Why You Need an Ecommerce Platform Even if You're Not Selling Online

Bob Egner
by Bob Egner 28 Sep, 2015

With digital experience gaining prominence as the most influential factor in customer satisfaction, brands need to ensure they are making savvy investments.

Those who sell exclusively through a channel business strategy often don't understand why a digital commerce platform could be the best investment they ever make - helping to fuel their brand presence and support sales - even if that sale takes place outside of their website. 

Sales transaction functionality is just one of many value-added components of a digital commerce platform. Today's digital commerce platforms have vastly more to offer than shopping cart functionality; they offer a means to create meaningful digital experiences that help drive sales conversions for any sales model.

Here are six ways every business can be enhanced by making use of an ecommerce platform:

1. Weave a Better Brand Journey: Today's sophisticated ecommerce platforms enable the delivery of meaningful digital experiences. Most platforms have dynamic drag-and-drop design that can be easily implemented by the marketing team without placing extra demands on the tech department. 

A variety of content can be aggregated based on interest area. For example, if a customer is browsing a sports apparel and accessories manufacturer for backpacks suitable for biking, the site can be populated with relevant content in the form of videos, photos and reviews specific to that product. By supporting the means to surface content relative and relevant to the customer, digital commerce platforms provide a better more streamlined customer journey and brand experience and create more opportunities to "sell," even without selling.

2. Mix it Up in Your Content Kitchen: An ecommerce platform offers the opportunity to aggregate different types of structured and unstructured content: On-site content, user generated content, product content, template/instructional content, marketing content, merchandising content, service content and informational content.

3. Map Customers to Resources: Customers are sometimes reticent to provide personal information - name, address, email and other data that is desirable to marketers - while browsing. However using geolocation features or find by zip code functions - both of which are typically standard in digital commerce platforms - opens up a range of opportunities to advance the sale. Knowing location information provides the opportunity to lead customers to local dealers, distributors and other resources - such as service and support - providing benefits to both customers and distributors and other go-to-market partners. 

4. Amplify Search Satisfaction: Customers in both the business and consumer realms are accustomed to exceptional usability and accessibility in all things digital. The goal is to provide a navigation experience that is fruitful and not frustrating. Using the same navigation paradigms that people are accustomed to from commonly used ecommerce sites such as Amazon.com, users are easily able to find the information they are seeking. Strong search and navigation tools can deflect support calls, better guide each visitor to their goal, and support improved engagement. 

5. Create a Killer Catalog: The notion of organizing content into a catalog structure sounds easy, but for businesses with extensive product catalogs and inventories it's extremely complicated. With integration support and the ability to merge both structured and unstructured content to present catalog and products that makes sense to the customer, digital commerce platforms can give marketers a streamlined process for organizing content around the structure of a catalog that shows off the brand and the products in the best manner. This is especially useful for products with multiple configurations or optional add-on accessories. A well-structured catalog will enable customers to research and view all available options and understand the configuration that is right for them when it's time for purchase. 

6. Keep Your Sales Channel On Point: With a strong catalog and dynamic digital content in place, the ecommerce platform becomes the ideal communication tool for supporting and communicating with channel sales personnel so they are equipped with the best, most current information - straight from the source. Utilizing a partner-centric portal that is part of an overall digital commerce platform will help ensure the right product images, content, notifications are pushed to retailers and distributors. These tools go beyond efficiency to become easy to do business with -- a competitive advantage, when dealers have a choice in which products they sell and how they sell them. 

These points speak to how a digital commerce platform can create an overall digital experience that is directly tied to the brand and ultimately supports and drives sales. This position does beg the question: If a potential buyer spends time on a manufacturer's website, is there a risk of losing them once they realize they must take the added step of locating a dealer, distributor or retailer to make their purchase?  

To answer that question, consider this real-life application: Janome America, a leading manufacturer of domestic sewing machines worldwide, is a strong example of a company benefiting from digital commerce without selling directly. Janome is an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and sells its own machines under the Janome brand name through distributors via brick-and-mortar specialty stores, and online retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.com. 

Clearly, these retail channel partnerships are highly prized by Janome. Yet, the company underwent a digital makeover in 2014, implementing a digital commerce platform to give its current and prospective customers a rich and engaging brand experience. Through the site, Janome has been successful in using the platform to create dynamic, buzz-worthy content that drives customers to retail stores; growing the Janome brand and community of customers through aspirational marketing; and attracting a new generation of makers, creating lifetime customers through a cohesive digital strategy.

There are significant benefits to leveraging digital commerce platform without going "all in" and selling online. Today's digital commerce platforms gives brands the opportunity to support an exceptional experience and drive value for the business, customers and go-to-market partners. 

Bob Egner is a fervent advocate of uniting content and commerce to create dynamic digital experiences on the Web. He currently serves as vice president of product management for EPiServer