How to reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction through self-service
It seems everyone is hyper-aware of the challenging economic times we currently face. And as companies start feeling the effects of consumer and business spending retracting, it may be tempting to cut marketing and digital transformation budgets or put projects on hold. But only 6% of companies intend to cut their tech spending next year, so continuing to invest is essential if you don’t want to fall behind your competition.
If the pandemic taught us something, it’s the importance of technology. Stability, efficiency, speed, and optimisation will be the fundamentals of resilient business during an economic downturn. And instead of cutting budgets, it’s more sensible to look at ways to make your budget work harder for you.
According to Gartner, 80% of tech leaders consider automation to be a top tactic to achieve cost optimisation. DEPT® has seen first-hand how leveraging tech to automate processes and allow customers to self-serve helps companies to permanently reduce the cost of doing business, provide a next-level customer experience as well as increase customer loyalty and lifetime value.
Let’s explore this further…
Start with customer journey mapping
If you’re unsure what to prioritise when it comes to automating processes and self-service, customer journey mapping is the perfect place to start. Giving you the chance to really get under your customer’s skin and truly understand their unique needs.
This technique allows you to get a holistic understanding of the entire digital customer journey. Throughout a series of workshops, we look at the flow for different types of users to identify current pain points, understand how customers want to interact and identify opportunities.
We also map the different technology, tools and touchpoints that are being used to see how they can be streamlined. Producing a visual customer journey map is a great way to demonstrate to senior stakeholders where investments should be made.
For OMRON, DEPT® reviewed their entire digital customer journey with the goal to improve customer satisfaction and reduce call centre costs. We held a series of discovery workshops that explored the current user experience, OMRON’s business model, identified pain points and pinpointed areas where automation could increase efficiency. Three high-priority projects were identified to allow customers to self-serve which would ultimately drive cost and time efficiency for OMRON, while providing an enhanced experience for their customers.
Serving the cutomer on demand
In today’s world, customers are looking for convenience and this isn’t only in B2C, two thirds of B2B buyers opted for remote human interactions or digital self-service across the sales process last year.
Not to mention, loyalty amongst customers is dwindling. So, with this in mind, in uncertain times it is smart for brands to invest in enhancing the customer experience amongst their existing client base to stand out amongst competitors and decrease churn.
According to NICE, 81% of consumers want more self-service options, however, only 15% have a high level of satisfaction with the tools currently provided. So developing effective strategies and digital products that allow customers to self-serve not only gives them access to the services they’re looking for, but creates an opportunity to build stronger brand connections, as long as their experience using the tool is positive.
That’s where it can be valuable to work in partnership with digital experts like DEPT® to ensure you hit the nail on the head. Here are three possible ways to do just that…
1. Customer portals
Developing tools and apps for customers to manage their own accounts can help to reduce operational spending. It takes some pressure off customer service agents by giving customers the ability to find resolutions on their own, allowing agents to then focus on urgent issues and delivering tailored customer experiences elsewhere.
And it’s a customer expectation, with 70% expecting a company to have a self-service portal or content available to them. Customers head to their account/portal to be able to easily find information, request services and resolve their problems 24/7.
It’s, ultimately, the hub of a brand’s relationship with its customers. Some key features to include in a customer portal are a knowledge base, community forum and chatbot integration.
For Jotun’s trade site, DEPT® built a customer portal where dealers and distributors can access personalised tools, product and technical information, and dynamically display products, tools and content relevant to individual users.
The online portal is also an important section of OMRON’s site. Whether it be a distributor, employee, or a member of the press, users are served content that is relevant to them, so it is completely personalised depending on the user type. The data required to identify users is collected during the registration and can also be used to support and optimise marketing activities and processes.
Chatbots are a great way to take the strain off call lines by allowing customers to find a quick solution through a flow of automated responses. Gartner predicts that by 2027, chatbots will become the primary customer service channel for a quarter of organisations.
A strong live chat system brings together staffed and automated solutions to provide customers the optimal experience, starting with automation and then directing the visitor to the appropriate colleague depending on their requirements. This helps to create more meaningful experiences between brands and consumers as well as saving time.
Chatbots are now more advanced than ever. As a brand known for their in-store customer service, Ralph Lauren came to BYTE/DEPT® for help translating that experience into digital with a chatbot ready to help customers find the perfect gifts for the 2021 holiday season. As a result, only 0.4% of users required a handover to a live customer service agent, which is one of the lowest rates we’ve seen in the industry.
3. On-site search
Something so simple, but so effective, is on-site search. Although this is nothing new for most, it is often undervalued. It allows customers to self-serve by finding what they’re looking for on-demand and without the need to get in touch.
Not only does it help visitors, but a well-optimised on-site search tool provides brands with a wealth of new data. It gives insight into what customers are looking for and any roadblocks to purchase, showing demand or opportunity. Brands are then able to analyse the data to provide personalised help, offers and up-sell opportunities.
DEPT® implemented Optimizely Find for Jotun to deliver intelligent search results across its B2C and B2B sites. It enhances user experience by powering global search, the product finder, colour grids, related colours and products.
Invest now to stay ahead
Although we face a period of economic uncertainty, there are many opportunities for organisations to leverage technology to stay afloat, and even grow. Now is the time to invest in order to stay ahead and reap the rewards both in the short and long term.
DEPT® have all the skills in-house to be able to analyse points in the digital customer journey that are slow, expensive and causing their customers to be unhappy. We can then look at projects to automate existing parts of the journey or develop strategies and digital products which allow their customers to self-serve.
Get in touch today to find out how we can help you reduce operational costs while increasing customer satisfaction.
Global SVP Technology & Engineering
A CTOs guide to maximising the value of tech investments
While the immediate threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it has left multiple economies in heavy debt. And subsequent global issues, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have resulted in a downturn of the global economy. In a July update, the World Economic Outlook predicted global growth to slow from 6.1% last year to 3.2% in 2022, and 2.9% in 2023.
With inflation reaching record levels, significant energy price increases and the rising cost of household items, consumers across the world face a cost of living crisis. And with a less than temporary reduction in household spending power, businesses can soon expect to see the impact on their bottom line.
We know from experience that in periods of economic uncertainty, digital projects are often canned or stalled. But during times of crisis, the opportunity for businesses to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of budgets – as well as the overall value of their technology investments – is actually huge.
We’ve outlined two of the best, easiest and efficient ways to do this, as well as the steps to take to get these types of projects over the line.
With the prospect of budget cuts looming, CTOs are being tasked with doing more with less. That might translate as automating processes, consolidating teams, sourcing new tech solutions, or getting more out of existing technology investments.
It will mean different things for different businesses, but the golden thread will most likely be to maximise efficiency and reduce costs. The pressure to continue to innovate and build out new propositions will likely remain in order to stay ahead of competitors and pursue new commercial opportunities, while keeping risk at a minimum.
It’s a big ask. But having worked with a range of B2B and B2C businesses to do just that, DEPT® can help you unlock unforeseen pockets of value that stretch budgets further while increasing sales.
Cloud platform review and optimisation
Cloud software is integral to future-ready business. So if you haven’t already migrated to the cloud, now is most certainly the time.
The focus needs to be on developing a scalable solution to create an agile framework that enables your business to adapt as your market develops and disrupts.
Not only will it go a long way to reducing the impact of rising energy costs, but connecting your teams through the right cloud-based software enables them to be more agile and harmoniously sing from the same sheet.
The key benefits of moving to the cloud are threefold. Geo-redundancy is number one, meaning that users in one market access the infrastructure in that location, and if one region goes down users are automatically routed to the other, forming the backbone of your disaster recovery strategy.
It also offers cost saving benefits, as similarly to mobile phones, there are fixed contracts or ‘pay as you go’ options available. A ‘pay as you go’ serverless approach allows businesses to only pay when the service is used, rather than paying to have a server running 24/7 in a physical location.
And finally, it provides greater flexibility as businesses can increase capacity when expecting higher traffic volumes, such as around planned sales, campaign or product launches. Plus, once a business understands their traffic volumes through the available data, they can fix their contract at a lower cost to scale capacity in line with business demand throughout the year.
DEPT® has a cloud first approach, and a cloud agnostic mindset. We are able to deliver consultants and engineers that can help you take your cloud platform hygiene to the next level to maximise efficiency.
Take Triumph Motorcycles as an example. We conducted a full review of its AWS setup, modernised old approaches, optimised configurations and removed unused components to facilitate a 30% reduction of its cloud hosting spend.
Outsource infrastructure management
With technology now serving as the backbone of modern business, even the shortest period of digital downtime can have a significant negative impact on operations and financial performance.
That’s why outsourcing infrastructure management through managed services may be the best option to expertly manage your online infrastructure.
Infrastructure management is less about maintaining your website or application content, but rather about the nuts and bolts that keep them running optimally.
This can involve managing servers and their performance as well as monitoring up and down time, being alerted to any issues and taking action – no matter the day or time.
But not all outsourcing solutions are optimum. For example, an offshore team may not work in unison or in alignment with the timezones that you operate across.
With local and nearshore teams working in a unified way across multiple physical locations, we have seen success in helping businesses reduce costs while upholding the expert standards of a global digital agency.
Our unique culture helps us recruit top talent across the world, which enables us to be ‘timezone aware’, giving clients peace of mind that their digital estate will be up, running and making money 24/7.
And we’ve seen success come from establishing teams consisting of members located in multiple physical locations, with differing staffing rates that reduces the overall cost to the client.
Such as for Just Eat Takeaway, for whom we provide ongoing support of their commerce platform; as well as for Jotun’s +5 websites, including proactive monitoring and reactive support, content editor helpdesk and application maintenance services.
Making the business case
It might be easy for an established tech leader to see the value in these suggested approaches. But getting said projects over the line can sometimes be a struggle with final decision makers, as they often require short-term investment before the long-term benefits can be reaped.
There are two distinct sides of the fence when it comes to making investments during global crises.
Frustratingly, the instinctive (and often more popular) reaction is to cut costs by postponing projects, reducing ‘non-essential’ spend on digital transformation, and scaling back headcount in order to bunker down and weather the storm.
But in reality, recessions and economic crises tend to be short lived, and are often succeeded by longer periods of growth. And businesses that seek out ways to maximise their existing investments (or continue to make new investments) can drive growth while competitors are cutting back.
During the 2009 financial crisis, according to McKinsey, organisations that maintained their innovation focus outperformed competitors by more than 30% and continued to grow over the subsequent three to five years.
Acting fast is imperative. The most successful technology leaders won’t wait for a confirmed recession to implement solutions, they will take immediate action to boost stability, efficiency and speed that is necessary for business resilience in this economic climate.
While the implementation of digital marketing systems, CRMs and big data projects have failure rates that exceed 50%, DEPT® has a strong track record of implementing and optimising technology platforms that have a clear return on investment for clients.
To find out how we can help your business maximise the value of its tech investments and accelerate digital resilience, get in touch with our experts today.
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Global SVP Technology & Engineering
Helping displaced individuals find their place in tech
When immigrants and refugees leave their home countries, they leave behind their jobs, networks, support systems, and oftentimes their credentials.
Their ability to find good jobs is stunted which can harm their confidence, happiness, and assimilation into society.
In 2018, Nick Broekema (Salesforce Partnership Lead at DEPT®) and his partners saw this problem firsthand, with many immigrants moving to the Netherlands unable to secure quality jobs. At the same time, the industry was dealing with another problem: a lack of Salesforce professionals.
So that year, with the desire to solve both problems with one solution, Blue Road Academy (formerly RefugeeForce) was born. Over the past few years, this program has helped over 180 individuals receive Salesforce training in a community-oriented atmosphere. From the initial cohorts, 60% of graduates have landed jobs at technology companies with positions in development, marketing, sales, and administration.
DEPT® is a proud recruitment partner, and has hired two individuals from Blue Road Academy since its opening! We also support with an annual monetary donation and use of our offices in Berlin for the training. Learn more about some of the impact this program has had by hearing from some of its graduates below.
Eyad Agha came to Germany in 2014 because of the instability in Syria. Beyond learning German, he enrolled at a university and received a master’s degree in information systems management.
He joined Blue Road Academy because “Salesforce was the clearest manifestation of my studies. Coding and programming were not for me, but I wanted to work in technology. Salesforce training seemed like a good fit.”
Talking about his experience with the training program, he said, “Martin (the instructor) is one of the brilliant minds in Salesforce. I was impressed and felt privileged for being instructed by someone like him. Martin was the most humble and nice person– always willing to help, answer questions, and have a conversation with the students.”
While he already had skills in information technology, they were sharpened during the boot camp. The other thing he learned was giving back. “The whole salesforce ecosystem depends on teamwork. You learn something and then you teach someone else. One arm to the throne, another arm to help someone else, a chain of people holding hands together and moving forward.”
Currently, Eyad is working as a Salesforce administrator for Luca. He is excited about the opportunity!
Originally from Afghanistan, Frahnaz studied Economics and had her own e-commerce business. But due to the fall of the government, she had to leave her country, business, and degree.
During her time at Blue Road Academy, she got another opportunity to go to a Salesforce Berlin Bootcamp which was a fantastic experience! The salesforce community around Europe came together (partners, actual salesforce professionals) and she was able to get to know people in the network. “I am really thankful for the opportunity to know an amazing community.”
While she doesn’t describe herself as “technical,” she likes Salesforce because, “The platform makes things easier for companies, which is valuable. I want to be in the technology and business space, so learning these skills is great.”
“During the program, we also learned how to interview and write a CV. This was useful because it gives real-life scenarios, how to answer questions, how to write a cover letter, and the different procedures in countries, like Germany vs the UK.”
When asked about her future goals, her first response was, “To share all the knowledge she is gaining and encourage Afghan women that don’t have the privilege of education.” Her wish is to give all that she can as an Afghan woman and eventually share it with other women.
“I believe that if you want to change the world, you have to change yourself and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. I wish every girl in my country had the chance to study and have the opportunity to go to university.”
Anna came to the Netherlands by way of Ukraine. She started to learn Salesforce by herself in 2021 because she had her own small business, but she wanted to learn more and get an official certification to expand her career opportunities.
She enjoyed the in-person classes because it was easy to communicate with other people in the program. “It was difficult and challenging because of the technical tasks required, but the program was smooth. My instructor, Gaspar Rodriguez, explained all the concepts, materials, and theories in simple words so you can understand them.”
For her, the Blue Road Academy ecosystem was supportive and gave opportunities to people without experience. Their way of learning was an environment with cool and intelligent people, which motivated her to take on the challenges.
Anna currently works at DEPT®. Talking about her experience so far, she says, “It’s amazing actually. The people are really supportive and answer questions. I had time to meet my team, and get onboarded and I’m excited to see where the opportunity takes me.”
“Anyone can transfer their knowledge into their work. And you can see where it takes you–the time you’ve dedicated is reflected in your work.”
The future of Blue Road Academy
By 2030, Blue Road Academy hopes to have trained 10,000 newcomers in its program with a 50/50 ratio of men to women. They hope to continue their 60% job placement success rate which would place 6,000 or more individuals in Salesforce roles, at all types of technology companies.
Learn more about how you can get involved at Blue Road Academy.
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DEPT DASH™ is here to accelerate custom website development
Historically, custom websites can take a significant time to build. So we created DASH to accelerate the process.
For decades, brands have gone to agencies for help in design and development. And for decades, agencies have been kicking off projects from scratch.
The problem here is web design and development don’t always require starting from scratch. Project setup, technology selection, and the creative process are often similar across the board.
In other words, the digital world has reached a point where tools, platforms, technology expertise, and AI are so powerful, we don’t need to start from zero every time. We can come to the table with months of work already done, which cuts project time while delivering best-of-breed, process-proven, and completely custom technology solutions.
Introducing DASH, a website accelerator from DEPT®
DASH is a headless website and e-commerce accelerator that provides the building blocks for modern marketing and e-commerce sites. A composable approach impacts both the implementation of the front-end and influences the end-to-end process and methodology, from design through to deployment.
To understand it in action, consider the development of an e-commerce website. No matter your industry, size, or product offerings, every single e-commerce website will need hosting, shopping cart technology, payment processing, search capabilities, and a slew of other third-party integrations. Rather than let these necessities take up the first month of work, we have created IP that automates it.
The out-of-the-box design and development elements provided by DASH include:
- Design system
- DevOps and infrastructure
- Component library
- CMS integration
- Search integration
- e-commerce integration
- Automated testing
- Performance and accessibility testing
This enables you to use use the majority of your budget on impactful activities like
- UX/UI design
- Custom component and page templates
- CMS content modeling
- Front-end implementation
Who is DASH for?
DASH is for any marketing or e-commerce team that needs a completely custom website in an unconventional timeline–typically a few months. The core technology stack consists of the Contentful CMS, Shopify cart technology, and Algolia search engine, and new integrations are being created each month.
By leveraging DASH, DEPT® strategists, designers, and developers have more time and budget to create experiences that power your digital strategy.
DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool
DASH provides what we always complete in the first month or two of a project, for both design and engineering. This allows delivery timelines to be 1-2 months faster without sacrificing design quality and customisation.
Any pieces a project doesn’t require can be quickly and easily removed in full, so the project isn’t weighed down with unnecessary cruft.
DASH is a starting point, not a builder tool. Builder tools make some things easy and other things impossible, which isn’t viable for the custom projects we do. This IP covers the entire production workflow from Figma design files to Storybook design systems, full technology implementation, and automated test and deployment scripts, all integrated end-to-end and ready to spin up within minutes.
Learn more about DASH, our proprietary website accelerator.
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Sr. Content Marketing Manager
How Salesforce Commerce Cloud creates customised e-commerce experiences
This year, global e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $5 trillion.
This milestone speaks to the industry’s unique position at the intersection of rapid digital development and a renewed period of slower but sustained growth following the boom period spurred by a global pandemic.
If you’re looking for a platform to create (or level up) an e-commerce experience for a B2C brand, you’ll know that now, more than ever, is the time to stand out.
Here’s why Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) might be the solution you need.
The SFCC advantage
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is one of the leading cloud-based SaaS e-commerce platforms. It’s known for being a robust product that can be taken out-of-the-box and leveraged to build & launch an immersive brand experience quickly.
One of the biggest advantages of SFCC is that, as an out-of-the-box solution, you only need the support of an engineering team to deploy it.
Once the storefront is live, managing the platform is easily done in-house, even if your brand doesn’t have a dedicated team of engineers.
Using SFCC also offers your brand the advantage of Salesforce’s suite of best-in-class integrations. Some of these come pre-built in, like SFCC’s AI-powered Einstein module, which delivers personalised recommendations to your customers.
Other integrations are sold separately but are well worth considering.
Mulesoft, Pardot, Salesforce CDP, and Salesforce OMS are just a few examples that can bolster your customer experience with a 360-degree view.
New customisation options for limitless innovation
Historically, SFCC depended on templates for storefronts to help brands deploy their e-commerce sites quickly.
Although SFCC offers numerous effective options for templates, the requirement posed a creative restriction for brands looking to build a custom storefront fully aligned with their identity and nuanced customer experience.
Following Salesforce’s acquisition of Mobify at the end of 2020, however, SFCC got an exciting upgrade: full customisation, powered by a headless architecture.
Headless architecture separates front-end and back-end software. Where a software update in a traditional architecture would require engineers to make changes to both the front- and back-ends, a headless architecture makes it possible to change—or even completely rebuild—one end independent of the other.
For brands using SFCC, this makes it easy to break out of a template and work with a team of engineers to build your own fully customised e-commerce storefront without compromising on the speed of deployment.
Most importantly, taking advantage of headless architecture positions your brand to innovate continuously. As digital evolves and new customer touchpoints emerge, you’re able to incorporate additional features and creative experiences quickly and affordably.
Bespoke SFCC in action
Over ten years of building upwards of 200 e-commerce sites with SFCC, we’ve seen the platform deliver customisation at speed time and time again.
This was our inspiration for creating DEPT® SFRA, an in-house storefront reference architecture for SFCC, which provides a highly capable foundation on which to build a bespoke storefront tailor fit to meet client needs.
As an out-of-the-box platform, SFCC can be launched fast.
But starting with a foundation like SFRA makes it possible to deliver modern, highly customised experiences at lightning speed. Sometimes in as little as five months, as was the case for GANT’s global e-commerce transformation, or even four, which was the timeline for the Dutch stroller company Bugaboo.
But SFCC’s customisation goes beyond meeting deadlines, too. As e-commerce undergoes a shift with new innovations in technology and a lower barrier for entry allows a plethora of new players to enter the market, providing a highly customised experience gives brands like yours a way of standing out against the noise.
Patagonia worked with us to incorporate a design system into the storefront architecture’s front end that created a balance between their world-renowned products and a purpose rooted in sustainability, taking advantage of SFCC’s headless customisation to create a flagship experience that future-proofs their brand against our rapidly changing digital world.
Providing a great e-commerce experience has been a requirement for B2C brands for some time. Now, however, is the time to use customisation to differentiate your experience from everyone else’s.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Salesforce Commerce Cloud can help your brand create a future-ready e-commerce experience, our team of SFCC pros are always ready to chat.
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VP eCommerce Europe
Tim de Kamper
Build vs buy: e-commerce platforms
Today’s most successful brands use robust e-commerce platforms and a slew of tools to optimise the buying process.
This complex ecosystem allows marketing and commerce teams to reach their users, create buying experiences, and improve conversions.
But this complex ecosystem is also–complex. Beyond e-commerce platform selection, a decision needs to be made on each and every tool that integrates with that platform. Of course, you can also create custom applications that serve a distinct purpose.
What should you buy? What should you build? And how should you integrate everything so you don’t get locked in?
Here’s how to build a resilient e-commerce website that delights your users and your internal team.
Build what’s unique to your business. Buy everything else.
Most e-commerce teams should buy every tool that assists in the online shopping experience. This includes
- E-commerce platform
- Customer support functionality
- Payment processing
- CRM and marketing automation
- Transactional emails/SMS
- Search functionality
- Inventory management
- Shipment tracking
It doesn’t make sense for a clothing brand to build custom applications. Rather, your teams should be focusing on your core capabilities—clothing.
What’s unique to a clothing brand might be the way that users experience and engage with your clothes online. This experience is what you should focus on differentiating via custom builds. For other businesses, there might be unique data used in a proprietary way (membership purchases, for example).
Always build your e-commerce frontend
In an e-commerce environment, you should always own your brand’s UX/UI logic, how users interact with your products, and user data.
The front end of your e-commerce store should be somewhat isolated from third-party platforms. Instead, it should be connected via API.
This ownership and flexibility is one reason headless e-commerce solutions are gaining popularity. By using an API instead of relying on an e-commerce platform’s design tools and database, you can better control vendors, and swap them out if you need to.
Image courtesy of Mach Alliance
By owning your own user experience, you untether yourself from the restraints of traditional e-commerce websites.
A traditional e-commerce website might be something like Amazon, featuring product images next to a product description, and then an “add to cart” button. This standard e-commerce experience is fine in some instances, but as online shopping becomes more important, brands have the opportunity to offer something better.
A perfect example is Google’s store. Check out Google’s Pixel 6a page. It’s so much more than an image-and-description interface.
An out-of-the-box platform cannot create this kind of e-commerce experience. It requires knowledge of the product itself, what users care about, exceptional UX/UI, and custom frontend development.
But it’s worth it. It immerses users in the functionality of its product. It shows–not tells–what makes a Pixel 6a unique.
By owning how your store interacts with users, you can easily swap vendors in and out, avoiding lock-in and having the flexibility to change/upgrade when needed.
Your marketing or e-commerce team can also conduct more testing and tweak the shopping experience for the user. This freedom doesn’t exist within e-commerce platforms alone.
Proactive teams with the ability to give users a better e-commerce experience? That’s the kind of resiliency top brands need in today’s digital landscape.
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Global SVP Technology & Engineering
The five best e-commerce platforms and how to choose
In 2021, worldwide e-commerce sales grew to about $4.9 trillion US dollars.
Even more impressive, this trillion-dollar number is expected to grow by a whopping 50% over the next four years.
There’s never been a better time to be in e-commerce.
There’s also never been a more high-stakes time to be in e-commerce.
Getting everything right–from technology to marketing to order management–could set you up for success in the next decade. On the other hand, getting it wrong puts you at risk.
Implementing the right e-commerce platform is a huge piece of the puzzle for e-commerce success. But there are so many options out there. How do you confidently and efficiently select a platform?
We have experience with most of the leading e-commerce platforms available today, and we’ve worked with a number of diverse companies across countless industries to understand who should select what, and why.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the most popular e-commerce platforms, share the pros and cons, and simplify which platform is best for you.
Finding a platform that’s right for you
There is no single “best” e-commerce platform, but there is one that’s best for you. Which platform is ideal for you depends on a number of factors, most importantly your:
- Business model
- Core capabilities
- Internal team structure
- Top channels
It always comes back to what your business wants and needs. What is your team best at? What are your business’ challenges, objectives, and goals?
Other things to consider are how you manage your channels (where are we selling?), order management, product information management (PIM), and even warehouse management. Ultimately you want an e-commerce platform that fits into your other technologies and processes.
Understanding your technology goals is critical to selecting the best e-commerce platform for your online store. Below we’ll dive further into which platform is best for certain business models and team structures.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Best for business-focused brands 1
Website: Salesforce Commerce Cloud
Market size: Enterprise and mid-market
Pros: Easy to use, heavy customisation, and an immersive brand experience. Get a 360º view of your customer by adding Salesforce’s other products such as Pardot, CPD and Mulesoft.
Cons: The fee to use Salesforce is a percentage of your revenue, so if you’re already operating on thin margins, other options might be better for you.
Cost: Between 0.5 and 2% of your sales revenue.
The best thing about it: Since Salesforce is such a robust product, you don’t need to hire an engineering team to manage the platform. This lets you focus on what you’re best at.
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is the ideal solution for brands selling directly to their customers, like Patagonia.
It may not be as ideal for retailers selling Patagonia, like REI and Macy’s, because of the way the Salesforce licence cuts into margins.
For brands with wider margins, Salesforce is worth the cost, because the Salesforce engineering team upkeeps the system, allowing brands to hire fewer engineers, and instead focus on their core capabilities.
Salesforce is also excellent for internationally-operating brands, or brands with international ambition. Across markets, it’s flexible and easy to set up storefronts with localised language, content, etc. To give you an idea, Bugaboo was set up on Salesforce Commerce Cloud for 26 Countries in just four months.
Finally, elastic hosting automatically scales up and down depending on demand (Cyber Monday shopping, for example).
Important to know
Salesforce Commerce Cloud is an “out of the box” solution providing a standard retail store, so it takes design and development effort to align it with your brand and differentiate it from other Salesforce stores.
DEPT® has vast experience creating custom, immersive Salesforce storefronts for customers like GANT and Canyon in addition to Patagonia and Bugaboo, so reach out if you need this support.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are two versions of Salesforce Commerce Cloud: one for B2C; and another for B2B businesses.
The B2B solution essentially automates everything an account manager would do, including automation and workflows, repeat orders, different price lists, and different payment methods.
Best for business-focused brands 2
Market size: Enterprise
Cost: Licensed based on volume of annual transactions
Best thing about it: Optimizely offers dedicated B2C and B2B products, both of which are centred around creating highly unique shopping experiences, which can be easily personalised with data-driven recommendations.
Optimizely B2C Commerce is a complete suite for digital commerce and content management (rather than having a separate CMS), enabling brands to provide rich product and content experiences.
Meanwhile, Optimizely B2B Commerce enables brands to minimise the complexity of their commerce stack by providing means to manage catalogues, check out and orders all within one view. It’s designed to help manufacturers and distributors drive efficiency and increase revenue through meaningful customer experiences.
Best for brands who are also tech companies
Market size: Enterprise
Pros: “Headless commerce”, which makes it easy to create storefronts on any channel, leverages your engineering team’s skills, and it’s easy to build subscription options.
Cons: Requires a strong engineering organisation, with processes like CI/CD.
Cost: +$2,500 USD per month.
Best thing about it: Headless commerce reduces the risk of experimenting with unique storefronts. Businesses can quickly test new channels without spending too much time or resources.
commercetools is best for companies that consider themselves tech companies, with high-functioning engineering teams that want to utilise the absolute best in tech.
With commercetools, you build APIs rather than a storefront, similar to headless CMSes. This gives your team the flexibility to add new storefronts and points of sale quickly. You can build a store on not only websites and mobile apps, but also on IoT devices, digital signage, and virtual reality.
An example of this is Audi. Audi wanted to be able to create a store within their luxury cars, so users could purchase in-car services, like satellite radio. Using commercetools, they don’t have to separate their in-car storefront, they can simply build a new API and the store renders.
If you believe you have special requirements for your e-commerce store, commercetools is probably a good solution.
Shopify & Shopify Plus
Best for new-to-retail
Website: Shopify Plus
Market size: Mid-market
Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, extremely customisable, and robust features. Headless commerce is an option through Shopify Plus.
Cons: Multi-country retail is difficult.
Cost: A percentage of your gross marketable value (GMV).
Best thing about it: It’s so easy to use, you don’t need a robust engineering team.
Shopify took over in the early 2010s when other e-commerce solutions failed to live up to the new e-commerce world. Today, they are still a major player, but other options have caught up (and even surpassed) their capabilities. However, that’s not to say they’re a weak option. They are ideal for new and/or smaller e-commerce stores. Shopify also makes it easy to migrate from other e-commerce platforms.
Shopify vs. Shopify Plus
Shopify Plus adds multiple features on top of the standard Shopify e-commerce platform. Any large brand or retail company would want to use Shopify Plus because Shopify is only suitable for small and medium-sized businesses.
Some of the advanced features you get with Shopify Plus include:
- Headless e-commerce approach
- Greater control over shipping methods, customer fields
- Wholesale e-commerce channels
- Easy integrations with product information, inventory management, warehouse management, etc.
- Robust analytics
Adobe (formerly Magento)
Best for Adobe users
Website: Adobe Commerce
Market Size: Mid-market.
Pros: Acquired by Adobe in 2019, Magento is an open-source, scalable, SaaS version, that integrates with Adobe products like Marketo, Experience Manager, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
Cons: Magento has split into two products–Magento Open Source and Adobe Commerce. This is a bit volatile.
Cost: Based on your business’ gross merchandise value (GMV) and average order value (AOV).
Best thing about it: That it integrates with Adobe’s suite of products.
This particular e-commerce solution used to be Magento, an open-source PHP platform. It was extremely popular around 2010 when online shopping became widely available.
However, it wasn’t built to scale alongside online stores. So as online commerce exploded, Magento couldn’t keep up, and thousands of customers fled to Shopify.
Times are changing since Adobe purchased Magento to rebuild it. Focusing on the future of e-commerce, Magento is splitting into two viable options.
While Adobe Commerce will move “towards composable microservices hosted in the cloud, only suitable for the largest merchants,” Magento Open Source will go back to open-source, hobbyist, and scalable technology.
We think both commerce solutions will grow in popularity, especially for those that already use Adobe’s suite of products.
Other e-commerce contenders
There are a few other players worth mentioning, Shopware, Spryker and BigCommerce.
Shopware isn’t quite as popular as Shopify and Adobe, but its flexibility and customisation make it worth considering. Shopware gives you the ability to “make every touchpoint shoppable” alongside advanced user personalisation.
Spryker is ideal for marketplaces and B2B commerce but also has B2B commerce capabilities. Because it was founded only a few years ago (2018) Spryker’s tech stack is incredibly modern, which development teams like. It is also “headless.”
With its modern tech stack and third-party integrations, Spryker’s futuristic features allow businesses to take advantage of the newest technology. This includes car commerce, click and collect, and IoT devices.
If Shopify lacks some of the robustness you need, but you don’t have the resources for something super custom, BigCommerce is probably an ideal solution for you. It is still an out-of-the-box, easy-to-use platform, but has more tools and integrations than some of its competitors.
It’s ideal for smaller businesses, costing between $400-20,000 per month. The only downside is that managing inventory may not be as intuitive compared to other platforms.
Selecting your ideal platform
Similar to which e-commerce platform is ideal for your business, the selection process also depends on your business and teams.
If you’re large enough to have a dedicated e-commerce team, then this team will lead the decision-making. If you’re direct-to-consumer, your CMO will have more weight. And if you’re a B2B company, your IT team will understand the capabilities needed over other teams.
Of course, your technology team should always be involved, since they understand technical implementation, third-party integrations, and other things needed to make the system work. Having a team of technical experts alongside your day-to-day admins of the systems is necessary to make the right decision.
Once you’ve selected your platform, there are a few projects outside the scope of onboarding.
The biggest one, in our opinion, is designing your store so it doesn’t look like the platform’s out-of-the-box catalogue. Getting your brand’s personality across a templated, regimented store is difficult but necessary to win over savvy consumers of today.
If you need help comparing, selecting, or designing your e-commerce platform, reach out to the team at DEPT®. We offer complementary services across technology engineering, creative, and growth marketing to help your e-commerce store succeed in the digital economy.
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Crypto is not dead and neither are Stablecoins
You know who doesn’t care about the price of Bitcoin? The blockchain. It just keeps running, and it will keep doing that.
Is crypto dead?
Nope! It’s just less noisy right now.
What’s interesting about all this web3 tech is that the utility of it has nothing to do with the price of a cryptocurrency.
Since web3 is all about exchange of value, it’s no wonder everyone has been so caught up in the dollar signs. We’re seeing the classic Gartner Hype Cycle right before our eyes.
The technology trigger was NFTs and NBA Top Shot’s success: a familiar brand, and over $1B in sales to date. NFTs were “new” and a little confusing, which led to rampant exuberance and hypebeasts exclaiming “web3 is going to change everything!”
It will not change everything. It will give all of us a way to exchange items of value in a “trustless” way (ie no middleman).
This is a good reminder that if you have a product that does, or will run on the blockchain, the price of a given coin is typically inconsequential. Since the advent of stablecoins this is especially true, despite the collapse of the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD (UST).
Initially, stablecoins provided the necessary bridge between our traditional government-backed fiat money system and the crypto markets.
That bridge was widened further thanks to the ability to easily leverage web3 technologies. However, like the rest of the crypto ecosystem, stablecoins have not been excluded from controversy.
Before we explore the utility of stablecoins it is important to first understand what stablecoins are, how to avoid future collapses, and coins such as UST.
What are stablecoins?
As the name implies, stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that are “pegged” to stable assets in our traditional banking system, typically the US dollar (USD).
Circle’s USD coin (USDC) is perhaps the easiest way to understand this concept.
As a user, I can deposit dollars from my traditional bank into my Circle account and “mint” USDC coins in the same quantity. Simply put, if I deposit $100 I will receive 100 USDC. This would increase the total supply of USDC by 100 coins. If I then withdraw 100 USDC, Circle would “burn” 100 coins, decreasing the total supply by 100 coins.
Circle holds the USD I deposited in their accounts as a mix of fiat (dollars) and traditional treasury bills, thus ensuring that each USDC coin is backed by a US currency.
Are all stablecoins equal?
While the intention is yes, the real answer is no.
There are three types of stablecoins
– Fiat-backed stablecoin (USDC)
– Overcollateralised algorithmic stablecoins (DAI)
– Undercollateralised algorithmic stablecoins (UST)
The recent collapse of UST has proven that undercollateralised algorithmic stablecoins do not work and should be avoided.
For many investors, there are potential scenarios where an overcollateralised algorithmic stablecoin may make sense, but for our clients, we highly recommend working with USDC. It is routinely audited, negating any concerns about a potential collapse or fraud being involved.
USDT is still the largest by market cap, but there are enough open questions that we recommend avoiding it and focusing on USDC.
What is the utility of stablecoins?
Now that we have dollars represented on the blockchain(s) there are some interesting things we can start doing.
The initial demand for this type of coin was that traders wanted to be able to move in and out of cryptocurrencies without having to pull their money out of our traditional banking system, an admittedly slow process.
For example, if a trader wanted to exit their position on a Saturday afternoon, they now had the ability to do so while still keeping their funds on the blockchain.
However, the utility of stablecoins goes way beyond simply assisting traders. For citizens living in countries with unstable currencies, stablecoins suddenly provided them with an accessible and stable way to store their money without having to worry about volatility.
For instance, the stablecoin DAI is extremely popular in Argentina, a country notorious for hyperinflation, as it provides Argentines a great way to safeguard their savings.
Circle’s USDC stablecoin is a good option to bridge the gap between web 2.0 and web 3.0. And, open-source platforms exist that allow brands to treat NFTs very similarly to the way they treat any other product they would sell online.
Specifically, brands can price their NFTs in USD, accept credit cards, and because payments are converted to USDC a whole new world of possibilities is opened up. For instance, brands can implement smart contracts that ensure a royalty is paid to the original owner of an NFT regardless of where that NFT is sold.
This is something that would be impossible to implement in our traditional banking system without involving an expensive and inefficient legal process to ensure that royalties were enforced.
Don’t be discouraged
If you have an interesting idea for a project or product in the crypto space, do not be discouraged by the recent decline in prices.
This is not the first crypto winter, and it surely will not be the last.
The underlying blockchain(s) will continue to run oblivious to the price. And importantly, fully backed stablecoins are an excellent way to capture the benefits of blockchain technology without the volatility risk.
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Global SVP, Engineering & Technology
5 conversations every CMO & CTO should have
Technology and marketing functions have never been more intertwined. Digital innovation and marketing data have empowered both areas to produce better products and campaigns at scale.
However, it’s a very different story when it comes to the teams that make up marketing and engineering.
With headlines like Marketers and Engineers: Why Can’t We Just Get Along?, it’s no surprise that these two teams don’t always hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
This tension is due to a few things, including inter-department culture, risk aversion, duties, and conflicting personalities.
The relationship and silo between marketing and engineering are exactly why leadership, namely CMOs and CTOs, should create a working relationship.
The best place to start?
Conversations around teamwork, resourcing, and priorities.
Here are a few crucial conversations that marketing and engineering leaders should have to unify their teams and create a culture of collaboration.
How do we balance our teams’ priorities?
Marketing and engineering teams move at vastly different speeds, which can cause friction.
Marketing and creative teams move quickly because they’re working inside established systems. And engineering teams tend to work slower because they must consider the backend plus things like security.
It isn’t rare for a marketing team to say, “we need a landing page tomorrow.” For engineers, this way of working can be hard, or even impossible when there are valid technical concerns that marketing is unaware of.
Therefore, CMOs and CTOs should discuss their teams’ priorities, and how they can balance both.
Both leaders should understand what kind of tasks require more engineering work than meets the eye e.g., integrating data from third parties, processing credit cards, and processing personal data.
How often will our teams roadmap together?
A product team will have a different roadmap from marketing, and that’s okay. Not all new features are ideal for a marketing campaign (users don’t download an app because of its SSO capabilities).
Also, product and engineering teams are more focused on continuous discovery/delivery while a marketing team might be optimized via quarterly campaigns.
However, don’t let these differences in approach discourage frequent roadmap collaboration.
Marketing teams should join roadmap meetings several times per year. Without that perspective, your marketing strategy won’t be as effective.
How often is ultimately up to you, but it’s worth having a conversation to hash out the details.
What kind of internal resources can marketing use?
Without a real policy in place, marketing teams are constantly asking engineers for favours. This can create hostility between teams, de-prioritisation, and even missed deadlines.
If using an internal team, marketing leaders need to work with technology to budget for internal resources. This probably looks like a monthly allotment of hours, with the engineering team “billing” the marketing department. It could be one dedicated engineer, or more flexible.
There are many ways to make this work, but it’s a good idea to create a clear plan.
If using external resources, there are likely additional conversations to have around security and team integration.
How can we get our teams to work together?
Besides the obvious, “tell your team to be nice,” this is an ongoing initiative that hopefully goes through iterations over time.
The focus here is to build a culture of empathy within your teams. But the specifics of how you’re going to do it need to be discussed.
Each leader needs to understand the pressure of the other team, so you can reframe the challenges and work together.
Engineering teams are often overburdened, and marketing needs to empathise with this.
Marketing teams are comfortable with trial and error–not every task will launch perfectly, and engineering should recognize that’s okay.
It’s your duty to implement programs that force collaboration.
Where does the technical risk lie in marketing?
Hopping on the latest marketing trend the day after a cultural phenomenon might be part of your team’s marketing strategy.
However, fast and furious marketing campaigns do have technical risks. The engineering team needs to be aware of these risks, and marketing understands the implications.
Without this, you end up with bugs and broken websites during peak traffic.
Marketing and tech leaders should discuss philosophy, marketing strategy, and technology requirements on an ongoing basis. Ask things like, Where is the risk for our business? and What initiatives impose that risk?
Just like teams shouldn’t be siloed in an organisation, CMOs and CTOs need to communicate frequently to ensure marketing and technology are aligned.
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Sr. Content Marketing Manager
What Sitecore’s acquisitions mean for the future of DXPs
Reflektion, an AI-powered digital search platform, is the latest company Sitecore has acquired as part of its $1.2 billion growth plans. It is the fourth this year, following Sitecore’s acquisition of Four51, Boxever and Moosend, expanding its digital offer and accelerating its plan to deliver the first integrated, SaaS-based digital experience platform (DXP).
The latest acquisition came as no surprise to DEPT®’s technical experts, who have been closely following Sitecore’s plans to future-ready its platform capabilities. Without doubt, digital disruption is on the horizon, but what do these acquisitions mean for Sitecore, and how will they impact the future direction of its solutions? We’ve explored just that.
Reflektion: An AI-powered digital search platform designed to process huge datasets in order to understand, evaluate and predict patterns, context, and needs. The SaaS-based platform can detect trends in real-time, assisting companies in converting shoppers into buyers and driving customer engagement. Reflektion elevates search into a conversational, guided experience that provides more personal, accessible, and tailored answers for the customer. The platform can be leveraged across all aspects of the Sitecore DXP, from transforming product data into understandable consumer-friendly language to understanding shopper intent, behaviour and product preferences.
Boxever: A customer data platform that combines data and AI to give brands the power to deliver smart and seamless digital experiences to customers. Boxever provides an interface for decisioning and personalisation based on either bulk data transfer, static decision tables or via an API query. The graphical canvas allows marketers to create and experiment with customer data in real time and adapt the content delivered to them to make interactions more relevant and engaging.
Four51: A headless commerce platform for delivering modern B2B shopping experiences. The API-first, cloud-based architecture is highly customisable, giving businesses free rein over the UI of store fronts and omnichannel activity, creating a streamlined system to provide shopping solutions for even the most complex digital business processes.
Moosend: A marketing automation platform that comes with a host of powerful capabilities and features that are intended to be highly simplistic in use, adopting a drag and drop interface rather than coding. The user-friendly interface means beginners can use this service to quickly build the most effective campaigns. The cloud-native, API-first platform powers targeted, revenue-enhancing campaigns tied to basket abandonment, product recommendation and promotions.
There are three key areas (personalisation, artificial intelligence and API-first) that have been significantly strengthened as a result of Sitecore’s acquisitions, supporting its aim to position itself as leaders in the digital experience market. These functionalities also provide particular benefit to retail and e-commerce businesses, helping to bridge the offering gap between Sitecore and its perceived competition, as well as address some of the weaknesses identified in the Gartner report on Critical Capabilities for Digital Experience Platforms.
Each of the acquisitions offers opportunities to improve automated personalisation, helping businesses to deliver experiences that are appropriately targeted at customers at different stages in the journey. Every touchpoint has the potential to be personalised content, such as offers specific to previous purchases, interests, or real time browsing behaviour. For example, Boxever offers ‘decision as a service’ with thousands of built in workflow steps that integrate customer data to provide real-time, calculated actions using both historic and live customer data. It will be interesting to see how this complements or replaces the existing Sitecore CDP and how this fits into the existing integration framework.
With an increasing focus on e-commerce, Sitecore now has the tools to leverage highly engaging content that maximises conversion. There are also low or no code options, reducing barriers of entry for content teams so that there is no requirement for specialised development or data scientists to deliver optimised experiences.
The extensive use of artificial intelligence across the acquired platforms significantly boosts Sitecore customers’ ability to continually learn and refine decision making which, in turn, will help to improve customer experiences. Both Reflektion and Boxever are focused on providing content through AI that is most relevant to the user based on existing data and current journey context, while Four51 and Moosend are focused on automating marketing and ordering journeys. All of this should help to reduce the effort in creating experiences that improve engagement and conversion, providing adaptable and ever-learning components that are accessible to content creators, rather than requiring expensive development.
With each of the acquired platforms being API-first, they will be the driving force in Sitecore’s aim to offer the first SaaS-based composable DXP. This will allow companies to select the appropriate APIs to build solutions that perfectly meet their needs and deliver optimised customer experiences at speed. It will also provide the means to measure performance and experiment in real time, which will drastically reduce the time taken to report on successes or failures to teams who can then enhance, adjust and optimise more efficiently.
These additions will significantly bolster what is already possible within Sitecore’s existing SaaS platform, Experience Edge, to help businesses produce truly customer-centric experiences and solutions. Additionally, by providing these services as SaaS, Sitecore is lowering the barrier to entry and removing the need for dedicated customer infrastructure, in contrast to non-composable DXPs where infrastructure would need to be reviewed and would likely require further expenditure to deliver a new capability.
Composability from a customer POV
DEPT®’s technical team is curious as to how Sitecore clients will transition from traditional DXPs to SaaS. From a functionality point of view, there are many benefits. The composable approach provides the tools for more agility and freedom. For example, being free from vendor lock-in, organisations will have the ability to build a tech stack based on their needs and report on ROI more accurately. The technology also makes it possible for organisations to implement and respond to changes quickly. Depending on how Sitecore manages integrations in the future, there may also be the potential to mix in third party services such as the customer’s own customer data platform (CDP) or marketing automation tooling.
It’s important not to overlook some of the challenges this could pose for existing clients. The transition from traditional DXPs to SaaS may take some getting used to, however it will be some time before they feel this impact. On balance, DEPT®’s technical team find the expansion of intelligence and ability to keep pace with ever-changing demands a smart and exciting development for their clients, as Sitecore will be better positioned to support them for the future.
These new capabilities provide the potential means to elevate the customisation and integration of existing Sitecore components. For example, we speculate that Boxever could be used to pull content from Content Hub based on a customer’s interests or between these new components. Another possible integration could be customising Moosend email campaigns based on Four51 order purchases or customer interests.
While each SaaS solution is an individual component that will form the basis of Sitecore’s composable DXP, we anticipate that Sitecore will invest in the connectors between these platforms to provide a pre-built (but still customisable) solution, enabling the rapid construction of digital experiences. However, DEPT®’s technical team suggests gradually introducing new functionalities and platforms over a period of time in order to build a DXP solution that perfectly meets their needs, rather than investing upfront in a pre-built stack. This process can be expedited for more digitally mature companies or those with previous experience of DXPs.
The evolution of Sitecore is fast and exciting, priming the company to lead the way in the transformation of digital experience platforms. Sitecore has established a strong position in the market by offering an increasing range of features and models that are designed to create unforgettable digital experiences.
For advice on what type of DXP solution is right for your business, get in touch with our team of experts today.
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