The race of life has many lessons to teach us all and one of those is that no achievement comes without a sacrifice. Successfully working towards a goal requires that you give up the things that aren’t contributing to its outcome.
This can be challenging, especially when you are forfeiting things that are familiar, but the lengths to which you are willing to make such a commitment will directly correlate to your success. It is your decision. It is your choice. Is your desire to create a beautiful, interactive, personalized and optimized online experience for your consumers stronger than your urge to rest on your laurels in the comfort of your old, outdated, yet familiar ecommerce platform?
In this article we will address problems and solutions. Problems you are most likely experiencing due to the limitations of your current ecommerce platform, as well as the solutions Episerver provides to the problems arising from those limitations
These limitations being that your current platform is most likely difficult to use, lacking the ability to learn, delivering generic experiences, it’s inability to grow and change in a fluid manner, as well as, it’s strictly transactional mindset. Basically, your platform sucks. And it sucks because it’s dumb, difficult, run-of-the-mill mediocre and its holding you back. Let’s explore the short comings of most eCommerce platforms and the ways we at Episerver can support you in overcoming these limitations and challenges to set you up for success.
Gartner defines customer experience management (CEM) as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” This is a strategy that requires process change and many technologies to accomplish. Odds are, your current ecommerce platform is not helping you to accomplish this most efficiently, in part, because most ecommerce platforms just aren’t really user friendly. This can be for a variety of reasons including that you must either wait for developers to write code to build the custom promotion you want, or the administrative interface to manage the website is slow and cumbersome.
In the end, it takes you forever to make changes to your ecommerce website. Making tasks such as launching a promotion, adding a new product or updating the home page with banners a daunting task. This slows you down. A task to update the website with new content for a product release, that should take a few hours, ends up taking weeks. You end up spending your lunch breaks curled up in the fetal position under your desk because “how can it take 3 weeks to change the image on the home page!?”
Three deep breaths, we’re here to help. Episerver’s Experience Authoring tool set enables non-technical marketers to author, preview and publish compelling eCommerce experiences including mobile site editing. Previewing site changes before you publish is crucial for marketers. If you can’t see the changes you are making you may have to pull back and fix it after it’s too late. For this reason, you want to be able to see your changes evolve in real time before hitting the big green “publish” button. Episerver’s preview tool is device specific and gives you a view of your finial site experience before publication. Thanks to this tool, editing all versions of your site, especially mobile pages, become a walk in the park. Which sounds like a much more pleasant way to spend a lunch break.
Machine learning is an aspect or application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experiences without being explicitly programmed. It focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and then use it to learn for themselves. This is incredibly useful to marketers, especially when it comes to the buying and shopping habits of our consumers, but this is most likely not a tool being utilized by your current platform. Most common ecommerce platforms do not study the crowd behavior of your site visitors to improve the user experience and make your ecommerce team smarter. The result is that it’s making you do all the work.
Integrating artificial Intelligence is the top evolution available in ecommerce platforms to improve the user experience and help ecommerce manager’s work more efficiently. An amazing example in which we at Episerver utilize AI to optimize the customer experience is within our Personalization Suite application.
Episerver’s Personalization Suite includes a robust Product Recommendations Engine, Episerver Perform. This solution personalizes product recommendations to improve customer experience by showing site visitors the top selling, most popular, or most relevant products to them based on their browsing experience and history. This service also gives you the ability to tweak the placement of and sorting of specific algorithm strategies including prioritizing products recommended with limited quantity left or on sale. Episerver also uses the same machine learning algorithms to optimize content recommendations in Episerver Advance. Translation: Our platform is a genius, and speaking of translations it also speaks your customers’ language. Episerver’s natural language processing (NLP) technology automatically tags content when you upload it into the Episerver platform and scans article text for context to be used in content recommendations for your customers. It seeks out and categorizes language that will resonate with them, in aims to achieve a highly personalized experience optimizing their exposure to, what the data shows, is content that they will find engaging.
Personalization is a term we are all more than familiar with, but for those who slept through every marketing meeting this quarter: let’s break it down. It is a means of meeting the customer's needs more effectively and efficiently, making interactions faster, easier and consequently increasing customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat visits. Your consumers want to see personalized promotions, content, and search results while shopping online tailored to them. 59% of consumers say they want a personalized shopping experiences. This must go beyond a basic “my account” personalization option or using their name on the home page.
The problem with your current ecommerce platform, in terms of personalization, is that it doesn’t track real-time session data or provide a rule-based personalization tool for you to target promotions, banners and content based on a set of implicit and explicit criteria. In todays climate, site personalization is a top expectation from online shoppers, both b2b and b2c.
Episerver’s Personalization Suite includes experience personalization using Visitor Groups. This capability combines tracking site visitor behavior (pages viewed, referring traffic source, recent orders, items in cart) with known user data from other systems (CRM, Email Marketing, ERP). Marketers and merchandizers can then create rules that define segments that they want to target based on these criteria. This visitor group can then be used to target banners, articles, products, and promotions. This improves the customer experience, increasing session duration, which leads to increases in conversion rate. Increased personalization, undoubtedly leads to a more satisfying customer experience, as well as, increased sales and revenue.
Within the fast paced and ever changingever-changing world of ecommerce and consumer expectations there is nothing more important than constant, ongoing optimization. With the exponential rate at with technology continues to move, if you aren’t evolving, you can rest assured your competitor is. Ongoing evolution of consumer mobile vs. desktop experience expectations requires you to be as responsive as your responsive website.
Your common, run of the mill platform allows you to create a web page, edit and publish those webpages as a stagnant, unchanging experience. Meaning that until you edit and publish a change, to the website viewed by your customers, it will remain mainly the same. There is little thought put into tools and capabilities to allow ecommerce teams to improve and optimize the commerce experience in an adaptive way.
One tool that is an extremely strong ally in this regard is A/B Testing. A/B testing allows us to compare two versions of a single variable; usually by testing our consumers response to variable A against variable B, allowing us to determine which of the two variables is more effective. As the name implies, A/B testing allows you to publish, track and compare two different versions of your customer interface or content, which are identical except for one variation that might affect a consumer’s behavior (I.E. their likelihood to buy).
For instance, on an e-commerce website the purchase funnel is typically a good candidate for A/B testing, since even slight improvements in drop-off rates can represent a significant gain in sales. Noticeable improvements can also sometimes be seen through testing variations of elements such as copy text, colors, images and layouts. These features are not included in most ecommerce platforms. You must buy a separate testing tool and those testing tools are limited in scope.
Episerver Commerce includes a native A/B Testing toolkit built directly into the experience management interface. This allows marketer’s to quickly test any combination of banners, promotion messages, images, videos, or product assortments including defining the percentage of traffic that will be used in the test and setting the overall objective for the test including add-to-cart rates. The winning tests can then be promoted site wide, as quickly as you can hit “copy, paste, save, publish.”
Most ecommerce platforms are purely focused on transactional scenarios, assuming the customer is ready to buy now and wants to buy online. Ecommerce platforms lack digital marketing capabilities and the ability to manage different websites with different purposes on a single platform. Most online shopping experiences could be likened to the digital fast food of retail. Where you are expected to walk straight up to the cash register knowing what you want. You hand over your money and are hurried off in exchange for a number. We can all see how this model is not the most effective marketing strategy for every experience. Making our ecommerce-based interactions much more immersive and individualized experiences can only aid in our connection with our customers. This connection will lead them back to us again and again.
As more companies begin to sell online, including manufacturers, digital media, and financial service firms, platforms need to be more flexible allowing a company to run direct-to-consumer, business-to-business, and digital marketing websites from one platform. Furthermore, the platform must be able to be launched and transact in multiple languages and regions.
Episerver’s Digital Experience Cloud (DXC) platform enables companies to establish and run separate websites for digital marketing, b2c ecommerce, and b2b ecommerce from within one platform. What’s more powerful is each site can be localized to specific countries and personalized to each user visiting each separate website. This is why customers like Toyota Material Handling and Polaris Industries use Episerver Commerce to power all their digital marketing and digital commerce properties globally.
Now that we have shed some light on just a few of the many limitations of the ecommerce platforms of yesterday, I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing; where can we turn to in the future? Lets not forget to thank our old platform for all it did for us: the late nights, the headaches, the laughter, the tears, the feeling of blind lost confusion and wonderment at how such simple things could be made so complicated. Those were all very powerful learning experiences. Most of all, now we’ve learned we can do better, that its time to move on. We learned there is a better way, and that way can be found by switching to Episerver.