This post talks about the importance of robust ecommerce systems that can take the inevitable ups, downs and spikes of growing a business over the long term in their stride.
It’s not a great place to be. Your business is growing well, you’re expanding to more channels, more customers are buying from you and they’re coming back too. All is calm on the surface, serene even. Below the surface is chaos. You’re creaking at the seams. Your current system can’t cope; it’s reached its limits. You can’t bolt anything else on to keep it going, and those 18-hour working days to keep the wheels turning are getting really old, really fast.
You need a new backbone for your business. You’re going to have to re-platform. It’s an ugly word, and an ugly prospect, filled with research, business cases, negotiations, upheaval and a steep learning curve on the other side. Or maybe you don’t have a system, but you’ve been making do with the native marketplace or channel system and a ton of manual processes. You’re taking on a second channel, and all of a sudden you’re looking at the doubling of those manual processes.
In the product listing area, for example, data quality is vitally important for showing up high in searches or winning the buy box. You need to take the Next time you’re going to buy a system that doesn’t become flaky and fall over regularly once you get to a certain threshold. One that’s got so much flipping headroom for expanding that you may never need to go through this again. Something robust that can handle whatever you throw at it – SKU volume, order throughput, Covid-like spikes in sales, data analytics demands – and say, ‘is that all you’ve got?’
There are some things you need to be 100% reliable, or as near to 100% as is possible. We believe your ecommerce platform should be one of those things. Three slightly more tangible parallels might illustrate the point:
Many of our customers came to us when they were small. They’ve grown with us and we’ve been able to share in their success. Some of them are now major businesses supporting the local employment economy and trusted by their community of customers, suppliers and partners. They need their ecommerce system to deliver on multi-million-pound promises each year and provide them with accurate performance intelligence.
Here are three anonymous examples of robustness. One Volo customer had a major marketplace launch. There was a lot of planning, involving many, many products, warehouse operations and logistics. In a 72-hour period they did £2.5m GMV, processing over 65,000 orders. At one point the Volo Origin system was processing in excess of 100 orders per minute for this one customer.
The promise of BI is the easy organising and visualising of data as Another customer has a vast SKU requirement due to the nature of their business. They sell a huge variety of products for a host of different brands. Including parent and child SKUs, they have over 3 million SKUs in Volo Origin. This translates to an awful lot of listings to manage, from creation through to revision and updating. Fortunately, automation comes to the rescue so that a set of changes can ripple across the entire SKU range.
A third customer wanted to really get under the reporting bonnet of their business. They wanted to put rules in place for calculating the margins they were making on key products – not generally across their products, for each product order – after all the various cost elements were taken into account, such as channel fees, payment gateway charges, fulfilment charges, shipping fees and Volo Origin platform fees (we operate a ‘success share’ model that is a tiny percentage of GMV you put through the platform).
They were able to use the rules engine in Volo Vision’s reporting and analytics platform to see what margins they were really making across their channels and regions. Vision makes these calculations automatically from the feeds it gets from Volo Origin and other third party systems.
eCommerce platforms either become the back office and ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning – system of a multichannel customer’s business, or they hook into existing warehousing, finance, accounting, ERP and fulfilment systems and exchange data flows with them. In either event, they’re embedded pretty deeply into the business. For this reason you want them to have two attributes: to be extremely robust and to have serious longevity.
Upgrading your ecommerce system is a major change, a step change in your growth journey. There should be no half measures. It’s pretty much all or nothing.
If you’re thinking about re-platforming, or maybe selecting a system to centrally manage your ecommerce business across two or more channels, please get in touch to explore your priorities and options.