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Sheri Hebbeln
 
February 20, 2014 | eCommerce | Sheri Hebbeln

Don't Take a Gamble on Your E-commerce Platform

You can't set up an online wine store and leave it to stagnate. Technology changes over time, and this is causing many online retailers to reassess their e-commerce platforms. Econsultancy and Neoworks surveyed more than 500 of e-commerce professionals and found 56 percent were experiencing difficulty with the functionality of their websites, particularly when it came to built-in search features. Product management was another significant issue for many online retailers, which could compromise success if you sell wine online

E-commerce is taking off as a viable channel for the purchase of many different product categories, including wine. People are spending billions of dollars a year on online purchases, which means wineries can't gamble on their choice of platform. More than one-fifth of those surveyed had changed platforms in the past to find a solution that could better meet their needs. An additional one-third were considering making the switch in the near future.

"The research shows some significant mismatches between merchant expectations and perceived product and service performance," said Nigel Atkinson, co-founder and solutions architect at Neoworks. "Understanding where these gaps are is the first step in the process of closing them."

One of the most significant problems was the lack of ability to integrate e-commerce solutions with existing platforms. This could make inventory management more of a challenge for wineries, especially those with multiple other customer channels. All of these technical problems can add up and prevent meaningful growth of online wine sales. 

What to look for in an e-commerce platform

Respondents to the survey also had issues with order management, processing high volumes, business intelligence, multichannel integration and support for mobile commerce. As e-commerce continues to evolve as an important consumer channel, these deficiencies will likely come into the spotlight for some online retailers. Depending on how important these aspects are to individual retailers, it could be cause for choosing a new platform, Ben Davis wrote in an analysis of the study results. 

Consumer expectations are changing rapidly, and many companies want to provide a better online experience to win loyalty. For example, building a personalized shopping cart was a priority for many retailers, but some do not currently have this capability. Customers may be turned away by deficiencies in site performance, which could significantly impact revenue growth. 

A good platform can lead to new operational efficiencies, according to Practical Ecommerce. However, there are risks to changing platforms, and you should carefully consider your current capabilities and needs to determine the right course of action. A platform transition can impact business performance or slow order processing, which is detrimental. It can also harm search engine optimization efforts because URLs will change. If you are going to make the switch, you need to factor delays into the timeline because implementations can easily run over. You also need to select a solution that will be scalable to your future needs. This is not a choice to take lightly. 

One of the primary reasons to switch platforms is to provide a better customer experience. A poorly designed user experience can make it difficult to retain shoppers after the initial purchase. Better search functionality, navigation features and customizable shopping carts can improve customers' perceptions and make them want to return. Making the transition because of problems with technology can lead to better overall performance, such as SEO results and conversion rates as well as lowering bounce rates. This can help you take advantage of new market opportunities and be better prepared for changes in your business. 

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