By Michael Moores, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the past, a consumer's online shopping experience consisted of adding an item to a cart, entering in a credit card number and clicking "buy." Today, savvy customers expect a more targeted, relevant and interactive experience. While many merchants who began bringing their products online through a shopping cart solution now struggle to meet those expectations with limited technology capabilities. This is forcing some retailers to question their traditional views of online selling and in turn, take a deeper look at what their shopping cart can do.
If you find yourself wanting to pursue any of the six features outlined below, you may have outgrown your shopping cart.
1 Targeted product marketing: Search engine optimization, at its core, is achieved by generating relevant content targeted to a very specific audience. Many retailers want to maintain their product catalog but also start branching out with content and websites targeted to a very specific segment. Optimizing on say, ‘sports equipment’ will generate relevant traffic but the merchant is still leaving a lot of work to the consumer. Designing multiple sites to target more specific audiences gives merchants a competitive advantage. Take Sports Endeavors, for (http://www.sportsendeavors.com/) as an example. This organization offers multiple genres of sporting equipment and optimizes two separate sites: soccer.com and lacross.com for specific market segments. Because site managers are correctly targeting consumers, each of these sites appears at the top of a Google search.
2. Mobile: Some research estimates that more than one-third of all U.S. consumers have used a smartphone to purchase a product or service -- that’s roughly 100 million people. Yet a recent Briteskies study found that only 17% of specialty online retailers offered a mobile website. As retailers work to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity, many struggle with not only the appropriate mobile strategy, but with how quickly and efficiently they can move their current e-commerce presence into a mobile website or app.
3. Rich content management: Consumers start shopping with Google searches and queries to their social networks. Before they buy, they are looking to be educated on every aspect of the products they are seeking. Merchants are pressured to not only ‘sell’ but to be well-versed in their products, they encourage their customers socially through product reviews and when it makes sense, teach their future and existing customers how to use their products.
4. Product discoverability: No matter whether a merchant is selling clothing or printer ink, consumers are shopping for products in very specific ways. Shirts, for example: a consumer could be looking for a blue, long sleeve, button down collared dress shirt, with no pocket, made from 100% cotton size 16 32/33. If a shopping cart only supports two to three search attributes, the best a search could offer would be shirts, dress shirts, and maybe on more attribute. Similar to SEO, multifaceted search (or ‘searchandizing’ as the industry is starting to call it) is where merchants are optimizing their own sites' search to achieve similar results.
5. Inventory management: Managing and tracking of inventory can be one of the biggest challenges of a shopping cart solution. Even if the cart supports ‘inventory’ functionality, merchants are struggling with maintaining this information with no (or extremely fragile) integration to their back office inventory management systems. They are often forced to manually update inventory in the online channel. Furthermore, if a merchant has multiple sales channels that pull from the same inventory and/or managing inventory from multiple locations, it is virtually impossible to keep them in sync.
6. Customer self-service: Does a customer know if he or she is about to order an out-of-stock product? Can a customer check an order status or an estimated delivery date? If the answer to these questions is no, this can be a common point of customer frustration and increase the chance of order abandonment. Best practices recommend multichannel order history integration, so that consumers can now see orders placed not only via the web but orders placed through other channels as well.
Shopping cart solutions are a great way for hobbyist, small start-ups, or small companies to offer their products online quickly and in an efficient manner. Evaluating the value of the features outlined above may indicate when the time is right to grow out of the shopping cart.
Michael Moores, is e-commerce director, Briteskies, an integrator of e-commerce solutions and enterprise software for B2B and B2C companies. Contact him at email@example.com.