Ian Davis, director of OnDemand, ATG, offers advice on the management of an ecommerce site.
Since the first rudimentary web commerce sites appeared in the late 90s and early 2000s something has changed. At the turn of the century, e-commerce technologies were almost entirely sold for and to company IT departments.
Accordingly, every page or content change was the responsibility of someone in IT. Circumstances have changed.
The chief buyers of the technology are now business people: marketers, product or content managers, sales executives and the rest – a lot more fingers have appeared in the e-commerce pie.
The change in businesses’ involvement in their e-commerce sites has corresponded with the changes in consumers’ web activity and access.
Broadband is now ubiquitous, search engine technologies (most obviously Google) have enabled consumers to find what they are looking for with ease and the millennial generation is now so comfortable with internet technologies that the lines between their digital and offline lives are often blurred.
Consumers’ expectations have increased and, accordingly, businesses offerings have and will continue to expand.
While having an online storefront was once adequate, legacy e-commerce technologies consisting purely of catalogue, shopping cart and basic payment functionality are no longer sufficient in an increasingly sophisticated marketplace.
Once the domain of the IT department, a company’s e-commerce outlet is now subject to competition between brand and product managers, on and offline marketing managers, call & contact centre controllers, business development managers and, often, the entire executive hierarchy.
While many online sellers have enhanced their basic platforms, adding features such as search, promotion management and merchandising, these second generation platforms still take a product-centric approach.
Those that lead the way will provide the sophisticated functionality needed to better serve the next generation of consumers.
The novelty of ecommerce is no longer an incentive in itself for the consumer; businesses need to manage their online outlets with the same rigour as all of their other channels.
The process needs to span across the entire customer lifecycle of attracting, selling and servicing.
While the IT department will, of course, always play a crucial role in ecommerce it is vital to ensure that there are clear channels of input from all corners of the business.
Most importantly, an ecommerce platform needs to be run and assessed like any other aspect of a business – it should enable board level decision makers to see, understand and control as well as any offline outlet.
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