This content is part of the Essential Guide: Multipronged digital customer experience strategy enriches CX

How do you know when you've outgrown your e-commerce platform?

When an e-commerce system's native content management capabilities no longer meet business needs, companies should consider integrating it with a content management system.

When shopping online, customers expect to discover products, shop and check out. Up-to-date product content can make retail sites more effective and profitable.

An e-commerce platform is part of that mix. However, adequate e-commerce platforms can become outdated as customer expectations and business requirements evolve. A business has outgrown its e-commerce platform when its content management and customer engagement capabilities no longer live up to demands.

Explore these five signs that an organization may have outgrown its e-commerce platform.

1. It lacks necessary features.

Shopping experiences have evolved since online shopping began. Retailers initially digitized their product catalogs and made them searchable to launch digital storefronts, which e-commerce platforms managed. Online shoppers needed to know what they wanted beforehand, so online retailers didn't maintain purchase records.

A business has outgrown its e-commerce platform when its content management and customer engagement capabilities no longer live up to demands.

But retailers quickly realized that selling online involved more than digital storefronts. Customers expected personalized service like purchase tracking and recommendations for new, related products. To develop ongoing relationships with their customers and transform one-time transactions into repeat purchases, retailers needed e-commerce platforms with more personalization features.

2. It has no cloud access.

E-commerce vendors design their platforms for product merchandisers. Most platforms support product information management (PIM) capabilities, including short and long descriptions, photos and videos, detailed product specifications, hazards and warnings. Product content is well-structured and changes on a periodic basis with announcements and updates, so e-commerce platforms must support product catalogs as they change.

With the proliferation of the cloud, organizations need to pay attention to the deployment environment. Many corporate data centers host PIM platforms that should move to cloud environments. When a vendor no longer supports updates and doesn't offer a PaaS or SaaS platform, organizations should consider alternatives so their digital catalogs run in the cloud.

Signs an organization has outgrown its e-commerce platform

3. It lacks compatibility with mobile devices.

Customers are more likely to shop and browse product catalogs using mobile devices than laptops or desktops. However, an e-commerce platform should support access for all devices.

Platforms should support screen displays, so product information is presented clearly and users can navigate on both mobile and tethered devices. Customers on mobile devices should be able to complete purchases with a few taps, which requires effective shopping cart functionality.

4. It can't integrate with other apps.

Retail also involves digital marketing, which e-commerce platforms frequently can't accommodate.

Digital marketing fosters engagement and uses promotional materials to build brand awareness among consumers. Digital marketers produce retail experiences online, focusing on a site's homepage and specific landing pages that customers reach before the product catalog.

Digital marketers may require content management capabilities beyond those of an e-commerce system. Web content management (WCM) and digital experience management (DXM) platforms offer those capabilities, so e-commerce software should support seamless integration for digital marketing and merchandising environments. When well-designed and integrated, a WCM or DXM platform can extend the features of an e-commerce service to create a digital retail ecosystem.

Shopping doesn't have to be a one-time event. Digital marketers should focus on the steps of the customer journey -- how customers discover products, how they build relationships with brands, the role of personalized experiences and tracking results. Organizations may have outgrown their e-commerce platforms if they can't extend and enhance customer journeys.

5. It can't maintain security, privacy and regulatory compliance.

Personalized experiences and tracking results must be done right to achieve their benefits.

An e-commerce platform should collect enough customer information to ship products and process payments. The platform must securely store this data, or the organization can adopt third-party services -- such as PCI-compliant credit card processors -- to manage data remotely.

In addition, retailers should track what goods and services customers purchase. Order histories are valuable data sources, as customers expect retailers to remember their preferences and recommend items. Businesses must also encrypt and securely manage customers' personally identifiable information.

Organizations also need to pay attention to shifting requirements for security, privacy and regulatory compliance, and understand that regulations vary by state and country. To ensure data remains secure, organizations can add third-party security services to their e-commerce platforms.

Finally, customers expect access to order histories and tracking information, with the ability to correct mistakes. An e-commerce platform should have the foundations for secure and compliant operations within a digital ecosystem.

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