Online retailers should concentrate on the basics to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive industry, a panel of experts told attendees at the E Commerce Expo Tuesday.
Matt Henderson, director of merchant services at Amazon, argued that it is less about "whizz bang" e-commerce platform functionality, and more about improving operational service, noting that the most successful retailers offer the best range of products and prices, deliver on time and resolve any problems quickly.
"It's less about the bells and whistles. The sites which are successful have strong operational indicators such as low percentage of customer contact per unit sold," he explained.
"E-commerce solutions are getting more and more flexible, and there are a lot of design elements that can be changed, but first and foremost it should be operational service."
Ariel Ludi, chief executive of e-commerce software firm Hybris, argued that the basis of all advanced e-commerce projects, such as adding product comparison and personalisation functionality, is ensuring an effective way of storing and managing product and customer information.
"If you want to talk to customers across more than one channel, for example, and you don't give the same message on price and features because there's not a single source of the truth, people get confused," he said.
Anthony Farrow, associate director at consultancy firm Javelin Group, added that online retailers should always have at the back of their minds how they are going to deliver any new functionality.
Farrow also maintained that the multi-channel functionality coveted by so many retailers cannot simply be integrated into existing e-commerce platforms.
"This can take you so far, but a lot will be down to the way you run your business. To support this kind of 'click and reserve' functionality will need big changes," he said.
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