Some retailers launched online deals well in advance of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
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Yahoo Small Business recently launched an integrated order management system that allows retailers to view orders from multiple online stores in real time through a single interface.
"That's a big plus on the back end, because retailers can more easily track daily sales for each store in the order they are placed without having to switch back and forth between individual order management systems," says Yahoo's Boisvert. "We have some clients that operate dozens of stores."
Before choosing any technology partner, it is recommended that retailers look at how closely a potential partner will work with them. "Some of our account managers will suggest changes a retailer can make to its site that have worked for other clients," says Boisvert. "A good partner goes that extra mile to help grow the business."
Handling the unexpected
How well a technology partner plans for the unexpected is another critical element in the selection process. Updating available inventory for a fast-selling item or a sale price change in site search results is important to customer satisfaction.
"The last thing a consumer wants to see after clicking on site search results is a landing page that says the product is out of stock or that the sale price is no longer valid," says Hoffman. "A good technology partner learns about a retailer's business and how to better service the client each and every day."
Finally, retailers want to choose a technology partner that provides user-friendly applications and effective training on how to use them. Such features as a graphical drag-and-drop interface make it easier for retailers to build marketing workflows that trigger specific actions in response to customer behavior.
"Good technology partners are focused on e-commerce and helping individual retailers develop the best possible strategy, rather than trying to be all things to all types of companies," says Colopy. "Just as retailers can't treat all their customers the same, the same goes for technology partners."