E-Commerce: A Systems Overview
Until recently, selecting the optimum e-commerce platform for a multichannel business was a race to keep up with evolving technologies. The applications morphed at such blinding speed that the needs and requirements you defined when selecting your system easily could be obsolete by the time that system was up and running.
Today's technology isn't evolving any slower — if anything, the pace of e-commerce change continues to accelerate. But the main differentiators among systems these days are less in the features and functions they support than the services they offer, flexibility, scalability, technical support, and the vendors' approach to charging for licenses or services.
In short, your biggest challenge in selecting a platform may be determining which provider will be your best business partner going forward.
In determining the optimum e-commerce platform for your business, a lot depends on what you bring to the table. If you've already invested in a significant web commerce staff whose skills and strengths will keep up with the changing e-commerce landscape, you'll want a system vendor to complement its abilities. On the other hand, the less you've invested in-house, the more you'll need your vendor to provide a broad range of support, guidance and even leadership in the e-commerce field.
No matter where you fall on that spectrum, you'll still want as much control as possible over the constant challenge of updating your website, if not the ability to manipulate its look and feel. The days of the website as a "black box" controlled by a remote vendor are fading fast.
We can't even scratch the surface on related applications such as site search engines, search engine tools, shopping carts, personalization products, content management modules and the plethora of database add-ons such as customer product review platforms that enhance the most customer-friendly e-commerce sites. When making a system selection, determine which of these types of functions the e-commerce platform itself can handle and which will need to be — or you'll want to be — assigned to a separate software vendor or service provider.