Key Factors When Selecting and Setting Up an E-Commerce Platform

One of the fundamental choices that an e-commerce retailer must make is the platform they use to sell their goods and services.

With so many choices of platforms now available, it’s important that they make this choice carefully, with an understanding that a platform is a space not just for selling, but for building a brand.

The E-Commerce Times spoke with several e-commerce experts to get their take on how retailers can choose — and customize — platforms to get just the right fit between product, culture, and customer.

“A decade ago, an e-commerce platform was often little more than a product catalog and a checkout,” Brennan Heyde, vice president of product at Miva, told the E-Commerce Times. “Modern e-commerce platforms act as the central hub of an online business, providing a content management experience and acting as marketing engines.

“E-commerce platforms are becoming more powerful and complex, incorporating features from CRMs, content management systems, and business automation solutions to become the core platform running the entirety of an online business.”

A platform, in other words, is not just a store — it’s a place for an e-commerce retailer to connect with customers and create a sense of the brand.

“While there will always be a need for standalone, ‘best-of-breed’, CRMs and similar solutions — as e-commerce evolves we’re seeing these incorporated into the e-commerce platform and becoming one single, powerful application that manages the whole of an online store,” explained Heyde.

“E-commerce platforms are increasingly empowering marketing teams with tools and avenues for them to excel, exercise greater creativity, and execute promotions quickly,” he added.

Plan Ahead

Finding the right fit between a brand and a platform is key to success in the e-commerce world.

“As the world increasingly moves online, having a strong online presence is mandatory, meaning retailers must adapt,” said Heyde. “Online sellers should be wary of focusing too much on short-term metrics and making the wrong decision when selecting an e-commerce platform.

“An ill-fitting e-commerce platform — one that cannot grow alongside your business, handle your complex needs, and integrate with your back-end systems — will ultimately cost your business.”

Ideally, a platform is not an unchanging, fixed space, but one that is adaptable to both the business and the consumers who frequent it.

“The right e-commerce platform will help sellers keep up with their consumers’ changing needs, preferences, and shopping behavior,” Heyde noted.

“Retailers invest time, care, and design into creating unique in-store experiences, why wouldn’t they do the same for their online customers? Choosing an e-commerce platform that will grow alongside a business sets that business up for online growth with minimal effort,” he reasoned.

Customizing the Space

Once a platform’s been chosen, it’s vital that it be customized, taking into account the business’s particular needs, goals, and clientele. One way a platform can be customized is by building promotions into the design and flow of the site itself.

“It all comes down to creating a holistic image of your customers; creating digital journeys for them that will keep them engaged and returning to your site,” Chemi Katz, CEO and co-founder of Namogoo, told the E-Commerce Times.

“No two shoppers are alike, and no two online shopping sessions are alike either, so creating an experience that autonomously tailors the experience for each and every site visit to meet the expectations of the shopper should be the number one priority for every e-commerce brand.

“There are plenty of other brands out there offering goods that shoppers may find comparable, so brands need to ensure that the journey they provide customers wins every single time,” Katz advised.

E-tailers can also add special features to a site — such as appointment scheduling — to personalize their customers’ experience and provide a link between the online and in-store realms.

“The trend right now is to find the right balance between online and in-store personalized experiences, and to provide high touch experiences with less in-person contact,” Nancy Liberman, vice president of marketing for JRNI, explained to the E-Commerce Times.

JRNI is an experiential relationship management platform provider for scheduling and managing personalized experiences.

“Consumers are now in control, selecting the channel, time of day, and type of experience they want, and appointments have increased in prominence as a direct response,” she observed.

Customizing a platform to allow for appointment setting not only gives consumers a way to interact with the brand, but also gives the brand an opportunity to gather data and information about the customers.

“Appointments provide retailers the ability to collect specific and detailed pieces of data, and to combine it with historic data, and, most importantly, deliver the best experience to each shopper,” said Liberman.

“This personalized, one-on-one experience is a differentiator for retailers when it comes to building brand loyalty online, because it creates relationships that consumers don’t forget easily, and make them more likely to return to your brand.

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