Selecting the right e-commerce platform and mix of related technologies is therefore critically-important. After all, this is how your company now engages with the world. Everything from taking, fulfilling, billing and delivering orders needs tools that integrate with not only your existing – and legacy – business systems but also any future systems, workflows and technologies you are likely to implement.
But before you begin analysing your own business plans and assessing your existing e-commerce technologies to see how they might be improved, you should first research the current state of the industry, while also accepting there is never really a ‘status quo’ in the digital world.
The art and science of e-commerce strategy
A recent report from Deloitte, “Global Powers of Retailing 2017”, observes that companies committed to the “art and science” of being genuinely customer-focussed should view the fluctuating nature of e-commerce on three fronts.
The first is changing preferences. Today’s customers are actually consuming less, showing a trend towards curating their lives more carefully when it comes to possessions and experiences.
The second is changing retail formats through the blurring of sectors and proliferation of on-demand fulfilment. As the ‘maker movement’ and the ‘sharing economy’ gain in importance, it is getting harder to clearly define what a retailer is and does. To affirm their relevancy, retailers need to satisfy consumers’ on-demand mind-set.
Number three is the transformative possibilities from living with exponential technologies, both in the store and beyond. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), smart devices, robots, sensors and virtual reality (VR) are already changing consumers’ perceptions and behaviours, with massive disruption anticipated over the next few years.
As we’re beginning to see, e-commerce is quickly transitioning from being an important part of every business, towards being the business.
Future-proofing your e-commerce strategy
Getting the right e-commerce platform in place that meets the future plans and demands of your business and your customers is one of the most important considerations for any business today.
Many e-commerce platforms now provide full integration between many existing and/or legacy systems. Instead of just powering the website, an e-commerce platform can be woven throughout the business, enabling brands to have full visibility into all their marketing, sales and customer behaviour metrics.
It’s also versatile and adaptable, ensuring that even the fastest growing digital businesses can manage the challenges of scale without the pain of multiple upgrades, which can be expensive and slow the business down.
This flexibility includes giving you the ability to expand services or change products on your site without having to rely on your web designer. It also means pre-empting customer preferences and behaviour, delivering consistent and targeted responses based on a person’s previous activity.
Over the last two decades, e-commerce has constantly evolved through several trends and iterations. Today, the cloud, mobile devices and apps are redefining how brands and their customers engage and interact. Tomorrow, new concepts, new trends and new technologies may again lead to new consumer behaviours and expectations, taking e-commerce in yet another direction.
The way that people buy and sell now is completely different, and we should expect the current pace of change to continue, if not increase over time. As a result, choosing the right e-commerce platform is about more than your current e-commerce strategy. The best e-commerce platform is one that still proves to be the right choice in five or ten years’ time.
*Originally published on March 27th 2018. Updated August 1st 2018.