Among an Avalanche of Choices, How to Choose B-to-C Software for Your E-Commerce Company
The e-commerce industry will be responsible for about $3.45 trillion in sales this year, and is only continuing to grow. It’s not surprising that business-to-consumer (B-to-C) e-commerce is a huge part of this growth, with the global B-to-C e-commerce market expected to reach over $7.7 billion by 2025.
For brands that want to create meaningful and lasting relationships with consumers, the execution of a B-to-C e-commerce strategy that has relevance, resonance and reach depends directly on the software being used to create multifaceted and complex customer experiences.
But with so many software options available, how can you choose the one that’s perfect for your company? Here are some points to consider when looking for the best B-to-C software for your e-commerce business.
Navigating the Crowded B-to-C E-Commerce Landscape … And Narrowing Down Your Choices
As a consumer, you may have experienced going to the grocery store and finding yourself faced with 20 different choices for breakfast cereal. With so many options available, it can often be difficult to make a choice. This is what's known as “the paradox of choice” — i.e., when you have too many choices, you can become paralyzed and can’t choose any of them.
The same phenomenon happens when choosing B-to-C software. With literally thousands of software vendors to choose from, the space is completely saturated. At first glance, it seems impossible to narrow down your options and make the choice that’s best for you. However, when you know exactly what it is that you want to accomplish, the list actually becomes smaller quite quickly.
B-to-C software and the marketing organizations using it are more likely to focus on email and social marketing, new customer acquisition, loyalty and nurturing, retention, and personalization. Therefore, you’ll want to look for software that checks all of these boxes. You should also look for a solution that's easy to get up and running quickly.
Articulate Your Strategy and Determine Optimal Channels
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, the next step is to clearly articulate your strategy. This means looking at the overarching customer experience and revenue growth objectives that you want to achieve, and then identifying a solution that can help bring those objectives to fruition.
Next, identify the channels that your customers are using to interact with your company when online. E-commerce teams must deliver communications through the channels that customers want to engage with — while using the right messages in each channel. Since most of today’s consumers are digitally savvy, marketing platforms must allow you to deliver content across a broad range of devices and channels. Ask yourself: Can you communicate with consumers through each of these channels? And, crucially, can it be done with a single piece of software? Ideally, you’ll want to centralize all of your work with as few tools as possible while still accomplishing your objectives.
Handling and Accessing Data, Consolidation, and Self-Learning
You should also determine how this new B-to-C marketing software will handle the types of data and information you want to access. Look at how the data will be gathered from a wide array of sources and housed in the new platform. How will you and your team access and use this data? And how can you gain access to specific metrics from this aggregated information?
Additionally, assess whether your marketing platform consolidates customer data from a range of channels and analyzes that data to self-learn. The software should be able to compile and analyze large amounts of consumer data from many different channels, creating a 360-degree picture of each customer. Only the most advanced software can then turn that data into insights, “self-learn,” and make choices about the next best option.
Insights and Interpreting Data
The next step is determining what insights the marketing software you're considering can provide you about buyer behavior and lifecycle stages. Marketing software that uncovers previously unknown consumer insights enables you to predict behavior within your database, determine propensities and trends on an individual level, and even uncover industry tendencies. The key is to ask the right questions and calibrate the parameters of how your software works — i.e., create programming tactics to work in correspondence with your goals.
The best marketing software allows you to interpret the data and easily and efficiently take action. While many e-commerce solutions might offer storage capabilities as well as access to impressive data sets, what good are these numbers without a concrete plan of action? The most comprehensive marketing platforms should empower you to understand your customer data and assist with making data-driven decisions about how to optimize current campaigns and show you ways to adjust your strategy.
The Ideal Platform is Out There
With all of the options available for B-to-C software, it’s important that you determine exactly what you want to accomplish with it in order to narrow down your choices. Some key questions to ask yourself include:
- Does this marketing platform address the key objectives and goals you're trying to achieve?
- If you do decide to invest in this platform, will it allow for future development and growth, and make it easy for you to add new channels in the future?
When all is said and done, the software itself is less important than what you choose to do with it. It’s less about the vendor — although making the right choice on this is undoubtedly important — and more about how you line up your business goals with how exactly the software can help you achieve them.
Sean Brady is president of Emarsys Americas, a provider of B-to-C marketing automation software.