What Should You Look for in an Ecommerce Platform?

July 24, 2020
 
ecommerce platform software

Ecommerce is having a moment. After years of steady but predictable increases in online shopping, COVID-19 exploded the number of people transacting online and the types of things people shop for and buy online. We’re seeing some online shopping behaviors advance by 3-4 years in only 3-4 months, which makes owning the right ecommerce platform a business necessity.

Enter: The Modern Ecommerce Platform

The modern ecommerce platform is designed to help retailers create seamless experiences for customers while also managing the details of online commerce with ease. The right platform can provide the structure that companies need to deliver frictionless commerce to customers while staying connected to the logistics on the back end. Good ecommerce can scale up or down easily and grow with companies as they expand their offerings and expand to new online channels.

For these reasons, the ecommerce platform is becoming a must-have for smart retailers. This year, Digital Commerce 360 found that more than 60% of the Top 1000 retailers use an ecommerce platform, and that 46% say it’s a top-three technology. No wonder that there are so many different options to choose from.

Do you want an open architecture that can mesh well with your current stack? Or a stand-alone all-in-one solution? Some ecomm platforms are quick and easy to implement for small businesses that have moved online. Some offer personalization and scalability. Some are embedded in much larger supply chain offerings that include in-store technologies. 

How can you determine the best fit for your business? Take a look at the 11 core capabilities listed below for an in-depth overview of the key functionalities you should be considering when deciding upon an ecommerce solution.

  1. Native Personalization Capabilities
  2. Built-In Order Management
  3. API-First, Microservices Architecture
  4. Admin Tools and Settings
  5. Advanced Catalog Management
  6. Mobile-centricity
  7. SEO Friendliness
  8. 24/7 Support
  9. Pre-Integrated Payment Gateways
  10. Speed
  11. Easy-To-Use UI

Native Personalization Capabilities 

What delivers relevant content to customers based on their preferences and past behavior? Personalization does.

Any ecommerce platform that is designed to deliver the best possible customer experience should have native personalization capabilities built in. It should be easy to connect the platform to data sources, ingest data on a regular basis, segment audiences, test messaging, and quickly adjust and improve. This is especially true in today’s uncertain environment where product availability, delivery times, store hours and other important elements of the shopping experience change regularly.

Technology should use AI and machine learning to automate, and simplify the process, and make use of predictive analytics to deliver a great customer experience even for new site visitors.

Kibo includes industry-leading personalization out of the box to power engaging experiences across web and email. With personalization software from two Gartner MQ leaders – Certona and Monetate – retailers immediately get best-in-class personalization in a unified commerce offering.

Built-In Order Management 

Order management is the backbone of a seamless commerce operation.  Look for platforms that offer built-in order management for order accuracy and fast fulfillment at the scale and depth that you need. The best order management is highly flexible and extensible to match the breadth of your business online and in store. 

With order fulfillment options changing regularly—and many retailers pivoting quickly to use stores as mini-distribution centers, offering BOPIS and BOPAC—an order management system can help keep the back-end operations moving smoothly. An order management system might be hidden from the shopper’s view, but it drives a great shopping experience and drives ROI for the retailer. 

ecommerce platform curbside pickup

An ecommerce software platform should offer highly flexible order management capabilities that suit your needs now, and can grow with you. It’s easy to customize your order management and ecommerce operations within a seamless, unified platform to deliver the best customer experience with efficiency and ease.

API-First, Microservices Architecture 

APi-first means that you can easily integrate the ecommerce platform with your stack, which allows information to move easily and workflow to be optimized. Microservices architecture allows you to buy and use exactly what you need, and not have to pay for, or work around a bulky system that doesn’t suit your needs. Perhaps you only offer online shopping now, but plan to open stores in the future. Or you might not have a mobile app, but plan to have one soon.

With a flexible architecture, you can get started quickly with your current operations, but also be confident that the technology will support your future needs.

Kibo offers a flexible integration and extensibility framework built on the power of the cloud to support your evolving business needs, built for growth. Open-source SDKs accelerate development to ensure fast deliverability to your team and seamless integration with your ecommerce stack. 

Admin Tools and Settings

Ecommerce is complex. Different teams need access to the platform to update the product catalogue, design new pages, pull reports, and make changes for SEO. Managing all of this while keeping the wheels turning requires robust admin tools that offer multi-layered B2B and B2C management. 

You should easily be able to configure user roles and permissions for different roles and seniority within the company as well as at a highly custom level. This goes for access to the product catalogue, creating pages, promotions and other customer experiences, and for pulling reports. 

Kibo’s robust admin capabilities help you manage your site efficiently across B2B and B2C while ensuring users can access what they need and accomplish their goals. There are also safety mechanisms in place such as blocking IP addresses from accessing the admin or storefront. 

Deliver Personalized Product Discovery and More

Kibo eCommerce is built with personalization at its core. Deliver personalized product discovery, predictive search, and individualized recommendations that are optimized for both B2C and B2B.

Click Here

Advanced Catalog Management

With issues like stock-outs, delivery delays, and supply chain disruptions, many retailers have started to understand just how important a good catalog management solution can become. Customers don’t appreciate inaccurate information—purchasing products that are already sold out, thinking something is available for pick-up when the nearest product is hundreds of miles away, these are issues that good catalog management can ensure never happen. 

More than anything, a customizable ecommerce platform helps you manage your product data, and advanced catalog management is the secret to achieving that goal. You want to make sure that the quality and accuracy of product data is maintained across every touchpoint. And, it’s important to find a platform that enables you to organize and publish that information on each sales channel as needed.  The platform you choose also needs the ability to manage inventory across all sites, channels, and locations from one admin with a master catalog. 

Kibo offers a modern, extensible catalogue that flows easily into the rest of your operation. No matter how big or complex your product catalogue, you can create unlimited attributes to define it. You can define standard SKUs and configure products with multiple SKUs. You can bundle products, define offers and gift cards, and control when products are live to manage your business flow. And, for retailers with multiple catalogs and multiple sites, Kibo offers layered architecture that makes it easy to define and connect each product as needed.

Mobile-centricity 

Mobile shopping is on the rise. Even before COVID-19, it was one of the fastest growth channels. A recent study shows that this year, people used their mobile devices in all kinds of ways as they shopped, not just from their couches. For example, 72.1% of respondents to a PYMNTS survey reported using their mobile devices while shopping in-store compared to 49.6% last year. 

Meeting the demand for an increase in mobile, browsing, comparison shopping, searching and purchasing requires a mobile-centric technology that works well on mobile web and in-app. Retailers must look at mobile holistically, not as an add-on to desktop, and they need an ecommerce partner that does the same. People move across channels during their shopping journey, and the retailer needs to move with them, creating a consistent experience.

A modular, micro-services based design ensures that retailers get a mobile-centric solution that still integrates with their entire omnichannel commerce strategy. Your ecomm solution should provide automatic site rendering and a superior on-site navigation experience. It’s natively responsive, so all experiences—desktop, tablet, kiosk, and mobile apps—are driven off the same shared core services, reducing the need for duplicate work and ensuring customers receive a consistent experience no matter what device they use.

SEO Friendliness

If COVID-19 taught customers anything, it was the benefits of comparison shopping. That’s why it’s critical for you to have a killer SEO capability so that you can be everywhere your customer is.

SEO is more than keyword management. You need an ecommerce solution that makes it easy to manage thousands of SKUs, product description data and meta-data such as popularity, trending products and more. And all this should be easily manageable across image and shopping searches, as well as text-based search and across search engines and aggregator sites. 

Your entire site is part of the SEO game—and an ecommerce platform that is designed to be SEO-friendly makes your job that much easier. Templates and page designs as well as product info and meta data all make a big difference. You can have the best goods at the best price, but if customers don’t find you, it won’t matter.

The right platform will allow you to easily manage SEO and ensure that your site is set up to support your SEO efforts. You can create search engine-friendly URLs automatically and ensure that pages have the right meta data across product, category and site. You can also optimize using alt text for an extra boost in search engine performance.

24/7 Support

ecommerce platform support kibo

It’s great if you can save some money on a self-service out-of-the box ecommerce solution, but what happens when you’re in a panic on a Saturday and need some expert help? Similarly, if you pay for the huge offering, how will your team handle an hours-long wait for support tech to get back to them from an enormous mega tech company? 

Responsive 24/7 support should be non-negotiable. That’s the first test that a potential ecommerce partner should pass. But everyone defines support a bit differently. Some support groups offer only the most basic technical assistance when a system is down, or data is not being ingested correctly, for example. Many retailers may need a much wider definition of support, from helping with creative and template management on a page, to sleuthing through an issue with SKU discrepancies. 

The best support is like an extension of the team, delivering just the right help to keep the retailer running at 100%, but also offering insights and training that ensures that the team becomes more effective over time.

Pre-Integrated Payment Gateways

Did you know that a quarter of shoppers that abandon their carts do so because the checkout process was too long and complicated or because they didn’t offer the right payment options? Customers want that perfect combination of simplicity and choice—a tall order if you don’t have an easy-to-manage checkout process.

One important element is payment gateways, which not only offer payment selection and processing to customers, but can also serve to calculate taxes, add on shipping, and deduct promotions. Payment gateways can also stop fraudsters and are vital touchpoints to increase loyalty with customers, especially if you can offer new forms of payment like installments or PayPal options.

Creating convenience for the customer means that your ecommerce platform needs to be designed with payment gateways built in that are already stress tested for real customer checkout experiences. You need flexibility but also the peace of mind that you get from integrated capabilities.

Speed 

When it comes to picking the right ecommerce platform, you actually need to serve two audiences: your team and your customers. One thing they can both agree on is that speed matters—a lot.

For your team, managing products, creating new pages, pulling reports—these activities are what makes up their whole day. For every extra minute that each activity takes, their productivity and their mood plummets. A platform that’s fast and intuitive can mean the difference between total adoption and a wasted capital expense.

For customers, speed matters even more. Lags in page loads or in product info can have a direct impact on conversion rates and cart abandonment. And if your catalogue is not updated quickly, then customers get incorrect information, which can cause bad customer experience and unnecessary returns or order cancellations.

Your platform should be composed of a modern SaaS architecture that ensures maximum speed and efficiency for both of your audiences. You can easily make updates across channels, manage workflows and product catalogues and pull reports that are ready asap. Kibo’s design also makes sure that customers have an optimal experience, with partial page caching to reduce load times, for example. 

Easy-To-Use UI 

Ease of use is the other side of the same coin as speed when it comes to internal adoption of a new technology. Ecommerce platforms are no different. If you’re buying for everyday, non-technical business users, an intuitive UI is the key to success. 

Systems that don’t connect well to other technologies in the stack create painful workarounds like double data entry. Systems that require pages to be coded require developers to step in every time a retailer or marketer wants to make an update. Custom reports that require deep knowledge of SQL or Excel analysis will require management by specialists. These elements make a huge difference in the daily use and value of a platform.

Kibo’s robust system that can easily be used every day by the online retail and marketing teams. We offer WYSIWYG creation and editing of pages that require no coding. Users work with drag-and-drop widgets, which allow for easy addition of content and functionality to a storefront. Users can easily push updates to the right channels, and make catalog changes that manifest everywhere. And users can pull the reports they need, when they need them, and be confident that they can configure and analyze data on the spot

The Best Ecommerce Platform

There you have it—a comprehensive list of the key elements any good ecommerce platform should offer. The best ecommerce platforms in 2020 and beyond should cross all of them off as out-of-the-box capabilities. And remember, all of these elements should be within modern, extensible technology that is right-sized for your business today, and can easily accommodate your planned growth in the future.