July 3, 2013, 11:30 AM

Special Report: Finding the right e-commerce platform

The importance of choosing the right e-commerce platform.

An online retailer can build its own e-commerce technology, buy pieces and stitch them together, or take advantage of platforms that handle all the technical pieces of web selling, freeing it to focus on what it does best: selecting and merchandising product, and marketing to its target audience.

In the latter category is Amazon Webstore, which is backed by one of the most recognized brands in e-commerce, Amazon.com Inc. Amazon Webstore enables retailers to build customized web sites that leverage Amazon's technical and fulfillment expertise.

"If retailers are pouring their entire online budget into the I.T. side of e-commerce, then they don't have the financial resources to focus on building their brand, marketing and merchandising to consumers," says Tom Taylor, vice president of Fulfillment by Amazon and Amazon Webstore.

E-commerce sites built on the Amazon Webstore platform are hosted on secure Amazon servers that can scale capacity as needed based on traffic. It's a software-as-a-service offering, which means the retailer connects to the Amazon host via the web to update product catalogs and download orders and customer information. As Amazon makes improvements to its Webstore technology, every store gets free access to those upgrades.

"Amazon Webstore is built on our technical expertise and gives retailers the flexibility to innovate on their own and the agility to be on top of e-commerce innovation as it occurs," Taylor says. "This allows businesses of all sizes to compete with their own branded store and checkout page."

Taylor says one of the key components of Amazon Webstore is the platform's ability to scale to accommodate sudden spikes in traffic, which can otherwise slow performance and frustrate shoppers, prompting them to take their business elsewhere. That's especially important for retailers offering "flash sales" that only last a limited time, and often attract a large influx of site visitors. "For retailers running flash sales, scalability is a must," Taylor says. "Retailers can also use Amazon Webstore to open new sales channels by setting up microsites."

A retailer hosted by Amazon Webstore can offer for sale on Amazon.com the same products it displays on its own store, or use the product information in its Webstore catalog to run ads on Amazon.com to boost brand awareness and drive more traffic and sales on its web sites, Taylor adds.

Faster fulfillment

Once a consumer purchases, retailers need to fill the order quickly and get it shipped to consumers. To help retailers speed fulfillment, Amazon offers them use of its network of fulfillment warehouses around the globe. The service, which is available to any retailer, spares them the cost of building and operating their own fulfillment centers. When an order is received at the warehouse the Fulfillment by Amazon service picks, packs and ships it for the retailer.

"Online shoppers are asking for faster and faster fulfillment," Taylor says. "Our fulfillment network gives retailers access to warehouses across the country, which speeds fulfillment by putting their products closer to their customers and gives them entry to international markets."

Retailers using Amazon Webstore and Fulfillment by Amazon can also make products on their own sites eligible for Amazon Prime shipping, which offers free two-day shipping to Amazon Prime members, many of which look for items marked as eligible for free Prime shipping.

Given the growing sophistication of e-commerce, retailers need services that help them open new sales channels, keep up with changes in technology and adapt to new marketing options.

"There are a lot of emerging opportunities in e-commerce," Taylor says, "and the right platform can make the difference between whether retailers capitalize on them or not."

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