I used to think that eCommerce was all about driving sales and that project implementation was all about overcoming challenges between IT and Marketing. And maybe it once was. But times have changed, and so have the problems. It’s time we adjusted our mindset (and our approach).
Traditionally, the B2B world has seen eCommerce just as a marketing and sales tool to drive visibility and, subsequently, conversions. In my opinion, this limited mindset is the biggest reason why B2B businesses have traditionally been slower to adopt to new technology and to an omnichannel approach.
To succeed in today’s environment, your KPIs should have a blend of revenue and operational metrics, or you are missing half of your opportunity. If you find the right operational stakeholders, you can solve so many business challenges with eCommerce–challenges that you may not have ever considered as “your problem” as an eCommerce leader.
eCommerce has always been a blend of marketing and IT, art and science. Having worked in eCommerce and digital marketing for 16 years, I can tell you that the original battles were always between marketing and IT. IT needed to listen to marketing, and marketing needed to speak and respect tech. Bringing these groups together was a challenge (and it still can be!), but I’ve stood up dozens of sites across giant and not-so-giant companies, and I can tell you very clearly where the tallest tent poles of eCommerce projects are–and they aren’t in marketing or in IT.
I have confidence in my coders–they are brilliant–and I have confidence that my marketing and business stakeholders can represent the needs of the business and the needs of customers. Typically, both IT and marketing are excited about (and understand the benefit of) eCommerce. So, then, where are the biggest headaches?
The true pain points sit in operations.
In every website or business I have built, we’ve come to a screeching halt when it’s time for the rubber to meet the road with the operational side of the business. Whether it’s surprise business processes, broken systems, or resistant teams overwhelmed with their own day-to-day work, operations can become the biggest obstacle to successful completion–or even to eCommerce adoption in the first place.
I paint with broad strokes when I use the term “operations.” operations can cover distribution, legal, and finance, and any of the other operational teams that work with or (should ;-)) support sales and marketing.
To some, this operational struggle is a super frustrating obstacle. I have experienced it enough that I now plan for it. These challenges have also became an opportunity to build relationships, solve business problems, and win people over to the benefits of embracing eCommerce fully in their business.
Any number of issues or objections can suddenly pop up when you’re trying to get buy-in for a project or to complete a project that’s already approved and in flight. Here are a few examples of some of the most common (and simple) issues that I’ve come across in the last several years:
- Operations/materials management teams that are sick of getting mis-keyed orders or crazy backorders placed by reps and customers alike–including a legacy platform that just makes the team’s life harder.
- Customer support teams and DC(s) overwhelmed by a poor, manual return process and frustrated customers when returns aren’t handled promptly.
- Losses on shipping and handling fees on every order and general order margin leakage in other areas.
- Sales reps that have gone hog wild with discounts, driving margins down.
- Product data that’s just fine for a purchasing team, but unworkable on the sales and customer ends (including the eCommerce platform!).
These are just a few of the issues that I’ve encountered in most businesses (but, really, this list could go on and on). Solving the riddles that hugely impact your bottom line can make your eCommerce platform indispensable and can help you build relationships, aligning allies to your eCommerce cause.
Real examples are always more interesting than just straight business theory, so in this article series, I’m going to give you some genuine examples from my experience in the eCommerce jungle, as well as potential ways to proceed, possible questions to ask, and different paths to take, whether you’re an inhouse eCommerce leader or an external consultant. These are just my perspectives–stories from the front lines.
I am a puzzle solver and I love to get things done, so whenever I have “the hood up,” I love to fix anything that’s broken. This series is dedicated to the eCommerce puzzle solvers and the people who can’t let operational efficiencies slide when they find them. I know you’re out there, and I see you!