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Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

5 Technology Considerations for New Online Retailers

August 26th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

E commerce design


The online retail competitive landscape has changed tremendously in the past fifteen years and especially in the past five. New online retailers are facing challenges that are much different than in the past.

It used to be fairly easy to start an online presence and in many cases young start-ups had a big advantage over old legacy brands. Unlike companies that already had an established technology and systems eco-system to consider, those new to the space were able to be nimble and develop a platform that specifically met the needs of the online consumer.

There were few barriers and the challenges associated with starting a new online business centered mostly around creating a website that was easy to use and worked well in a few different browser versions. As long as shoppers could find the product on your website and receive it in a reasonable amount of time, the chances were good that a business would succeed. Website usability is still the cornerstone, but building an online business has become more complex.

Consumers are more sophisticated than ever before. They’re no longer afraid of technology and most of them own multiple devices. Whether you’re an established online retailer or new to the space, it’s important to consider the key challenges in today’s online shopping world.

Key Challenges Facing Online Retailers

  • The rise of omni-channel – customer’s expect a single consistent shopping experience across devices and channels.
  • The mobile revolution – mobile is part of omni-channel, but worth mentioning separately because it’s driving so many of the changes in shopping behavior.
  • Competitors are just a click away – Google search results have improved tremendously over the past 10 years and consumers no longer bookmark their favorite sites. They search and compare options before making a decision.
  • Shoppers have a short attention span – if they don’t find what they’re looking for in 15 seconds or less, they’re gone.
  • The best offer wins – we’ve trained consumers to wait for the best deal from a retailer and they’ll go to great lengths to make sure they get the most for their money.

Given these challenges, there’s a lot more to consider if you’re new to the online retail space and the costs and complexities may make it seem impossible, but it doesn’t have to be.

5 Technology Considerations for New Online Retailers

  1. Consider the Cloudhosted software solutions can greatly simplify your environment. Most hosted solutions bring you a load balanced architecture, redundancy, and an up-time guarantee for a monthly fee. This can reduce your up-front investment and mitigate risks. You can always move the solution in-house when you’re ready.
  2. Extensible Platformselect an e-commerce platform that will scale and grow with your business. Look for a solution that can be implemented as a framework that you can build on.
  3. Mobile enabled – we can’t emphasize mobile enough. It’s part of the shopping process and the use of mobile devices is only going to grow.
  4. Robust Site Search – next to mobile, the site search solution may be one of the most important features for your website. If shoppers can’t find what they’re looking for quickly you’ll lose them.
  5. Managed services – increase your bandwidth and take advantage of the expertise and experience that a professional services team has to offer.

With the right technology platform and partner, new online retailers can build a solution that will position them for growth and success.

Download our free eBook: A Guide to Evaluating Site Search Solutions

 

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

3 Benefits of an e-Commerce Systems Consolidation

August 21st, 2014 by Dan Bulauski

 

E-commerce diagram structure

A couple of weeks ago we explored the topic of e-commerce systems integration vs. consolidation. Many businesses are faced with some difficult decisions as it relates to their technology infrastructure and how to meet the demands of the multi-channel, multi-device consumer. There are some valid reasons that the eco-system that supported the website was built separately from the rest of the back-end systems.

In the beginning it was because the notion of e-commerce was new and seemed like it might be a passing fad. Quick, inexpensive, and separate from the main systems was the path many businesses chose. After all, why invest heavily in an unproven way of doing business. The other reasons for the piecemeal approach had to do with functionality. It was much easier to implement a third party solution for something like product reviews or A/B testing than it was to build it in-house.

Times have changed significantly and the percentage of business done online represents a significant portion of revenue for most businesses. Unfortunately most e-commerce environments are poorly equipped to meet the demands of today’s consumer and fail to provide a seamless experience across channels and devices.

There are two choices, one is to continue along the path of working in a world of disparate systems or to consolidate the systems such as product information management, content management, and eliminate third party solutions for functionality that is now a core part of many e-commerce platforms.

There are obviously pros and cons to each approach and although consolidating systems can be a complex, time-consuming, and sometimes painful process there are many long term benefits.

Benefits of e-Commerce Systems Consolidation

  1. Operational – multiple systems mean a lot of duplication of effort as well as an increased potential for errors and inconsistencies. Both short and long term cost savings can be achieved by streamlining processes and eliminating redundancy.
  2. Tactical – organizations can use the consolidation as an opportunity to improve visibility into the state of the online business which can result in better decision making and greater agility.
  3. Strategic – while this one is a bit difficult to measure, aligning systems and consolidating functions can lead to a distinct strategic advantage because the focus can move from one of short-term targets to long term initiative with measurable benefits.

Approaching a systems consolidation isn’t for the feint of heart, but it’s also very manageable if you:

  • Align the organizations omni-channel business strategy to the system design visions
  • Get all stakeholders and end users to commit to change (make them part of the process along the way)
  • Agree on the scope and timeline for change
  • Manage the change along the way with open and effective communication

Contact us today and learn how we can assist you in addressing the challenges and keep your business growing.

 

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

3 Predictions about the Future of e-Commerce by the Year 2020

August 7th, 2014 by Dan Bulauski

The future of  e-commerce is sure to be interesting. I thought I’d have a little fun with this post and toss out a few “predictions” for e-Commerce. The base technology is already in place to make most of them a reality, but I think it will take a lot of testing and fine-tuning before they are ready for mainstream adoption.

man presses interface

Top 3 Predictions for the Future of e-Commerce

  • Monetization of Site Search results is inevitable – it’s already starting to happen. Online retailers are looking for additional ways to make money in their online store. Believe it or not, that may mean sending the visitor to a competitor. If a retailer doesn’t sell certain products that are complimentary to their mix, why not sell some real estate in search results to another online retailer for a price?  Chances are they’d have lost the sale anyway, but by providing what the customer is looking for it’s a win-win-win.
  • Voice recognition driven site search – Google is already doing it in the Chrome browser for the desktop and voice search is prevalent among many smartphone users. The next logical step will be to take it to on-site search platforms so people can search hands free from their smartphones and tablets.
  • Predictive personalization – we’ve all read about how Target got into hot water when they tipped off a teenage girl’s father that she was pregnant before she told him. The story is proof positive that as companies collect more and more data about consumers from multiple sources we’re going to see some really sophisticated technology emerge for both on-site merchandising and online marketing.

Of course the list of possibilities goes way beyond this list and may even include things like, human online shopping concierges who can assist people in real time. It’s taking the concept of online chat/assistance to the next level; tomorrow’s assistant will be a technology and data empowered person whose goal is to create long-lasting relationships with the consumer.

The list could go on to include virtual dressing rooms, custom sizing for clothing, placing orders through social networks, and some day we may even get our online order delivered faster than the local pizza place.

One thing is for sure – the future will be anything but dull!

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

E-commerce Technology | 3rd Party Integration vs Consolidation

August 5th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

 

E commerce design

If you haven’t upgraded your website platform and e-commerce technology in the past few years, you could be headed for a competitive nightmare. It’s time to start evaluating options if your systems don’t allow you to deliver a seamless customer experience across all channels and devices.

e-Commerce Technology Needs are Changing

It feels like technology has advanced faster in the past two or three years than in the previous ten. These changes in technology have impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and as it relates to business. There are two primary forces driving the need for companies to take a serious look at their web presence: Consumer behavior and Google, which are very interrelated.

Usability and content affect both customer satisfaction and search engine rankings. The mobile experience is becoming an increasingly important contributing factor to whether or not your website will show up in search results and more importantly whether or not the user experience is one that keeps shoppers coming back.

Third Party Integration vs Consolidation

Because so many companies need to take a serious look at whether or not their current systems can meet the demands of today, many discussions are happening around the topic of third party integration vs. consolidation. There will always be a need to integrate the systems that support different parts of the business such as finance, warehouse, and sales; however it may no longer be effective to have multiple systems supporting the front-end, customer facing, systems.

In the early days of e-commerce technology, online revenue trailed far behind other channels and shoppers had lower expectations than they do today. As we look back at how the landscape has evolved, we’ve come from the days in which e-commerce “solutions” included only the most basic functionality and everything from A/B testing to product review applications were developed as independent features and “plugged into” the e-Commerce platform.

Some of the add-ons were easy to implement and required little effort to manage, while others required extensive configuration and specialized knowledge to implement and support. In many cases, this has resulted in overly complex environments that are costly to maintain and to top it off do a poor job of delivering a seamless customer experience across channels and devices.

Today there are choices…

Many of today’s e-commerce solutions are designed specifically to help businesses deliver a personalized customer experience from call-center to desktop to mobile and come complete with features such as product reviews, robust product management, and marketing tools. There are definite advantages to having all of these features under one roof, not the least of which can be a lower overall cost of ownership and simplified environment.

There may also be disadvantages depending on the platform, they may be over-engineered and lack the flexibility needed to tailor functionality for your business. If the wrong solution is selected, it could drive up internal costs for development and ongoing maintenance and still may not serve the needs of your customers.

It’ll be interesting to see what trends emerge in e-commerce technology over the next few years. As always, there’s really no “one size fits all” answer, the best solution requires a thorough evaluation of your current environment and review of viable options. The key is to get started before it’s too late.

Contact us today and we can assist you with evaluating your current environment.

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

Do Your Shoppers “Love” Your Customer Experience?

July 29th, 2014 by Dan Bulauski

User Experience Design

For years many online retailers have held off on investing additional capital into e-commerce technology and the trend has been to find and integrate one-off solutions that add functionality to a website. This has resulted in websites that lack continuity in the customer experience, misalignment with the offline world, and more than a few headaches when it comes to managing and analyzing the data collected on the back-end.

Do your shoppers “love” your customer experience? Chances are that if your platform is out-dated and cobbled together, they don’t.

The rapid adoption of mobile and an increase in customer expectations is forcing many businesses to take a hard look at their e-Commerce platforms and supporting systems.  Build vs. buy is a debate being held in many conference rooms around the world, but one thing is sure – there is a definite trend upward in the future of technology spending.

A recent Forrester Research Inc. report indicates that growth in all U.S. technology spending will outpace the growth of the larger economy. The category of technology that includes CRM (Customer Relationship Management), web content management, mobile applications, and marketing automation will account for 12% of U.S. technology spending and 17% of all technology purchases in 2014.

Also, a recent Internet Retailer Survey shows that 86.6% of respondents intend to increase the amount they spend on technology.

According to the survey:

  • 4.4% say they will increase spending by 15.1% to 25%. (That compares with 12.2% who said the same in Internet Retailer’s 2012 e-commerce tech spending survey, which had 114 respondents.)
  • 23.3% will increase spending by 10.1% to 15%. (16.7% in 2012.)
  • 22.2% will increase spending by 5.1% to 10%. (26.7% in 2012).
  • 12.2% will increase spending by 25.1% to 50%. (4.4% in 2012.)
  • 10.0% will increase spending by more than 50%. (Also 10.0% in 2012.)
  • 7.8% will increase spending by 5% or less. (30.0% in 2012.)

It seems likely that the major push will be in three areas: improving site search, back-end integration, and of course mobile. If your business isn’t planning on increasing your technology spend in the coming years to provide a seamless multi-channel and multi-device experience, you are at risk of losing market share.

Contact us today and learn how we can help you implement technology solutions and deliver a customer experience that shoppers will love.

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

The Future of e-Commerce – Keeping Up with Consumer Demand

July 10th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

Over the next few weeks we’re going to explore various topics related to the future of e-Commerce and keeping up with consumer demands. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of system consolidation, the challenges facing well established older brands, and we’ll explore opportunities and technical solutions for businesses that are new to the online space.

Let’s set the stage by starting off with what we believe are the most critical areas retailers need to address in order to succeed in the future of e-commerce.

man presses interface

Keeping up with Consumer Demand will Require:

  1. 24/7 access to retailers – there is no longer such a thing as being “just a physical retailer.” Consumers expect to be able to buy something online and pick it up in the store and they want to have the ability to order items from a kiosk or website while shopping at the brick and mortar location.
  2. Distinct Mobile vs Desktop experiences – it’s important to understand what types of tasks your customers like to perform on which device and tailor the interface accordingly. Deloitte Consulting LLP conducted a study that revealed approximately $1.1 trillion spent in retail stores was influenced by a digital interaction. Their findings indicated that digital interactions influence $.36 of every dollar spent in the store. No retailer can afford to ignore mobile.
  3. Seamless/consistent customer experience and personalization – consumers don’t view your brand through the eyes of “channels.” They have an expectation that product information, pricing, promotions, and customer service options will be the same across all channels and devices. They will quickly become frustrated by a lack of integration between your systems and move on to the competition. Personalized product suggestions and search results are key to meeting their expectations.
  4. Complete, robust, accurate product information – consumers today do nearly all of their research online prior to making a purchase decision. They require detailed and accurate information about your products and services before they will click buy. This means the product details need to be complete, clear, and structured.
  5. Transparency – the digital age has permanently changed the way we do business. People no longer buy into clever marketing messages and brand positioning. They want to know who’s behind the glossy brochure and put great value on what others have to say about your products and services.

The future of e-Commerce is both exciting and challenging and will require most retailers to completely re-think how they do business.

You may also enjoy reading these related posts:

 

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

3 Reasons Digital Commerce is Important to Brick-and-Mortar

July 8th, 2014 by Dan Bulauski

With all of the emphasis on trends in digital commerce, it may surprise you to learn that e-commerce is still a very small part of retail. According to a recent US Census report, it’s still at less than 6% of overall sales. Some estimates are as high as 10%, but it’s still a relatively small piece of the overall pie. The numbers might lead the owners of businesses that are primarily brick-and-mortar to believe that digital commerce doesn’t need to be a part of their overall strategy, however the reality is just the opposite.

The biggest opportunity for today’s retailer is to merge digital insights with in-store physical experiences and to create a seamless all-channel shopping experience.

man with laptop and cardboard boxes at home

Why is Digital Commerce Important to Brick-and-Mortar?

  1. The yellow pages are dead – Google is the first place people go when they are looking for a product or service. If you don’t have a website the chances of your business being found are slim to none. At a minimum, today’s consumer expects every business to have a web presence that is representative of their brand.
  2. People shop and browse using multiple devices – it’s very common for shoppers to browse online and purchase in-store and vice versa. That means that the desktop and mobile interfaces are fully compatible with legacy POS and inventory systems. The last thing you want is to disappoint a customer and lose a sale because an item was “in stock” during the browsing phase but out of stock in reality.
  3. Demands for excellent customer service continue to grow – customers don’t care about your systems or how difficult it is to integrate customer data, they expect anyone in your organization to be able to answer questions and solve problems. A bad experience in one channel is a poor reflection of your entire brand.

Digital brands such as Amazon have a big advantage over many of the traditional retailers who are struggling to integrate legacy systems with new digital technology. There are some big brands making some progress in the digital space. Wal-Mart now offers same day in-store pickup of items purchased online, Neiman Marcus has an app which gives salespeople access to the purchase history for regular customers when they enter the store.

There are many technical questions facing today’s retailer. Digital commerce isn’t going away, it’s going to continue to grow along with consumer expectations for a seamless experience across all devices and channels. Now is the time to explore options to improve your online customer experience. It could be the difference between future success and going out of business.

Learn about CIMM2 a fully integrated omni-channel e-commerce solution here.

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

2014 Retail Trends – Is e-commerce Becoming “Me-Commerce?”

June 12th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

Trending

We’re halfway through the year so it seems like a good time to discuss a few of the 2014 retail trends. We know that digital devices are having a huge impact on the overall retail landscape, both online and off-line. Turnover in retail business has always existed, but we’re seeing a shift in the reasons why some companies are growing and others are failing.

Technology seems to be the differentiator. Retailers that are not taking advantage of new technology innovations to improve the digital experience are dying, while those who are taking advantage of technology are seeing increased efficiency and greater growth rates. For decades marketers and retailers have focused on the “marketing mix and the 4 Ps” as the cornerstone of a good market offering.

The “marketing mix” describes the different ways that organizations can bring a product or service to market and the volume and variety of products available for sale. The traditional definition of the 4Ps are:

  • Product (or Service)
  • Place
  • Price
  • Promotion

I’m not going to go into detail on each of them because I want to focus on two thousand fourteen retail trends and the new “4 Ps” of marketing. You can read about the traditional definitions here.

One could say that marketing has always been consumer focused, however, I’m not sure that’s completely true. Before the digital revolution and in particular the influence of mobile devices on shopping behavior we listened to the “voice of the customer,” studied the data to understand product preferences, and tried to target promotions based on the information we knew about a customer segment.

Now consumers really are in control of the shopping process. They have more choices than ever with regard to how they want to shop, when they want to shop, and who they want to give their business to. It’s become their time to stand up and say, “It’s all about me!” And marketers had better be listening.

McKinsey on Marketing believes there are 4 New P’s of Marketing. Let’s review them and how they relate  to customer behavior as well as the technology solutions  retailers can implement that will help them succeed in two thousand fourteen and beyond.

2014 Retail Trends – The New 4 Ps of Marketing

  1. Pervasive – people want to shop whenever they want and wherever they are. This means your website needs to be optimized for mobile devices, however it can’t just be a miniature sized version of the desktop experience. The design needs to take into consideration small screen sizes and limited keyboard functionality.
  2. Participatory – people want to be able to review products and share ratings. Make it easy for consumers to rate your products through product review services. You can also tap into new and trending product preferences by enabling social sharing on your website.
  3. Personalized – mass marketing no longer works. Use data-driven strategies to create deep customer segments and drive highly personalized results. Implement intelligent site search solutions to transform on site search from a product finder to a key customer touch point.
  4. Prescriptive – consumers are taking control of their own shopping process through online research, social tools, and mobile apps. Applied to a website it means providing  consumers the ability to search for and filter results in a way that makes sense to them.

Times are certainly changing and the 2014 retail trends clearly indicate that we’re seeing a shift from e-commerce to “Me-Commerce.”

Is your business ready?

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

6 Pillars of e-commerce Success in 2014

June 5th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

We recently wrote about the mobile revolution and its disruption to the online shopping landscape. There’s more to the equation for e-commerce success than optimizing your website for mobile devices. Success in two thousand fourteen and going forward requires an understanding of how consumer behavior is changing and evaluating all of your customer touch points with that in mind.

E commerce design

6 Pillars of e-commerce Success

  1. Easy to use and up-to-date website – if your website is outdated it could be hurting your business in more ways than you realize. Consumer expectations have risen dramatically over the past five years and consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated and they are less tolerant when it comes to navigating websites. If you’re seeing drops in traffic, and increase in abandonment, or decreases in conversion it could be assigned that your website needs more than a face-lift.
  2. Mobile optimization – consumers have different expectations and needs when they shop online using their desktop versus a mobile device. The mobile version of your website should be designed to the easy to navigate on a small screen without the need for a lot of typing and should provide visitors with only the most important information.
  3. Intelligent site search – site search is far more than just a product locator now. It is a key customer touch point and consumers expect highly relevant results and a personalized experience. Your site search feature should enable you to dynamically update the customer experience based on customer data,  individual shopping behavior and preferences.
  4. Targeted merchandising – digital marketing is not about mass marketing, the key to success is delivering a personalized experience. Consumers are aware of the fact that companies collect personal information about their purchases, demographic details, and more. Merchandising efforts need to be coordinated closely with marketing efforts and should use deep customer segmentation to deliver the most targeted and relevant experience.
  5.  Streamlined checkout – think carefully about the differences between the desktop user and the mobile device user when designing the checkout process. Make the checkout process visual and provide visual indicators that indicate which step the customers on and how far they have to go. Also think security and make it very clear that your website is one that can be trusted.
  6. Data-driven customer experience – make use of internal data and analytics tools such as Google analytics and site search analytics to gain insights into what your customers love and what’s not working very well. A true data driven customer experience strategy will also include voice of the customer data such as social chatter and other user generated content.

Now is the time to evaluate your current website and customer experience and make changes before the upcoming holiday shopping season.

Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can help you optimize your mobile experience.

Posts Tagged ‘ecommerce’

Using Visual Elements to Improve the Ecommerce Experience

April 8th, 2014 by Marcel Munoz

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the ways that using color swatches can improve conversions and the overall eCommerce experience. Today, let’s take it a step further and talk about the importance of incorporating visual elements into the overall eCommerce experience. According to a study by Kissmetrics, 93% of consumers say that the visual appearance of a site is the most important factor.

What does this mean when it comes to online retailers? It means that unless you’re looking for ways to improve your website from a visual perspective, you may start losing market share.

Creating an experience that appeals to the average shopper involves more than picking the right color for your main navigation and buttons. In addition to making sure that you have great product images on your site, preferably with multiple views and zoom or enlarge features, there are some other ways to make the shopping experience visual.

One of my ways to add interest to a website is the concept of a search term or word cloud.

word cloud

 

It does a great job of creating a visual display that helps visitors to the website gain insight into the breadth and depth of the products within a brand or category. It also helps them immediately sort out which terms are most popular, which may help guide them to items that interest them but might be hard to find. The word cloud has a really modern feel and can set your site apart from the competition. Word clouds also make it easier for shoppers to navigate large sites and there can be some SEO benefits as well.

My second favorite visual shopping effect are dynamic banners.

widget banners

 

Dynamic banners bring the shopping experience to life and visually improve the eCommerce experience because they can increase the relevancy of the page contents. If you have the right platform, banners can be dynamically displayed based on visitor attributes such as campaign source such as email vs. AdWords.  Dynamic banners can also be triggered by values such as geographic location or search term. These variables can drive different banners, targeted search results, and even promotional offers; making the shopping experience both targeted and visual.

The real benefit associated with adding visual navigation elements such as word clouds and dynamic banners is that they can help increase conversions. Navigation that makes it easy to find products combined with marketing elements that improve the relevancy of a page increase the likelihood that a visitor will turn into a buyer.

Believe it or not, you don’t need to completely overhaul your eCommerce platform to gain this kind of functionality.  Dynamic banners and word clouds are out-of-the-box features for advanced site search platforms like Hawk Search.

Contact us today for a free demo and learn how easy it is to add these features and improve the eCommerce experience.

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Paul looks forward to discussing ways to develop your website into the ultimate sales channel, while also bringing you the latest Thanx Media news and announcements.
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