What is Ecommerce?
This may seem like a dumb question, but it is harder to answer than you might think. Electronic commerce is the creation of an online store with the ability to emulate, as much as possible, shopping’s tactile experience. The weakness of an online store is its inability to directly address three of the five senses (taste, smell and touch). The strength of a web store is its ability to capitalize on uniquely digital assets such as:
- Infinite Inventory pulling information or inventory from any node within the network.
- Social Shopping Via Wisdom of Crowds and powered by Reviews and Social Networks.
- Flexibility and an ability to create a one-to-many, one-to-some or one-to-one shopping experiences based on patterns or real time behaviors.
[will write more on each of these topics soon]
How does Ecommerce happen?
Ecommerce could “happen” with as little as a single phone. If you sold something everyone wanted, where demand well exceeded supply, ecommerce infrastructure could be minimal. When you have the better mousetrap, customers do beat a path to your door. Problem is there aren’t many of these high demand, low competition businesses anymore.
The 12 Ecommerce Components
Since our contemporary world is replete with “better” mousetraps, ecommerce requires a commitment in excess of a single phone. Typical components of an ecommerce store are:
- Home Page – sets the “who are we” and “what we are all about” tone.
- Images – pictures and graphics speak to brand and shopper aspirations.
- Copy – words speak to brand and shopper aspirations.
- Navigation (or “menu” or taxonomy) – provides shopping paths.
- Categories – groups of products to aid in merchandising, shopping and SEO.
- Product Pages – where the magic BUY button lives along with a product’s story, reviews and specifications or features.
- Shopping Cart – where shoppers “put” products and then checkout.
- Content Pages – about us, contact us, guarantee and a return policy are typical ecommerce content, but some sites like Woot.com tell great stories.
- Site Search – “internal search” to differentiate from external search (Google).
- Forms – When you subscribe to a site’s email list, you use a web form.
- Metadata – feeds keywords to search engines to help index a site.
- Analytics – codes feeding usage data to programs such as Google Analytics.
These are ecommerce’s 12 puzzle pieces; how a company or team combines these elements determines the success or failure of their store.
Magento is a powerful and flexible ecommerce Content Management System (CMS). A CMS’s main role is to tie the 12 Ecommerce Components together into an efficient and easy to understand system. Internet marketers, Web Masters and Web Merchandisers use a CMS to organize, merchandise, modify and create their store.
Ecommerce used to require Information Technology pros just to do something as simple as change a product’s color variation or add a new product. Thankfully those days are gone, but not all Content Management Systems are equal or appropriate for every application.
CMS Admin System
Within every CMS is an admin system. Admin is a system within a system. It controls key CMS features such as security. Security, in this context, is mostly about who can access what and who can make changes. Admins contain user profiles for the team working on the online store and other system management tools.
Difficult and underpowered admins send merchandising and marketing teams running to overloaded IT staff to make changes. Ecommerce happens NOW. Any request forced into a queue may lose meaning and relevance by the time it gets implemented. Delay creates competitive advantage for the OTHER guys.
Magento is a GREAT ecommerce CMS.
I used several BAD ecommerce CMS systems over my 7 years as Director of Ecommerce before joining Atlantic BT. CMS is a kind of language. Once you learn the language of how to segment, add or modify products, managing millions in online revenue becomes possible and easier. This “language” is usually a series of connected screens called a “User Interface” or UI. Most UIs are created by engineers (left brainers) and used by marketing and other creatives (right brainers). In the old IT dominated days, right brainers had to conform. We had to learn an unnatural language.
Magento’s UI requires learning a left brain language, but it is intuitive and organized around Ecommerce’s 12 Components. I give Magento’s admin an A- with the potential to become an A+. Magento isn’t one product owned by a large company. Magento is “open source,” so its code is free and readily available to anyone.
Think about the iPhone’s success. Apple created an exclusive platform allowing programmers to build apps on top of their core programming. There are millions of apps now because Apple encouraged collaboration and partnership. Magento’s ecommerce platform uses the Apple approach. Create a set of core instructions and encourage programmers to add on.
Magento is better equipped to become an A+ CMS because of the tens of thousands of plugins and extensions programmers have and are building. Magento keeps up with new developments such as mobile commerce thanks to the extensive developer community.
Atlantic BT’s “Should I Use Magento?” Test
I like Magento’s understanding of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the amount of power in the admin and its ability to morph quickly with plugins and extensions. I would strongly recommend Magento for any ecommerce store who may be small today but who wants to be bigger tomorrow. Changing a CMS is a train wreck (been there, done that, never want to do it again). BUY MORE CMS than you need now. Answer these questions about your web store or e-business:
Do you have more than 100 products (counting each attribute variation as a separate product)?
Is your ecommerce store critical to your company’s revenue?
Do you want your ecommerce store to be 4x or 5x what it is today in the next few years?
Are you in a highly competitive business?
Are you heavily involved in social or mobile communication or commerce?
If you are a B2B business, are you using content to create inbound marketing?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, Magento deserves a strong look. If you answered NO to every question, then you can probably survive on a WordPress blog with a little ecommerce programing. I would only suggest such a minimal option of there were no plans to scale larger in the next 2 to 4 years.