Shopping Around - Making Sense of Today's eCommerce Technology Options
eCommerce is one of the fastest growing markets today. According to research by Forrester, online sales in the U.S is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 9.5% reaching USD $414 billion in 2018. eTailers have been able to carve out their space in the market owing to compelling pricing and customer acquisition strategies coupled with aggressive marketing tactics.
However, in order to stay on this incremental growth path, eTailers have to remain focused on site performance and security along with discovering new ways to making shopping easier (think one-click checkouts). While these numbers may be optimistic, a study released by Accenture found that almost 36.3% of surveyed retailers plan to upgrade their eCommerce platform to boost performance and sales. Clearly, technology plays a huge role as a contributor to eCommerce success. However, with so many technologies at your disposal how can you make sure you choose the right one? In this blog, we take a look at some considerations to make the right choice regarding an eCommerce platform.
First things first – eTailers have to have a clearly outlined set of business goals when making technology choices for their eCommerce platform. One of the primary advantages of having an eCommerce website is that it allows the business owners to expand their market reach and tap international opportunities. The technology choice should, therefore, be such that it allows for internationalization and multiple country displays. For example, if the eCommerce website will be accessed by people in the Middle East then the interface has to have a right to left alignment. The technology choice should allow the user to have a uniform experience irrespective of the location, language or device. So a person sitting in Vancouver should have the same user experience as a person sitting in Dubai when using the eCommerce application.
It is also essential to estimate how frequently you want the eCommerce website to update itself. Macy’s, for example, updates its eCommerce site almost every 20 mins. The technology choice should be able to support this need.
Additionally, assessing the kind of business user controls, flexibility of product cataloguing, the kind of search experience you want to offer, ability to integrate an eCommerce search experience into the e-store, assessing if external search spiders can index your site if it is dynamic in nature, identifying core modules and maintenance needs your eCommerce site etc. are a few things to consider to make the technology choice appropriately.
Truth be told, an eCommerce site is only as good as the traffic it can handle. Latency caused because of traffic spikes leads to a poor buying experience and inevitably leads to shopping cart abandonments. Thus planning for increased traffic holds paramount importance for eTailers and makes it essential to assess whether the technology choice under evaluation will be able to scale up during times of increased ‘footfalls’ in the eStore. Assessing the number of visits that a site needs to support during peak traffic, understanding how many orders should ideally be processed in an hour, day and week, and identifying the time taken for the website’s main pages to load can be of great use when talking to your technology provider so that load balancing and DNS traffic management can be optimized. Simply put, the technology choice should be such that it allows the eCommerce site to scale with minimal effort and does not demand additional disproportionate infrastructure management costs.
eBay, Target, Walmart are just a few examples of large eCommerce retailers who have borne the brunt of massive security breaches. Such breaches are a wake-up call to all eCommerce operators to ensure that all the data stored on their website is fiercely protected. It would not be off the mark to say that security plays a major role in the success or failure of an eCommerce portal. Thus, while making technology choices, eTailers should ensure that the technology that they choose gives them robust security from phishing, malicious code threats, data packet sniffing, port scanning, IP spoofing etc. through strong encryption and having regular security audits without impacting site performance. The technology should also allow you to add additional security layers such as SSL certificates etc. in order to stay more secure.
It goes without saying that an eCommerce site has to create a consistent customer experience across multiple channels. It is a multi-screen, multi-device world today and the technology in use should allow the customers to hop between devices and channels with minimal friction and carry out their tasks easily. Since it is becoming an increasingly common practice for users to switch devices, starting their task on one device and completing it on another, it is essential that the technology stack allows the user to do so by offering multi-channel capabilities.
An eCommerce application cannot be successful if it functions as a standalone silo as in the past. Since the eCommerce business is becoming highly imaginative, the technology choice under evaluation should offer modularity that allows the eTailers customization capabilities and allows them to alter individual aspects of the application to meet business demands. The technology should also provide eTailers the capability of third-party integrations to add additional features to the platform.
Content Delivery Network
One major technology consideration that eCommerce providers have to make is to assess the strength of their content delivery network. They have to use a geographically distributed network of servers to ensure that each user accesses the content such as images, videos, static HTML pages, from their nearest servers.
In order to keep up with the market demands, eCommerce providers have to ensure that the technology that they stay away from proprietary commerce technology that is prone to stagnation. Leveraging the cloud gives eTailers the power to create desired experiences independent of IT resources and gives them the capability to wire different applications together to create a single composite application.
Given that eCommerce applications are developed using the same set of checkboxes, eTailers definitely have to leverage technology to create a differentiated experience in order to succeed in an immensely competitive marketplace. Assessing business goals, marketing requirements, future plans can help in creating a roadmap to make the right technology choices and ensure that the project is foolproof against future developments.