The E-commerce Conundrum: HVAC Distribution’s Present and Future
Creating a digital storefront is a slippery slope
When it comes to the world of e-commerce, it’s really all about building what you want. Companies build interactive databases and storefront-like websites for many reasons. Whatever the reason may be, it intrinsically defines the need for a website or platform. Subsequently, there is an inherent cost that exists as a result of that need, which I hope to shed some light upon within the context of this article.
Cost and Need: The Definition of Gray
When a company or business is looking to create a website or platform, there are many factors that elicit both the cost and need for certain types of development. Some examples of this need could be:
• To raise brand awareness or authority of a brand offering;
• To push products in front of consumers or other businesses; and
• To use as an interactive or internal tool such as the intranet.
These categories are overarching examples of why a distributor may consider investing into a large project such as a website or platform build.
In the case of increasing brand awareness, there very often could be hundreds of products that need to be built into a website. The true art of web development derives from the difficulty in balancing the most important facets of a project, including brand messaging, user experience, performance goals, and technological optimization. In the expansive world of e-commerce, this balance is a give-and-take.
Company leaders want their clients to feel a certain way when they visit the business’s website or shop at its online store. These feelings are generated by common elements of a website, like typography, color palette, copy writing/messaging, images, and of course the products themselves. Each element must be blended perfectly to align the brand with the company’s vision.
Paramount to any successful e-commerce store is a seamless user experience from the first time a visitor lands on the website all the way through the confirmation message when a product is purchased.
In the first 15 seconds, can you tell exactly what it is this company is selling? Is it extremely easy to find different products consumers may be interested in? Can consumers quickly and easily get excited about products they’re interested in? Is the checkout process simple, fast, and clear?
All of these questions can clash with the initial brand messaging. What initially may seem like a strategic effort to be gaudy with fancy animations, brand fonts, and excessive photography/videography can end up clouding and derailing a user’s experience. Companies need to craft a careful strategy that combines elements of their brand while keeping the experience simple and question-free.
Promoting your brand and providing a seamless way for customers to access the brand is nearly always done with a performance goal in mind — this is how any company sustains profitability. Methods of achieving performance are directly correlated with the way in which the website is developed.
Performance within e-commerce is heavily rooted within the user experience by providing a simple way to buy products online. Sprinkled in with that core development is an array of marketing methods designed to boost performance. Examples of this include pop-up promotions, coupon codes, referral discounts, up- and cross-selling, email promotions, product reviews, and more. Each of these is a separate development task that needs to be accounted for when scoping a project correctly. Without an accurate project scope, a project is typically doomed before it begins.
A 1080p video combined with a suite of 4K resolution images may reflect a brand incredibly and impressively, but how impressive is that to a user on an average internet connection that loads the site in 3 minutes? It’s not impressive; it’s destructive. Visitors may leave the site before they have a chance to experience your carefully thought out branding materials.
Among all of the other facets listed above, none of them have a chance to shine without technology that is optimized. This optimization dictates the balance of things like image resolution and product browsing with speed. We can overcome the difficulty of expressing a brand the right way, but it comes with a careful approach in the technological development of a website.
Similarly, pushing products in front of consumers or other businesses requires a deeper dive into the back end of technology that is represented in the e-commerce store as well as continual enhancements along the way.
When optimizing websites for e-commerce purposes, we must familiarize our understanding of the overarching methodology on which SEO is based off of: index-friendly page crawling. It’s important that the entire website of an e-commerce store is optimized, including individual product pages and product descriptions. An ancillary benefit to optimizing individual product pages is that companies actually gain the opportunity to incorporate long-tail, keyword-rich content. This means that the more narrow a product or product description is, the higher chance a company has of attracting the proper audience who is searching online for specific and narrow products. An example of a long-tail keyword would be someone searching for a “1992 Ford Mustang 5.0 convertible.” The more narrow the search, the greater opportunity a company has to optimize the product for national ranking results. This is one of several factors that is worth considering when building a site that needs e-commerce capabilities in a B2B or B2C operation.
Finally, companies invest — most likely the most amount of money — in an internal platform or intranet that can be used to securely store information across an entire company or organization.
A vast amount of inefficiency within organizations commonly stems from outdated technology. The consulting process alone can be a project within itself. Identifying the current means of internal communication, array of products used, and methodology behind it all is paramount to determining where fat can be trimmed. Companies aren’t fully at fault for this either. As a company grows, there are needs to update internal processes. It can become a slippery slope to continually patch bandages (often in the form of modules, plugins, or new software altogether) onto an intranet to account for growth.
Rather, we need to take a holistic approach to the current position of a business forecasted for future growth and build a sensible intranet with an open source mindset. Aim to build a product that’s built in the most simple and effective manner that can also evolve to account for growth rather than one that’s bandaged with more third-party applications that are built into (not onto) the core infrastructure.
This is a nearly identical approach that we take to the outward-facing components of an e-commerce site: easy, intuitive, and built to perform. At mta360, we encapsulate all of the variables discovered mentioned here into of our clients’ digital endeavors.
For more information, visit www.mta360.com.
Publication date: 11/22/18