Ecommerce has emerged as the single biggest growth driver in the worldwide marketplace. eMarketer, a leading independent market researcher, predicts global B2C ecommerce sales will reach $1.5 trillion this year, a 20 percent increase from 20131. And according to Forrester Research, B2B ecommerce spending in the U.S. alone reached $559 billion in 20132. If ecommerce is important to your business then the solution you choose is arguably one of the most important business decisions you will make.
At its simplest form, ecommerce software enables a business to sell products and services online. Traditionally, businesses had to purchase on-premise, standalone ecommerce software that required extensive IT setup and in-house management with specialized development teams. These solutions were generally costly, not scalable, challenging to work with, and time consuming to customize and integrate with other systems.
Ecommerce software provides the customer facing front end component of an online business. Online businesses, like all other businesses, need additional software to manage back end functions such as accounting, order management, inventory management, and customer service. Piecing together different software solutions to create a complete ecommerce business platform is complicated, requires frequent maintenance and rarely functions efficiently.
Fortunately, a new breed of business software integrates all the needed commerce and business functionality into a single ecommerce platform via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. With an infrastructure that unifies business applications and the data that feeds them, it is possible to create relevant, engaging and personalized online experiences.
Imagine an ecommerce platform that allows customer service reps to have a single view of a customer across all channels, a centralized order and inventory management system that can efficiently fulfill orders from all your sales channels, including brick and mortar stores, or utilize a customer's order history data to provide personalized and relevant offers. The possibilities brought to light with the advent of a complete ecommerce platform for business optimization and improved efficiencies as well as deepened customer engagement and satisfaction are limited only by one's creativity.
Key Features of an Ecommerce Platform
Any viable ecommerce software will enable customers to buy your products and services from your online store. Where solutions differ is the degree to which they can unify and leverage both front and back-office applications with both their unique and shared data. Ecommerce platforms provide the unification of core business processes, where businesses can gain complete visibility across their company and ultimately meeting their most discerning customers' expectations. An ecommerce platform should:
- Run on a single, unified platform. Eliminate integrations between separate systems with natively unified ecommerce, accounting, POS, inventory and order management, marketing, merchandising, customer service and financials on a cloud-based platform.
- Provide a 360° customer view. Deliver consistent and personalized cross-channel experiences, targeted marketing and superior customer service with a single view of all customer interactions and transactions across all touch points and channels.
- Intelligently managing orders. Exceed and set new customer expectations for buying, fulfilling and returning purchases, both online and in stores. Maximize profitability by centralizing order management and having a single view of inventory across all channels and supply chain business units.
- Deliver innovative customer experiences. Rapidly create unique, personalized and compelling mobile, web and in-store experiences to differentiate your brand and exceed customer expectations.
- Support unlimited expansion. Quickly deploy sites for multiple business models, channels, brands, countries, currencies and languages all on the same platform.
A Comprehensive, Integrated Approach
An ecommerce platforms include all core business functions, integrated into a single solution; it fosters improved collaboration, aligns operational processes and provides real-time data visibility across entire organizations. This integrated platform drives the following functions in a cohesive manner:
- Analytics and reporting
- Customer support
- Order and inventory management
- Content management
- Pricing and promotions
The ecommerce platforms of today have moved beyond single purpose software that enables people to simply buy products and services online. Today's best cloud-based ecommerce platforms integrate both the front- and back-office systems to provide a unified business environment that is easily scalable, endlessly customizable and provides timesaving automation functionality. Such a platform enables businesses to meet their customers' demands for providing a seamless shopping experience across all channels, and provides the flexibility and adaptability needed to keep up with the pace of business, reduce operational costs, increase efficiencies and eliminate the hassles of managing hardware and software.
Whether you do business in the B2B or B2C realm, your ecommerce platform needs to do more than just facilitate transactions if you want to be competitive in fast-moving and hyper-competitive markets. In the end, a complete ecommerce platform can provide significant advantages over competitors not leveraging similar technology.