What, exactly, makes a great ecommerce site?
This question makes the ears of the internet prickle with anticipation — a great secret is about to be shared. No matter the details of the success — vertical, following, ecommerce pure-play or a mix of channels, B2B, B2C, or any or all of the above — everyone’s always searching for the next magic sauce that could launch their business to the same level as the brands they idolize.
Here’s the catch, though: aside from the obvious answer of “there’s no such thing as magic ecommerce success sauce,” there’s also no one-size-fits-all solution. Every business is unique, predicating that each recipe for success is also unique. But that still doesn’t stop many businesses from trying to replicate someone else’s model, especially when it comes to ecommerce sites.
The thing is, aside from trying to force-fit your business into someone else’s carefully chosen strategy outright, businesses looking to emulate instead of invest in their own path as embarking on a fruitless journey: while you may be able to replicate someone’s ecommerce site from the front-end, would-be copycats simply don’t have access to the full arrangement of technology that makes amazing ecommerce sites tick. No matter how clever you think you are in spying on the technology tied to the back-end of a site, you’re never going to get the full picture of all the intricacies that make the best ecommerce business the best.
Doubling down on ‘the wrong way to build a winning ecommerce site’, many copycat businesses don’t ever get to the stage where they’re thinking about the technology powering a site — it’s an outright focus on creating that sexy front-end and superficial customer experience. This may be excusable as humans are visually-dependent animals — sometimes we unintentionally put more weight on visual aspects — but when you’re looking to build a long-lasting, amazing business, ecommerce should be excluded from this visual-first approach. While a great customer experience and user interface for ecommerce is extremely important, it’s only a small part of the battle in creating long-lasting ecommerce success.
A Great Looking Website does not equal Great Ecommerce Functionality
Today, a great looking website is not hard to come by, or to create. Great ecommerce platforms like Shopify & Shopify Plus, Bigcommerce, Magento and more have made creating great-looking and highly functional ecommerce websites a breeze. And for those businesses looking for an extra edge on their ecommerce design, each of these platforms comes with extensive networks of affiliated expert partners and agencies.
But take a closer look at almost any ecommerce platform’s marketplace or partner listings, and you’ll start to notice a trend. Plenty are focused on front-end design and user experience. Far fewer are focused on the principles that allow your business to deliver on the promises your website implies through a top-notch front end. This imbalance reflects demand, and strongly implied that the market thinks of ecommerce as a primarily visual function.
Top ecommerce sites go way deeper than the visual, though, and much, much deeper than just a great looking website. These companies understand that customer experience does not stop (nor start!) at the ecommerce site; many more tools, partners, resources, planning, platforms and more go into creating and maintaining a cohesive brand that keeps customers coming back again and again.
A Great Ecommerce Site Starts with Strategy & Technology
Contrary to the popular approach to the problem of great ecommerce of design-first, a great ecommerce website does not start with a great ecommerce website! While selecting the right ecommerce platform is absolutely crucial for your business’ goals, it’s one component of a much broader mix. Approaching all decisions and technology as strategy-first objectives (i.e., choosing the best technology to satisfy core strategic objectives, instead of from want-driven or other lesser drivers), the best ecommerce businesses then and only then build out their ecosystems with the right applications, partners, and execution to meet said strategy.
“Digital transformation isn’t a technology initiative — it’s a business strategy”
It’s as simple as this: strategy provides the road map for your business, and everything after that serves to meet that strategy. But there’s more. You’ve got a great strategy in hand, you’ve selected the right ecommerce platform, design, and suite of technology and tools to make things happen. … Now what?
You see, not only does a great ecommerce site not stop with choosing the right ecommerce platform, your journey also doesn’t end with selecting the best technology to fulfill on a great customer experience from first touch, all the way down to delivery and loyalty. Successful businesses don’t just buy software as a service. They operationalize the tech powering their business to ensure they’re getting every last powerful drop from their investments.
In Part II of this article, we look at how the best ecommerce businesses approach the technology powering their business from an operational and strategic vantage. Subscribe to VL’s OMNIlink Newsletter to be among the first to know when Part II of this article is published!
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Check out Robin H. Smith’s talk at Prosper Show 2018!