Benefits of an E-Commerce Platform
Learn how to truly benefit from your E-Commerce platform, whether you are in the B2C or B2B industry, using data to improve your customer experience.
Let’s talk about the actual benefits you can expect when matched with the right e-commerce platform for your business. In the article below, we will explore:
- The benefits for B2C e-commerce; it’s all about the data.
- Additional benefits of e-commerce for B2B.
- The benefits of e-commerce for your customers, how to act on this.
The B2C benefits of E-Commerce
The importance of maintaining a proper e-commerce channel for successful B2C commerce should need no further explanation. But is your e-business solution also capable of supporting all your business requirements efficiently? As an exercise, look at your platform purely from a data perspective. Does it have the capability to collect and manage all relevant data? Is the data structured and actually usable? Did vendors deliver on their promises about enabling relevant and personalized customer journeys?
Review the following requirements, and ask yourself if your solution has the capabilities and usability needed to support them.
It’s not just about sales. An important advantage of e-commerce for any business is the ability to collect data.
Collecting product assortment data
- Popularity of specific products in your assortment (both popular and unpopular items are important to map, and how views compare to sales).
- Bounce rates on product detail pages, and what causes them.
- Product reviews.
- Product price elasticity (finding the best price point).
- Competitor data (price levels).
- How products relate to other products, certain customer profiles, seasons, and the weather.
Collecting customer data
- Basic profile data during the registration process.
- Ask customers for their preferences.
- Analyze customers’ order histories.
- Store communications with customer service (e.g. complaints and returns).
- Track the click behaviour of customers in the webshop.
- Track the open and click behaviour in newsletters.
- Track behaviour on social media and when interacting with adds.
A matured e-commerce solution should include dedicated software to help you create profiles from customer interactions across multiple channels, such as a Customer Data Platform (CDP) or Data Management Platform (DMP).
Collecting data about your customer experience
Don’t only track what your customers do, make sure you also find out why they behave a certain way. When a customer ends up making a purchase, this doesn’t always tell the entire story. Why did the customer make a purchase in your shop in the first place, and how likely is it that they’ll leave you if a new competitor shows up?
Experience data has better predictive qualities than operational data. It can be used to predict future behaviour and help you solve the issues most important to your customers.
- Measure customer satisfaction about your brand, products, webshop, and both online and offline services.
- Discover if there are trends in how this data develops over time, or between different segments.
- Ask for concrete improvement options.
- Ask for negative or positive experiences across all touchpoints.
- Create a continuous feedback loop for customer interactions.
Acting on the collected B2C Data
As mentioned, all digital channels that comprise your e-commerce platform provide you with unprecedented tools when it comes to collecting valuable data. This is a clear benefit of e-commerce over traditional commerce, but is only truly effective when put to use correctly. And this is no trivial task. Because despite the fact that collecting data is relatively easy, storing it in a structured system for you to analyze and act on is an ongoing challenge for many e-business organizations. Let’s look at some ways to put your data to good use, so you can actually benefit from all the data you’re collecting in your digital channels.
Opportunities of E-Commerce for B2C
Generally speaking, due to the high number of customers and visitors, there are two ways to use data to improve your customer experience:
- By applying data to make generic improvements, such as improved product data or a smoother checkout experience.
- By making the digital experience more relevant through personalisation.
Note that ecommerce data you collect online can be applied to both online and offline channels.
B2C – making your customers’ online experience easier
Using your collected data for a data-driven improvement process generates the most business value. Bounce rates can be caused by certain copy on a landing page, missing product data, poor pricing, or lacklustre call to action on a product detail page. Analyzing cart abandonment can tell you which part of the checkout process can be improved. Which products in your assortment get the least attention? Should you continue to offer these products? Is this caused by a problem in the navigation, or does your assortment need to be updated? These are generic topics that are relevant for every customer journey. If the basics are taken care of, it’s time to step up your game and work towards personalisation.
B2C – making your customers’ online experience more relevant
Respect these rules throughout your channels, including the webshop, newsletters, advertising:
- Serve (links to) inspirational content relevant to your customers when it has the most impact.
- Offer relevant product recommendations at the right moment.
- Display targeted promotions that influence customers’ drive to purchase.
- Reward customers for their loyalty.
- Amplify your customers’ affinity with your brand, by enabling them to advice other consumers and write testimonies.
If executed correctly, this kind of personalization fuels a continuous stream of data. Segmenting customers on the right metrics and offering relevant experiences will make your customer profiles more complete, accurate and detailed. With this elaborate data you can further improve your targeting method, in turn leading to even better data. This is a similar effect as present in the well known Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, with ever increasing data quality as the main driver.
B2C – making your customers’ offline experience more relevant
Your collected data is not just usable in the digital domain. The data and improved understanding of your customers can also support your offline initiatives. Think about the following:
- Many offline stores profit from the ‘ROPO’ effect: Research Online, Purchase Offline.
- POS-Loyalty integration allows you to recognize customers in your store(s) and offer relevant recommendations and service.
- Assortment planning: the popularity of products in your store(s) can provide insights into customer needs, and allow personalisation to local preferences.
- The store(s) can profit from the ‘endless aisle’ of your online assortment, so customers can be serviced even if a product is not available in the correct size or colour at that location.
- Experiment with new assortment categories, before rolling them out to stores.
- Add assortments without having to deal with all the logistics, by applying a ‘Drop shipping’ scenario for instance.
- Experiment with new locations and build brand awareness before opening new stores.
The B2B benefits of E-Commerce
Many of the B2C benefits we just touched on are also applicable to B2B scenarios. However, specific e-commerce advantages are especially interesting for the B2B market. Consider the following examples.
B2B – streamlining processes through digital and ecommerce
There are many processes that can be improved with digital tools, either by automation, digital workflows, or by giving the customers more self-service tools.
Working together with our own B2B customers, it’s apparent that self-service is becoming increasingly important. Sometimes even more important than the transactional part, as illustrated by these tasks:
- Enabling the customer to submit changes to their profile or preferences. In some cases, B2B preferences can be very elaborate. These may include delivery slots, packaging preferences, or payment details. Often some back-office validations are required, but enabling customers to enter the requested changes online at their own convenience is already an effective improvement.
- Creating complex orders. B2B orders can be complex, consisting of different parts related to business rules and dynamic data (such as stock or prices). Enabling customers to enter order data themselves, with the proper restrictions and warnings in place, makes this task more flexible and reduces mistakes.
- Offering legal data. Certain (bulk) products are marked by legal certifications. In some cases, the label can refer to a certain batch. A good digital system informs customers about the correct certification, but also allows them to retrieve this data from past orders (in case of a legal audit, for instance) or get updated information when legal conditions have changed (locally).
- Offering ‘rich’ order history. This means order history that includes customer data, (such as custom product and order numbers), allows filtering, and comes with export functionality (for the customers internal administration). Or extra tooling on top of the order history, such as analytical tools, including predictive analysis or recommendations regarding alternative (new) products or order quantities.
- Offering sales support. In many B2B organizations, orders are bundled in (year) contracts with a predefined (minimum) total order value. A self-service environment can inform customers of the status of the contract, and trigger customers or sales when a contract is nearly completed or expired.
- Supporting internal order and approval process.
What all these process-improvements have in common, is that they often serve multiple purposes:
- Increase customer satisfaction, because they are more in control and independent.
- Reduce errors due to miscommunication, manual handovers, and data entry.
- Save costs due to the reduced need for internal sales support.
In some cases, these improvements can also lead to additional sales opportunities, by offering personalized incentives and spotting easy to miss opportunities.
B2B – improve customer relations through digital and e-commerce
Another advantage of e-commerce is its capability to enhance and deepen your customer relations. This may sound somewhat contradictory, but there are two ways e-commerce accomplishes this:
- By freeing up human resources. Spend less time on administrative tasks that can be automated or performed by customers themselves, and use this time to deepen the relationship with your customers.
- By applying digital communication and collaboration tools to deepen the relationship with your customers. This could mean co-creating new products or services, sharing intelligence about the market and the end consumer, or setting up joint marketing programs. All these activities create more customer intimacy, and reduce the risk of your brand or product becoming a commodity in the eyes of your customers.
B2B - increase your reach through e-commerce
You can use digital channels to increase the number of potential customers that come into contact with your products. Consider the following options.
- Start offering your assortment to B2C customers or small businesses. By offering online commerce functionality you can serve customers that are too small to be profitable for your regular business process. If the sales process is complex, you could always start with a smaller assortment or limited options, and gradually build from there.
- Use e-commerce to target new customer segments or geographical areas. With e-commerce it’s relatively easy to create a new site for a different branch or country, without risking your brand image or burning a hole in your budget.
- If you have a unique proposition that’s not easily copied, setting up marketplaces are definitely something to consider. Dedicated and general-purpose marketplaces are becoming an increasingly popular channel for B2B businesses.
Of course, this list simply serves as a starting point, and not all options are universally applicable. The biggest gain from setting up an e-commerce platform is closely related to your specific business challenges. Are you ready to find out what the opportunities are for your business? Or are you skeptical if your complex business processes can actually be transformed into a digital experience?
Let’s explore the options together. We’re happy to share our expertise and outline what a feasible roadmap could look like, both short and long term.
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