July 3, 2013, 11:50 AM

Special Report: Viewing e-commerce technology in a new light

Viewing e-commerce technology in a new light.

Keeping up with the latest e-commerce technologies is a full-time job for retailers. That there were 588 vendors exhibiting at the 2013 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition illustrates the breadth of applications available. From analytics to responsive web site design, retailers were certain to find a technology that fit their needs at IRCE.

Selecting the right technology, however, is just the first step. To grow their businesses, retailers must continually get the most out of their technology. Americaneagle.com talked to IRCE attendees about just that.

"The speed with which new e-commerce technology has been introduced, and the extent of it, makes it tough for retailers to absorb what the technology can really do and how best to use it to make money," says Tony Svanascini, CEO of Americaneagle.com. "As advanced as e-commerce technology has become, retailers still need someone that can help them put it to use."

Responsive web site design was a hot topic at IRCE, and one that's still new to many retailers. Essentially, responsive design allows retailers to adjust and rearrange content to suit the size and resolution of the screen of the device used to view the web site. This is achieved through a single code base. The end result is a better experience for shoppers using mobile devices and less work for retailers, as it eliminates the need for them to maintain separate PC and mobile e-commerce sites.

"With responsive design mobile users get what appears to be a web site designed to fit their devices, and retailers don't have to design web sites specific to the multitude of the mobile devices used," says Svanascini.

However, retailers need to keep in mind that developing a responsive design can be complex. "There is a learning curve with responsive design," Svanascini says. "Having a technology partner that can explain the ins and outs can help retailers figure out how to properly implement it."

Analytics is another technology that retailers often fail to fully exploit. Too often retailers unwittingly overlook variables in their data comparisons that can skew results, Svanascini says.

A retailer comparing year-to-year data for June, for instance, needs to take into account whether the promotional offers were the same during the the current and prior-year month, and during each week during those months.

"Taking into account any variables and backing them out before performing the analytics can help retailers get apples-to-apples data comparisons," Svanascini says. "It's a matter of walking through the business logic first."

Social know-how

To refine its social media strategy, a retailer must track sales revenue generated by consumers coming from online social networks. Although many retailers use social media primarily for brand awareness, it's not easy to measure how a Facebook or Twitter campaign affects a brand's standing. That makes it tough to determine the return on investment.

Rather than speculate about social media's influence on consumer behavior, retailers can offer coupons on social media sites and track redemption rates on e-commerce sites and in bricks-and-mortar stores.

"Tracking brand recognition through social media is tough, but tracking the redemption of coupons available on social sites can help retailers get a better handle on what was spent to achieve that sale and where the sale took place," Svanascini says. "Retailers can use similar strategies with e-mail to find out how much in sales revenue their e-mail list is generating."

As e-commerce becomes a greater portion of many retailers' overall revenue, making poor technology decisions will become more costly. That is why partnering with vendors that provide consulting services is taking on greater importance, Svanascini says.

"The more seriously retailers take e-commerce, the greater their need for expertise in finding new ways to use it to interact with consumers will become," he says. "Retailers can no longer think just inside the browser window."

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