You’re responsible for the website. Responsible for building and managing your brand’s online presence and most importantly, for driving growth. Regardless of the type of presence you have online - whether it’s a simple blog, online retail store or fully-featured B2B eCommerce operation, you should be spending your time focused on this growth. Sounds obvious, right? Too often we hear from marketing teams that their eCommerce platform is woefully deficient and they’re distracted by other “stuff”.
Before we dive into that other stuff, let’s take a look at where we assume marketing teams would like to be spending their time:
Analyzing. Reviewing site traffic, looking for opportunities and measuring key performance indicators. How are you doing? Is traffic increasing or decreasing? Where’s it coming from? And so on. Analysis goes hand-in-hand with researching (see below) to help you determine what worked, what didn’t and what kinds of opportunities you should be taking advantage of.
Researching. When you have time to analyze, you can begin to make smarter marketing decisions and refine the programs that aren’t performing. You also have the opportunity to begin scouting around for new opportunities - including reading industry newsletters and reviewing online resources to discover new tools and services that can be applied to your business and organization.
Planning. You’re probably seeing a lot of trending marketing activities - cool new things that your competitors are doing. Planning, designing, building and managing the process to enhance your site takes time and focus. If you’re missing either of those, you’re likely to end up with an end result that doesn’t come close to your expectations or as a result of the missed opportunity (and perhaps more likely) it will never be built in the first place.
Experimenting and Testing. Seriously, when was the last time you actually “shopped” your own site? Tested the user journey from start to finish. It’s too easy to ignore your own eCommerce website when you’re busy dealing with issues like integrations and non-ecommerce specific fixes.
Not only will browsing your own site help to catch errors and issues big and small but it will serve as a great idea generator. You’ll start to hear yourself saying “Hey - why don’t we have...?” or “What if we did…?” and from there you can begin a wishlist of enhancements to take action on.
But you’re not getting to those. Why not? Here’s what we’ve found trip up eCommerce marketing teams and act as black holes of your time and focus:
Hosting & Site Performance. You’re dealing with web performance issues; the site is down, slow and not reliable even during “slow” times. While “web hosting” and/or “site performance” typically falls to an internal or external IT or hosting team, it tends to fall to the eCommerce marketing team to emphasize how much of a problem poor performance has become. As a result, it tends to be the marketing / eCommerce team that gets dragged into team meetings related to those issues.
Inefficient Processes. You could be spending hours doing merchandising, exporting data for importing into other systems or trying to figure out how to create a promotion or something else. You find yourself thinking - there’s got to be a faster, more efficient way to get this done.
For example, we’ve had conversations with eCommerce teams who need to completely rebuild their landing pages and marketing pages each time they want to launch a new campaign. Not only are they needlessly filling out forms and entering the same settings over and over again, but they’re often forced to deal with restrictive creative options and aren’t able to run the type of effective marketing campaign that would drive the best results.
Platform Workarounds. A “workaround” might sound similar to the “inefficient processes” as described above - but there is an important difference between the two. A “workaround” is a piece of functionality that doesn’t quite work the way you need it to, so you’re forced into implementing something that while it works, you would do differently if building over again. The limitation is probably somewhere in the system and you have a business rule that you’re “adapting” in order to make it work.
For example, let’s assume that you’re selling an event registration but you can’t sell it through your existing platform because it’s designed for physical products. All that time you’re spending managing a separate event storefront and linking your regular website to the events store is “workaround”-time.
Data Management. We’re often surprised at how often marketers in the B2B and B2C markets are forced into taking on the role of data managers. Whether it’s moving data from the accounts or forms on a website into a CRM system or managing the order and shipment fulfillment process.
Automation is your friend as long as your platform is flexible enough to let you do it. Beyond taking up time in manually interacting with import, exporting and editing data - you’re also introducing the possibility of human-error. Unfortunately, it’s going to happen at some point. Some data will be imported into the wrong system or hundreds of messages will be sent to the wrong customers based on something simple that gets missed.
So, what can you do about it?
Now that we've shed some light on a few of the many limitations of an outdated eCommerce platform, the first step is to identify the key issues that are distracting you and the marketing team - especially if they’re technology related.
The second step is to identify the best possible means to get them resolved. Stay tuned for an upcoming article series on dealing with specific eCommerce platform limitations and what solutions are out there.
Brad Gustavesen is vice president and partner of ten24 Digital Solutions, located in Worcester, Massachusetts. The company has significant expertise in eCommerce, custom development, content management, email marketing, and user interface design. ten24’s next-generation Slatwall Commerce product is a leading, enterprise-level, open-source eCommerce platform used by B2B and B2C companies to solve complex requirements.