    A good eCommerce Platform integration with your Point-of-sale (POS) can bolster your Omnichannel efforts through easier, faster selling with the added benefits of a synced user experience across channels. A close POS integration also gives you additional benefit of sell products and collect payments across multiple channels like social and marketplaces. In short, if Omnichannel retailing is your primary focus, ensure you have a powerful integration between your POS and platform.

  • Inventory Management

    Omnichannel retailing allows customers to purchase across channels; therefore its imperative to have your inventory levels updated across other channels as well as your backend. For this, your eCommerce Platform should support automatic inventory sync in real-time across multiple channels. This has to include both offline and online channels across social sites and mobile apps as well as marketplaces like Amazon and Alibaba.

  • Marketing Integration

    The overall Omnichannel experience has to be independent of individual channels. A customer who tried on an outfit at one of your stores should have the same item show up in their mobile app and online store. And every aspect of brand interaction needs to be personalized based on previous engagement. For instance, a customer who enters his/her email address on your website should be automatically presented with a personalized selection next time he/she visits your store.

  • Extensibility

    Retailers should look for a platform that comes pre-integrated with a wide array of third party solutions. The best platforms also provide robust and OPEN APIs for integrating with other in-house systems. These capabilities allow the retailer to streamline internal business processes and achieve a ONE inventory and ONE customer view for all employees.

Enterprise eCommerce Software - a Need or a Necessity?

Well, the short answer is, it depends. Once your eCommerce business hits millions in annual revenue, even minor glitches in your eCommerce Platform can have catastrophic consequences. A case in point is Toys R Us - a fledgling brand that once enjoyed 25 percent of the American retail toy market; it suffered massive loses in sales and revenue due to a faulty eCommerce strategy. The brand's tale of woes started during the Thanksgiving of 1999 when it ran a massive campaign that promised priority delivery by Christmas for orders placed till December 14, 1999. The campaign was a huge success and the website was inundated with millions of visitors and orders. Unfortunately, the Toys R Us website wasn't ready to handle the massive surge in traffic and demand. The result? Site downtimes, mixed up orders and oversold inventory.

The event made a severe dent on the brand's reputation and revenue:

  • Thousands of customers sued the company for service failures
  • It suffered a drop in market capitalization of 20 cents per share
  • The brand had to refund millions of dollars to unhappy customers
  • The U.S. Federal Trade Commission fined the brand $350,000 for its failure

This series of unfortunate events imparts an all important lesson - an eCommerce Platform impact a critical, cornerstone aspect of your business - Customer Experience. And any brand that slacks on customer experience in this hypercompetitive market is assured of a swift demise.

Investing in an Enterprise eCommerce Software

The process of selecting an eCommerce Platform is a critical business-level decision. For this reason, the selection should always be a group effort that involves people from multiple departments like technology, marketing, accounting and customer service. During the research phase, it's important to list down the important specific functional and non-functional requirements based on interactions with every department. Try to resist the urge to look at different platform features before listing down your own business requirements as this will result in making a biased and incorrect selection.

To help you with the research phase, here are some questions you should be asking your employees

  • What's primary business objective for selecting a new platform (eg: scalability, cost optimization, agility etc.)
  • What are the major bottlenecks in the current platform (eg: customizations, integrations, scalability etc.)
  • What are must have features in the existing platform (eg: catalog setup, Omnichannel, multi-store feature, data integrations etc.)
  • What are the nice to have existing features that your department needs (eg: personalization, CRM integration, customer segmentation etc)
  • What are the new features that is currently missing in the existing platform (eg: endless aisle, Omnichannel capabilities, advanced personalisation, store customization)?
  • What are the primary systems integrations required for launch (eg: WMS, OMS, CRM etc)?
  • What are the integrations required for phase two (e.g. marketplace, endless aisle)?
  • What are the key operational requirements (e.g. configurable products, real-time offers, advanced email segmentation etc)?

While doing this research, it’s important to bucket the features into must have, should have, could have, needn't have based on the business objectives. This will help you separate the business critical features from the non-essential ones

What is a SaaS eCommerce Platform?

There's a crazy number of Enterprise eCommerce Platforms out there so choosing the right one can be quite a task. Here are some useful information that will help you find your way in getting the right one for your business. Today, most of the Enterprise eCommerce Platforms are cloud-based as it reduces the overhead costs for the merchants. Especially in the last 2 years, there has been a major shift amongst enterprise retailers who are preferring the versionless, lower maintenance advantages of cloud-based platforms. SaaS, or software-as-a-service, is simply a model of software that is delivered on the cloud as part of an on-going subscription. A SaaS eCommerce Software is therefore a cloud-based platform delivered to the merchant for an ongoing subscription basis. The platform would usually be hosted and maintained by the software provider and the merchant is allowed various levels of customization through server writes and updates.

Advantages of SaaS eCommerce Platforms

One of the biggest advantages of SaaS platforms is that the software isn’t installed on-premise or maintained by the user themselves. Instead, your eCommerce system runs on the SaaS provider hosted servers. Your 3rd party provider then is responsible for the security, performance, and maintenance of the application on their servers. Apart from this, here are some advantages of a SaaS eCommerce Platform

  • Clearer (and often lower) pricing – in most instances, costs for the platform would include platform maintenance, upgrades and patching, server maintenance and monitoring, a CDN, SSL certificates etc
  • Reduced maintenance overhead – less platform bugs and management of technical issues at a platform level as all of this is managed as part of the delivery of the service.
  • Less security concerns – the platform would generally manage things like patches and would take responsibility for all other ongoing security tasks, which would be managed at a platform level. The codebase would generally be locked down too and customisation would be limited to, again, reduce risk in this area.
  • Built to scale – most of these platforms have been built on top of an auto-scaling or at least highly scalable architectures designed to allow thousands of stores to scale through peaks.

Disadvantages of SaaS-based eCommerce Platforms

The main disadvantage of cloud-based platforms is usually around rigidity and them either slowing things down or not allowing for heavy customisation. This is usually a benefit for conventional retailers, however, if you handle a really complex business case, this would quickly become a major bottleneck.

What is a Headless Commerce?

Headless eCommerce is being heralded as the future of eCommerce by many and for a good reason. Compared to traditional eCommerce setup, it confers a whole lot of advantages. So what exactly is headless eCommerce? In very simple terms, it means the 'decoupling' of the front end (customer facing) aspects of your eCommerce business from your back-end (logistics, eCommerce logic)

  • Hyperpersonalization

    A headless commerce solution allows brands to offer a more personalized and highly engaging user experience with the flexibility of a WordPress like CMS while still leveraging the security and scalability of an eCommerce Platform like Anywhere Commerce in the backend.

  • Better multi-platform shopping experiences

    A headless CMS allows you to pick the best frontend tooling for a variety of devices like mobile, desktop, endless aisle. This gives you the freedom to scale your business much easier because your backend can sync with multiple frontend solutions.

  • Maximize Marketing Effectiveness

    Marketing teams need to get campaigns up and running quickly, A/B test them and lock down on the most effective one in a matter of hours or even minutes. The trouble is marketers who are technically-challenged will find it difficult to work on unfamiliar CMS platforms. With an headless eCommerce setup, you can give your marketing team the freedom to choose the most intuitive and user-friendly CMS while still ensuring enterprise-grade backend security, inventory syncing and data orchestration.

  • Save Money

    The biggest advantage of headless eCommerce architecture is that you don't need to buy packaged software deals which you don't need. Instead, you can get to pick and choose the technology that will actually impact your bottom line.

Total Cost of Ownership of Ecommerce Platform

It’s important to consider total cost of ownership - the sum total of direct and indirect costs. Many companies make the mistake of only considering upfront platform costs like licensing fees, set-up costs and development, but fail to take into account maintenance or the expenses that come with integrations, service support and development contingency. The TCO is a vital part of the ROI calculation for an Enterprise eCommerce.


Implementation Phase Costs
  • Software: When it comes to software pricing for eCommerce Platforms, it can vary greatly based on the type of software and the vendor. Some solutions have set licensing fees, while others charge fees depending on your sales and traffic.
  • Hardware: If you are opting for an on-premise solution, make sure you include hardware costs of servers, storage to run the software, backup and disaster recovery.
  • Implementation: The cost of setting up, configuring and testing software before it goes into production. This is likely to be one of the most cost intensive part of setting up an eCommerce Platform. A typical Enterprise eCommerce Platform implementation can cost between £100,000 and £5,000,000 if you choose to use an external agency / systems integrator.
  • Data migration: This involves the cost of migrating data from the old system to the new. Most enterprises skip this step and instead archive the old system in a read-only mode.
  • User licenses: Several e-commerce platforms charge based on named users and simultaneous users. For the cloud, licenses are usually named.
  • Training: The total cost incurred in training your employees to use the new software.
  • External system interface costs: An Enterprise eCommerce Solution will often need to communicate with multiple systems in your organization and these interfaces may or may not involve costing.
  • Customization: Based on your requirement, you will need to customize certain aspect of the platform and this will involve training and development costs.
Operational Phase Costs


  • Software maintenance & support: For on-premise and hybrid eCommerce Platforms, vendors typically charge 20% to 25% of the total purchase price as maintenance and support fees. Over a period of time, this can quickly exceed the total cost of the product so make sure you take this into consideration when scouting for a new platform. the implementation phase.
  • User licenses: For cloud-based eCommerce Software, licenses are typically priced per month. If the number of users increases, this cost increases but the reverse is not always true.
  • Training: Your organization will need to invest in training new employees and also, when the vendors push enhancements.
  • Software Enhancements: Everytime the business landscape changes or a new regulation comes into effect, you will need to make minor changes to the software which will involve additional integrations or purchases.
  • Disaster recovery & 100% Uptime: This ranges from backups through to hot failovers and includes regular testing. Hot failover is very expensive to implement for off-the-shelf or custom software. Cloud-based Enterprise eCommerce Platforms usually include disaster recovery and full time availability as part of the standard offering.
  • Data center: For on-premise and custom software, data center costs like power, cooling and floor or rack space can quickly rack up a hefty bill.
  • Downtime: The cost to the business when the software is unavailable. Custom software is not tested nearly as well as cloud or off-the-shelf software and is likely to have much higher downtime costs. Off-the-shelf software is more likely to go down than cloud software because cloud vendors invest in things like hot failover.
Retirement Phase Costs

These are the costs incurred when retiring software. Many companies forget that retired systems can still incur considerable costs, e.g. if you had grown out of one cloud product and moved to another but you will still need to migrate transactional data for compliance reasons.

  • Data export: Most vendors make it easy for data to get into the system but not the other way around. So be wary of data migration costs when you eventually decide to a different platform.
  • Archived systems: If you want the older system to be available in a read-only format, you will need to put in the original contract. If not, the vendor force you to pay a whole lot more.
  • Inactive licenses: You may need to retain the user licenses for audit compliance but don't end up paying full license the fee for an archived system.

Ecommerce for Small & Medium Businesses

With eCommerce sales poised to hit $49 trillion by 2020, there has never been a better time to start an eCommerce business. Thanks to availability of multiple eCommerce Platforms, it has become easier than ever before to setup an online shop. However, the challenge lies in navigating a new realm and finding the best route to success when there is so much information and tools available at your disposal.

Fret not, we've got you covered, read on to understand how to get your feet wet in the eCommerce world.

How to Start an eCommerce Business?

  • Decide on what products you will sell

    Your inventory is the lifeblood of your eCommerce business, so make sure you get it right. For some people, especially designers, artists and craftsmen, this is the easy part since they often venture into the eCommerce space to sell things they are already creating. We recommend brainstorming ideas where you can use your knowledge or interests to create great products. If you're not to keen on creating products, the other option is to source products from manufacturers or wholesalers and hold the products as inventory for your customers. Whatever the approach, there are two key questions you should always be asking at this stage - Do I know enough about this product space & will people buy it. A great way to do research on top selling products is to check out Amazon's Best Seller page.

  • The Search for Suppliers

    Thanks to the glorious platform called the Internet, you'll have no trouble finding a supplier for just about anything you want to sell. Be sure to check out top supplier directories like 4WholesaleUSA, BAOlink, Alibaba, WholesaleGopher, GlobalSources and ThomasNet. Another great way to connect with suppliers and get a demo of the product is to attend trade shows related to your product domain.

  • Shortlisting Suppliers

    After you made a list of potential suppliers, the next thing to vet down to 1 or 2 primary suppliers. Make sure you have the discuss the following points when communicating with potential suppliers.

    • Payment terms
    • Minimum order requirements
    • Shipping and handling cost
    • Insurance
    • Policies on late or undelivered shipment
  • Tackle the Tech Part of your Business

    Once you're done with the product and supplier part, the next vital area is to lock down on the technology part of your business. Thanks to the multitude of eCommerce Softwares and solutions, this has become easier than ever before.

  • Choosing a Domain Name

    While picking a domain name, make sure it clearly communicates what your business is about. If you're picking a domain name that does not immediately convey your product or business, be prepared to spend more on marketing and branding later on.

  • Register your domain

    Once you have chosen a domain name, you'll have get it registered through one of the domain registrars like GoDaddy, HostGator or BlueHost. Be sure to shop around to get the best bang for your buck. Also, here are some questions to keep in mind when deciding on your hosting company.

    • Do they provide 24/7 support?
    • Do they provide daily backups of your site?
    • Will your site will be on a shared server? If so, how many other sites are on one server at any given time?
    • What are the security precautions that need to be taken when you are sharing a server with other companies?
    • Will the shared server impact your outgoing emails to customers in the event that one of the other companies on the server gets blacklisted as spam?

How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform

This is the point where you’ll decide which eCommerce Platform will power your store. This is a critical choice, so we've created a handy list of things to consider when deciding your eCommerce Platform. Things to consider when choosing an eCommerce Platform are listed below.


Self-Hosted vs Fully-Hosted

You have the option of going for the self-hosted solution or sign up with a fully hosted platform. Fully-hosted platforms are great for people with little or no technical know-how. Self-hosted platforms offer greater customizations but will need dedicated programers and designers.

Pricing & Payment

Most eCommerce Platforms will charge a monthly fee which will vary depending on the type of platform (self-hosted vs. hosted) and the features you will be using. Also, certain platforms will not let you the ability to pay via third party vendors (such as PayPal). This could end up being a huge inconvenience for your customers and you will end up with a high rate of cart abandonments. Open-source eCommerce Solutions are mostly free, but you’ll need up spending on development and maintenance.

Add-ons & Integrations

If you plan to use other softwares like a CRM or an accounting software for your eCommerce business, then make sure the eCommerce Platform can integrate with it seamlessly. Most eCommerce Platforms come with several built-in tools and plugins, however if your business has any niche or specific plugin, try to make sure that will work with your platform. Here are some popular plugins that you should look out for.

  • Accounting plugins to help you calculate profits, sales, taxes etc.
  • Blog addition
  • Email marketing tools to help you keep in communicate with your customers
  • Loyalty program integration that helps you reward your customers
  • Logistics apps to help with shipping your products
SEO Friendliness

A steady stream of organic traffic can give a major boost to sales and revenue so its imperative that your website shows on top when your customers are searching for products you sell. Here are some of the SEO-related factors you should consider when choosing an eCommerce Platform.

  • URL Customization
  • Blog addition
  • Ability to use your own domain name
  • Ability to incorporate customer reviews
Speed

When it come to eCommerce, speed is money and every extra second your site takes to load will make a huge dent in your overall conversion. According to Akamai, the majority of consumers want sites to load in 3 seconds or less. Your first and foremost criteria is to look for an eCommerce Solution that offers a great loading speed straight out-of-the-box. Self-hosted eCommerce Solutions tend to fare the worst when it comes to page load times.

Mobile Friendliness

Did you know that 66% of time spent on online eCommerce is done through mobile device and that mobile commerce is growing at 300% faster than entire eCommerce? While deciding on an eCommerce Platform, make sure it supports a responsive design and renders great on smaller screens.

Scalability

Once your business picks up steam, you will want to scale your operations easily and effortlessly. This will involve Omnichannel retailing, selling across multiple marketplaces, selling on social channels and even selling to global customers. Make sure you consider these scalability factors when investing in an eCommerce Software.

  • Centralized Inventory Management
  • Marketplace Integration
  • Social Sync
  • Google Product Data Feed
  • Open API
  • Localization
Security

With the rampant hacks and security breaches in recent times, customers are more apprehensive about entering their credit card details online than ever before. Which is why it's imperative for your eCommerce Platform to have top notch security. Always make sure your platform supports HTTPS/SSL for a safe and secure checkout for your customers and your software is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant.

Top Ecommerce Business Ideas for Startups

To strike gold in the fiercely competitive online business world you will need a solid strategy around what to sell in the first place. Here's a list of best eCommerce ideas that is trending now.

  • Digital health services: Many vendors that established a successful customer base in online retailing have already expanded into the healthcare market and are looking to grow their revenues. The demand for digital health services like online therapy sessions and nursing and physiotherapy are growing at exponential rates.
  • Athleisure: In fashion, trends are constantly changing. However, athleisure is one fashion trend that’s here to stay. Athleisure is active wear worn as an everyday look rather than for athletic purposes like going to the gym. Within this category, you can sell everything from sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, sports bras, tank tops, headbands, capris, and shoes, all in countless colors and styles.
  • Industrial B2B Products: The B2B eCommerce market has a high barrier to entry due to higher shipping and warehousing charges but the margins are also on the higher side. Within this segment, the manufacturing and construction segment holds the highest potential. Moreover, few B2B brands have managed to sell their products online at scale. This means the market is ripe for disruption by anyone with even nominal eCommerce chops.
  • Portable LED Projectors: The portable projector industry is expected to be worth $3.44 billion USD by 2022. Some mini projectors can be attached to your phone making them convenient to carry around for salespeople and other business professionals. If you plan on creating a projector store you have the option to sell mini projectors, handheld projectors, lighting effect/laser projectors, and more.The best thing about the portable projector is that margins tend to be high.
  • Minimalist watches: While minimalist watches are trending upward, the reality is there’s a diverse range of watches that are also selling well. Men’s watches, women’s watches, and smartwatches are also showing increasing search volume over time. December tends to be the peak month for watch sales.

How to Market Your eCommerce Website

So, you’ve found an eCommerce Platform, set up your payment gateway, and built your website — congrats! Now, it’s time to get the word out and drive traffic to your online store. Here are some of the ways you can do it.

  • Good Word of Mouth: The simplest and often the most effective one. Getting people to talk good about your eCommerce brand can generate multiple leads over a period of time. Offer a great product, great shopping experience and excellent customer service and you will have this covered. Another often missed opportunity is finding mentions in media outlets by pitching to the right editors; try to look for a service such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out, which is free) to generate links and quotes in the media.
  • Have a Solid SEO Strategy: This is often one of the best ways to ensure continuous traffic to your website and is a must for all websites, eCommerce or not. Unfortunately, there are plenty of different elements to optimizing for search engine and it tends to be a long drawn process. But the sooner you get started, the better chance you have in ranking well for your product keywords. Also, do remember that your page load speeds can have a major impact on your search rankings.
  • Blog Consistently: A consistent blogging schedule offers heaps of benefits like higher customer engagement, link building opportunities and good SEO push. However, it's important to do a through research about audience pain points and challenges before embarking on creating content for your blog.
  • Explore Strategic Partnerships: Search for other businesses with whom you can have a symbiotic relationship. For example, a yoga apparel merchant will want to reach out to yoga studios and offer their customers an exclusive discount. This will create a win-win situation for both businesses involved.
  • Content Marketing: Creating relevant and educational content allows you to engage your audience and peers, and also positions you as a trustworthy authority in your space. An added benefit of Content Marketing is the link building opportunities that they generate which in turn can give a push to your search rankings.
  • Email Marketing: Make sure you constantly engage with your customers through newsletters, special promotions and product launches. Email is still the undisputed champion when it comes to increasing conversion. For best results, pick an email solution that seamlessly integrates with your eCommerce Platform.
  • Social Media: Regardless of what industry you are in, there's a chance that your customers are on social media. The trick is to identify which one and craft a great social strategy that appeals to your target audience.

Measuring the success of your eCommerce business


Site Traffic

Keep a track of how many visitors you are getting and from which source (e.g., search, social media, third-party sites)? This will help you understand which of your marketing efforts are giving the best ROI and you can double down on the most effective one.

Conversion Rate

Your website conversion rate is basically rate of sales for a certain volume of visitors. A lower conversion rate can be due to a number of issues like wrong audience, disconnect between marketing and product, slower website or overall UX of your website. It's important to dig deep and find the root cause of low conversion rate as it can impact your overall growth real quick.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

The CPA is a simple metric that tells you how much you are spending on acquiring customers. It gives you an idea about your marketing efforts and whether its worth investing in a specific channel. CPA = Total Campaign Cost/Conversions.

Average Order Value (AOV)

Your average order value (AOV) can reveal insights about customer behaviour on your website. A lesser AOV means it's time to ramp up your cross-selling initiatives or you should start promoting more of your high value products.

Future of eCommerce

The future of eCommerce is uncertain, but some things remain constant – delivery times will improve, customer service will get increasingly better, and product selection will become ever greater. Here are some fascinating that are likely to define the future of online retail:

  • Hyperconnectivity

    By 2026, we will be living in a hyperconnected world where Internet of Things will be part of everyday life. In the next 10 years, Machine to Machine interactions will grow rapidly and by 2020, there is expected to be 660 million M2M connections. Connected technologies at home is expected to become part of the retail equation. For retailers, digital display cabinets and smart tags will help retailers to track demand and inventory to improve supply chain effectiveness. These technologies will work in tandem to give birth to new retail technologies like adaptive advertising where sensor-equipped outdoor and indoor signages respond in real-time to the customer.

  • Evolution of Wearables

    Wearables are yet to find mass market adoption, primarily due to screen space limitation and capabilities. However as wearables become more smarter and intuitive, they will be able to capture a wide array of user behaviour like health, activity and emotional state. These in turn can create exciting opportunities in eCommerce scenarios like personalization, mobile payments space and even as a identification in checkout-less stores.

  • Advanced AI Systems

    While several retailers are already using Artificial Intelligence to make better sales and business decisions, the next wave of AI in eCommerce will be more advanced and capable of making sophisticated decisions like predicting customer loyalty or predict product affinity based on millions of totally unrelated data points like the weather, marital status and emotional well-being

  • Augmented Reality

    AR, rather than VR will most likely have a bigger impact on the retail landscape. Augmented Reality's has the ability to blur the lines between the digital and the real world and with it, the lines between online and instore shopping. Someone shopping on a website will be able to virtually try out an apparel or a jewellery without every stepping out of his/her house. AR will also be used to enhance the in-store experience through interactive content.

  • Delivery Drones

    Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in eCommerce is one that is expected to go into production real soon – drone delivery. Drones will in the future allow companies to deliver packages much more efficiently and quickly, with delivery times of just 60 or even 30 minutes from order entirely plausible. Drones will be sent out from distribution centres and travel directly to the delivery addresses provided, at significantly lower cost and logistical hassle than at present. Amazon, among others, are already close to making this a reality across the entirety of their business, and it seems that others will be clambering to follow suit as quickly as possible.

Learn how leading brands like Giordano, Peter England, Tunglok & REDTag are increasing sales and conversions with Omnichannel loyalty programs.

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