We talk to a lot of companies that are dissatisfied with their ecommerce platform. They run into a host of problems, such as the high cost of releases and updates, problems with integrating their ERP systems and launching their webshops. So what should these businesses keep an eye on when they go out looking for a new platform?
In the latest B2B Commerce Suites report, Forrester advises companies to go for scalability, flexibility and an agile approach. While I wholeheartedly endorse this advice, there are other considerations that you overlook at your peril, such as integration, a full B2C experience and cross-border potential.
In the coming weeks I shall be giving a number of tips to help you select the ecommerce platform package that is right for you.
A lot of B2B businesses come unstuck when they try to integrate the webshop with their ERP system, forcing them to adopt new software. It is still not uncommon for web orders to be copied and typed out by hand, or that specific customer offers cannot be made available in the webshop. Of course it is much more efficient to work with the software that’s in place already. Software you are used to.
So put integration near the top of your wish list; you want third-party software such as ERP systems (Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, IBM and Infor) as well as order management and PIM systems to integrate well with the ecommerce platform. Databases are synchronized with smart connections so that data about product, stock, orders and customer information can be exchanged without a hitch.
The giants of the B2C market such as Amazon and eBay are impacting B2B. B2B players are behaving increasingly like consumers and expect to see the B2C advantages of speed and ease of ordering on your webshop.
Don’t ignore this. B2B customers too want top-notch service and that is why B2B organizations are focusing increasingly on the end consumer. They have no choice. B2B ecommerce platforms need to offer such typical B2C functionalities as ease of ordering, fast searches, an online customer service, fresh and responsive designs, intuitive navigation, special offers, inspiration pages, blogs, integration with newsletters and social media, cross and upselling – the lot.
A typical B2C functionality: inspiration pages such as the ‘I'm a hot cup’ page of the Paardekooper webshop
We are seeing more and more ecommerce projects hit a roadblock with Magento-based or self-built webshops. When you open a new shop or take your ecommerce business abroad with a less-than- ideal platform, it is only a matter of time before technical snags begin to mess with your business plan – often because there is no support for translations, different currencies and varying VAT rules.
So look for a platform that enables you to launch a new webshop without problems or too much fuss. One fit for abroad. That can be managed from a single portal. With functionalities for currencies and different VAT tariffs, and with an effective translation module. Take account of foreign environmental levies, legislation around cookies and local payment methods.
Many ecommerce software providers work with versions (that is, rewrites), leaving customers with no choice but to update the software. Such migrations will invariably lead to errors and you end up with plugins that no longer function with the new version.
So find yourself a platform that does not rely on outdated techniques, but is always up to date. In this way, you always get the latest functionalities and won’t get stung year on year with unexpected update costs.
I urge you to bear my tips in mind when you embark on your search for that new ecommerce platform. And something else: don’t just check out the established software platforms. Look around you. Ecommerce software has to work with you, not against you. So chose a platform that can realize the digital ambitions of your business, now and in the future.