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With ecommerce applications and platforms now playing a key role in digital commerce and the digital workplace, it was not surprise to see in the recently released, Mary Meeker and Kleiner Perkins’ annual internet trend report that ecommerce growth continues to accelerate. The report showed that ecommerce use grew by 17 percent in 2017 — up 14 percent in 2016 —  with Amazon accounting for 28 percent of digital sales. 

What was also notable this year is that 49 percent of Americans say they begin their ecommerce search through Amazon before going to a search engine.

During her presentation of the report. Meeker noted that Google is also making considerable gains in the e-commerce space, but that both it and Amazon are on a collision course, with both encroaching on each other’s space. She pointed out that Google is expanding from an ads platform to a commerce platform via Google Home Ordering while Amazon is moving into advertising. Finally, she also points out that China holds the number one spot in ecommerce sales as a percent of total sales at 20 percent.

Other recently released research from Research Nester points to an increase in demand for various online stores and e-shoppers, which is expected to increase the overall market of ecommerce software and platforms between now and 2027.

The global ecommerce software and platform market is segmented into software and platform type such as commerce, order management, business intelligence, shipping and others. Among these segments, the commerce segment is expected to grow quicker that the rest during the same period. So what do these commerce platforms need to enable this growth and enable online retail?

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Key Questions to Ask Prior to Investing

The key elements that differentiate enterprise-level systems from midmarket or small business solutions are robust features and functionality as well as the ability to achieve scale, maintaining extensive product catalogs and processing large numbers of simultaneous transactions. There are a number of questions that those looking for an ecommerce platform should ask before investing. 

  1. Is your business primarily B2C or B2B? Some platforms specialize or have more clients in one model or the other.
  2. Do you sell primarily domestically or internationally? Some platforms make it easier to create and maintain sites with localized language, currency and payment options.
  3. Do you prefer an on-premises solution or do you want your systems and technology to live in the cloud? It’s clear by now that the cloud is the future and any company that is not aggressively investing in its cloud offering is probably not making the right choice.
  4. How easy is it to use and master the business tools? Your team will be using this system day in and day out to maintain and update the site(s). The tools should be exceptionally flexible, intuitive and user-friendly.
  5. What other systems will the platform integrate with? Order management, payment, tax, ERP, forecasting, analytics?

Why An Enterprise System?

Kelly Beam is the founder of Washington D.C-based ecommerce company Plum Street Strategy. She points out that all enterprise-level ecommerce systems (Oracle, Magento, Demandware, Hybris, IBM and to a certain extent Shopify Plus) will satisfy the essential needs of an ecommerce business.

E-commerce systems are crucial for the framework of your online business, especially if you need an enterprise-level ecommerce system. If you have higher sales volumes and a quickly growing business, you most likely need the enterprise edition of an ecommerce system rather than a starter edition, according to McCall Robison, chief editor with BestCompany, a Utah-based research organization that produces reviews of companies.

The major difference between enterprise-level systems is they are scaled by your specific business, so they have more efficient tools to assist you in your day-to-day business. Enterprise-level systems should make your business a lot smoother and should provide aid to all parts of your business. “Lower plans have these options as well, but enterprise-level plans are at a higher scale and are more reliable. Having all of these features functioning together in one enterprise system ensures a significantly higher amount of accuracy,” he said.

Retailers who are looking for an enterprise level ecommerce software should look for a solution that includes the following, advanced features, reliable uptime, priority customer support, and an account manager. Advanced features include conversion-focused features like filtered (or faceted) search, one-page checkout, and abandoned cart recovery.

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Different Businesses Have Different Needs

Choosing the right ecommerce platform for an enterprise-level business is tricky, because every business model comes with different needs, from inventory and analytics, to marketing technology, to order processing, TJ Welsh, vice president of marketing at Salt Lake City-based Stryde, said. “As a rule of thumb, businesses should look at ease of migration. Can they migrate seamlessly between their current platform and a new one? They should also ensure the ecommerce platform is mobile responsive, as Google struggles to crawl and index mobile app content,” he said. “So if you want to have search visibility and capture a ton of search traffic from organic searches, it is vital to have a mobile-friendly site.

An enterprise site needs to be able to integrate software to track cross-device identification (XDID) to handle sophisticated ad targeting, personalization and measurement capabilities, in order to deliver a consistent user experience across multiple devices and channels. They'll also want to make sure they can integrate customer data platforms (CDPs) to collect data from multiple sources, segment the data and turn that data into actionable insights.

Pillars of a Good Enterprise Ecommerce System

Once you understand what the organizational needs are you can begin to evaluate different platforms. For Jimmy Rodriguez of Tamarac, Fla. 3dcart , the best ecommerce generated customer experiences depend on the following four things:

  • Site performance - There is a direct relationship between how fast your retail ecommerce website loads and how many sales your online store makes:
  • Ability to scale - The ecommerce solution you choose must be able to handle significant traffic spikes.
  • Compliance - Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) compliance is required for any business processing electronic payments.
  • Robust API extensibility - You will need to connect and integrate your ecommerce platform with a multitude of other systems.

Without these essential needs met, your system may lock your business in to unwanted software or services or make your organization migrate again due to lack of integrations, for example.

Consider SEO Features

Tieece Gordon with UK-based Kumo Digital said that from an SEO standpoint, ecommerce sites tend to be naturally bad. It's an unfortunate scenario and one that many systems can easily work around, but it always helps to ensure that any CMS offers an ability to do the following.

  • Use canonical elements for query strings and filter - Having the same product in a wide range of colours/sizes is great for choice but not for bots that waste time on one product masked as many others rather than seeing the rest of the site
  • Redirect old/discontinued products - A dead page is a dead end for customers. Redirects ensure that users and search engines see a similar page to what they may have been expecting
  • Generate XML sitemaps - Outlining a list of URLs for search engines can help to get your site indexed and understood quicker and better
  • Add sufficient category and product description text - Consumers and bots consume the web differently. Search engines can't read images — they need written copy to truly understand products.

At an enterprise level, businesses will be competing with some of the biggest stores with the biggest budgets. If a site isn't search engine friendly, rankings and profits are likely to take a hit.

Find a Reliable Host That Can Handle the Traffic

Liz Hull, lead ecommerce writer at Maverick Merchants, a comparison site that reviews and rates credit card processors, POS software companies and shopping carts, says that organizations that are looking to bring in enterprise-level traffic will need to ensure that their hosting can support this load. Look for a reliable uptime (99.99% is good) and the ability to have thousands of visitors on your site at once.

If you have the budget, look for a platform that provides you with a dedicated account manager. This individual will be your direct line of contact with your ecommerce software. They will create success plan for your website, help you get your store up and running faster, and will advocate on your behalf for bug fixes and product updates. 

Consider Security

Security is a big deal. The more data you hold, the more danger you could be in if it were to be leaked. Enterprise level amounts of data should also be backed up securely with proper disaster recovery protocol in place.

Conclusion

As a final thought Damien Buxton, a director of UK-based Midas Creative says that all this will have a limited lifetime unless you are thinking ahead.  “Use an e-commerce platform that is totally future-proofed. Make sure that you do your homework you choose a provider that has a wealth of third-party integrations and APIs. All businesses adapt and change over time, this flexibility should be reflected in your e-commerce store,” he said.

Knowing and keeping in mind that your store will develop as your needs change, access to new and easily  accessible functionality will save you a lot of problems in the future.