Magazine article CRM Magazine

It's Time to See E-Commerce Differently

Magazine article CRM Magazine

It's Time to See E-Commerce Differently

Article excerpt

E-commerce is unquestionably in an age of ascendancy. It's growth is supported by a confluence of several technologies including mobile technology, e-commerce software and internet everywhere. Companies like Amazon and eBay did not exist until 1994 (1), yet these two businesses have grown into e-commerce powerhouses and have ushered in a world where virtually anything is available for sale--anytime, anywhere. This reality is confounding traditional retailers, wholesalers and distributors, as their facilities can't match the scope of offerings found in the electronic showrooms of the worldwide web.

Forrester Research provides an even more sobering data point. Forrester predicts that by 2013, businesses, not consumers, will purchase more than $559 billion in goods and services via the web--more than double that of consumer web spending1. At Baker Tilly, we continue to ask our clients "Are you getting your share of this commerce?"

In a growth constrained economy, businesses are rushing to create new online channels for their products and services in order to improve top line revenues. But, woe to the wholesale/distributor or manufacturer that thinks e-commerce is simply an adjunct to their current processes, systems, and customer management strategies.

"BOLT-ON" SOLUTIONS DEFY CHANGING EXPECTATIONS

Online buying expectations for both B2B and B2C customers are changing as the market evolves. Customers have grown accustomed to polished e-commerce user experiences like those offered by Amazon. They are beginning to expect the same level of experience from all sellers--even B2B websites. Unfortunately, most companies' e-commerce architectures, if they exist at all, are limited in their ability to capitalize on this growth opportunity.

Many companies are using "bolt-on" e-commerce solutions within their enterprise ERP and CRM solutions. These solutions often lack the level of integration required to provide the best possible customer experience. As a result, changes in inventory, pricing, billing, order status, special instructions, or shipping terms in the enterprise systems are not always immediately reflected on the e-commerce website. Consider the following customer issues as a result:

* A customer places an order and expects delivery tomorrow, but instead receives a delayed email that the item is out of stock

* A company understands a competitor is offering a special price on an item, but cannot make pricing changes fast enough to match the offer

* A customer makes a change to shipping address, but the product ships before the updates to the customer record take place

* A customer on the website seeks an in-store pickup, but it cannot be confirmed because inventory cannot be confirmed

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF AN INTEGRATED TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM

To compete effectively in this changing environment companies need to establish an integrated technology platform. …

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