Consumers want to buy – but are you prepared to sell?


The internet is an unstoppable force. Last year, the U.S. marked a crucial milestone, when e-commerce sales surpassed the $300 billion mark for the first time. In Europe, meanwhile, online sales are predicted to rise by almost a fifth in 2015.

Many factors are behind this continued growth – more reliable internet access, the development of mobile as a channel, the importance of convenience in retail, to name a few examples – and the juggernaut that is online retail shows no signs of slowing. But are retailers prepared?

It may seem strange to ask this question, given that most organizations are running sleek websites, well optimized for multiple devices. Customers clearly feel they’re getting a good front-end experience, otherwise online shopping would not be so popular. However, behind the scenes, operations tell a different story.

There’s a marked difference in the efficiency with which retailers are executing their e-commerce strategy. Recently, RSR released a report into online retail’s winners – i.e. those increasing market share – and laggards, which revealed an interesting contrast between the two groups.

In the winners’ camp, retailers are likely to be focusing on aligning their IT and business goals. This is because they’ve already managed to create consistency between their online and offline channels on basics such as messaging, pricing, brand identity and product ranges. Now, they want to use the strength of this platform to drive revenue.

The laggards, on the other hand, are still trying to unite their e-commerce operations with activity in other channels, and this is predominantly down to one simple reason: technology.

RSR found that those failing to gain online share are far more likely to be trying to innovate with legacy systems, rather than using updated solutions that are better equipped for the demands of today’s international, omnichannel retail industry.

What the winners are smart enough to see already is that technology is no longer the sole domain of the IT department. Entire organizations are powered by data driven insights, and therefore aligning technical objectives with wider business needs is far more likely to secure the buy-in of other senior decision makers.

Not only that, but it’s going to make the insights revealed from their e-commerce platform better utilized, which will in turn will improve the customer experience.

Having everyone on-side is only going to grow more important as online’s dominance increases further. More and more retailers are finding themselves in a position where they are reaching saturation in their domestic market, and need to expand in order to discover new profit opportunities.

But, as those with experience know, launching into new territories is easier said than done. Maintaining operations across several geographies, languages and currencies is a complex challenge, which legacy e-commerce platforms struggle to meet.

To place themselves in the strongest position to capture international e-commerce potential, retailers need a commerce platform that can scale and develop to meet the demands of a growing enterprise. Not only that, but that scalability must be quick, to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’, so to speak, and be able to accommodate wide variations in consumer demands.

What many retailers find is that achieving this doesn’t just rest on putting the right technology in place; it relies on finding the right implementation partner to map software capabilities to business requirements.

By working with a partner who understands how to optimize customer journeys across several markets, retailers can do more than increase clicks and conversions. They can create the kind of personalized online experiences that build long-term customer relationships.

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