What is the State of Your E-Commerce System?
Recently I’ve been involved with a project researching what leading B-to-B and B-to-C catalogers are doing in the area of e-commerce systems. Specifically, I’m exploring what, if any, systems they’re using to conduct search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) programs, as well as to operate e-mail and online ordering programs. The project has been a real eye-opener because there doesn’t appear to be any established best practice.
As a group of direct marketers, we appear to be all over the map. Most of us are struggling with staffing implementation and have no idea how to evaluate our results. Here are the things I hear:
* “E-commerce is complex and ever-changing; we just can’t seem to get ahead of the learning curve”;
* “We can’t find the experienced staff; our team keeps changing”;
* “We’ve learned there’s no one person called ‘e-commerce director’ who can do it all like the circulation director can on the mail side”;
* “The minimum staffing and investment required seems to keep growing each year”;
* “We don’t know what we don’t know and wonder how that impacts us”;
* “We have a hard time finding out what best practices in all the different e-commerce areas really are”; and
* “We have several vendors helping us in the different areas — SEO, e-mail, PPC, online ordering, etc. — but we can’t seem to tie them all together.”
Sound familiar? I think most companies are doing an OK job in this area, but nowhere near as well as they’re doing with circulation, purchasing, product development or catalog production — areas where skills and best practices have been honed over many years.
I’m not sure there’s a good answer to many of these issues yet. But the first step for direct marketers is to properly understand the questions and issues before they go searching for the answers. Where does your company stand on these issues? In future columns I’ll convey what I’m able to discover.