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Pedalling Backwards: choosing the wrong Ecommerce Platform

Amzed Hussain
Oct 12, 2019 · 4 min read

According to a recent study by Forrester, majority of the ecommerce companies are not happy with their current ecommerce platform and are hence looking to migrate.

How do so many companies end up choosing a platform not suitable for their business?
Every ecommerce company desires a feature-rich, scalable and easy-to-use ecommerce platform. They realise that a robust ecommerce platform will empower their teams to provide modern customer experience, increase internal productivity and ultimately help achieve their intended revenue targets.

However, companies often succumb to deceptive sales tactics that ecommerce platform vendors use. This is because platform evaluation is difficult and if due attention is not shown towards assessing and understanding intricate features and functionality businesses can end up with an unfit solution that doesn’t meet their needs, or their customers’ needs, for years to come.

“A wrong ecommerce platform is like a ball and chain. It slows you down…and sometimes it completely stops you from doing what you want to do.”

It’s no secret that platform decisions are made through shady internal negotiations between platform sales folk and business owners/IT teams. Sales reps are always trying to woo clients with discounts and complimentary offerings to close deals, even though the platform might be lacking significant core features and functionality. It’s like a salesperson telling you that they can give you 100 Apples for $1 and then telling you that you cannot eat the apples without buying 500 Mangoes for $1000.

Platform providers are clever, their pitches are meant to be intriguing, with use cases tailored to your specific requirements leading you as a client to believe that the platform is capable of everything. In reality, that’s not the case. Making platform decisions based on price discounts and makeshift product demos can result in serious consequences and businesses will be left pedalling backwards from a hefty - and potentially wasted - investment,

Avoid falling into the “price” and the “wow” factor trap. There are platforms out there that are deceiving, they may have a lot of capabilities, but are they right for your line of business? That’s often the catch.

Some platform vendors will tell you that a certain capability you need does not exist natively, but it can be achieved through a minor ‘configuration’ - this is common, deceptive, terminology used by platform vendors.

A ‘configuration’ can sometimes mean ‘not possible’ in their language. Next time you hear ‘configuration’ ask what exactly they mean by that, do they mean enabling/disabling a certain feature through their backend interfaces? Or, is it as complex as developing a completely new custom module? In either case you should ask to see it working before signing on the dotted line. Why not go a step further and ask them to provide a proof of concept to gain assurance that the platform can really do what you want.

Based on this here’s four things I think any ecommerce platform needs to do to meet your needs.

Supports multiple commerce models:
Gone are the days where companies used ecommerce platforms as a single entity enabling end-to-end customer experience. Businesses want to leverage their existing enterprise systems for core business functions like content management, marketing etc. and use ecommerce platforms for ordering capabilities. Clients need to understand and evaluate whether the platform under consideration is capable of supporting models like headless commerce and microservice etc. Investing in such platforms might be beneficial in the long run helping you to get more for your money whilst delivering a better CX.

Enables experience driven commerce:
Thriving in the ecommerce space requires foreseeing the future customer experience trends — this means you need to look at a platform that is future-ready. Even though the platform may not immediately support cutting edge next-gen technologies, a solid product roadmap is a good indicator. At the same time platforms should also be capable of integrating with other platforms seamlessly. This will allow your ecommerce solution to scale over time whilst making sure they play well with others.

Built for all business models:
Today, you’re B2C providers but what about down the line you might focus on B2B or even have a marketplace business. Your platform evaluation process should include a checklist about supported business models in the platform — if you needed to switch, could you?

Supports a rich feature set & has unlimited scalability:
Honestly, “there is no complete ecommerce platform”. However, the expectation that the platform has modern capabilities and can support hassle-free customisation without depending on third party solutions is reasonable. While you can ask specifically for vendors to demonstrate customisation capabilities, make sure no more than 5-10% of your requirement requires customisations.

Trust practical application:
Word of mouth is a good start, but seeing live examples and understanding how they apply to your business is integral. Looking at live examples gives you clues about how not to implement. There are businesses out there who have done or are doing things presuming it’s the right way with the wrong platform holding them back -this means loopholes become exposed when you look below the surface. These loopholes gives you clues about what you need.

When trying to find a platform try not to make previous mistakes. Show an eye for detail towards the feature set you need for your business and your customers, support for future ecommerce trends, and the business models the platforms supports and make your decision based on practical examples not crafty sales techniques.

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Amzed Hussain

Written by

Recreational Runner, Learner & Seeker, Leader, Mentor, Speaker, Strategy, Innovation & enterprise mobility.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

Amzed Hussain

Written by

Recreational Runner, Learner & Seeker, Leader, Mentor, Speaker, Strategy, Innovation & enterprise mobility.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +752K people. Follow to join our community.

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