Given rising shopper expectations for omnichannel agility, it’s no surprise that shopping for a new eCommerce software platform is at the top of many merchants’ priority lists. To ensure that performance matches promises, merchants should look beyond trendy front-end features to evaluate the nuts and bolts that drive successful eCommerce interactions.
Shoppers increasingly expect merchants to deliver rich shopping information and intuitive services across touchpoints. Usage of mobile commerce is soaring, with fully a third of online purchases occurring on mobile devices, according to technology researcher Forrester. 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.
To deliver the rich experiences shoppers seek, merchants 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 a third of online merchants to undertake eCommerce software replatforming this year, Forrester found.
Many vendors promise such trendy features as mobile-friendly designs and social media content integration. But given that the definition of rich customer experiences is ever-changing, sellers need to dig deeper to discern whether eCommerce software platforms offer a foundation for ongoing innovation and growth.
To meet the standard for omnichannel excellence, flexibility and customization must be built into eCommerce software technology from the ground up. Merchants should seek out the following back-end fundamentals to ensure their front-end customer-facing sites are up to snuff:
Control in the cloud.
Many small- to mid-sized merchants opt for cloud-based eCommerce software in order to alleviate hosting headaches and take advantage of innovative technology. But when considering new a new eCommerce solution, sellers should dig deeper to uncover what vendors mean when they say “cloud architecture.” Reduced IT and development overhead can also bring reduced flexibility and scalability when it comes to site features and performance capabilities.
Merchants should seek out those vendors whose eCommerce platforms enable site-by-site flexibility through modular features and access to APIs for custom development. Use of industrywide development standards eases use of third-party integrations for additional new features. 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. Fully 86% of consumers report doing online research before a store visit, and 78% report having checked in-store product availability online before heading out to shop, according to Kibo’s 2018 Consumer Trends Report survey. To meet these expectations, merchants considering a new eCommerce platform provider 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%.
To ensure that the online look and feel aligns with store branding and even product packaging, access to eCommerce software templates for every touchpoint is crucial. Merchants’ in-house marketing and design teams should be able to change templates and themes without enlisting the help of IT or, worse, incurring extra change fees from the eCommerce platform provider.
Sellers 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.
Outdoor outfitter Sun & Ski uses Kibo’s eCommerce software platform to optimize its categories and navigation seasonally, elevating “Patio” to a global position during the summer months and creating a themed category page for one-stop warm-weather shopping from across the catalog. Merchandisers and user experience team members can incorporate search-engine optimization data to label categories and navigation links in alignment with top keyword searches — all without relying on IT resources to alter code.
Learn about Kibo’s eCommerce software to see more essential underpinnings of a successful online shopping experience. What functionality is essential to power your omnichannel offerings?