“Digital commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and development of customer relationships across multiple retail, wholesale, mobile, direct and indirect sales, call center, and digital sales channels. Key functionality for this technology includes the creation and management of product catalogs, Web storefronts, shopping carts, and product recommendation and personalization.” Gartner
Going by the Gartner definition above, the core functionalities of a digital commerce platform are:
- Creation and management of a product catalog, containing details of the products you sell
- A Web storefront, where you display your products, possibly under relevant categories
- A digital shopping cart that enables buyers to select specific products and put them in the cart for a later checkout
The definition also mentions functionalities for:
- Product recommendation and
The overall objective is defined as the “creation and development of customer relationships across multiple” channels. This will include marketing your business and providing a great customer experience, including easy buying and payment experiences and after-sales support.
The Gartner resource cited above contains reviews of many platforms in the market. These platforms provide the required functionalities to run digital commerce businesses.
In this post, we look in a little more detail at the functionalities. We will focus on a few popular platforms to demonstrate how each of the features has been implemented in these.
Every product has its page at the Shopify platform. The page will contain:
- Image of the product
- Its description
- Price information
- An “Add to Cart” button
These details will be shown only if you have marked the product as available. If a product is out of stock, you can set it as “not visible”, and it will not appear at the site. Alternatively, if the stock value becomes zero, the algorithms in the platform can set the product as “Out of Stock” or remove it from the listing.
The Shopify product catalog is stored in a database at the back end of your Shopify account. You add products to this database by going to Products->All products page from Shopify admin. Once on the products page, you click the Add products button to bring up a form that allows you to enter a title and description for the new product. After entering these details, you click Save, and that creates a details page for that product.
You go to the details page of a product by clicking the product name on the all Products page. Once there, you can add a picture of the product by clicking the “Add image” button.
You can also enter price details while editing the details page of a product.
The above outline is only the bare minimum to give you an idea. Shopify offers many options to accommodate differing requirements. Entering price, for example, can be complicated by factors such as:
- Selling in different currencies
- Sale and discount prices
- Price computation based on cost plus margin
- Tax issues
The storefront of digital commerce consists of a website that incorporates:
- Product pages that display product pictures and other details
- Shopping cart software that allows buyers to select products to buy and
- Checkout page where the items in the shopping cart are paid for
In addition to these essential elements, the website could also provide features that make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable. For example, the buyer can remove items from the shopping cart or make payments in different ways. They might also see personalized recommendations, bestseller lists, and customer reviews from past buyers of products.
BigCommerce, another popular e-commerce platform, provides:
- Readymade store themes that make it possible to create beautiful product pages that will look good on desktops, tablets, and mobile
- A theme-editor to customize the themes, and API’s for full-scale customization with HTML and CSS
- Conversion-boosting features such as an optimized checkout experience, abandoned cart saver and an augmented search that allows you to narrow down to just what you are looking for
- Different options to accept payments from shoppers, including credit or debit card, PayPal and Amazon Pay among others
You can build great storefronts even if you don’t know HTML and CSS. This is made possible by a site builder and the different themes. You add “blocks” such as paragraphs, headings, and images to build up your site.
Digital Commerce Platforms with Marketing Features
Popular digital commerce platforms typically include features that help you improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Marketing involves:
- Getting interested visitors to your site, and
- Getting them to buy when they are at the site
Let us see how some popular platforms help with the above issues.
Shopify has a blog that features articles on issues of importance to their clients. For example, here is a blog post on how to bring more visitors to your ecommerce site: https://www.shopify.in/blog/how-to-increase-website-traffic
Shopify themes also pay conscious attention to making it easy for visitors to find what they want and to make purchases. These conversion-boosting elements make it more likely that visitors will buy what they wish to once they land on the site.
BigCommerce has themes that are built for better search engine visibility. HTTPS, optimized URLs, and automatic sitemaps, for example, help SEO. BigCommerce is also integrated with Google Shopping so that you can advertise to shoppers looking for products on Google.
The brief mentions above are just examples of marketing support that two popular digital platforms offer. They offer more.
When you select a digital commerce platform, look carefully at how they help with the two critical issues mentioned earlier viz.
- Bringing visitors to the site and
- Converting visitors into buyers when they are at the site.
Analytical Reports on what is Happening
You control your business by:
- Setting targets for key performance areas, such as sales volumes, revenues, and profits
- Recording actual performance along with the same areas
- Comparing the performance in each area against the targets
- Analyzing the factors that led to any deviations of actual performance from pre-set targets
- Taking actions based on findings of the analytics so that performance reaches desired levels
Google Analytics is a tool to help with the above. It allows you to set goals and measure performance against these. Extensive analytical capabilities are incorporated to identify the factors that affect performance.
The Magento 2 digital commerce platform allows tapping the power of Google Analytics to control the performance of e-commerce businesses built with Magento.
Digital Commerce Platforms: A Summary
We looked very briefly at some aspects of three popular digital commerce platforms. Our goal was to illustrate how features helped critical issues of managing an e-commerce business in the platforms.
There are many more platforms, including those created by reputed companies like Oracle. What you have to check is whether the platform you select is easy to use and whether it provides the key functionalities to make the business a success.