eCommerce experts John Vurdelja & Zach McMahon discuss trends, strategies, and best practices in the commerce marketplace.
1. What technical trends do you see making a big impact in the Commerce space over the next few years?
Recently, there has been a considerable increase in the eCommerce focused Platform as a Service (PaaS) based solutions available in the market and over the next few years I expect that we’ll see more and more PaaS solutions arise that drive significantly larger pieces of the functionality and experience that we come to expect when shopping online.
One of the reasons these solutions have been successful is that many of them have been designed to help marketers to build out competitive eCommerce experiences quickly and efficiently. Consumers increasingly expect the small to mid-size shops to be able to provide the same great features and experiences that bigger players have had for years. This has posed a challenge to these smaller organizations given the huge cost to implement some of these features. In recent years, however, the marketplace has matured considerably and there are now many PaaS based solutions available, allowing the smaller organizations to realize these traditionally advanced features, at a much lower cost. We’ve seen this play out over the years for many of the core site features such as analytics, product reviews, recommendations, email marketing, testing and targeting, and international fulfillments.
2. What are some important, yet often overlooked, aspects of delivering a successful eCommerce solution?
Data migration, integration testing, performance testing, and launch planning activities are usually the major focus of project teams prior to go-live. While these are all critical aspects of launching a site, many customers forget to properly plan for post-launch support activities. The lack of post-launch support planning often leaves teams in tough positions and not able to resolve production issues when it matters most. Some of the critical items to include in your post-launch support plan include a) ensuring resource availability to monitor and support site issues as they arise, b) an issue triage plan to track issues as they are reported and to prioritize for resolution based upon business needs, c) a post launch release plan is in place to ensure high priority fixes can be deployed in a timely manner, d) a communication plan to ensure status, issues, and action plans are properly communicated between teams.
3. Why is personalization of web content based on a customer’s browsing behavior so important?
The relevancy of content displayed to a customer is extremely important and can have a significant impact on order conversion and customer retention. Today, there are many tools available that can utilize analytics and click behavior through the site to understand what the customer is looking for, what they have done, and what they might do next. For example, if the customer has added a pair of men’s basketball shoes to his or her shopping cart and navigates to the homepage, it might be very relevant to show a banner with a link to basketball accessories. Utilizing this banner placement to display personalized content rather than having a generic banner that, say, has women’s high heel shoes is what helps the marketing team not have to “guess” as much in what content to put in high visibility spots. Make it unique to YOU.
4. What are some of the best ways to accelerate the delivery of a eCommerce project?
eCommerce projects are often long and challenging, and there is always a desire to shorten the timeline for budget and time-to-market considerations. In order to do this, the key is to expedite and parallelize work streams of the project when possible while ensuring there is still ample time allocated to get the work done. Below are some strategies to consider when trying to accelerate the delivery of a project:
A. Drive to consensus on existing functionality the new platform provides
Sticking to exactly what the customer has at the time in regards to functionality and business processes is something that needs to be fully thought out. Where the new commerce platform provides functionality that is slightly different than the way the customer operates today, it is advised to drive that customer to a solution where they can leverage the platform¹s capabilities rather than customizing and adding complexity and time. It’s a hard hurdle to get over sometimes, but providing expert insight on how they might be able to successfully adapt will prove to be extremely helpful.
B. Breakdown organizational barriers
The successful delivery of an eCommerce project often requires individuals from many different cross-functional teams to work together towards an end goal. Inevitably these teams will have their own processes, priorities, and culture they bring along with them which can be challenging to coordinate and mesh under a single program. One of the best ways to make teams work more efficiently is to organize the eCommerce delivery team in a way that limits organizational silos and inter-team dependencies with a goal of making the team more cohesive and self-sufficient . For instance, a typical eCommerce project will have involvement from many teams including frontend development, backend development, quality assurance, infrastructure, business stakeholders, to name a few. Rather than trying to coordinate the project delivery across all of these individual teams, you may be better suited to create a single team with dedicated individuals, each playing their own part, that report up through the eCommerce project team leadership. This structure often leads to more efficient teams with individuals that are more focused, more productive, and more accountable for the successful delivery of the project.
5. “Best Practices” is a term that is thrown around a lot. How does a commerce engagement properly enable online capabilities based on these “best practices”?
“Best practices” can really be applied for what exists in the commerce marketplace for the web experience, as well as how to properly utilize the platform that is being implemented. For website functionality and user experience, project teams can lean on past projects as well as trends in the marketplace for companies in the same industry. The underlying theme of their focus should be to make it easy for the customer. An example of this is focusing more on the mobile experience, which may be a customer¹s first digital touch point with the brand. Making the right impression there goes a long way in the customer’s loyalty to the brand. Secondly, utilizing the platform based on best practices revolves around adhering to the platform’s standard architecture and leveraging platform functionality as much as possible to achieve the client’s required specifications. Whether it’s the product data model, customer account structure, faceted navigation, all these can be used in the proper way with different end states to cater to the client’s business.