E-commerce, like most things in retail, has evolved drastically over the last few years. During this evolution, we’ve seen lines blur between channels of online and in-store. This means that some components of what makes up an e-commerce strategy have become confusing.
The reality is that e-commerce is vital — now more than ever — to a successful retail strategy come to life. iQmetrix has seen a 79% increase in online orders since December of last year. For 2020, it’s predicted that Black Friday online sales will exceed that in-store for the first time.
To craft a strong e-commerce strategy, one that will solidify a telecom retailer’s success in the future, it’s crucial to understand the various pieces that make up e-commerce. Below is a glossary of terms to understand if your business wants to capture success with e-commerce.
At its core, e-commerce is simply commercial transactions that are completed through online retail sales platforms. Digging deeper, e-commerce is the building block that bridges a telecom retail offering with rising consumer expectations.
When retailers enable e-commerce, they aren’t just enabling the facilitation of purchase. E-commerce opens the door to a wide variety of retail methods that are growing increasingly sought-after by customers in many industries.
Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS)
More commonly, customers are researching on their own before coming in-store to collect their purchases. A BOPIS offering lets a shopper browse an e-commerce website, pay for the item online, and pick up the item in a store that is convenient for them.
BOPIS combines independent online shopping with the instant product-in-hand experience of the in-store purchase. BOPIS provides telecom retailers a competitive edge against retail giants like Amazon as it combines online retailing with a near-instant delivery of the product to the consumer.
Reserve Online, Pickup In-Store (ROPIS)
Customers get the same ability to browse online offerings then reserve an item at a store near them. When the customer arrives in-store, they will complete the purchase and take the item home like in a traditional, brick-and-mortar sale.
Buy Online, Return In-Store (BORIS)
While a higher number of customers turning to online retail platforms, many still value the easy of an in-person return process. With connected systems, telecom retailers can implement BORIS. The buy online, return in-store functionality increases convenience for the consumer. Their online purchase should be easily returned to a physical retail location, removing the barrier of return with no need to mail back the item.
In-Store Pickup (ISPU)
This process is pivotal to a successful omnichannel strategy. It refers to the process of a consumer picking up an item in-store. Similar to other unified retail methods
With reduced in-store capacity and customer’s decreasing willingness to browse, effectively managing ways to have customers in a store is essential. Appointment scheduling is functionality that ensures associates can make time for a customer and know what they’re looking for. This means less time waiting and more time spent solving pain points. An effective appointment platform should be able to integrate into existing retail management platforms so employee data, product info, and transactional functions are all in one place.
Queue management solutions (QMS) allow telecom retailers can manage in-store traffic, reduce lost revenue potential through walkouts, and provide an exceptional experience. This solution is a way for customers to join a virtual queue, keeping their place in line without needing to physically wait outside a brick-and-mortar store.
While today’s concern is touchless retail and physical distancing, tomorrow’s landscape will focus on creating retail efficiency. Queue management solutions enable telecom retailers to be prepared for both.
Drop Ship Fulfillment
This type of e-commerce arrangement is where a manufacturer or distributor ships directly to customers, often in generic packaging. This means that retailers can sell items they don’t hold physically stocked in-store. This means you don’t hold stock, but expect to pay a greater cost per item sold.
Content Management System (CMS)
E-commerce and digital experiences go hand-in-hand. CMS platforms ensure that every digital touchpoint is consistent with the e-commerce retail experience your customers expect. CMSs allow total management of web content through one platform. Many offerings allow multiple contributors so the many owners of brand experience can ensure what’s put out by your organization is right for your audience.
This e-commerce tool is almost self-explanatory. Separate from your full-scale website, a microsite is a smaller, branded site with a singular objective. Used for campaigns, events, promotions, or other noteworthy happenings, telecom retailers can leverage a microsite to outline details of something without having it lost in the full-scale website shuffle.
An eCommerce system today includes an overarching infrastructure that includes analytics from search engines, social platforms, mobile apps, and other corners of both the internet and the world of commerce. Together, this is called Digital Commerce.
In eCommerce terminology, fulfillment is also called as Order fulfillment and referred to as a sequence of steps a company undertakes to process the order from the point of sale to the delivery of goods with customer satisfaction.
Omnichannel retail is a structure that ensures an integrated experience for the consumer when interreacting with a retail brand. It utilizes a variety of purchase pathways — online, in-store, over the phone — with processes that ensure the shopper is experiencing the same feeling with each type of interaction. It’s a blend of physical and digital retail spaces to ensure the customer is always able to find what they need while always knowing who they’re shopping with.
Used by retailers to accept purchases, a payment gateway translates information from payment methods (credit cards, debit cards, and mobile payments) to complete purchases. The gateway includes payment terminals and the processing systems used by telecom retailers. A gateway is exactly that — a pathway between the method of payment and the completed transaction.
When a payment terminal is PCI compliant, it is adhering to a set security standard for payment devices. To satisfy PCI compliance, a terminal must follow the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Security Standard). The measures in place ensure that retailers are meeting requirements so that fraudulent transactions are kept to a minimum. If fraud occurs, which is far less likely with compliant payment terminals, it is more easily rectified with PCI compliance.
Application Platform Interface (API)
APIs are small connectors between software and systems. Think of it this way: your telecom retail stores likely have a few (if not many) systems to depend on to get work done. APIs make it easier for these systems to work together, reducing the need for multiple entries for referencing multiple screens or systems. APIs also ensure cross-platform data is uniform so there is one version of truth for an entire organization.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
An ERP refers to software that manages daily business activities. For telecom retailers, this can include processes like compliance, finance, accounting, sales, marketing, and supply chain management. The purpose of this software is to help retailers forecast and plan for the future of their stores. This means an effective ERP should effectively analyze and report on these processes and provide all stakeholders with access to data that drives in-store efficiencies.
Some trends also affect the architecture of e-commerce experiences. One of these influential trends is headless commerce. It’s the idea of decoupling the content management capabilities of an e-commerce solution with the front-end presentation layer.
What is Headless Commerce?
Headless commerce enables you to publish content and deploy it to any device — mobiles, wearables, displays, computers, and more. “You now have the freedom to select a front-end framework that works best for your team, instead of being tethered to a monolith platform’s codebase,” points out Heidi Olsen, a senior front end engineer at startup Bumped. “It also allows your team to have complete control over the data architecture, so you can query the services you need when you need them.”
For example, you can use a headless CMS platform for your content management and different service for your payment processing and shipping. This decoupling makes it easy to find a tech stack that meets your business’s unique needs.
E-commerce isn’t going away anytime soon, so investing in robust solutions and spending time planning strategies is a future-focused essential. Telecom retailers who value e-commerce, and put effort into optimizing the e-commerce tools available, are those who will rise above as telecom continues to evolve.