E-Commerce Software in Action
Despite the economic
downturn that has affected
everyone from Madison
Avenue to Main Street, the
state of the e-commerce
industry (despite a noticeable
dip in transactions and sales)
has remained strong, thanks
to continued improvements in
technology. Internet retailers
that have adopted “best of
breed” solutions are expecting
big profits in the coming years.
Online retail in both the U.S. and Western Europe is poised for serious growth over the next five years, according to two new forecasts by Forrester Research Inc. U.S. online retail will grow at a 10 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years to reach nearly $249 billion by 2014.
It can sometimes seem as though there are as many vendors of e-commerce software as there are merchants on the Web. So, understanding the solutions available and the top-tier providers in their respective areas will spur you into action and help you come to a decision that will positively impact the bottom line of your retail endeavor on the Web. What follows are several areas for e-commerce improvements and enhancements for your website, and some vendors who are leading the charge.
Product Placement: Savvy e-commerce Web professionals understand that to succeed online they need to occupy as much virtual shelf space as possible. ChannelAdvisor supports the mission of Internet retail marketers by offering an on-demand software solution that automates the often labor-intensive manual functions related to distributing products across multiple channels (particularly useful for merchants with hundreds of thousands of SKU’s). The software optimizes campaigns to drive shoppers to products and convert browsers into buyers. ChannelAdvisor works with premium marketplaces and search and shopping services as eBay, Amazon, Overstock, Shopping.com, Nextag and, of course, Google, Yahoo! and Bing.
Statistics to Share
Launch a new e-commerce venture today and you might be met with some skepticism by friends, colleagues and investors. Fear not; e-commerce isn’t a trend but now a way of life. In the U.S., Web shopping will account for 8 percent of total sales by 2014. More importantly, 53 percent of total retail sales in the U.S. will be influenced by e-commerce, as consumers increasingly use the Internet to research products before purchasing.
Hard Data: Many people in the e-commerce business make decisions that are not based on empirical data. As you can imagine, that can be a big mistake. The Web offers an opportunity to gather data in real time and make informed decisions immediately, based on that information. By testing variations of landing pages, product descriptions, search results and buy-flows, SiteSpect allows marketers to fine-tune every aspect of their website on a segmentby- segment basis. Optimizing marketing effectiveness through A/B testing, multivariate testing and behavioral targeting offers the ability to tweak nearly every element on a website (particularly useful for merchants) on a case-by-case basis.
Mobile E-commerce: Shopping cart software vendor Volusion took a rather bold step into the mobile world recently with its launch of Volusion mCommerce; a way for its customers to optimize their online stores for consumers who are smartphone-shopping. Volusion customers (including small retailers that typically do not have access to mobile- optimization capabilities) can enable a setting in their store’s administration panel. Shoppers who navigate to any Volusionpowered site using an iPhone will automatically have access to the mobileoptimized version.
In an age where mobile devices are nearing ubiquity, choosing an e-commerce software solution that does not offer some level of mobile compatibility could dampen sales. “Volusion mCommerce allows my customers to view my site in a convenient, snapshot version,” said Andrea Bridges of RepeatPossessions. com. “The popularity of Twitter and other social media platforms is proving that time and space are limited, and people are expecting the kind of simplified interface Volusion is providing. Volusion mCommerce makes shopping more convenient for my customers and will provide me with a revenue boost.”
Private Sale @ Totsy
A new trend in e-commerce offers big promises for retailers and even bigger savings for shoppers. It is called the “Private Sale” or “Exclusive Sale” model and represents a new way of buying and selling on the ‘Net. What is unique about the model (initially spawned by French-owned Vente-Privee.com seven years ago) is that user access to products on these sites is restricted (or private, by invitation only). The private nature creates a sense of exclusivity for shoppers and ultimately helps merchants move high-end inventory in a discreet but wellbranded, exclusive boutique-style environment. The private sale model has recently been formally introduced into the U.S. at Totsy.com, a private sale website dedicated to moms and moms-to-be. Totsy features products on its site from toys to car seats for a limited time (just a few days) and typically at 40-70 percent off the traditional price. The technology is also quite simple, requiring nothing more than some marketing savvy and good connections.
User Experience: One of the key concerns for e-commerce developers is how end-user experience is impacted. Since small modifications can result in big changes, on-demand Web application experience management solutions provided by the likes of Gomez help businesses ensure the most seamless of Web experiences for e-commerce shoppers. Recently, Gomez released an upgraded platform that measures the response time of both mobile and Web applications. The load testing solution tests how mobile sites, applications and infrastructure (thanks in part to its acquisition by Compuware) respond under peak traffic conditions and then measure the mobile end-user experience. “As applications are increasingly built from multiple third-party components and accessed via an expanding choice of browsers and mobile devices, preventing and resolving Web performance problems becomes exponentially greater and more time-consuming,” said Imad Mouline, CTO, Gomez division. “The upgraded Gomez platform addresses all these issues, helping businesses spend less time troubleshooting and more time delivering great Web and mobile experiences.”
Reviews and Testimonials: Few things spark sales more than positive user reviews of your products and services. Founded in 2005, Austin, Texas-based Bazaarvoice provides a hosted social commerce application for featuring user-generated content such as ratings, reviews, answers and stories to manufacturer and retailer sites. These reviews are intended to help jumpstart word-of-mouth and viral marketing and big companies have taken notice. Brooks Brothers, for example, introduced the ratings and reviews solution from Bazaarvoice in October 2009, and encourages its shoppers to review the products they purchase. The review solicitation e-mail, which typically goes out one week after a purchase online or in a store, has the highest open rate of all e-mails sent by the company. Brooks Brothers plans to bring relevant star ratings and review content into its spring catalog and upcoming e-mail campaigns. Brooks Brothers also plans to integrate Bazaarvoice Ratings & Reviews into future social networking and mobile shopping initiatives.
Much more goes into success with e-commerce than simply choosing the right shopping cart and merchant account provider. As you can see, there are many e-commerce solutions available on the market that go beyond supporting marketing endeavors, but create a clear and distinct separation from you and your competition.