Is your eCommerce platform getting lost in the sea of online stores?

ECommerce is on the rise, and so are the number of players in the field. Now more than ever, brands are looking to strengthen their eCommerce strategy to stay relevant and at the top of consumers' minds. However, with online competition increasing, brands need a strategic eCommerce game plan if they expect to stand out from the crowd. John BouAntoun (pictured), commerce practice lead, Deloitte Digital, shares with Marketing some tips on how brands can rise above the noise in the eCommerce industry, and sheds light on the possible challenges brands may face in their respective digital commerce journeys.

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Marketing: What are some of the key challenges you are seeing with the rise of eCommerce and the growth of direct to consumer eCommerce? 

BouAntoun: Up until the recent impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns, consumer expectations around the services delivered by eCommerce solutions were getting more and more sophisticated with each passing day. A fundamental expectation these days, at the very least, is an experience that allows consumers to shop on mobile, tablet and computer, and continue the same session across all devices. Other challenges stem from the expectations around delivery, and customer service, effectively “the last mile” of eCommerce. 

Marketing: How can brands get their eCommerce platforms to really stand out now that everyone is launching their own platforms? 

BouAntoun: At Deloitte we believe in being truly customer-centric on our eCommerce transformations, so ensuring the customer experience is as slick as possible across all interaction channels is the key point. Coupling a commerce transformation with a detailed digital marketing transformation, ensures that the messaging is as slick as the browsing experience. 

Marketing: How can brands with big ticket items (e.g houses and cars) ride the trend of eCommerce? Is there a space for the two? 

BouAntoun: I believe there is fundamentally a space for the two absolutely, even before the current “everything is digitally available” response to COVID-19. ECommerce serves a purpose of bringing a specific service, product or offering to a large audience that would otherwise be unable to find it. It doesn’t always have to result in a final purchase online, though obviously the sooner you can get the transaction the better.

Consumers have grown to expect the same browse/search, find, discuss and then select semantics that they apply to other regular commerce interactions to apply to the process of purchasing big ticket items as well. As this space matures more the semantics around actual transaction capture, payment and fulfilment will get refined into something more relevant in the context of big ticket items. 

Marketing: What are some of the possible problem areas for brands who are getting traffic but aren’t able to match up in conversions? 

BouAntoun: The obvious point there is the path to purchase; a clunky add-to-cart or even checkout process can often result in high bounce rates. However, in my experience this is typically tied to product availability, meaning it is literally an available inventory issue. What’s the point of supping up your search system and SEO to drive the customers looking for a specific product right to your site (indeed right to the Product Detail Page) if, on the majority of occasions they aren’t going to be able to actually order the item because of a lack of availability?

Marketing: How to decide between using an existing eCommerce solution and building your own? 

BouAntoun: That’s simple, the capability and diversity of the eCommerce platforms out there right now mean that I would never recommend starting with building your own platform. It’s almost like asking if you should buy a cash register for the storefront or build one out of a computer and a money box.   

Even if you have a very niche need with a propensity for building your own technology, I wouldn’t move beyond picking a headless commerce platform and then “build-your-own” user experience for it. The commerce platforms can be either monolithic total commerce-in-box solutions to get you up and running super fast, or they can be modular, micro-kernel-esque style systems with just a headless set of API’s that take the complexity of payments, and cart management away from you but let you build everything else in to your exacting needs.   

Even if you need to build a multi-merchant marketplace solution these days there are still plenty of marketplace platform choices out there that I would think long and hard before deciding to build my own from scratch. Just about the only benefit is the lack of a licensing cost when you build your own but the total cost of ownership of maintaining an own-built platform and keeping it up to consumer expectations are significant enough that they could potentially outweigh the licensing costs.   

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