In the past few years, most companies have crossed the line from “Should my business have an ecommerce strategy?” to “How many ecommerce sites can be leveraged as a part of my overall ecommerce strategy?”
Unfortunately, companies are often facing this new frontier with an incomplete roadmap and without considering the impact commerce initiatives will have on an organization’s entire business model. To be successful, let’s consider the impact of ecommerce strategies on both the internal organization as well as on your existing or potential customers.
When ecommerce is included as an additive strategy to support and further corporate objectives, its power to multiply a company’s success is extraordinary. Consider the following departments:
- Marketing: Reach an entirely new group of potential customers via interactive marketing strategies and search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. Online Dealer Locator and Store Finder tools help push new business to traditional sales channels.
- Sales: Think of your ecommerce site as the company’s newest sales person. Ecommerce can reach remote areas where your sales people cannot and offers 24/7 sales capacity.
- Operations: Offer a near real-time presence for the customer that is available 24/7, moving the customer toward an online self-service model. This can dramatically reduce the most common customer service phone calls.
Ecommerce initiatives are famous for exposing inconsistent or subjective business rules or workflows as well as magnifying a company’s public presence. While often troubling when first realized, this ability to expose such issues presents an enormous opportunity to improve a company’s business model. Consider these examples:
- Inconsistent pricing models are being used
- A company’s pricing models can and are regularly manually overridden
- Inconsistent product data between the ERP and product collateral
B2B enterprise ecommerce is a powerful tool to reduce a company’s costs. Consider the following ways ecommerce might cut costs for your organization:
- By eliminating or significantly reducing many daily, repetitive processes including duplicate data entry
- By reducing the number of requests received by a customer service department including order status, tracking number requests and pricing information
- By eliminating exceptions to business procedures that may be manually overridden
- By reducing the possibility for human error associated with rekeying orders
Ecommerce strengthens a company’s online presence as well as increases brand awareness in the marketplace. Consider how ecommerce:
- Provides a vehicle for presenting powerful public-facing, corporate messaging.
- Provides a platform for executing robust promotional campaigns.
- Serves as a resource for internal as well external user questions, including answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and details about company policies.
- Provides a way to acquire key data about its target customers.
- Allows an organization to identify buying patterns as well as strategically cross-sell and cross-promote products to specific target audiences.
Above all, ecommerce fosters the ability to respond to opportunities for change. How might ecommerce affect a company in the following scenarios?
- A company that has long relied on quarterly printed catalogs to drive customer sales and then must incur the cost of mailing those catalogs to customers in hopes that they are read
- A company that employs costly direct mail campaigns to offer current customers an incentive to purchase another item at its retail locations
- A company that operates a traditional retail model that must restock its stores on a regular basis
Recognize that an ecommerce initiative exposes a company from the inside out to a world-wide audience. Consider the affects of:
- Public-facing branding available, 24/7
- The ability to acquire and service new customers, 24/7
- The ability to accept orders, 24/7
- The numbers of opportunities for innovation using a website and ecommerce function
What’s Your Strategy?
Ecommerce will touch every department within an organization; therefore, it is critical that a CEO fully understand how ecommerce will impact business—for better or worse—and have an appropriate strategy in place at the outset. Some key suggestions for ecommerce strategy success:
- Establish clear goals for the ecommerce site.
- Utilize a thoughtful and phased approach.
- Research and budget appropriately.
- Ask questions.
- Employ a cross-departmental team to guide the project.
- Know what success looks like so you know when you get there.
- Choose your ecommerce partner wisely.
Ready to delve deeper? View Linda’s on-demand webinar, The CEO’s Perspective.
Linda Taddonio is Chief Ecommerce Strategy Officer at Insite Software. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about Linda’s upcoming webinars and speaking engagements here.