Marshaling the technologies to address all these challenges is a complex undertaking — especially if you’re a retailer about to move your old eCommerce platform into the exit lane. You have to weigh the competitive environment and choose carefully from a wealth of powerful new eCommerce solutions. Your choice has to fit your budget while bolstering your business prospects.
It’s never easy to figure all this out, but asking these three questions should help clarify things:
Q1. How satisfied are you with your current eCommerce platform?
Old doesn’t always mean bad — even when it comes to technology — so there may be parts of your eCommerce setup that hum along fine and don’t affect customer experience. Indeed, processing speeds and power have grown so much in the past decade that new hardware could pack a lot more punch than you would ever need.
But even if your hardware has all the horsepower you’ll ever need to keep your customers happy, what about everything else?
The messy reality for many of eCommerce operations is that apps, operating systems, networks, storage, user interfaces, and all the rest have been implemented over the course of several years. Upgrades, cyber threats, and tacked-on apps all require IT people whose attention might better be focused on using technology to make your company more profitable and efficient.
Meanwhile, your customers are being conditioned to expect a seamless digital shopping experience on their phones, PCs, tablets, and all the rest of their devices. Your competitors may well be latching onto the latest cloud apps to merge marketing, sales, and IoT tech to automate logistics and add percentage points to their profit margins.
You don’t want to fix things that are not broken. But as your eCommerce system nears the end of its useful life, you need to conduct an overall assessment and document what works, target what needs to be replaced, and draw up a wish list of features you’ll need to thrive when you move to a new system.
Q2. Do you have the budget and resources to handle frequent or major updates to your platform?
Even with the best-planned eCommerce systems, retailers need to devote resources to keep all of your hardware and software current and secure while still fulfilling customer orders and communicating with backend systems. At some point, it could cost more to keep it than it will to replace it (if you’re not there already).
But you might face another possibility: Support for your platform is going away in a year or two, so you have to decide which platform to use after that, which raises some valid questions, such as:
- How much new hardware will you need?
- Will your new platform play nice with your backend systems?
- Will your new platform have the resources to enable a seamless customer experience?
- If your company has the budget for the platform, can you afford the resources required to support it (upgrades, patches, etc.) repeatedly over the next several years?
- Will the benefits be large enough to repay the investment — especially if your market keeps getting more competitive and your margins face more pressure?
All these questions underscore why so many eCommerce operators are shifting resources to the cloud and letting their service providers manage data centers, develop apps, update system software, and keep infrastructure secure.
Q3. Let’s say you do have the budget and resources: Do you really want to invest them in soon-to-be outdated technologies?
The world of retail is evolving so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to anticipate where everything will be a few years from now. No matter how strong your eCommerce cash flow and profitability are today, your IT budget must keep a sharp eye on the horizon. Does it still make sense to invest in racks of servers and other data center technologies if cloud SaaS providers can take those jobs off your to-do list?
One thing is certain: The most forward-looking eCommerce operations will keep pushing the boundaries of user experience and customer satisfaction — all the while squeezing the margins of their competitors.
You have only so much money to invest in new technologies. It’s crucial to deploy it where it can produce the best results.
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Finding answers in the cloud
The key to winning consumers in today’s retail environment is the speed of delivering content and products when they’re wanted, on any device. The cloud gives retailers the ability to deliver at the speed today’s consumers expect.
Here at OnX, we believe Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the best options out there — for two key reasons:
- Its unique revenue-sharing model puts Salesforce and its clients on parallel paths to success. When you succeed, they succeed — which motivates them to help you succeed even more.
- Leveraging Salesforce Commerce Cloud gives you leading edge eCommerce functionality and capabilities without massive up-front licensing costs and you will forever be on the latest version with the most up to date feature set.
The competitive retail environment will not get any easier from here. Building smarter eCommerce operations, designing more inviting user interfaces, and integrating sales and marketing into your backend operations will be mandatory sooner than many retailers realize.