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TechnologyJan 12, 2010

Maximizing your eCommerce Investment

Credera Team

Companies who continue to focus investment dollars on growing their eCommerce channel are realizing a positive ROI. Good news. However, those that invest in eCommerce as part of a Multi-Channel Marketing and Sales Strategy can maximize their online ROI. Better news.

Multi-channel retailers sell products to customers using multiple distribution channels, including ‘brick and mortar’ storefronts, direct mail/catalogs, mobile, kiosks, and online web-stores. Multi-channel marketing and sales strategies leverage these distribution channels as well as other customer contacts (e.g., customer service call centers) to communicate offers and promotions, sell, up-sell, or cross-sell products, etc.

Research shows that retailers who offer multi-channel shopping experiences actually grow their online sales significantly more than web-only merchants. For instance, Shop.org and Forrester Research reported that multichannel retailers outperformed web-only merchants in growing online sales, with 68% of multichannel retailers showing Web sales growth in Q1 2009 over the year before, versus only 39% of Web-only retailers.

It is clear – a multi-channel sales and marketing approach will maximize your eCommerce investment.

One example of leveraging eCommerce investments towards a multi-channel approach is Blockbuster’s ‘Total Access’. They combined online and store channels to provide customers with a flexible way to rent and return videos and games. ‘Total Access’ was a unique business proposition to directly compete against Netflix.

Many companies, though, acknowledge that their existing technology systems and business processes do not enable and cannot support this type of integrated sales and marketing approach. Thus, the quagmire…. What do I do first, and how do I smartly invest capital dollars so that I realize the greatest benefits the quickest?

These are definitely tough questions, especially if eCommerce is competing with the following for investment dollars: financial/accounting system upgrades, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, Order Management System (OMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, etc. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. The answer is… it depends.

No one likes that answer, but that is the truth. It depends on your company’s unique challenges and improvement opportunities. It also depends on your current systems, processes, organization, etc. and where the greatest potential for positive ROI exists. But here are some things to consider:

  1. Start with a multi-channel sales and marketing implementation strategy – don’t think of this as simply an IT change. Quite the contrary, this is a business strategy that is enabled by technology. Likely process and organizational changes will be required. If I’ve overwhelmed you, don’t be. A strategy will break-down and articulate what the next steps are. It identifies key issues, constraints, and opportunities and then includes a well thought-out strategy, plan, and roadmap.

  2. Baseline and track benefits improvements – Be sure to quantify and then track against the financial benefits. Being disciplined in business case analysis and tracking will help executives make decisions based on options that will have the greatest business impact. Plus, understanding financial goals will keep the entire organization focused on achieving the end-game objectives.

  3. If possible, seek to invest in Revenue Growth opportunities first – For example, eCommerce improvements as a revenue driver often result in increased capital that can then be applied towards subsequent investment opportunities that contribute towards the multi-channel strategy.

4) Ensure the executive team is aligned with and supports the implementation strategy – Leaders must unite and consistently communicate what the multi-channel sales and marketing approach is, the changes it will bring about, and why it is a benefit to the company and a benefit to individuals.

These are just a few helpful suggestions as you consider how to maximize your eCommerce channel. Instead of just investing in your online store and reaping those related benefits, invest in a total, multi-channel strategy to maximize online and other financial benefits.