- How old is your software? If you're years behind the latest version or have a heavily customized system, it may be too late to upgrade to a new version. Instead, you may find that your software vendor has sunset support for your e-commerce platform and no longer provides security patches, or new functionality. That can also be true if you've extensively customized your e-commerce platform and the trouble and expense of upgrading have left you version locked. If this is the case, unfortunately you can no longer provide customers with the functionality they demand such as faceted search, personalization, mobile support and intelligent search. Your developers and other resources instead have to waste time supporting this ancient application instead of helping to grow the business.
- How many integrations do you have to support? With integrations, more is not necessarily merrier. If you have a spaghetti chart of connections and web services between different applications — such as CRM, e-commerce, ERP, and order management — a move to a unified e-commerce platform will be a significant improvement, eliminating the cost of maintaining those ever-changing APIs and connectors.
- Is your ecommerce system able to share information between other channels?If you sell to customers via different channels — e-commerce, brick-and-mortar, call center, etc. — are you able to consolidate all the information about your customers and make it all viewable by both customer services reps and customers regardless of channel of origin? Can customers easily buy online and pick up in store with accurate inventory support?
- Are you able to deliver a B2C-like online shopping experience to B2B customers? Are your B2B customers able to purchase online as easily as your B2C consumers, or do they have to use print or pdf catalogs and then call, email or fax the order in? B2B customers are increasingly demanding the same online shopping experience they get when shopping on consumer sites. Be sure you are able to meet their expectations and can provide them with access to an online catalog with real time inventory and customer specific products and pricing.
- Does your system allow you to provide the overall brand experience you desire? Is your current e-commerce platform flexible enough so that you are able to customize to showcase your unique branding and layout, or are you limited in what you can do? Can you achieve a modern design? With older platforms, you may not have as much control over the look-and-feel as it may be locked down.
- What are your site’s analytics telling you? Do you regularly monitor your website's data such as bounce rates, conversion rate, traffic patterns and other metrics that indicate how your website is doing in converting shoppers? Most companies today recognize the need for analytics, but not all check the data on a weekly, or even monthly, basis. Yet an increasing bounce rate is a sure sign that your site isn't effective. You should be reviewing your analytics every week in order to build up a history and quickly spot trends or sudden changes.
- Do you offer mobile support? The biggest priority area for retailers in 2015 is mobile. On average, sales via smartphones grew 87 percent in 2014 over 2013 and sales via tablets grew 52 percent. As more shoppers use their cell phones to research and buy online, it is becoming imperative to have a responsive site. Websites built with responsive design use CSS media queries, CSS image resizing and flexible grids to display website content and functionality tailored for a smaller screen. If you’re still using an “m.” site for mobile users, your bounce rates may rise and conversions fall. That's because companies that create a separate mobile site often strip down the content and remove functions such as access to customer service, full product descriptions, gallery views and other content that mobile buyers still want to access. Many mobile visitors will load your desktop version instead, or go to a competing company’s site that is easier to access. According to Retail Systems Research, LLC 49 percent of shoppers on smartphones leave m. sites for the full desktop version.
- What are your customers saying? You should be closely listening to any feedback your customers are providing. After all, their opinion is what matters the most. To obtain this valuable feedback, you could conduct a quick and anonymous survey on your site. You can also use testing services like UserTesting.com, which will recruit users to visit your site and provide feedback to help you improve it or decide whether to switch to a new platform.
If you don’t like or don’t have the answers to many of the questions above, then perhaps it’s time to take a look at what options are available for you to re-platform your current e-commerce system to one that is flexible, scalable and able to provide you with a 360-degree view of your customers across all channels — web, in-store, call center, mobile, etc. It is only then will you be able to truly meet the needs of the B2C and B2B customers of today and be prepared for whatever the future brings.
- Ranga Bodla (NetSuite)