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Modern eCommerce

The eCommerce element of a Unified Commerce platform must be fit for the 2020s. This is vital for retailers as the expected impact of the pandemic and related lockdowns means, at least in the short term, is a continued overall reduction in store footfall, with the exception of a very few segments like grocery. 

So, now is a good time to review the vendor landscape for eCommerce platforms and upgrade the systems you have that support an omnichannel approach to serving customers. And many retailers have done just that as, so far this year, British eCommerce sales increased to 31.2% of total retail sales according to the ONS, compared to an average of 19.1% for the whole of 2019. 

XTRO by Iconography
XTRO by Iconography

Did you know that our XTRO platform features a comprehensive suite of leading edge features, including personalisation and intelligent merchandising to drive performance and deliver higher levels of user engagement and conversions.

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Shift to eCommerce

While this boom is likely to settle back down to around 24.3%, Savills, a property consultancy, predicts that this will still mean the shift to eCommerce in the UK has been accelerated by five years.In this context omnichannel eCommerce, on a unified platform, offers a modern, all-in-one approach to retailers that want to move from siloed multichannel retail to cohesive omnichannel retailing. Click here to read more.

Enterprise eCommerce vs off the shelf platforms

So, if you want to be fit for the five year leap in to the eCommerce future it's a good time to ask the core question of the eCommerce platforms out there: should you use an off-the-shelf ecommerce platform or go for one of the customisable enterprise eCommerce solutions that can be fully tailored to your needs?

To get your answer a good starting point is to think hard about what the business requires and what the objectives are, as well as consulting with colleagues about pain points and bottlenecks in the business. 

Put together a checklist of features: “must-haves” and “would-likes”. Don’t miss small but important details like how well the platform enables SEO optimisation. Some platforms do have native features around SEO and migration, while others will require customization and third-party integrations. 

On this subject some requirements you may want to consider are: having control over your XML sitemaps, being able to provide page-level metadata, control over redirect management, pagination, etc. Sweat the detail!

Off the shelf eCommerce platforms

Broadly speaking, an off the shelf eCommerce platform will include standard features that are helpful to the majority of businesses. Since numerous companies are already using the platform, many of the bugs and issues will have already been worked out. 

There are established customer support lines as well as online forums dedicated to answering questions about the platform and helping customers with any issues. That said, even though it’s off the shelf, the platform usually ends up having to be configured specifically to work for your business. This will cost you extra time and money and could require work arounds with clunky plugins and undesirable integrations.

Enterprise eCommerce platforms

Alternatively, the benefits of a more readily customisable enterprise eCommerce platform can be much greater. IXO for example includes our enterprise eCommerce platform that uses existing code that is adjusted to fit the needs of your business. This means you get only the features that your eCommerce business needs - it can be built to your exact specifications and requirements.

IXO is a unified platform incorporating EPoS, CRM and key retail management features, so you can gain extra efficiencies by centralising much of the key product and sales data, as well as creating your own dedicated workflows, inbuilt customer personalisation and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) tools.

In many cases, the only way to have your online business run the way you need it to will be to go with a customisable enterprise eCommerce platform. Putting the time and money in up front to ensure you have a system in place that allows your business to grow is more likely to have a greater ROI than going with a cheaper option that stifles growth and doesn't satisfy you and your customer's needs.

While the above might appear to offer a straightforward choice it’s further complicated by the fact that eCommerce platforms also come in a variety of delivery modes; which if you're going to explore all the options before making your decision means you will need to review and understand these. 

On-premise vs cloud vs open source vs headless eCommerce platforms

The decision facing many companies is whether to select an on-premise or a cloud-based eCommerce platform. Established companies that already have on-premise platforms must decide whether to move to the cloud at all. It’s a choice that not only dictates capital and operating budgets, but will also determine a company’s ability to grow and respond to market opportunities.

On-premise eCommerce

On-premise eCommerce solutions are installed locally on a company's hardware systems and managed by the IT staff. They typically involve large upfront investments to purchase the infrastructure - such as servers and server rooms - needed to manage and maintain the software, as well as software licenses. 

Ongoing costs include hardware maintenance, data storage, security, backups and software upgrades. Running an eCommerce website using self-hosted eCommerce software requires developers to also maintain and update the website, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Cloud SaaS eCommerce

In contrast, cloud eCommerce software is provided as a service (thus the term software-as-a-service, or SaaS). The vendor hosts and manages the software and customers’ associated data in the cloud, maintains the IT infrastructure, and is responsible for data security, distributing upgrades and bug fixes, and developing new features and enhancements.

For the customer, initial costs are typically much lower because you simply implement the software to your requirements; users access it through a web browser interface over the Internet. Payment is a predictable, pay-as-you-go subscription model

Open source eCommerce

Open-source eCommerce platforms are solutions in which you can modify all aspects of the code. This type of eCommerce platform is popular with development and IT heavy organisations who want control of their eCommerce environment. There's a lot of responsibility on you and your team to implement and manage the solution including hosting, software updates, security and compliance. 

This freedom and responsibility comes at a price as it’s estimated that the annual cost of ownership of this kind of eCommerce platform is significantly higher than cloud based SaaS. 

Headless eCommerce

Headless architecture lets marketers reach wider audiences on a multitude of digital channels. Utilising a headless platform is one way many enterprise retailers are approaching developing an optimal mobile experience through a flexible front-end capability.

Headless eCommerce is an innovation in SaaS eCommerce platforms that adopts a loosely de-coupled microservice architecture. Unlike in a monolith architecture where the frontend and backend are tightly coupled, a headless approach separates the frontend user interface layer (the “head”) from the underlying backend service layer. These two layers are connected through APIs or web services.

Ultimately, a cloud eCommerce solution will deliver cost and flexibility advantages and allow your key staff to focus on driving strategic initiatives and innovation, rather than spending their time on maintaining and managing on-premise systems. By choosing to rent instead of own, businesses are able to shift their financial and human resources from maintenance and integration to building relationships with customers and improving customer experiences.

Enterprise eCommerce platform features

Making the right choice out of all the available eCommerce platforms is a game-changing opportunity for retailers that want to deliver a market-leading omnichannel experience to their customers. At the very minimum an eCommerce platform must have features that deliver the following benefits:

1) Help companies run their eCommerce business on a single, unified platform

2) Manage eCommerce products and services, as well as product information

3) Deliver standard options to create online stores that can be customised

4) Include functionality for personalisation to improve the customer experience

5) Provide features for or integrate with drop shipping and inventory management software

6) Track and manage customers, their order history, and online behavior

7) Allow companies to choose between multiple payment options and gateways

8) Support a scalable commerce architecture and provide native mobile apps

9) Offer security, or encryption of data and information, or both and comply with regulations

10) Include features for eCommerce data management, integration, and search

IXO features

Here at Iconography we've built a wealth of additional features into our IXO platform including personalised experience management, intelligent merchandising, multiple stock location tracking, workflow automation and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) tools. So when you're reviewing enterprise eCommerce solutions look for IXO like capabilities:

  • Intelligent Merchandising tools that enable commercial rules and logic (single rules or combinations) to be applied to product category listings. For example the products in a given category can be organised across multiple options including: 'show in order of existing stock level'; 'show according to margin'; 'show in order of popularity (purchase and product page views)'.

  • Multiple stock location and type options that accurately record the location of multiple product categories across numerous stores and warehouse locations.

  • Workflow automation enabled with a unified access to orders, inventory, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

  • Delivering personalised customer experiences with relevant promotions and enhanced service offers like retrieving a quote online.

  • The ability to track a customer's previous purchases and recommend other items based on their purchasing history.

  • Scalability of response particularly on sales capture and order fulfilment to meet high traffic demands.

Technical pointers

A highly customisable design template that will enable you to modify the design of your storefront to suit your target segments and business verticals. It will give you the brand look and feel you want and stand out from the competition with a unique style and design.

Faster page loading experience for users. Customers expect your web pages to load in less than 2 seconds. If the time exceeds 3 seconds, over half of visitors will leave the website. Hence, when a web page loading time is high, it affects the user experience, SEO and also decreases the conversion rate of your business.

Finally on a practical note be sure to look for straightforward and simple deployment options with in-country account management support. And price is always a factor so make sure the solution will fit your budget in terms of both up-front costs and future fees.

Unifying enterprise eCommerce and retail software

Replatforming from one eCommerce system to another is an unmissable opportunity to unify formerly disparate elements of your retail management system to ensure greater efficiency and simplicity. 

Because it’s not their day job most retail management teams often have little experience in evaluating and selecting eCommerce and retail management software. Indeed many may have negative memories of implementations taking years to complete with nightmare complications and budget overruns. That’s no longer the case. Today’s eCommerce platforms have dramatically improved with quicker implementation times and more functionality. See our eBook Choosing the best Unified Retail Management System for a full feature and function checklist.

And as we have seen above, functionally, today’s eCommerce platforms support new processes and help to maximise sales conversions and increase customer engagement. These features range from empowering staff with mobile POS to allowing customers to order from eCommerce online and ship from store, or pick up in-store, and include greatly improved security and payment authorization compliance.  

IXO is proven to deliver on the promise of an end-to-end omnichannel commerce platform – a single coherent software system, offering enterprise-level eCommerce, EPoS, CRM and a suite of essential retail management functionality to optimise your operations and drive business growth. It’s omnichannel eCommerce for the 2020s and will give you an unobstructed, real-time and comprehensive view of your retail operations. No more integrations, no more unhappy customers.

Considering an enterprise eCommerce platform

Making the business decision to choose a platform or to re-platform requires the input of many internal stakeholders. Involve the specialists in your team across your organisation including IT, operations, logistics, marketing, design, and customer service. Gather their feedback and begin to make a list of requirements and priorities.

By matching your particular needs to the many and various options available you will be able to narrow down a long list of vendors to a viable short list. And during the selection process if you become an expert and sweat the detail such that as the process draws to a close you will know who it is you want to work with and why. 

Thinking about your brand

As an eCommerce business at the enterprise end of the market, achieving your exact requirements is critical. After all, your brand is on the line. You can’t afford to have customer data breaches, periods of site downtime, or a disjointed user experience.

XTRO is optimised for managing your business with workflow automation tools that enable you and your team to get things done. Working to optimise product category pages to drive higher sales by arranging products with a simple drag-and drop interface or applying intelligently automated merchandising rules.

Our enterprise level eCommerce platform offers enhanced navigation and search make it easy for your customers to find your products. XTRO can deliver personalised shopping experiences that boost conversion rates by dynamically displaying content, promotions, and pricing to specific customers. Deploying schedualable site-wide promotional configurations removes the restrictions of old retail technology and software.

With XTRO, retailers can create intelligent rule-based product cross-sells to increase average order values. You can work efficiently with a modern and intuitive user interface.  Crucially, XTRO allows you to monitor your business with quick access to sales reporting and order exports. Management screens can be customised and saved to speed up day-to-day tasks. Granular administration permissions and CMS user action logging provide peace of mind and accountability.

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Consumer eCommerce
Consumer eCommerce

This is enterprise level eCommerce, tailored and crafted to meet your requirements. Lean efficient code, intelligently written and deployed. Offering a wealth of features and functions and provides the flexibility, personalisation, intelligent merchandising, time saving workflow automation and conversion rate optimisation tools that those in the know expect as standard.

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