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.