The growth of eCommerce in both the B2C and B2B worlds has led to an overwhelming number of eCommerce platform and integration options.
Depending on the size of the company, the current technology environment, and budget, some options will be more feasible than others. There are specific front-end and back-end considerations to review that will help you choose an integration that fits well with your model.
While many platforms incorporate a wide variety of plugins and extensions to the core platform, the flexibility and selection of those plugins come at a cost. In other words, more isn’t always better. Every new integration and each new plugin presents a potential security vulnerability. One indicator of a bad fit is often the requirement to add an inordinate amount of platform plugins due to missing functionality.
Early on in the engineering process, the development team should be able to identify all the core platform functionality needed and if any custom development is going to be required to support any unique business requirements.
As a list of core requirements from all key stakeholders is developed, the team will be able to begin reviewing options for the perfect platform fit. Choosing the right partner ensures better security, but a sprawled-out framework will be less secure than a narrow one.
The right platform for your business is the one that meets the needs of your model. Set out with a game plan for implementation and stick with the features that play a specific role in your strategy. Don’t get caught up with bells and whistles.
A similar “best-platform-fit” principle applies to the front-end of your site. You want to provide your users with flexibility in terms of their experience, but there’s a balance to be struck between an eCommerce experience that meets the needs of both your customers and business.
Future changes in business processes and technology trends will have an impact on your business and force you to make changes. In addition, the expectations of your customers are going to change as well. With all that change, you need to deliver an experience that is as flexible as possible in order to adapt when necessary.
Keep in mind that this flexibility can be difficult to judge during your platform review selection process. Questions about overhauls or front-end refreshes aren’t likely to provide a complete picture of project costs or timetables.
Instead, review the fundamental philosophy of the platform. Is the system designed to work with a variety of publishing or CMS platforms? Can it integrate with backend systems? What types of integrations are already built out?
In any modern eCommerce operation, you’ll be forced to manage a number of different marketing systems. Unfortunately, if you want to have best-of-breed vendors providing critical services, you’ll have a multitude of these integration points to consider when reviewing platform options. As a result, data integration should be one of your top priorities.
It’s important to review integration from two standpoints — first, can I get the data out of the platform, manipulate it and send it to the other systems?
Frequently, eCommerce data is locked away by the platform, with no toolsets or reporting infrastructure to get the data into other platforms (like email marketing, marketing automation, accounting, ERP, etc.).
Secondly, can I get data into the eCommerce platform from external systems?
While your eCommerce platform is going to generate a significant amount of data, particularly around orders and orders, it requires a substantial amount of data from external sources to work correctly.
For example, if sales representatives update account information in an external CRM system like an email or physical address, should that information be synced over to their account on the platform? What about product inventory levels from the warehouse managed by the CRM information? It would be a huge time sink to manually manage product display without data flowing back and forth between each system.
Simply put, you need to be able to design a data workflow for data in and out of your eCommerce platform that will work for your business.
Growth will expand your sales and marketing potential, which opens up new channel opportunities. Some examples include microsites, as well as multi-channel and cross-platform marketing.
When that expansion is needed, will the platform allow for new types of data orders that support additional sites/channels? When the architecture and underlying philosophy is designed to be headless or hybrid-focused, you’ll be one step ahead of the game when launching additional sales channels.
An early step in the process, especially when building out the requirements, is to sketch out the current sales channel map. How and where are sales being generated now? Where are those sales and leads captured? Are there any gaps in support that need to be addressed? What could be done better to address customer service or order fulfillment? Then, looking forward, what opportunities do you see on the horizon?
Without an accurate picture of the current sales opportunity workflow and a vision for the future of where the sales opportunities are going to be, you will miss key eCommerce platform requirements. Missing key functionality and opportunities to build in flexibility means that future growth opportunities will take longer, and will be more expensive to capture.