If your company’s website is like many others, the presentation layer and technical architecture of the current content management system (CMS) may have been designed to accommodate future ecommerce. But successfully integrating ecommerce into a site of any substance isn’t just a matter of adding a shopping cart. It’s a complex process requiring the consideration and participation of all operating units.
Making the move to ecommerce involves a disciplined process that begins with strong program management to document the business requirements of all ecommerce components. These requirements are then translated into functional specifications employed to determine which technologies most closely match the unique parameters of your new ecommerce plan. If you’re working with the right team, this process also leads to the proper planning of digital branding and advertising programs to drive demand through the new ecommerce sales channel.
Planning and plotting your business requirements creates a road map for your ecommerce system, approaching it as part product and part new business unit. It defines new business rules and answers key questions regarding the business aspects ecommerce could impact – like distribution conflict, inventory management, sales accounting and brand identity. It also addresses issues of user experience and information architecture (UXIA), along with all the other elements of the site presentation layer to ensure user interaction is effective and consistent across all devices (mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop). These business rules are always unique and predicated on the way in which the company prefers to do business with its consumers, resellers and/or suppliers.
Of course, this planning phase must also evaluate staffing impacts as they relate to fulfillment and customer support of new ecommerce orders. In our experience, accommodating these “offline” factors often requires just as much planning, time and effort as the online technological components. But, ironically, we’ve also demonstrated how developing a powerful online brand and effective ecommerce solution and can also drive new revenue to the brick and mortar sales channel.
Today, ecommerce technologies can be divided into three primary, distinct categories:
Build & Own This category of solutions provides a completely custom software solution that’s tailored to fit the exact needs of the business and owned outright by the company. This was the model when ecommerce first took the world by storm, but it can involve high costs for software development and ongoing maintenance. This market segment is led by a few well-known firms, so the first question your company might ask is if you require such a robust, proprietary and potentially expensive solution .
Rent & SaaS (Software as a Service) This category of solutions has matured as more medium-sized companies seek out options that provide entry to ecommerce without the capital intensive investment of the Build & Own model. SaaS ecommerce technology has certainly matured over the past few years, but these solutions should also be evaluated on a long-term basis to ensure scalable implementation and economic viability.
Open Source & Low Cost Google helped revolutionize the digital world by giving software away, only to earn revenue in other channels. Based on this model, we now have access to numerous open source, freeware and shareware ecommerce software products that are offered to both corporations and individuals at little or no cost. While it’s only prudent to investigate and explore these newer offerings, it’s important to remember that while the software might seem like a bargain, it’s never truly free. You’ll still have to consider implementation costs, technical support and mixed reviews on overall performance.
Needless to say, this is just a short summary of the basic process and options associated with ecommerce. But, as you can see, moving your company into this virtual marketplace includes and impacts multiple aspects of your organization – from finance and logistics to marketing and information technology. In fact if you’re going to build a digital program that supports ecommerce and also scales for future growth, you almost need to think about ecommerce like a brand new business unit.