5 E Commerce Observations from IRCE 2012

I’m writing this blog post from the Internet Retailer IRCE 2012 tradeshow in Chicago. It’s amazing to walk around and take in the many kinds of vendors that are present here and how far this industry has come since the birth of ecommerce. It’s also very enlightening to talk with attendees and find out what brings them to the show. Largely, they are looking for the next step in their ecommerce journey.

In honor of where I am as I type, I thought it would  make sense to offer you my top five observations from the show after spending time with 9000 attendees and 500+ vendors all interested in furthering the world of ecommerce.

  1. There are many ecommerce platforms out there. It makes sense that at an ecommerce tradeshow would have lots of ecommerce vendors, but I’m simply stunned by the number of options available. The reality is that they aren’t all here either. Your takeaway: Investigate your ecommerce platform options and fully understand what each one offers. Ecommerce is not a commodity–detailed comparison shopping will reveal some providers to be apples and other to be oranges. Be sure you choose the one that makes the most sense for your business.
  2. Not all ecommerce providers understand the needs of the B2B organization. If you stop at five random ecommerce provider booths and ask them about their B2B ecommerce capability, you are likely to get five very different answers ranging from, “What do you mean by B2B?” to vague assurances that they have done B2B at some point to blank stares. Your takeaway: Understand that not all ecommerce providers are ready to undertake the unique workflows and business requirements that B2B organizations need to make ecommerce successful. Ask each provider to see live examples of B2B sites that they have built.
  3. All ecommerce vendors will tell you that they can integrate. Every ecommerce vendor will tell you that they can integrate to your back-end systems when you ask. It’s not good for the sales process to do otherwise. However, integration is a critical factor to your ecommerce success. Less than complete integration means you are missing the power and efficiency of automation and leaving your success to chance.  Your takeaway: Ask any vendor you are considering for building and launching your site for proof of integration to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) and back-end systems. If they can’t walk you through what integration means to you and provide positive client references, they might not be an optimal partner.
  4. No single provider can successfully provide every ecommerce technology you need without partnering. It’s tempting to try to find a vendor who can offer an ecommerce platform as well as a robust search engine optimization service, in-depth site analytics, heuristics, drip marketing, retargeting functionality, automated email, user reviews and secure payment gateway technology under one roof. It’s also not likely to exist. Anyone who tells you they can handle ALL of your ecommerce technology needs is A) misleading you or B) partnering with third party organizations to offer such robust capability. And partnering is a good thing. Your takeaway: Be open to finding the ecommerce provider who best meets your needs–then make sure that provider partners with the best in the industry to provide the other functionality you require. You want your ecommerce provider to be good at ecommerce–leave the rest to the companies that specialize in those areas.
  5. Ecommerce is changing every day. The world of ecommerce is innovating at a rate that will stun many B2B organizations. Last year’s hot technology is now passe and new technology has taken its place. Your takeaway: Recognize that your ecommerce initiative is a living organism and that when it ceases to grow and change, it starts to die off. Be prepared for continuous innovation within the ecommerce space and expect to grow and upgrade as things change.

To learn more about how to maxmize the success of your B2B ecommerce site by downloading the white paper, B2B Ecommerce Success – Seven Questions to Consider When Beginning an Ecommerce Initiative.