4 Tips for Enhancing E-commerce Platforms

 Arish Ali, Co-founder and President at Skava, an Infosys company, shares tips on how to build a modern ecommerce platform. He also describes that while retailers prepare year-round for the holiday season, many still lack the modern technology to meet spikes in demand

[MarTech Advisor – March 16, 2017] The U.S. e-commerce market is on pace for another record-setting holiday season. Research firm eMarketer predicts digital purchases during November and December will increase 17.2 percent to $94.71 billion, accounting for 10.7 percent of all sales. For purchases both online and off, the National Retail Federation forecasts sales rising 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion over the same time span.

This growth in digital commerce means retailers need to improve, refine and future-proof their digital infrastructure. Robust mobile applications, simple search tools and a wealth of purchase and delivery options mark the continued turn toward consumer-friendly technologies that can result in increased sales.

Retailers looking to shift their e-commerce platform to be more modern should focus their initiative in these four areas:

Mobile-first approach

Mobile is the most prominent e-commerce channel, accounting for 45.1 percent of digital purchases during the first quarter of 2016, according to Bloomberg. It’s the first time mobile has beaten desktop (45 percent) in the digital shopping arena. In another first, mobile purchases during Black Friday surpassed $1 billion.

But the battle between mobile and desktop sales is a false dichotomy. In fact, roughly 40 percent of transactions occurred across multiple devices or channels during last Q4, according to a study by marketing firm Criteo. This suggests consumers are more willing to look for the best deal for them, regardless of whether it takes place on the phone, in the store or at home. With mobile, shoppers can afford to research and wait.

A mobile-first platform can help retailers adapt to the consumer decision-making process.

Future-ready architecture

Natural language processing applications, the Internet of Things, social commerce tools, augmented reality are just some of the new technologies that are about to affect e-Commerce. To accommodate these developments, retailers will need to plan for a massive overhaul to their backend IT. Flexibility is key. To achieve it, retailers should morph their often monolithic deployments into more modular systems by adopting loosely coupled architecture, based on microservices. This would result in more fluid and nimble platforms that are also more cost-effective.

This modular, as-a-service approach helps organizations build competency in specialized areas. It also helps free up internal resources to better focus on value-generating activities, such as customer-centric services and offerings.

Conversational commerce

One of the biggest innovations in consumer technology is the trend toward offering consumers services and information in a conversational manner. Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana and Alexa are a few big brand-name examples.

It is an exceptionally fast-growing trend. According to a recent Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers report, mobile voice assistants have grown in use from 30 percent of smartphone users in 2013 to 65 percent in 2015. Google, too, reports an increase in voice searching, with 20 percent of all mobile search being voice-based.

This doesn’t mean any company needs to go out and build their own Siri, but it does mean they will need to tap into conversational-centric efforts. Chatbots, like those found on Facebook’s Messenger Platform for example, can provide retailers with simple way of providing a conversational presence for consumers. These applications can provide shoppers with discoveries, answer simple questions and generally help during the shopping process.

However, a conversational commerce initiative requires some heavy lifting. Any execution will need to coordinate with existing physical and digital channels and closely emulate what’s available on current email and text messaging offerings. The company’s tone, too, will need to be captured and taught to any artificial intelligence or chatbot operating on the company’s behalf. Finally, conversational commerce requires maintenance and updates, meaning any organization investing in this solution will also need to invest in a competent development team.

Open your platform

Digital services today are built on modular sets of code called application program interfaces, or APIs. APIs serve a critical role: they allow internal and third-party developers to integrate new software and new technologies into the e-commerce platform for better and easier browsing, access and transactions.

Organizations investing in e-commerce platforms ought to ensure they are build a strong set of APIs to get the most out of their digital transformation.

Throughout this journey, many organizations will need to remember that e-commerce today requires patience. It’s a gradual shift towards competency, not an overnight transformation. New developments in consumer interactions are always on the horizon. New architectures are always being built. A successful digital transformation is about implementing new techniques and nurturing the mentality of constantly looking forward to the next consumer-centric capability. For retailers, that means building out mobile, building out a flexible architecture and striking a conversational tone to capture consumers.

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Millennials Are Reshaping the Shopping Experience, Are You Keeping Up?

Millennials are shaping the customer shopping experience with both trendsetting and extraordinary spending power. Exposure to technology has defined their different tastes and habits, which tend to change regularly. Millennials might be more connected than other shoppers, but they do not embrace a linear way of shopping; they embrace omnichannel digital experiences and are constantly on the lookout for more innovative and engaging ways to shop.

Classified as individuals 18-34 years old, Millennials actually care more about the experiences than owning things, and that poses the biggest challenge for retailers. According to Business Intelligence, Millennials are obsessed with the style of life than the stuff of life.

On the other hand, when it comes to retail, they have a very specific way of shopping and tend to become impulse buyers. More than 80% of Millennials in the U.S. have made an impulse purchase in 2014 and continue to do so today. However, Millennials are also more likely to regret their impulse purchases. Millennials make impulse purchases as soon as they get paid, when they are attracted to a promotion, or when they’re in need of retail therapy. Impulse purchases are higher among women than men. “Nearly seven in 10 women made impulse purchases after seeing price promotions while six in 10 male shoppers were tempted by the same offers,” according to eMarketer. Unfortunately, after making the impulse purchase, Millennials express dissatisfaction due to either the quality of product, or the overall cost of their purchase.

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Posted in Ecommerce, Mobile

CodeNow and Infosys Foundation USA Transform Students Into Coding Wizards

Over 50 excited high school students shuffled through the glass doors of the Skava headquarters in San Francisco on Saturday December 3th.

What were over 50 high school students doing in a tech office on a Saturday morning? They were learning to code.

Infosys Foundation USA and CodeNow partnered together to host a coding boot camp for high school students from San Francisco. This is their fourth coding boot camp this year and continues to host more workshops across the Bay Area.

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Posted in Events, Uncategorized

Headless Commerce Redefines Shoppable Experiences

Rethink Commerce

Traditional shopping that was once built around the storefront and checkout, has now transformed into one that is embedded into every experience and touchpoint possible.

However, one of the biggest challenges for retailers is to continuously improve front-end and digital experiences. Retailers would like to avoid replatforming as it is time-consuming and often times expensive. Headless commerce, which essentially separates the back-end capabilities from the front-end experiences, enables retailers to only partially replatform. Retailers can use their existing e-commerce stack, but only change the front-end layer.

Headless commerce is transforming the way customers shop and the way e-commerce developers build. In a headless architecture approach, the front-end layer and the back-end layer are completely separable.

More precisely, a headless commerce architecture separates the content presentation layer (content and experience management systems) from the business logic and functional layer (existing e-commerce stack, integration, and commerce management). Therefore, such architecture can support an e-commerce platform that has no “head,” allowing more room for flexibility, customization, shoppable experiences, and freedom for growth, which we will cover in this blog.

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Posted in Customer Stories, Uncategorized

Online Sales Dominated Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The numbers prove it all. Black Friday still remains the biggest holiday sales event of the year and has more prominence than ever before. This year, Black Friday broke online sales record with over $3 billion, compared to over $1 billion last year. Meanwhile, Cyber Monday breaks record with over $3 billion. At Skava, we analyze and dive deep into our data to see how customers are shopping during the most popular sales event of the year.

Download the infographic as we continue to explore popular trends during Thanksgiving weekend, the total number of online sales by day, and popular peak times.

 

Posted in Black Friday, Ecommerce

‘Legacy’ tech is slowing retailers’ e-commerce march

 [Payments Source] Retailers have invested in e-commerce technologies, but still struggle with integrating them with complex legacy systems.

Legacy systems limit the ability of retailers to rapidly prototype, test and launch new digital offerings and drive consistent experience across channels – resulting in the failure to compete with modern, mobile-first ecommerce architectures. Thus, retailers are forced to make incremental changes towards digital, rather than a complete transformation.

Today’s retail space is dominated by the need to deliver a unified, connected experience. Retailers are racing to bolster their e-commerce capabilities, create in-store omni-channel environments and expand their customer base to a global audience. In short, they need to work harder to deliver a seamless, device-agnostic connected experience.

Amazon is threatening retailers, requiring a major upgrade for retailers, says Skava’s Arish Ali.

According to eMarketer, global retail e-commerce sales are expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020, and sales in the U.S. alone are projected to cross $423 billion in 2016.

Here’s what we can expect to see in as the competition and adoption of key technologies continues to increase:

Technology will become a competitive battlefront. Traditionally, retailers have used technology as an enabler of tables takes features and have competed on aspects such as product assortments, price, promotions, store footprints and marketing.

However, with fast-changing consumer trends, the retailers with the best set of tech tools will win. These include consumer-facing front-end digital presence, and both platform and architecture to ensure back-end systems work efficiently. More retailers are viewing those capabilities as key differentiators and we believe this will result in some of the larger retailers bringing core e-commerce technology in-house. We can already see this happening as in the case of Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com and Target building their own e-commerce solution.Consequently, many large e-commerce platform vendors might find themselves losing some of their marquee clients.

Amazon continues to threaten retailers. Amazon will become even more of an existential threat to large retailers and the e-commerce platform of choice for smaller retailers. Amazon’s rapid adoption of next-generation technology and its efforts in reducing the distance between the consumer and the product brand with products like Amazon Echo and Dash are eroding other retailers’ relevance. Concurrently, big box retailers will transform the role of physical stores by creating new omni-channel experiences and focusing on making the store as a destination.

Retail will see a digital shift, not transformation. There will be an accelerated shift to mobile and cross-platform interactions. According to Criteo, mobile share of global e-commerce is expected to grow from 40% in 2015 to 70% by 2017, as we see consumer behavior such as online shoppers starting transactions on one device and ending on another become the norm. E-commerce will be leading this paradigm shift since it drives change and folds in new technologies that follow consumer needs.

In a hyperconnected market, brands must rely on well-differentiated services and solutions to create and maintain a competitive edge. In order to do so, companies must abandon legacy systems and adopt emerging technologies in order to fully embrace and execute digital strategies.

Arish Ali

Arish Ali

Arish Ali is CEO of Skava, an e-commerce platform provider and wholly owned subsidiary of Infosys.
Posted in Ecommerce, Thought Leadership

Black Friday Still Remains a Popular Tradition

Black Friday week is here and shoppers are preparing their game plan to hit up stores with the hottest products at door-busting prices. Meanwhile, other shoppers are turning to their mobile devices to access early promotions with a single touch of a button.

In a previous blog, we took a closer look at what shoppers expect during Black Friday season and explored some effective ways to keep mobile shoppers engaged. While retailers are adding their last minute touches to their Black Friday strategy, the argument still remains:

Is Black Friday still important and relevant to shoppers today? Will more customers shop and buy more on either Thanksgiving or Black Friday or completely avoid the entire American tradition?

“Black Friday is not just about deals. It’s about family and the experience of shopping with your family and for your family. I believe while there is  Thanksgiving there will be a Black Friday” said Sudha Vadarajan, CTO and co-founder of Skava.

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Posted in Black Friday, Ecommerce