For many consumers, shopping online for goods and services in the digital age has become second nature. Even shoppers who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet—vowing to stick with brick-and-mortar locations to fulfill their needs indefinitely—will likely have to get used to the idea of making a few purchases online in the near future.
According to the Adobe Digital Index (ADI) covering the 2014 holiday shopping season, US retailers enjoyed record-breaking sales of more than $73 billion for November and December alone. Another interesting fact is that although these two months make up only 17 percent of the year, they accounted for 28 percent of retailers’ online sales for 2014.
Holiday sales weren’t exclusive to desktop purchases, either. Mobile played an integral role in the two-month time period, making up 16 percent of total online sales. What’s more interesting is the significant increase in mobile sales from Thanksgiving to Black Friday, with Turkey Day boasting 29 percent of total sales, while the popular shopping day accounted for 28 percent.
And if you’re thinking brick-and-mortar stores missed out on all the online fervor, consider this: retailers offering their customers the choice of either home delivery or in-store pickup fared far better than competitors that were limited to online stores only. In fact, in-store pickups on Black Friday rocketed by an astounding 40 percent compared to the average business day.
There is no doubt about it: more and more consumers are moving toward online e-commerce solutions to make their purchases. That said, it is important for companies to be ready to handle the long-time holdouts by implementing an e-commerce platform that will deliver to new customers the same types of experiences they have become accustomed to at their favorite hometown locations, all while providing the convenience of online shopping.
Companies can start preparing today by evaluating their current e-commerce platform to determine if they are placing their brand front and center or inadvertently turning customers away by giving them a glance into the company warehouse.
The Status Quo
The Internet changes on a daily basis; it is the nature of the beast. Just one look at your favorite website through the Internet Archive can reveal unrecognizable results, even from just a couple of years ago.
What many e-commerce companies have done in the past is to take their initial platforms and add to them, addressing evolving issues with the status quo by implementing quick fixes to an existing e-commerce platform rather than overhauling the platform altogether.
For example, corporate tradition has given the IT department absolute jurisdiction over the purchase and implementation of e-commerce platforms. Until recently, the primary focus of IT has been on security, stability, catalog management, order processing, and other technical requirements.
But marketing departments have begun to put pressure on IT when making these purchasing decisions, changing the current conversation. Now growing concern for other departments to achieve their own goals through e-commerce platforms has caused customers to ask questions such as, “Will marketing be able to enter content into the website?” and “Can my nontechnical people use this platform to accomplish their goals?”
In many cases, attempting to resolve this conundrum results in an agreement to satisfy both departments’ needs by putting a content management system (CMS) side-by-side with the e-commerce platform. It sounds great on the surface: let marketing manage the landing page, while IT maintains control over the storefront.
The problem with this method—as I’ve addressed in a previous blog post—is the inevitable jarring customer experience that arises from running an e-commerce engine side-by-side with a CMS. Another inherent problem with this system is the significant customer fallout that occurs in the conversion funnel between the company’s landing page and the company store.
When your company decides to run e-commerce alongside CMS, it’s like putting your warehouse next to your open sign. So what’s a viable solution to the status quo?
Let CMS Take the Lead
There are several benefits to placing a CMS ahead of your business’s e-commerce engine. Take, for instance, current e-commerce platforms that already come with a CMS: such platforms often hardwire the website to the product catalog and are not designed to enable marketers to manage the content. Instead, these platforms tend to be rigid and limited in scope. In today’s digital channels, it’s not enough to display a transactional site. Consumers demand intuitive and engaging experiences.
That’s where allowing a CMS to take the lead comes in. By placing a CMS out front—whether you’re dealing with a landing page or a product page—you’re allowing the CMS platform to handle all the visual experiences marketing provides, while all crucial data, such as pricing, product specs, and availability, is fed by the e-commerce system behind the scenes to the CMS.
This setup ensures that nothing is lost between the time a consumer is drawn in by a landing page and the time they go to checkout. Allowing a CMS to step forward and take the lead means all your marketing efforts will be put to their highest and best use by minimizing the chances of potential customers abandoning ship after they’ve been rattled by the leap from your appealing landing page to your stale product page.
Setting up a CMS ahead of the e-commerce engine also promotes corporate synergy by giving IT peace of mind. Marketing will have the ability to come in and adjust the look and feel of your company’s website, so IT can sit back and take a breather. That’s because, by running a CMS platform front and center, all data from the product perspective, such as product spec sheets, pricing, catalogs, and inventory, is automatically fed from the e-commerce platform system, giving IT command over the backroom, while marketing polishes up the storefront.
When you’re developing your website, why give your customers a glimpse into the metaphorical company warehouse? Your CMS is what promotes your brand, and placing it front and center gives potential customers a first look at what you want them to see, all while leaving the e-commerce engine behind the scenes, ensuring that the technical glue between the two systems forms a bond your company can depend on.