U.S. online sales grew by 15 percent in 2015, and this trend is only likely to continue as shoppers place greater value on the convenience and ease of ordering online. But to stand out in an ecommerce market crowded with competition, retailers and brands must offer a user experience that builds long-term relationships with customers.
However, many retailers today are held back by their existing websites and cannot scale or iterate in response to customer needs. To combat this, the most successful online merchants are investing in cloud-based solutions that connect digital commerce and digital marketing efforts into a seamless online shopping experience.
With the public cloud services market predicted to reach $204 billion this year, it is no surprise that many companies are turning to the cloud. Beyond global accessibility and the fact that cloud-based digital commerce sites operate much faster than those built on a company's independent server infrastructure, cloud-based solutions offer retailers faster speed to market and improved scalability necessary to successfully perform in today's highly competitive and ever-changing digital commerce landscape.
Retailers that fail to explore a more flexible, cloud-based digital commerce option will continue to miss out on many revenue opportunities and fail to earn a larger share of this evolving online marketplace. Even those companies with an existing commerce website can turn to cloud-based strategies for a stronger, more profitable tomorrow.
When exploring cloud-based online opportunities, two key strengths to consider are:
1. Speed to market
When creating or updating a digital commerce site, cloud-based solutions increase a company's speed to market. Ecommerce is no longer a new phenomenon, and without a quick way to reach online shoppers, business opportunities come and go quickly. Retailers must get their website up and running fast, or make necessary website updates at the drop of a hat, as every moment retailers are not trading effectively online is an opportunity lost to move shoppers toward eventual conversion.
Websites built on traditional servers are no longer sufficient, as they are too time consuming to launch and demand a great deal of upfront capital expenditures. The same goes for most legacy solutions, which require retailers to implement a permanent digital presence all at once.
Cloud-based solutions are the faster-to-market option, as they offer companies the piecemeal interoperability to implement digital capabilities as necessary and to connect online offerings in the way that works best for them. For example, a retailer can get its sales platform up and running, earning return on investment immediately, and then develop or easily integration to other website components like a cloud based customer service center over time.
By getting websites live faster, companies can start to make sales earlier and then easily improve their offerings with real-time iterations based on actual customer feedback and trending buying behaviors. In this same vein, retailers can leverage data-driven cloud analytics to measure the profitability of any digital campaign or website update and more accurately determine attribution to sales and return on investment.
As companies grow, they need digital commerce sites that can grow with them. Every year, retailers are forced to scale based on fluctuating marketplace demands or to handle seasonal spikes during the holidays or other national events. Instead of wasting valuable resources to build out an online infrastructure that can service customers at peak, a cloud-based solution has the elasticity to grow in tandem with shopper needs.
In addition to infrastructural scaling capabilities, cloud-based commerce solutions allow retailers to scale at the customer level, too. Every customer demands a differentiated shopping experience fueled by personalization, and the cloud's non-restrictive environment allows companies to achieve this unique digital experience with minimal limitations globally. For instance, companies can individualize a shopper's path to purchase based on his or her past website activity, as well as behaviors across other popular channels.
When content assets are stored in the cloud within a single, user-friendly interface, retailers can easily craft top-notch digital experiences, especially when the content management engine is in the same platform as commerce. Not only does the cloud allow retailers to be faster to market than what a traditional server environment would allow, but it also allows more creative flexibility than an on-premise solution, and the ability for better targeting across any channel or device. To handle timely digital needs, the best cloud-based solutions are also equipped with the support (technologies and on-hand personnel) to quickly facilitate easy scaling.
A cloud-based commerce site places ample importance on customer engagement and ensures that companies have the flexibility and scalability to create the ideal shopping journey for every consumer. With this strategy, retailers can trust that they are engaging digital shoppers with the right content at the right time. In an overcrowded digital marketplace, a personalized shopping experience is critical to first engaging customers and then inspiring and educating them toward final purchase. About the Author
David Bowen is a product manager at Episerver, a global software provider for innovative .NET ecommerce, CMS and digital marketing solutions.