PAIN RELIEF: Evaluating E-Commerce Platforms

By Martin Newman | 01 Dec 2010

There are so many e-commerce platforms to choose from and we’re not exactly sure which one will suit our needs. Is there a checklist of essential criteria for selecting the right platform? What should we be looking for?

There are so many e-commerce platforms to choose from and we’re not exactly sure which one will suit our needs. Is there a checklist of essential criteria for selecting the right platform? What should we be looking for?

First things first, you need to ensure that you consider what all of your potential requirements are. Often we get engaged to help clients through the ‘platform and supplier selection process,’ as it’s a real minefield.

We work with retailers to gather requirements and then surface this information through stakeholder interviews and workshops with all of the people in the business who touch e-commerce.

There are many areas that need to be considered when it comes to developing an e-commerce platform or redesigning an existing solution, as it will have potential implications for anyone and any part of your operation involved in this channel. The resources you need to consider will include:

  • IT and system development;
  • Website design;
  • Buying and merchandising;
  • Commercial planning and stock management;
  • Pricing and promotions management;
  • Content creation and content management (including photography and copy);
  • Product photography and art working;
  • Online/digital marketing;
  • Order management;
  • Loss-prevention fraud-screening;
  • Customer contact management;
  • Warehousing facilities: pick, pack, despatch and returns processing;
  • Parcel carrier service; and
  • Reporting and control.

The information gleaned from this process will be fed into the ‘Request For Proposals’ (RFPs) that are usually given to  four or five suppliers who have been selected to pitch or respond to the RFP. They are selected based on a combination of your budget, your requirements including any specific technical requirements, their experience of your sector, culture, size and importance of you to the supplier

The detail in the RFP should include the following:

1. Requirements for the end user functionality and experience, including:

  • The customer proposition;
  • Site sections;
  • Navigation;
  • Browsing;
  • Personalisation;
  • Search and merchandising;
  • Basket and checkout; and
  • Customer communication.

2. Back office functionality, including:

  • Category hierarchy/management;
  • Product maintenance;
  • Product visibility;
  • General content management;
  • Personalisation/Customisation;
  • Promotions management;
  • Call centre and customer service functionality; and
  • Analytics.

3. Multi channel requirements, including:

  • EPOS; and
  • CRM, etc.

4.  Technical requirements, including:

  • Data security/access
  • Hosting requirements

5.  Integration requirements, including:

  • Multi channel integration;
  • Integration with existing merchandise systems;
  • Integration with CRM system;
  • Integration with warehouse/stock system;
  • Integration with finance and reporting system;
  • Integration with couriers/distribution companies; and
  • Integration with any other custom system (such as, hotel bookings, events, etc).

6. Future requirements, considerations include:

  • Internationalisation; and
  • Adaptablility to new technology.

7.  Reporting requirements, including:

  • Trading and performance reports for all KPIs;
  • Exception reports; and
  • Financial reports.

You would then review and evaluate detailed proposals against your provided requirements, begin to score vendors against your agreed selection criteria and conduct additional due diligence: including live demos of suppliers platform. And finally you’re ready to make a recommendation.

Follow this process and you’ll have the best opportunity of delivering your new site on time, on scope and on budget with a solution that’s ‘fit for purpose’.


3 thoughts on “PAIN RELIEF: Evaluating E-Commerce Platforms”

  1. Ziva Que says:

    Quick query, what is meant when you say Multi channel is EPOS and CRM (point 3)?
    – this is incorrect, EPOS and CRM would fall under integration/interface
    – multi-channel ‘requirement’s’ would be items such as Mobile/Store/Phone i.e. ‘channels’ other than internet, and the ‘requirements’ for these channels, just because integration may be needed, doesn’t mean its multi channel…


    1. Hi Ziva,

      Thanks for your question, or should I say, your advice!

      I think if you read point 3 again, you’ll find that I didn’t say multi channel is EPOS and CRM. I listed EPOS and CRM as multi channel aspects that should be considered when producing an RFP for an e-commerce platform.

      As it happens, you would most definitely consider these and discuss them within multi channel requirements in an RFP.

      Multi channel requirements do not only cover the channels to market, they cover the levels of integration required in order for a retailer to move from being ‘multiple channel’ to ‘cross channel.’ They cover the change in processes and systems required in order to deliver a seamless cross channel experience to the customer. And they cover the challenges around data capture and data structure.

      When selecting a new e-commerce platform, a ‘multi channel’ retailer should at the very least, be future proofing their business so that when the time comes they can provide the customer with a more consistent experience across all touch points of their business. And the data piece is key to this. And that’s why, EPOS and CRM need to be considered otherwise the client will end up with customer data sitting in isolation across different channels and not feeding into a data warehouse where the retailer can have a ‘single customer view.’

      Not only this, very often retailers don’t even capture customer data at EPOS, or if they do, it’s not in the right format.

      So while integration is key, it’s actually a far more strategic consideration. First of all you need to review what data is being captured through different channels, what format it’s in and ultimately more often than not, you need to create a data warehouse so that all of the date can be fed into one place where it can be diced and spliced and you can have a ‘single customer view’. And if there is an existing CRM application, it’s a fundamental requirement to determine whether or not it is fit for purpose.

  2. Galina says:

    Thanks for the useful tips. It was especially interesting in terms of end user functionality, I learnt lots of new.
    I have recently read an article on choosing platforms but other aspects were considered . It says that checkout,real time inventory and virtual wish list are “must have” features. I wonder if it is really so crucial? And also built-in info pages – is it really helpful for site promotion?

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