The main difference between an e-commerce application and platform, is the ability of the latter to create and manage multiple sites or channels with different audiences, currencies, languages, and assortments. Additionally, a platform implies more flexibility. This includes the capability to create or change existing business rules, define new data models, or setup multiple complex pricing structures. In short: the capability to completely customize the system as desired.
Options to customize your platform are basically limitless, but let’s have a look at some of the most popular features. Spoiler alert: features are only semi-important. Non-functional requirements such as flexibility and adaptability will often be the deciding factors for success.
First of all, if you’re setting up a new e-commerce platform, you want to be in control of the day to day tasks in your shop without any dependencies on IT. There is no single right or wrong way to go about this. Most platforms provide some capabilities for managing your assortment, your prices and promotions, search configurations, and usually some means to segment or personalize the customer experience. The main question is: to what extent can these properties be managed and how intuitive is the interface?
Consider these examples of common but complex requirements:
As you may realize when looking at these examples, requirements don’t equal experiences. Different platforms can offer comparable functionality, but the experience of the employee that uses them can vary wildly. Never underestimate the value of a good user experience, even when working on the backend. If configuration demands excessive time and effort, there’s a fair chance a feature won’t get any use at all because the employee has other priorities that require attention.
When it comes to enterprise solutions, you shouldn’t focus too much on the out-of-the-box features. It’s the ability of the e-commerce platform to adapt to your specific needs that will prove to be key. Do you work with a complex (B2B) pricing structure? Then make sure your platform is capable of importing and modelling these prices, and that they can be integrated and requested in real time. Does every customer have a different assortment? Then make sure your platform is flexible enough to establish and maintain proper relationships. And what about promotions? When flowing freely, marketing and sales teams will usually provide the most creative promotion formulas. But which of these promotion types is your e-commerce platform able to support? Think along the lines of volume discounts, bundles, and conditional giveaways, to name but a few.
Of course, the list of possible requirements goes on and on. How adaptable is the checkout process? Can it handle complex calculations or ‘missed promotions’ in the cart? And in regards to backend processes, the questions arise if you can easily change the product data model or create a workflow for enriching the product data?
Finally, in case you have specific needs that aren’t supported by the feature set of the e-commerce platform, the challenges are of a different nature. To what extent is the platform itself customizable or extensible? Are you able to change important functionality if needed? Is there a process that ensures compatibility with future releases? Of course, customizing a solution isn’t always the first choice, but sometimes there’s business value to be gained by doing so. The most important thing is ensuring you never get completely stuck due to the restrictions of your e-commerce platform.
Becoming a victim of your own success is the last thing you want. Integrating an e-commerce platform in your organization, including all backend integrations, is no trivial task. For this reason, ensure beforehand that your system is capable of handling sustainable growth. Ask yourself this; what’s your company’s best-case scenario for the next five years? Don’t limit yourself to thinking in traffic or orders, but also take the creation of new channels such as apps, specialized sites, and POS kiosks into account. Scaling to different countries, and increasing your assortment by adding more products or completely new categories deserves your attention too. Is your e-commerce platform able to support all this?
Try to approach this challenge from different perspectives:
Not the most popular subjects, but extremely important just the same; your digital hygiene. Is the system robust? Where is the data stored? How much effort will it take to comply to the GDPR rules? Consider the Top Ten OWASP measures and check if your e-commerce platform is compliant. Note that good security is mostly affected by how the application is implemented, even more so than by the application’s actual attributes. Therefore, make sure you have a good relationship and agreement with your implementation partner.
A key attribute of a successful e-commerce platform is its proper integration in your application landscape. An e-commerce solution often has to connect and deal with many systems after all. Despite the fact that each organization has its own specific application landscape and needs, the following systems are quite common:
Don’t forget that in addition to these backend integrations, there can also be a need for specific frontend integrations.
These types of integrations do demand built-in support from your e-commerce solution in order to function properly, while other integrations are more frontend focused and usually don’t end up causing problems. The latter includes analytics tools, marketing tools for personalization and campaigning, intelligent cloud search and merchandizing tools, and customer feedback tools.
It’s the capability to connect with all these systems that makes the difference between an e-commerce application and solution. That’s why you should always consider your e-commerce project a platform, not just an application with nice features.
This is what an e-commerce solution is all about; the ability to facilitate and record every transaction. All e-commerce solutions must surely have this part covered, right? Unfortunately and unexpectedly, there’s a lot of base functionality that’s not as commonplace as it should be.
Consider the following B2B transaction features:
More broader applicable, especially in B2C scenario’s, are the following e-commerce platform capabilities:
To summarize the main takeaways when selecting an e-commerce solution:
If you need support from an unbiased third party in your e-commerce solution selection process, feel free to contact us. Osudio has the knowhow and experience to help you focus on the parts that are important for your specific business case. We can make sure you find the solution that fits your business and requirements, with the flexibility for meeting unknown future demands head on.
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