June 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Write your own ticket

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Once retailers decide on an e-commerce technology platform, next up is deciding how many online shopping features to activate-whether these features come pre-configured in the platform or are part of another application. Such features include site search and navigation, product recommendation and personalization engines, rich media merchandise displays, interactive video, customer-generated ratings and reviews and mobile commerce applications.

In each case, the technology is becoming more feature-rich and easier to deploy, experts say. And more powerful web analytics help tie them together and enable more effective merchandising and marketing, they add.

“Instead of guessing, with analytics retailers can now look at something like online upsells and cross-sells and see what led to a sale,” Savin says. Retailers can then use such information about customer preferences to quickly adjust their merchandising and marketing strategies. “Retailers have the ability to react much faster now, they change their online merchandising on the fly,” she says.

Moreover, new technology platforms enable merchandisers to more easily drag and drop content to develop and test new online merchandising displays.

In fundamental areas like site search, experts say, retailers now can more easily set business rules to determine what customers view as they search and navigate a web site.

And such tools are no longer just for the largest retailers with big technology budgets and I.T. staffs, Savin says. “I deal with a lot of $1 million to $5 million retailers, and I’m amazed with what technology they can get for the money.”

Going global and mobile

Technology vendors are also offering updated tools and services in areas ranging from payment security and fulfillment to marketing and global sales. Indeed, as retailers become more global with technology applications that translate currency and merchandising content to suit overseas consumers, retailers must keep up by deploying more sophisticated payment and fraud-prevention technology as well as more effective product sourcing and fulfillment systems.

Mobile commerce, meanwhile, beckons as a bold new world of retailing, and retailers are not without options in this new arena. But, before forging ahead, they should think hard about their aims, and how mobile technology can best work in their environment, says Mirabito of B2C Partners.

While many retailers may not be ready to deploy an m-commerce strategy as a means to drive direct online sales on handheld devices, m-commerce can also be used to support sales indirectly, Mirabito says. A store shopper, for example, could use a retailer’s online product information or customer review content accessed through a mobile phone in making a decision to purchase, he suggests.

More retailers could follow Amazon.com Inc.’s lead in letting shoppers use their mobile phones to send a product picture to a customer service agent who could search a retailer’s web site for a similar or identical product, he adds.

As m-commerce evolves, so is the supporting technology. Retailers diving into m-commerce can retain firms that specialize in developing mobile commerce platforms, and some enterprise software providers are beginning to build m-commerce options into their platforms.

The key is to use available e-commerce technology to reach and sell to consumers wherever, whenever and however they choose to shop, experts say. With a comprehensive review of the e-commerce technology market, retailers can step forward with the platforms and applications they need to do that.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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