Creating Ecommerce Agility: Looking Beyond the Buzzwords to Create a Scalable Environment

Given rising shopper expectations for omnichannel agility, it’s no surprise that creating a seamless shopping experience that marries both the digital and physical worlds and provides an agile ecommerce environment is at the top of many retailers’ priority lists. However, to ensure that performance matches promises, retailers need to look beyond the trendier front-end features to truly evaluate the nuts and bolts that drive successful ecommerce interactions.

For example, shoppers increasingly expect retailers to deliver rich shopping information and intuitive services across touchpoints, especially as mobile commerce continues to rise in popularity among consumers. Meanwhile, shoppers rely on unified store and online brand experiences to seamlessly deliver such options as store pickup, which half of all U.S. shoppers have used in the past year, according to the latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report.

There are many buzzwords flying around that promise to deliver these trendy features, such as mobile-friendly designs and social media content integration. But given that the definition of rich customer experiences is ever-changing, retailers need to dig deeper to discern whether the ecommerce environment they are implementing offers a foundation for ongoing innovation and growth. To meet the standard for omnichannel excellence, flexibility and customization must be built into their ecommerce environment from the ground up. As such, retailers should implement the following back-end fundamentals to ensure their front-end customer-facing ecommerce environments are up to snuff:

Control in the cloud

Many small- to mid-sized retailers opt for cloud-based ecommerce software in order to alleviate hosting headaches and take advantage of innovative technology. But when considering a new ecommerce environment, retailers should dig deeper to uncover what vendors mean when they say, “cloud architecture.” For example, “cloud” doesn’t always mean that the vendor will always ensure that you are on the latest and greatest version of their software.  Single tenant cloud solutions may still require costly and time-consuming upgrades.  On the other hand, some true cloud solutions may still be immature in their rollout cadence.  Will you have a chance to review and test the new features before they are applied to your site?  Can they be automatically tested? Reduced IT and development overhead can also bring reduced flexibility and scalability when it comes to site features and performance capabilities.

Retailers should also seek out ecommerce solutions that enable site-by-site flexibility through modular features and access to APIs for custom development. Use of industry-wide development standards eases use of third-party integrations for additional new features. For example, an existing network of thoroughly-vetted partners can give merchants turnkey options for specialized site experiences that engage their target audiences.

Real-time business-wide data access

Shoppers now consider omnichannel features to be routine offerings. In fact, 86% of consumers report doing online research before a store visit, and 78% report have checked in-store product availability online before heading out to shop, according to Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report survey. To meet these expectations, retailers considering creating a new ecommerce environment should be on the lookout for silo-busting integrations that enable the free movement of data among order management software, inventory and warehousing systems, fulfillment tools, and the online storefront.

Data processing and integration capabilities are also crucial to effective eCommerce personalization, which connects shoppers with the products and offers most relevant to them in the moment. This one-to-one experience is increasingly important to shoppers: personalized assortments displayed on the product page influence 64% of shoppers to purchase, the Kibo survey found — up by 45% from the prior year — while integrated customer loyalty and discount offers convince 86% of shoppers to buy, a year-over-year increase of 56%.

Design Autonomy

What’s more, ensuring that the online look and feel aligns with store branding and even product packaging, access to ecommerce templates for every touchpoint is crucial. Retailers’ in-house marketing and design teams should be able to change templates and themes without enlisting the help of IT. Retailers should also be able to go beyond logos and color schemes to optimize the user experience, including creation of new product categories and theme-based navigation without needing to alter code. Control over labels, drop-down menus, and placement of global banners enables nimble adaptation in order to reflect shoppers’ priorities in the moment and highlight seasonal specials, but the needs of a marketing team don’t stop there.  Business users should be able to roll out new applications on their site, new promotions, updates to merchandising and personalization logic as well as discounts and even site layout changes.

To deliver the rich experiences shoppers seek, retailers must nimbly adapt their offerings to reflect changing priorities and seasonal trends, and to take advantage of new touchpoints as they enter the mainstream. In many cases, homegrown or legacy systems are increasingly inadequate for the job, leading retailers to look to add new technology systems to complement their missing capabilities. However, without proper analysis before implementation, many retailers fail to bring eCommerce agility to their brand experience with consumers. The result is often a patchwork environment, rather than a flexible omnichannel led environment that evolves as their organization continues to grow.

Jennifer Sherman, SVP of Product & Strategy, Kibo