According to Mark Dirksma – architect at hybrIT, e-commerce is nothing more than “selling products online”. Of course, this is easier said than done, because the (electronic) sale of products does not happen all by itself. How do you ensure that the customer, in a jungle full of e-commerce platforms, buys the product from you? Is your fulfilment process in order? Is your supply chain in order? How do you deal with returns? How is the customer service process set up? Is all product information in order?
“My tip for every e-commerce platform? A fast platform (speed of your platform has a direct effect on conversion), unique content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), SEA (Search Engine Advertising) and getting into the customer journey as fast as possible. Even if you are more expensive, the customer is more likely to buy from you if you can meet their information needs well.”
A/B testing via your e-commerce platform
You can inform and persuade the customer faster, better and more efficiently by replacing, moving or improving a certain element on a page. Like coloring the CTA button, using a thicker font, highlighting the specs above the fold, showing price changes and adding more images. By A/B testing different options of this, you will be able to optimize your SEO and design for a higher conversion. Mark: “You offer your customers different versions of an e-commerce (landing) page in order to give them the best experience. However, it is difficult to exclude external factors – such as trends – in A/B testing. It is therefore best to compare the results with the same period in the previous year, we call this ‘like for like testing’.”
Biggest challenge in e-commerce
Blurting out the stock once every half hour is no longer fast enough for big players in retail. The challenge therefore lies with company-wide real-time data processing and analysis. Mark: “Consumers want a personalized approach, personalized messages and customized proposals. All at the right time, in real time. As a company, it is essential to constantly update the customer journey by maintaining short feedback loops and real-time monitoring of the customer experience.
“Data must flow continuously, preferably in real time. Price, product, images, customer data, planning and transport administration – but how do you do it? Do you have one application (monolith) for all data? This means that if you want to change something, the entire application has to be re-deployed. This can result in downtime or bugs that disrupt the entire process. That is where the challenge for the business and IT is found. The processes must be split up. Development must be able to take place without other processes being dependent on it. Systems do not need to retrieve data (pull), but forward it directly (push).”
Two developments within the e-commerce landscape
- Affiliate marketing has been booming for a while, but automatic scrapers and the shift from a monolith to a microservice architecture play an increasingly important role. What do these terms mean? Mark: “Automatic scrapers are web crawlers that compare online prices and other specs. In other words, if the price is one euro cheaper with you, such a crawler can recognize this and set the price at the competitor a little lower. Especially in retail, margins are under pressure and competition is fierce. A microservice architecture is decentralized and allows different systems to work together. Instead of one solution for all data processing and analysis. Microservice architecture leads to speed and flexibility.”
- Major players within the retail or B2C market see the effect of the sharing economy – sharing, renting or leasing products. Mark: “They respond to this by taking on a more facilitating role, entering into collaborations with sharing platforms or by producing or positioning products differently. Questions that are fuel for the sharing economy: ‘do I really need this?’ and ‘how often am I going to use this?’. This has an effect on the value assessment of a product and therefore also on the margins of retailers.”
“For a futureproof, scalable and smooth e-commerce platform, the entire data chain must be right, otherwise you keep plugging holes. From adjusting prices in real time – even with your affiliate partners, to keeping the end user informed if the delivery driver arrives a bit later than planned.”
An e-commerce platform: build it yourself or use existing technology?
Developing your own e-commerce platform is expensive, yet indispensable if you are dealing with a lot of users and data. Or if the focus for the future is on scalability, where running 1000 A/B tests at the same time creates added value. It is good to know that if you have an e-commerce platform built, you will earn back your investment in 3 to 5 years on average. Are you at a point where you wonder if you need to build or modify an e-commerce platform yourself? Are you a new e-commerce player and don’t know if your existing technology such as Magento or nopCommerce fits your type of product and objectives? Based on the following assessment questions, we can give you quick advice:
- How many products do you offer?
- How large is your company?
- What is your turnover?
- What does the existing architecture look like?
- What are your objectives?
- Is e-commerce the main focus, or more of a side activity?
Do you work for a retailer or B2C company and does your own e-commerce platform fit with the omnichannel approach? Mark will be happy to have a look with you and puts your customers first. In doing so, HybrIT does not connect to one stack, but looks at your wishes as a customer. Please contact us by using the form below to see what Mark and his team can do for your company.