Direct-to-Consumer brands work hard to nurture an individual connection with their customers. Use these thirteen DTC branding guidelines to stand out.
Ecommerce Strategy Spotlight: How Important Is Technology?
The ecommerce industry is growing at a rapid pace. The number of online stores has increased to over 7 million today. What’s more, the growth rate continues to increase every year. China leads all countries with $1 trillion worth of goods sold each year.
Ecommerce Strategy Spotlight Series
The Spotlight Series of articles highlights mission-critical components of launching and scaling direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce. And this article forms one aspect.
So if you’re new to the series, take a look at our other articles afterward, which will be linked throughout the content so you can get a more wholesome understanding of what’s involved in a successful ecommerce strategy.
Focus: Ecommerce Technology
The focus of this article is on ecommerce technology. When we talk about ecommerce technology, we’re talking about any tech that supports your company’s development of a competitive “ecommerce capability” that is generative from the inside out.
Competitive capability is an often forgotten component of winning business strategies. It is the key to maintaining lower costs while maximizing the profit needed to compete long term.
The Big Question: How Important Is Technology?
First of all, note that ecommerce itself is the byproduct of a technological revolution. And with that, technology will always play an important role in more ways than one. So let’s take a closer look at how critical it is and what needs consideration in a successful ecommerce strategy.
Ecommerce Technology Is Critical to Your Success
Technology is critical because it’s one of your most significant cost centers and one potential key differentiator for delivering the best customer experience.
Get it right, and your investments will reap the benefits like no other. But fail to prepare, and you’ll find yourself out of pocket. That’s why we’ve devoted an entire series to building a successful ecommerce strategy instead of one article.
Next, we’ll discuss the types of technology you need to consider and top considerations.
ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. ERP software is most often used by companies with more than 100 employees or $1 million in annual turnover.
They can be complex systems that include many different modules such as accounting, inventory management, customer relationship management, order processing, or warehouse management.
Yet, anyone can put Enterprise Resource Planning into their ecommerce strategy. There are two main categories of ERP solutions – On-Premise Software and Cloud-Based Solutions.
On-Premise Software includes those applications installed on servers within your own data center. Cloud-based solutions host online via the internet. The advantage of cloud-based solutions is they provide scalability and flexibility but at a cost.
There are many key features of ERP that need strong consideration when looking at the best enterprise resource planning for your business. Here are some examples:
Velocity Tracking refers to sales rates of each SKU so that an algorithm can detect trends and patterns. In turn, this algorithm helps you order the correct quantities ahead of time so that you don’t run out of stock while not overspending on surplus stock.
That’s a key component you can’t ignore. Not running out of stock is essential for running competitive ecommerce. Especially if your margins are lower than average, making profit levels harder to reach in supporting your marketing strategy and advertising spend.
Also, note that keeping items in stock near 100% decreases your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and cost per acquisition (CPA). That’s because you’re able to buy in at a cheaper rate or bulk shipping costs together.
Velocity tracking also increases your conversion rate on campaigns. Capturing as much traffic as customers are critical to feeding your loyalty programs without relying on them to maintain channel profitability.
Syncing inventory between your ecommerce platform, marketing, and advertising platforms in real-time is critical. That way, you lower management costs and increase advertising campaign performance.
Most people would agree that showing Facebook ads for out-of-stock products isn’t a good use of funds. Neither is updating campaigns, which takes up resources, including labor time and costs. Not only does it take longer, but you can’t always update in real-time unless some form of automation is present.
Email and CRM
CRM is Customer Relationship Management. It allows you to track all interactions with your current and potential online shoppers.
This means you can see what works well and what doesn’t work so well. You can then make changes as needed.
It also provides analytics about how effective your email campaigns have been within your broader email marketing strategy. For example, did emails get opened? Did they generate clicks? What was the CTR? These metrics help you improve future campaigns.
The same applies to other forms of communication like email. With emails, you can also track open rates, clicks, and conversions. All this automated tracking allows you to gain a better insight into how your customers engage with you.
What confuses many people is that some CRMs allow you to link your existing emails with their software. Yet, some email providers such as Gmail allow you to customize your account to include extra CRM services as add-ons. That said, for most businesses, they’re the same.
With your email and CRM, think about what your primary use case will be. Are you going to do most of your post-purchase engagement through email interactions? Or are you only going to use emails for customer service queries?
Here are some key features that can help you decide what’s the best CRM fit for your ecommerce strategy.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
For multi-channel businesses, in particular, you’ll want technology that tracks and reports a value for all your ecommerce customers. By focusing on email alone, you’ll end up missing a large proportion of your customer base from your data analysis so this will need to be able to touch on other channels such as on-site visits and advertising interactions.
The best software can assess existing lifetime value and make projections based on algorithmic patterns of what the value might be on a future date based on return visits that include filling and completing a user’s shopping cart.
Dynamic Audiences and Segmenting
Dynamic audiences and segmenting refer to creating dynamic groups of prospects or customers based on rules. These rules are set by you and allow an analysis of new data at regular intervals.
As mentioned before, manual processes take too much time. So automating these segmentations in real-time through technology is the best way to make sure you’re getting all the data you need.
Digital fingerprinting is a term you’ve likely heard in cybersecurity. As it sounds, it refers to any information a web user leaves online of their actions and intent.
Fingerprinting involves tracking customer interactions across all digital channels. This tracking better informs the segment.
Take the example of abandoned carts at the checkout page. If cart abandonment occurs, you can send an email reminding the customer to continue the transaction.
Ecommerce platforms are an essential part of your business strategy. They offer everything from inventory management to payment processing.
But they don’t stop there. Ecommerce platforms have become more and more powerful over recent years.
They now integrate with social media networks, allowing you to share content within them. And they even support mobile apps so you can access your store wherever you go.
Ecommerce platforms all differ in their strengths, weaknesses, and the services they have to offer. But here are some key features and considerations you’ll need to take note of if you want a successful strategy in place.
Understanding your business goals as a whole is a must. But none more so than ecommerce strategies. If you’ve got a five-year plan in place, consider this. Does the platform give you the ability to scale from your first dollar to your millionth and beyond?
Also, will that functionality scale at a smooth pace, or does it appear clunky and jagged? For example, if an upgrade of servers is too large a jump as you get more customers, you might find yourself losing customers at full capacity before being able to upgrade to the next level.
As with functionality, the same applies to costs as well. If there’s a huge price jump between what you’re familiar with and what you need, you could find yourself holding on until you’ve got the funds in place to extend your platform.
Finally, does site management scale well? Do you have one person managing many sites? Or do you have several people working on different aspects of each website?
The latter may not work out very well when you start scaling up. You should also consider how many employees you’d like to hire to manage your websites. Factors such as the number of user accounts you can have on your team play a key role in this case.
Take a look at what your competitors are doing on these platforms. Do businesses like yours move with ease from the bottom tier to the enterprise tier?
The speed of the ecommerce platform is something that you can’t ignore. The average bounce rate for every second lost is around 5%.
That means if your site takes 10 seconds to load instead of 5, you’ve lost a quarter of the potential traffic. That’s an alarming number of customers bouncing off your slow product pages.
As discussed earlier, examples of factors to consider include server response time, caching, and serving up pages very fast for keeping people on your site. Note these also apply to search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) strategies.
Google looks at site speed as one of its determining factors in whether your site should rank at the top of the search results. So if the platform’s known for running slow, especially on mobile, it’s time to move on and look for a new platform.
Take a look at the platform’s site performance at peak times. Black Friday is a great opportunity to analyze ecommerce platform durability. Are there any reports of sites going down or customers not being able to get online?
Make sure you find a competitive platform with ow downtime and a wide selection of servers all over the globe so that site never goes down.
Integrations are the number one factor in choosing a platform. That’s because they are your gateway to all other considerations—these impact speed and value of long-term customer experience (CX) delivery.
When we talk about speed, we’re referring to both site speed and how fast all the processes in the workflow come together to automate your entire sales funnel.
Look for deep, high-quality integrations where the data layer of the ecommerce platform is accessible by an add-on or an app network. This will allow you to access more information than product details.
It’ll give you insights into inventory levels, order history, and shipping status. These insights all help improve CX.
For example, let’s say you sell shoes. Your integration partner might be able to tell you how much stock you have left in your warehouse based on orders placed last week. They might even be able to show you historical trends in demand for certain styles.
But that’s only one example. Integrations need zero downtime and must be able to provide a high speed of data exchange.
Speed of data exchange between the platform and its integration partners is a big deal. Think of it as a postal system, and the chaos or backlog caused by delivery is too slow.
A strong ecommerce platform will have a strong partner network. A partner network refers to the developers willing to work on the platform as experts.
Think of it as the reason Windows Mobile failed; developers were more interested in working on Apple and Android devices.
Although the choice is great, the development process for platforms is different from operating systems. Where on a mobile device, developers often cross-code, developers for ecommerce platforms typically commit to one platform so that they can be advanced advisors in customizations and extending base functionality.
If you see developers crossing over, chances are they’re spreading themselves too thin, and the quality is lower.
Further, take a look at the history of the partner network. You want to see a vibrant, growing network of partners. This ensures your costs are low and that you have many options to find value in delivery quality against cost.
We touched on automation above. It’s one of the most beneficial concepts in technology for everyone, not only ecommerce.
Automating tasks means less time spent doing them. Benefits include increased productivity, reduced errors, improved accuracy and efficiency, and better results.
The best way to achieve this is through APIs. An API allows third-party applications to connect to the back end of the ecommerce platform without going via another application. So instead of using an email service provider, you can use Zapier to send emails from within Salesforce, for example.
Again, many of the key features of good quality automation cross over into our previous discussions. So let’s see what features are crucial in successful automation.
Like we mentioned with the platform, automation needs to run on fast servers. Good automation software will allow your flows to process almost instantaneously. In doing so, you shouldn’t be stuck in long data queues with inflated wait times.
Also, the great thing about automation is how customizable they are. Thus, as tempting as it is, it’s not best to automate everything once a day. Program them to update in real-time for the best results.
And, consider the knock-on effects to your customers if it all goes wrong. One automation issue in the flow causes chaos. And, in the case of an ecommerce platform, it should not slow down page loads.
If you’re familiar with workflows, then think of automation flows as workflows for the software. The good news is you no longer need to learn how to code to automate your processes. Because creating automation logic using drag and drop interfaces has become the new normal.
It’s so good, in fact, that even the most professional coders see no-code solutions as beneficial. Implementing no-code solutions allows you to reuse non-technical staff in other ways.
In the case of an ecommerce business, speeding up the programming of these automation reduces your staffing budget for IT services. Or, if you’re scaling up, it bides you more time before you need to scale up your IT team as well.
Automations must be reliable. There’s nothing more frustrating than an automation failing. In a chain of events, a fail with one piece of software can have a cataclysmic knock-on effect further down the marketing or sales funnel.
The stability of the automation also needs regular testing. For instance, when we test new integrations, we run automated tests every day.
We do this because there may be bugs introduced by updates that could cause issues.
You don’t want any security breaches occurring during the execution of your automation. You’ll be relying on third parties to execute some parts of your automation. Thus, you need to ensure these services meet all necessary standards.
The best byproduct of automation is personalization. By automating your processes, you can create filters and groups. This allows you to make sure each customer receives different content based on their preferences.
You might already know that personalized messages increase conversion rates. But did you know that you can create custom campaigns based on individual customer behavior? And, while we don’t recommend it, you can build complex filters that would make every individual personalized journey unique.
In simple, easy-to-use automation, you can set up rules like “if someone buys X product, send them Y message.” Chances are, your customers will never understand what goes into the personalization. But they’ll appreciate it, tell all their friends, and increase your customer lifetime value.
There are too many different combinations of outcomes that you can achieve with personalizing your ecommerce marketing. So we’ll leave that one up to your imagination.
But here are the key features to look for in the tools that will help you personalize your ecommerce strategy and marketing.
This feature lets you split traffic between two versions of a page. You can then measure the results and see whether one version performs better than another. It’s great for testing out changes to pages without having to change anything else about your site.
Instead of changing everything around, you can A/B test adding the CTA button versus not adding it. For example, let’s say you wanted to add a call to action button at the bottom of your homepage.
If you find that people click through more often after adding the button, you’ve found something worth implementing across your entire website.
We touched upon segmentation earlier in the context of automation, but how does it apply to your ecommerce strategy?
Well, it helps you identify who your ideal audience is and any common traits that you can leverage in tailoring your content strategy.
For example, you might notice that certain products perform much better than others. It might be you sell shoes, but most of your visitors come from men ages 25–34.
Once you segment your data, you can use that information to target specific audiences with relevant messaging, and in turn, increase your customer lifetime value.
Multi-channel marketing is a tactic used by the business-to-consumer (B2C) sector. It intends to market your products to more than one channel. For instance, if you’re selling clothing online, you could also be running a Facebook ad campaign targeting women interested in fashion.
Or you have a Facebook group where members share tips on buying clothes. All this happens within the same platform.
It’s no secret that social media marketing provides the ultimate personal one-to-one experience. It puts customers in touch with CEOs or teenagers talking to their favorite musicians.
A good ecommerce strategy leverages automation tech to personalize the funnel to improve customer loyalty, engagement, and happiness. For example, suppose a customer provides negative feedback.
An email might have a bounce-back offer of 10% off their next spend. You can even leverage Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) within the automation.
Data and Analytics
If you want to know what works best for your business, you need to collect as much data as possible. This includes things like which product categories generate the highest revenue or the best conversion rates.
You should also track every single interaction with your brand on social media. This can include emails, phone calls, chats, tweets, posts, comments, and purchases. The goal here is to get as granular as possible.
That way, you can make informed decisions based on real numbers instead of assumptions.
You’ll also want to keep tabs on your competitors’ performance. What are they doing right? And what do they miss? Are there opportunities for improvement?
The key takeaway here is that analytics help you understand your own business better. They do so by providing insights into its strengths and weaknesses.
You can optimize processes, improve conversion rates and, in the end, drive growth. So let’s take a look at what affects these concerning your ecommerce strategy.
The technology used for your data analysis needs to be set up to be easy to use by everyone. It should allow you to have in-house people using it. Otherwise, you’d have to hire an external party to interpret the data.
The simplicity of data is more than making sure the calculations make sense. User interfaces should be clean and intuitive. Enough so that anyone can figure them out without needing any training.
Your data shouldn’t ever leave your company. That means keeping all sensitive information secure.
If someone were to gain access to your database, they’d not only steal valuable financial info. But they can also expose other business areas too.
This isn’t something you can rely on third parties to handle either. Your IT team will need to ensure everything is up to date and protected against hackers.
Thus, the software you choose will have extra security practices. Examples include two-factor authentication and a built-in failsafe for server hacking.
Data needs to be reliable and accurate, so uptime tracking is critical. It’s very difficult to account for data outages in reporting.
In most cases, this leads to misinformed decision-making. In particular, issues occur at the marketing, product, brand, or UX level.
If there are any data outages, they need to be well-documented. Quality software can also project data into these voids—this database itself on other captured data history.
For example, if one-day sales drop a lot, it’s assumed that was due to a technical issue. But if sales remain low over several days, then it wasn’t a problem after all.
Quick Visual Query
That way that you can query the data on the front end of the user interface. The data needs linking together in the backend and running without flaws. Thus, it should be easy for everyone to use and interpret.
The processing speed of the data analysis technology is critical to querying the data. That way, you can refine your hypothesis as you see the data head in one direction or another.
And this next point is very important. Interface speed with data loading must occur very even on large datasets. Otherwise, you find that your team cannot get true value out of whichever analytics suite you choose to use.
Other ecommerce Technologies
We’ve covered the most popular technologies as well as the most important to any business. But of course, there will be some technology that’s specific to your business.
Or, it may be brand new technology that hasn’t found its footing yet, but you may wish to become a pioneer in this area. Here are some examples:
Blockchain technology is most famous in its original incarnation of Bitcoin. But it’s moved on from there to the rise of what’s known as “stablecoins.” These coins don’t fluctuate in value, making them great for transacting.
Smart contracts allow people to buy and sell items on the blockchain. This transaction provides a permanent imprint of the transaction details.
Use cases of the tech that relate to ecommerce include buying and selling unique pieces of art. Others include in-game purchases, legal agreements, financial lending, identity verification, and loyalty points.
There are plenty of companies out there, including big names such as Coinbase. These companies offer merchant options for accepting payments in cryptocurrency.
This is an emerging field where virtual objects appear alongside real ones. The idea behind AR is that when someone looks through their phone camera, they’ll see something like a 3D model overlaid onto reality.
This could mean adding extra information about products. Or, it could mean providing immersive experiences such as “try before you buy.”
Ikea, for example, allows you to place their furniture in your home using their own app. Or, imagine being able to scan a barcode on a bottle of wine.
From there, you can get details about the winery or vintage year right beside the item. These are two ways augmented reality can bring a traditional shopping experience into the modern ecommerce strategy.
Payment gateways allow merchants to accept payments through their websites. They can do so without having to install anything else.
Paypal is the biggest name in the industry. But Square and Stripe offer similar services. Some such as Bitpay also take Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as mentioned above.
Social Media Technology
SMM allows businesses to connect with consumers via social media platforms. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
There’s also a wealth of automation software available. This software can assist with helping you never miss a posting opportunity!
One of the best features of social media technology is the all-in-one inbox feature. All your messages, likes, comments, and shares all come to one inbox. So, you don’t need to log in to ten different platforms at once!
Mobile apps have become more popular among shoppers who use smartphones. You can create mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
Some companies even offer app development kits. These kits enable small businesses to develop their own applications.
Some platforms, such as Shopify, also provide excellent customization with your own applications. So if you’re looking to build up a loyal customer base, then this may be one area worth exploring further.
Advertising online has been around since the early days of the internet. Large corporations first used it to promote themselves and sell goods. Yet, over time, advertising became less intrusive.
It started becoming more targeted at specific audiences. Today it’s common practice for advertisers to target people based on age. But they can also target based on gender, location, or interests so that only relevant ads reach them.
There are many different types of digital marketing campaigns. These all fall under the umbrella term ‘online advertising.’ They can include banner advertisements displayed next to search results. Or they can be email newsletters sent to subscribers.
Each type of campaign offers its own benefits and drawbacks. So do your research before selecting the option for you.
Frequent Asked Questions
Despite this extensive guide, there are still many questions to answer. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular questions we’re asked. In particular, about building an ecommerce strategy.
What Are the Most Used ecommerce Technologies?
The answer here depends upon who you ask. Some people would say Magento, while others might argue Shopify. Shopify has by far the highest adoption rate at the time of writing this article. Others still might prefer WooCommerce.
Here are explanations of each one:
A robust open-source solution. Magento offers everything from product management to marketing automation.
You have access to all sorts of tools and integrations, so you’re never left wanting. Plus, it’s backed by one of the largest software vendors in the world.
An easy-to-use toolkit that makes building online stores fast and simple. They also provide excellent customer support.
That means you won’t need to worry about getting stuck between the cracks. Further, there are great SEO features built-in too, and a well-respected partner program.
Another powerful option that gives you full control over every aspect of your store. With tons of plugins available, you can customize almost any part of your site.
Another benefit of WooCommerce is its ease of integration with WordPress sites. This enables you to add products to existing blogs and websites with ease.
How Do I Know Which Technologies to Choose?
If you’re unsure after reading this, then hire an expert consultant like 2 Visions. We can help guide you towards the most appropriate technology. We do so based on what you plan to do with your business. We’re the experts in our field like you’re the expert in yours!
Which Technologies Do Customers Hesitate to Buy, but Should Invest in Right Away?
Three technologies are easy for anyone to put in place. But most are fearful because of price or supposed complexity. In fact, these are all simple to put in place and can bring quick gains with less effort than others. These include:
If you want to build loyalty programs, this is the way to go. Loyalty programs are a great way to encourage bounce-back to your store. In turn, this bounce-back increases your customer lifetime value.
There are many different options out there, so if you’re still not sure, get in touch with us at 2 Visions for support.
SMS messaging is another great way to communicate with customers. Many businesses see it as old-hat technology. But that’s far from the truth.
SMS messaging is still one of the most successful ecommerce tactics to date and has had a resurgence in recent years due to certain customer segments strongly preferring this medium of communication with their favorite brands. If anyone needs proving otherwise, you only need to take a look at the modern pioneers of SMS for ecommerce, Domino’s Pizza!
This is the simplest form of testing as well. All you need to do is what’s called split-testing products against each other. For instance, let’s say you sell shoes.
One pair costs $100 and the second costs $50. So, how much more money will you make selling the cheaper version? That’s where A/B testing comes in handy.
A/B Testing can provide extra insights into the transactions that you wouldn’t normally see in other test runs. You can combine this with journey-tracking software. It’s possible that you find both shoes turn over the same revenue, but one requires fewer clicks, for example.
What Internal Technologies Should We Upgrade to Get Ready for ecommerce?
Internal technology is different with every business, industry, and sector. Thus, it needs evaluating by an expert such as 2 Visions. We’ll look at all the technology across your value chain.
That way, we can help you understand what’s needed. We look at effort, cost, adoption, and training implications in upgrading your infrastructure.
The Best Ecommerce Strategies Embraces Technology
The key takeaway here is it doesn’t matter what type of ecommerce business you run. The principle is the same.
You should always consider smart, strategic investments in technology. This includes internal systems, external platforms, and even mobile apps.
If you want to grow your company online, invest in the right technology stack now to bring your ecommerce strategy alive. Otherwise, you could find yourself struggling later when competition soars all around you. And, if you need some help along the way, 2 Visions is here to assist!
So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today and let us help your journey to digital success.
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