Crossing the E-Commerce Chasm
As consumers become more and more connected, even leading companies are struggling to keep up.
Posted Nov 30, 2010
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Much has been written about the laggards in e-commerce — companies that fail to provide consistent experiences for companies online as they do in-store; or, even companies who have yet to embrace Web 2.0 and the changing tide of social media. Sean Cook, the chief executive officer of e-commerce solution provider ShopVisible takes a unique stance, however. Organizations just now entering the e-commerce world, Cook suggests have a third-mover advantage. They now can embrace flexible, agile, innovative e-commerce solutions — ones that just weren't available when the early movers were jumping on the online shopping bandwagon.

A recent study from ShopVisible and the JC Williams Group, discusses the challenges that retailers are currently facing to provide excellent online experiences to their customers. To conduct the study, the report authors interviewed executives at leading retailers and consumer product manufacturers who had undergone an e-commerce platform change or were currently in the midst of an enterprise-wide system change.

The report states: "[Leaders in the industry] voiced their continuing concerns that their respective brands are still not delivering what customers expect-in large part because their platforms are too rigid to convert vision into reality." Although they may be aware of current trends involving social and mobile commerce, companies expressed a challenge in innovating due to legacy systems. Brands that perhaps have not previously had direct-to-consumer interactions with customers have an advantage of coming into e-commerce with a clean slate.

For companies that had gone thru e-commerce initiatives in last 18 months, Cook says their challenges appeared to be similar. "Their pain points were pretty consistent across the board," he says. "In many cases, they had disconnected systems and groups. The customers didn't have a seamless experience."

Interviewees also reported the challenge of having to go outside of their e-commerce systems to find new functionality. And then, Cook adds, "When you change one thing, it breaks 10 others." The bottom line — retailers are growing tired of being technology companies. They want someone else to do the dirty work while they focus on their products, services, and most importantly, their customers. Businesses have been slow to fully embrace things like social commerce because of these challenges. "They see social networks as a phenomenon where there's incredible power," Cook says. "Many companies know they need to be there but don't know how to make it meaningful."

Companies are saying, Cook reports, "We want...speed to market, innovation, and a system that's flexible enough to tie into legacy systems." Luckily, solutions from today's e-commerce solution providers provide just that: flexibility, social integrations, and mobile capabilities.

Just don't think e-commerce is going anywhere. "E-Commerce is no longer an experiment in the corner," Cook says. "It's a key initiative in the organization."

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