6 factors to consider when investing in e-commerce

The shopping habits of consumers have significantly changed in the last few years. From brand discovery to product research down to the actual purchase of goods and services, more consumers are now shifting to online shopping. Based on Global Web Index’s survey on the latest trends in online commerce, three out of four internet users buy their products online. With Southeast Asia’s (SEA) growing internet user base, the region is fast becoming a major contributor to the Internet economy. Surpassing the US$100 billion gross merchandise value (GMV) mark in 2019 and growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33 percent, Google, Temasek, and Bain’s 2019 e-Conomy SEA report, predicts that the region’s Internet economy will reach US$300 billion by the year 2025. 

While traditional brick-and-mortar stores are not completely going away anytime soon, brands that have embraced eCommerce are in a better position to adapt to the consumers’ changing buying habits. With lockdowns due to COVID-19, eCommerce is gaining more momentum, pushing many businesses to revisit their eCommerce strategies. Before COVID-19, organisations adopted eCommerce strategies in varying degrees. While some businesses have implemented an omnichannel approach, most organisations did not see eCommerce as a top priority. With the changes in consumers’ purchase behaviours, companies are looking at investing in eCommerce and implementing strategies to increase online presence.

To achieve maximum return on investment (ROI), here are six factors companies need to consider when choosing eCommerce solutions:

  1. Integration with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution 

The ease of integration with the ERP system is arguably the most critical factor when choosing the right eCommerce platform. Organisations run the risk of having delivery and fulfilment delays and other issues if ERP integration is not baked into the platform. The eCommerce solution should be able to gather supply reports and link to stocking levels at every location, customer account details and credit, delivery management, manage promotions, marketing and suggested alternative or equivalent products

  1. Real-time stock availability report 

The online customer relies solely on the system for information when placing their orders. Overall customer satisfaction will suffer if items are displayed as available online and then it turns out the specific item wanted is out-of-stock. Similarly, sales opportunities are lost for items available in the inventory but were not visible online. Effective stock control and management systems are fundamental to any eCommerce solution and protecting a company’s reputation.

  1. eCommerce platform with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) capabilities

Today’s consumers start their purchase journey by searching for products and information online. Products and services offered by the company have a higher chance of being discovered by shoppers if the eCommerce solution is built with SEO capabilities. 

  1. Rich and responsive digital environment

Physical stores spend a lot of resources on product display to encourage customer walk-ins. Shopping online is actually no different. Online platforms should be attractive, user-friendly, easy to navigate and responsive to any device. Customers are quick to leave and go elsewhere if a brand’s eCommerce platform takes a long time to load or if customers experience difficulties in navigating the system.

  1. Adapting to your strategy

Any eCommerce solution must adapt to the company’s existing customers and business strategy–not the other way around. For businesses looking to increase their new customer base, a solution that is prospect-friendly will be the best choice. If the strategy is to improve business-to-business (B2B) customer interactions, the company should opt for an eCommerce solution that is simple, easy to navigate and can seamlessly link to the B2B customer’s own systems. 

  1. Bespoke versus standardised solution

For some businesses with generic sales and marketing requirements, an off-the-shelf and industry-standard eCommerce solution is a logical choice – as these solutions can be easily and readily implemented. For highly-specialized products or businesses with specific requirements, the company should opt for an eCommerce solution that allows customization. 

With the current business environment, innovative companies are becoming more aware that an eCommerce strategy is not just an option anymore, it is now vital to choose the right platform. Critical details such as implementation, support, upgrade costs, ERP and supply chain integration, online search optimisation and ease of use should be considered and clearly mapped out when choosing eCommerce solutions. Ultimately, businesses must think about their customers and invest in solutions that make it easier for customers to reach out and interact with the brand.