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According to the new Ecommerce Platform Buyer’s Guide 2014, online retailers are thriving.

Retail is transforming itself from a local industry into one which is fundamentally about competing globally in international markets.

The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index saw the 2013 UK online retail market grow 16% to £91bn, with ecommerce accounting for 21% of the country's entire retail market.

With no immediate prospect of ecommerce growth slowing down in the short-term, the market is becoming saturated as more retailers invest in online channels. 

Despite the marketplace maturing and the cost of ecommerce platforms generally becoming cheaper, demand for services and solutions nevertheless remains high. With a higher demand than ever for new functionality, such as mobile integration and cross-border capabilities, such developments are ensuring that the platforms market maintains a healthy rate of growth. 

Some of the trends discussed in more depth in the report are outlined below. 

UK retailers should be focusing on the international opportunities

Increased investment in ecommerce technology should be seen in the context of the size of the overall market for online retail.

Ecommerce is accelerating the international reach of retail, as consumers increasingly search cross-border to meet their needs. International ecommerce is set to grow to £28bn by 2020 with the UK expected to have a 60% share of that market. Europe and Asia are anticipated to be the engines of this growth.

Most retailers recognise that there is a significant opportunity to extend the reach of their brand by selling online into new markets. In fact, having an international capacity is already perceived as normal for UK retailers, with 71% of retailers offering delivery outside of the UK

However, as internet penetration is increasing worldwide, international opportunities present further potential for growth. The UK is leading the way in terms of best practice and high-adoption rates, and this is providing an excellent foundation for businesses who wish to serve customers overseas. 

Multichannel strategies are becoming more important, yet many companies don’t have a strategy in place

Recent technological advancement has placed an increased importance on the idea of creating a consistent customer experience across multiple channels.

Multiscreen, multi-device customers check and compare prices in store, buy online and talk about their purchases via social media, so the experience of making sure each touch point effectively serves the user is essential.

A good multichannel service isn’t just about allowing a customer to hop between channels; it’s about allowing them to carry out their tasks in full, with as little friction as possible, using the channel of their choice. 

Today's multichannel world, where 67% of the global population uses mobile phones, increases the importance of marketers communicating on the customer’s terms, delivering relevant and personalised content when and where they expect it.

It’s becoming increasingly common practice for consumers to switch between devices, starting a task on one device and finishing on a different one altogether. 

In the UK, more than 60% of online adults use at least two devices every day and nearly 25% use three devices. The number of devices used makes the challenge for marketers all the more difficult, as they try to track the user. 

Designing and implementing an effective multichannel strategy is a challenge for companies, but one which also has the potential to deliver huge rewards. However, with only a third of global retailers having omnichannel fulfilment capabilities, it is questionable whether or not they are successfully marketing to consumers.

Deficiencies in ecommerce solutions across key areas of functionality force many companies to replatform 

According to the recent Econsultancy / Neoworks Technology for Ecommerce Report, there is significant under-performance across many critical aspects of ecommerce technology, including product management and merchandising, mobile-supported commerce, SEO and order management.

Respondents were asked to identify key aspects of functionality, and whether or not ecommerce solutions are performing in these areas. 

Although high-quality search functionality and content management systems are valued by companies as the most critical functions for an ecommerce solution, there is an obvious discrepancy between user expectations and the service that their platform actually delivers.

Only a fifth of companies (21%) rated their solutions as ‘good’, even though more than half of respondents (56%) said this was critical. For content management systems, the figures were 23% and 53% respectively.

These results show that companies don’t feel that the solutions they are using are working effectively for them and their business, leaving a lot to be desired from their ecommerce technology

Given the deficiencies of many ecommerce solutions, it is no surprise that many companies have either replatformed in the past (22%), are replatforming now (20%) or are considering doing so in the future (32%).

Econsultancy / Neoworks Criticality vs Functionality 

Further trends and information on ecommerce platforms can be found in the Ecommerce Platforms Buyer’s Guide 2014.

Ornaith Killen

Published 28 July, 2014 by Ornaith Killen

Ornaith Killen is part of the Econsultancy research team.  Follow on Twitter @ornaithk.

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2Small Business

Controversial, but I've never really rated this as a guide - sorry!

The trends and requirements response form elements are great but if it's a platform buyers guide then do some meaningful analysis of platforms and don't muddy the waters by reviewing ecomm agencies/implementers too.

Why bother featuring more than one partner for each platform?

Inclusion becomes completely arbitrary where agencies are featured, but if that's what you feel is wanted then may I suggest that you initiate a separate Ecommerce Agency Guide too?

Thanks,
Mark.

almost 2 years ago

Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis, Research Director at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Thanks for the feedback Mark, and I'm pleased you rate the trends analysis and requirements template document. We will certainly consider your suggestion of having a separate report for agencies.

We have always seen value in including profiles of both base platforms and platform implementers, and have included clearly demarcated sections for different types of vendor for the most recent versions. I don't see the problem of having more than one partner for different platforms.

Our aim for this and our other buyer's guides is to provide a decent list of companies from which buyers can build a list of contenders, armed with the right questions to be asking so they can narrow this down based on their needs.

Rightly or wrongly, our approach has never been to provide detailed evaluations of specific vendors, as we haven't had hands-on experience ourselves of all the different platforms.

almost 2 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2Small Business

Hi Linus, thanks for the rationale. I think my main issue is the guide conflates platforms and implementers/agencies in a slightly confusing way, and also that fundamental issues that affect decision making are not addressed, i.e. what are the key differences between open source and proprietary ecommerce software, and the pro's and cons of each?

The report doesn't actually mention the term 'proprietary', instead opting for 'base and implementer': pernickety, maybe, but odd terminology I think.

Not sure I agree with your assertion that inclusion of multiple partners for some of the platforms is a good thing - there are implications in taking this stance. Econsultancy is a highly respected and trusted voice and I think the danger of omitting someone might be construed as a vote against, but it's not possible to include everyone.

Platform-wise, Enterprise and mid-market are pretty well covered, but there's only really Magento and a few of the proprietary agencies offering solutions at SME level.Where, for example, is Visualsoft? They are one of the very best agencies at SME level with over 1000 sites out there! Similarly Big Commerce and Shopify don't figure - fabulous little platforms that a huge chunk of your readership would find useful.

There are hundreds more proprietary agencies not here (not all of them good) so just too many omissions for this to be a comprehensive guide.

As it is it's 165 pages long. I printed it double-sided and it's really unwieldy. Surely a case for splitting up into platforms and implementers/agencies.

Producing an agency/implementer guide, however, would be a perilous exercise: ask an agency about itself and you're not going to get warts and all! It would need to be handled intelligently.

Not sure if you've ever looked at the Forrester Wave reports on ecommerce platforms, great report, worth checking out if you've not seen it.

Just a few thoughts Linus: I know and respect a few of the people who contributed to this guide and my only interest is to make it better!

Thanks,
Mark.

almost 2 years ago

Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis, Research Director at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Thanks Mark, good suggestions, and agree we could perhaps trim down a bit and have more vendors aimed at SMEs.

One of the difficulties is that the lines can be quite blurred between platforms and integrators (or agencies), as some of those profiled straddle both camps.

To your point that the report doesn't actually mention the term 'proprietary', that's not correct.

We do say at the start of the report (page 10):

"The profiled vendors have been split into three categories: 'base platform', 'platform implementer' and 'base and implementer platform'.This division is intended to reflect the difference between a piece of re-usable software (that can either be implemented by a third party or by in-house developers – i.e. a base platform) and the services of a solution provider, which may use third-party (platform implementer) or proprietary software (base and implementer platform) as a starting point in delivering a fully functional online store for a retailer."

We also say on page 12 in the 'differences between ecommerce solutions' section.

"As already explained, it is important to understand the difference between a piece of re-usable software that can either be implemented by a third party or by in-house developers (a base ecommerce platform) and the services of a solution provider who may use third-party or proprietary software as a starting point in delivering a fully functional online store for a retailer (implementer platforms). Alternatively, many sell their software as a whole package (base and implementer platforms)."

almost 2 years ago

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Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2Small Business

I stand corrected Linus!

In my experience it's a more widely used and understood term than 'base and implementer' so wondered if it might be better as the heading than in the sub text.

Would be good to meet up in person sometime, I'll seek you out at any future events and come and say hi.

Mark.

almost 2 years ago

Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis, Research Director at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Okay thanks Mark, look forward to it.

almost 2 years ago

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John

Hi Ornaith,
As rightly said,Retail is transforming itself from a local industry into one which is fundamentally about competing globally in international markets. Nowadays Retail industry is growing very fast, it is very necessary to understand the development of the market in the globalization world. This blog gives the insight of the Retail industry internationally.Thanks for sharing such a good blog.

Many Thanks,
John

over 1 year ago

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