eCommerce 2015 Competitive strategy from Isaiah Bollinger

The eCommerce Landscape:

The eCommerce landscape is exploding as B2C eCommerce sales surpassed 1.5 trillion in 2014, and there are estimates of B2B sales reaching 6.7 trillion in 2020. Its possible that total eCommerce sales worldwide could top 10 trillion by 2020! Those are some insane numbers. With consistent worldwide eCommerce growth of approximately 20% per year, it is certainly possible. There are 4 million + eCommerce websites and hundreds of platforms to choose from, therefore choosing the right platform for your business is a critical decision in becoming competitive in the eCommerce space.

ecommerce
Global B2C eCommerce sales top 1.5 trillion in 2014
Global B2B eCommerce sales Estimated to reach 6.7 Trillion in 2020 double B2C eCommerce total sales
eCommerce growth averaging approximately 20% per year
Over 4 million worldwide eCommerce stores
Hundreds of eCommerce platforms and solutions to choose from

Small Business Platforms:

There are hundreds of eCommerce small business platforms to choose from. There are two main options to consider when looking for a platform, hosted and non hosted. Although most non hosted options are open source, do not be fooled by the appeal of the free software. Platforms like Magento community are extremely complex and require strong technical and eCommerce skills to manage. Therefore the costs of hiring a developer to maintain your open source platform could be much higher than the monthly cost of a hosted platform like Shopify.

Enterprise Platforms:

Enterprise platforms can be very pricey and the cost of the license and implementation can easily reach millions of dollars. It is important to think about the implementation cost, license cost, and maintenance cost, as well as break down the internal versus external costs of those three major costs. Most companies will hire a solution agency to implement the software but may have their own internal QA engineers or developers work in tandem with the agency, therefore there are internal and external costs to the implementation and for future maintenance of the software.

  • Magento Enterprise – licensing fees typically start around $18,000
  • Sap Hybris – licensing fees typically start around $54,000
  • Demandware – licensing fees typically start around $200,000 plus .75% of sales
  • ATG Commerce – licensing fees typically start around $500,000
  • IBM Websphere – licensing fees typically start around $15,700 + $1,990 per PVU

What Makes a Good Platform?

A good platform can allow you to build a fluid responsive eCommerce site, is flexible, and scalable so that it can grow with your business. However, every platform has different costs associated with it and every business has different eCommerce needs. Therefore it is important to think about all the things you will want and need and which platform will allow you to do that at the lowest cost. Some platforms may be cheaper but lack the scalability or flexibility to achieve your future needs.

  • Responsive Design
  • Hosted Versus Non Hosted
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Integrations
  • Implementation Costs
  • Maintenance Costs
  • Community

Design:

There is a lot that goes into quality website design. As a small business you may want to think about using a prebuilt theme to save money, but as a larger business you should spend the money to build a custom theme that fits your brand and messaging. Additionally, a prebuilt theme will most likely be more restrictive as you try and scale and add to your website, therefore if you can afford to design a custom site, it is most likely a better long term option. Either way you will most likely want some sort of combination of wireframes, mockups, and design assets to determine what the look of your site will be before development begins, even if they are developing with a prebuilt theme. The content of your website will also determine the style and branding of your website such as whether you have big beautiful images, videos or more text oriented content so make sure that you have as much content as possible when you go into the design phase of your eCommerce website.

  • Responsive Design
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Text Content
  • Prebuilt Theme Vs Custom Theme
  • Product Content
  • Unique Branding
  • Cross Browser Compatibility
  • Ui/Ux
  • Wireframes
  • Moodboards
  • Mockups

Development:

The development of an eCommerce website will differ greatly depending on the platform you choose. A hosted platform like BigCommerce or Shopify will be much more limiting and there will not be as much flexibility to customize the front end like you can with Magento or another open source platform. There is a lot to think about when it comes to development such as data transfer if you are going to a new platform, extensions you will need, configuring the actual eCommerce software, front end development, backend development, testing, development operations, and much more. Make sure you have budgeted appropriately for the implementation development costs, but also the internal or external third party development costs associated with maintaining your eCommerce website.

  • Data Transfer
  • Extensions
  • Custom Modules
  • Out of the box features
  • Front End Development
  • Backend Development
  • Testing / QA / UAT
  • B2B vs B2C eCommerce
  • Search Technology
  • Version control / dev ops

Integrations:

To become competitive in the eCommerce landscape it is more important than ever to automate back office processes. Connecting your ERP, PIMM, CRM, accounting software, email marketing platform, shipping, payment, and any other platforms you rely on to your eCommerce website is crucial to your success. Many eCommerce platforms have prebuilt connections to other software but most integrations may require custom work or an extension.

  • PIMM
  • POS
  • ATS
  • Payment Gateway
  • Shipping Providers
  • Accounting Software
  • Sales Tax Automation
  • Customer Service
  • Ebay & Amazon
  • CRM
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Shipping Providers

Omni Channel:

In todays world it is not longer sustainable to rely on one selling channel. Selling through your website, Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Target, retail locations, mobile apps, or any other channel is a much more reliable way to spread your revenue across many different sources. Therefore you need to have an Omni channel strategy when it comes to eCommerce and make sure your website can push product and inventory to the necessary channels so that the right information is being tracked and received.

  • Amazon / Ebay
  • eCommerce
  • Mobile
  • Catalog / Phone
  • In Store
  • Walmart / Target
  • Social Media
  • Niche Sites

International Challenges:

There are a lot of challenges that go into international eCommerce. Simply shipping in the US is one thing, but providing inventory and shipping all over the world is a much more complicated challenge. eCommerce growth is actually much stronger in many European and Asian countries than it is in the United States, therefore an international eCommerce strategy is critical to expanding your capabilities. There are many challenges to being successful in a multi national setting such as shipping, inventory, cultural barriers, payment methods, and more.

  • Multi Language
  • ERP / Inventory
  • Multi Store Capabilities
  • Shipping Methods
  • Payment Methods
  • Different Domains / IPs
  • Culture / Branding
  • Marketing Strategy

Acquiring Traffic:

In order to acquire traffic you really need a multi faceted approach. If you focus your efforts on building traffic in all the major traffic channels, Direct, Social, SEO, PPC, Email, and Referral you will build up a strong and sustainable traffic acquisition approach. Additionally they all feed off each other, such as getting more backlinks will help both SEO and referral traffic.

  • Direct
  • Social
  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Email Marketing
  • Referral

Conversion Optimization:

Increasing your traffic is one thing, but if your conversation rate is not high enough you will not be getting the revenue and sales you need. An average eCommerce website boasts a conversion rate of about 2 – 4% depending on the industry. There are many ways to improve your conversation rate such as having a mobile friendly responsive website, split testing different designs, offering unique promotions, and more. A robust and informative product page is also key to a strong conversion rate. Test different strategies because no one thing will get you the ultimate conversion rate everyone desires.

Platforms to try out:

  • Optimizely
  • Crazy Egg
  • Google Analytics Universal
  • Visual Website Optimizer
  • Unbounce
  • Kissmetrics

Key Areas To Test:

  • Payment Methods
  • Home Page
  • Product Page
  • Banner Ads
  • Shipping Methods
  • Checkout Methods

Increasing AOV:

There are three ways to increase your sales on your eCommerce website, increasing traffic, increasing your conversion rate, and increasing average order value. Average order value is often forget in the mix of trying to acquire more traffic and improve conversion rates but it is arguably just as important as the other two. There are many ways to get people to spend more. Running the right free shipping over $x dollars, up sells, and checkout promotions are just examples of some tactics that can help achieve a much higher AOV.

  • Up Sells
  • Cross Sells
  • Bundled Products
  • Add Ons
  • Loyalty and Rewards
  • Free Shipping over $x
  • Check Out Promotions
  • Retention Marketing

Conclusion:

There is a lot that is required to become successful in the eCommerce space despite the massive growth in demand for eCommerce every year.  Identifying the right platform for your needs, creating a traffic acquisition strategy, increasing conversion rates, and doing the many other things required to grow your eCommerce store is a tall task. Prioritizing the different things you can do to expand your eCommerce business is a great way to move forward rather than getting overwhelmed by the many things that you can do to be competitive in 2015.

  • Responsive design
  • Invest in all traffic channels
  • Test different strategies
  • Integrations
  • International
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Omni Channel
  • Dont forget AOV!
  • Platform / Design / Development

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