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Thursday, August 15, 2019

6 critical factors to consider in selecting an E Commerce software

Introduction

In my earlier blog post on need and options for designing a digital shop, I have briefly harped upon the viable options to start an online business. Continuing from where we left, selection of e commerce options available in the market for the launch is often challenging and critical for the success. In addition, ideally the software solution should address your business needs both current and future. In many instances, I have personally witnessed cases where businesses have abandoned the developed websites due to lack of scalable options. It is sensible for businesses to engage an experienced professional who can streamline this decision-making process and aid them in choosing a right solution. Now, here I am trying to bring only the top 5 features that are to be considered in the commercial off the shelf solutions for e commerce 


Website experience – responsive themes

More than charm, responsiveness should be a major consideration in selection of a theme because of the huge mobile traffic. Besides increasing the user experience, responsive sites enhance the SEO rankings. Hence, most of the solution providers ensure their offerings are optimized to the user screens. Moreover, responsive themes save huge amounts for businesses in the form of developing mobile application as the heavy lifting of displaying identical results in multiple screens would be handled automatically by service providers. (Please note the options for developing the mobile application is currently out of scope of this article and will be deliberated separately). The second important factor that enhances the user experience is navigation. Ease of product findability is the most rated factor in numerous Ecommerce studies and as a result, thinking from the user perspective, brands should focus on providing categories, search, filter and sorting options to optimize conversion. Of course, the e commerce solution providers would very much cover these aspects


Visual merchandising and Promotions – maximize relevance for a good conversion rate 

Although, merchandising and promotions is a subset of marketing activities for the store, a good solution provider would offer the brands both these services. To begin, Visual merchandising broadly is the way how the products are presented and arranged in a result display page. Well, there are many applications that help retailers get away with this task. However, it is important for the retailers to carefully device this strategy as this directly affect the bottom line i.e. conversion. Relevance – is it not the success factor of Google? Yes, the same holds good for online businesses. Hence, chose the service provider that caters this need in the form of product listing i.e. grouping related products (example: shirts, trousers; swim wear), grouping of brand offerings (example: brand-based store) and product promotions (high margin, high demand). 

Secondly, Promotions are very prevalent practice in e commerce industry and strategically placing them in the online store is also equally important. It is given that sales start with the lading page and extending the average order value (AOV) by promoting sales beyond landing page i.e. cross-sell and up-sell recommendation (display of alternative brands, accessories and personalization (viewed & purchased)) in the search results page would also bring traction. Shopping cart would also be a good option for AOV, if used wisely. All these options are available in the E Com product offerings in the form of in-built plugins or third-party applications

Order Management – Fulfillment and returns 

Moving slightly to the operational side of the business, order management in the e commerce is mostly happens in the back-end. The placing, fulfilling of orders and finally returns also a critical factor in selecting e commerce solutions. All the leading solution providers facilitate order processing very effectively which include both manual and automatic order fulfillment, cancel and returning of order. These features would minimize the redundancies in the operations and provide a smooth workflow from order placement to order delivery. Moreover, in all the phases of the order it is important to have a notification option (Communication in the form of an email and SMS) with the customer, including abandon cart cases.

Customer Engagement options – a must feature 

Capturing the details of the customers is one of the options for a better engagement rate. Profiling the customers based on the purchase behavior and engaging them with content on the new arrivals, reviews and other cross selling avenues would be a differentiator for retaining customers. Leading solution providers also allows filtering of customers by specific criteria, such as money spent, orders placed, and last order date. This is especially useful if you are trying to target a specific portion of your customer base for a marketing campaign or similar promotional activity.

Business reporting – Analyze where your goals

Popular solutions cater business reporting panels in the administrative sites of the brand owner. In a nutshell, reports are grouped into products, orders, payment and taxes. Each data points would be presented in the form of table and in the graphs. Features like this come handy to business owners in assessing the current stage and be helpful in the sales forecast. Moreover, analysis with the data collected help strategize the focus areas like what product to promote, whom to target and how to improve loyalty etc., 

Maintenance, upgrade and support 

Lastly, for any software solutions to thrive in the market the quality of maintenance, upgrade and support becomes paramount. While there is an appetite among brand owners to go for open source software, there is an increase amount of dissent due to various reasons. First and foremost, scarcity of resources that can customize the code. This will eventually force the business owners to upgrade to enterprise hosted platforms. Secondly, lack of upgrades makes the code prone to risk of hacking besides source code being accessible for public. Moreover, if there any updates in the form of security improvements these would be untimely and not on regular basis. Lastly, there is hardly any support from the original developers which makes the things worse when there is an issue in functioning of the application. Unlike these reasons, hosted solutions offer better customer support and maintenance. It is therefore important for businesses to gauge these features before choosing a solution. 

With this I would conclude this chapter, in the next few posts I would like to focus on the few popular solution providers that add value to the e commerce business. Also, on this platform, I would like to interact with readers and happy to respond questions related to these topics. Feel free to use the contact us form or leave a comment.





Phani Kumar is a solution architect for E Commerce entities. He is currently providing technology consulting to homegrown e-commerce brands of Australia. He resides in Melbourne and has great appetite for new technologies and start-up companies. He is open to discuss business ideas, technology updates and networking. He can be reached at phanikumar_rentachintala@live.com



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