It has never been easier to build an online presence than today. Even online stores today are mimicking the experience of the brick and mortar stores with product displays, and images very close to the real thing. eCommerce merchants understand that the online shopping experience has to go beyond the simple product browsing and shopping cart functionalities. In order to keep today’s informed customer engaged, they have to use informative content to make their online store interesting to shop in. While the product display is important, it is equally important to have great content to complement the product for better customer engagement. The content becomes the primary spokesperson in an eStore. Retailers such as Marks & Spencer and bike retailer Wiggle are showing how to engage with their customers by giving them the relevant advice that they need. In order to do so, they have to employ a powerful Content Management System(CMS) to deliver consistent experiences. However, CMS is not exclusively about content. It also needs to deal with a range of complex functions without compromising on usability for those in charge of managing and updating content. The question then is, with a plethora of CMS options out there, how can you ensure that you are making the right choice?
Why use a CMS?
A CMS offers eCommerce sites the power of scalability, flexibility, extensibility, reliability, and security. As an eCommerce site grows it needs to store the increasing volume of content in a database in an organized manner so that it can be manipulated easily. As the sophistication of eCommerce consumers increases, eTailers must ensure that the content changes according to the visitor and should ensure that dynamic content can be woven into static content without compromising on the UI and display. eCommerce providers also need to ensure that the site is secure and runs reliably. Additionally, they also need to ensure that they can improve site performance while adding add-ons. All these things can be managed easily using a powerful CMS.
How to decide which CMS to use?
There are a number of factors that contribute to the CMS choice. Some of these are:
- Business Goals:
As with every other aspect of the business, when making a CMS selection, it is imperative that you keep the business goals in mind. You must take stock of the target audience and multichannel demands and identify internationalization and language needs to ensure that the site displays correctly. It is important to assess future trends and define how you want the online business to grow. Assessing the existing information management practices and having a ready checklist of the desired functions and features also helps to fine-tune the CMS selection process.
- Technical Knowledge:
When exploring CMS solutions take a look at the technical competency of the team who will be using and managing it. There are CMS solutions that are apt for people who are proficient in CSS and HTML. At the same time, there also are CMS offerings for people with limited technical knowledge or even those who have no idea about coding and despite this the CMS allows them to customize the website easily.
- Feature Assessment:
All CMS platforms come with their own set of features that are either built-in or can be added using add-ons or plug-ins. Assessing the kind of features your eCommerce site demands, understanding which of these features will differentiate you from the competitor, what eCommerce capabilities does the CMS platform offer, ease of adding plug-ins for added functionalities etc. are just a few of the CMS features to consider. It’s also key to assess the automated functions and processes such as stock control, invoice generation, order monitoring capabilities, product views, catalog management, cross-selling or upselling capabilities, payment and delivery management etc. of the CMS options at hand before making a decision.
- Customization Capabilities:
Does the CMS under evaluation offer the eCommerce portal the power of customization and personalization? The CMS solution should offer interactive elements such as quizzes, feedback forms etc. and have the capability to automatically tie these into the customers’ experiences. It should also be able to auto-generate content based on user preferences in on-page locations, be able to refine and streamline displays, send emails and updates in response to user behaviors etc. The CMS should also offer one-to-one marketing capabilities for better personalization.Additionally, the CMS should offer its users the capability to create group permissions, directly edit code, create custom forms, without impacting the entire system negatively. These were areas that previously were under the exclusive control of the developer. The CMS should also integrate easily with third-party applications to enable competitive advantage.
- Technology Demands:
When selecting a CMS, it is essential to flesh out the technical demands of the site and evaluate its compatibility with the existing technology stack in use. For example, if the eCommerce site is built using PHP and you have a team proficient in that language, choosing a CMS that works on a PHP platform would make more sense than say, choosing Demandware. It also makes sense to see if the CMS platform offers an integration with the existing ERP or warehousing solution etc. to reduce overhead costs.
- Deployment Infrastructure:
Take into account the deployment infrastructure when choosing a CMS. A cloud-based CMS does not demand any IT infrastructure investment and allows eCommerce portals to focus on the business. At the same time, when looking at the infrastructure, it makes sense to take a stock of the traffic and bandwidth demands, the time taken for backups and updates etc. and ensure that the CMS provides the right support so that the site performance does not suffer due to latency on CMS deployments.
- Speed, Scalability, and Flexibility:
Identifying how fast the CMS can render content, if it can operate in different environments or if it is OS specific, can it handle huge spikes in traffic and scale easily, can you create multi-server environments that mirror each other for load balancing etc. become key points of assessment. Then there is the speed of deployment -assess how easy the CMS is to install, setup and configure and identify the time it would take to do that and whether that meets your needs.
- Architecture Flexibility:
Does the CMS under evaluation offer control over the templating system? Assessing the kind of control the CMS offers is important as it helps the users create a unique brand identity easily. Control over the templating system could be simple like editing existing templates easily and can extend to working outside of a template structure altogether. A CMS that offers architectural flexibility provides development freedom to its users from a set template structure and helps them create a differentiated design experience for their clients.
- Mobile Support:
Today smartphones account for 45.1% of all eCommerce traffic. By the end of 2017, this number is expected to cross 60%. When making a CMS choice, it, therefore, becomes absolutely imperative to see that it offers responsive mobile support. This will allow you to reach the customers seamlessly irrespective of the device they are using. It should also offer API connectivity so when you choose to develop a mobile app, the application can connect easily with the CMS platform data making it easier to implement.
That’s already a pretty long list – and it’s not done yet. When making a CMS choice, evaluating the security features it offers is a must to ensure that data integrity or bug attacks do not affect site performance. Then there are factors like developer and custom application support, ease of upgrades, and many more to factor in based on your specific needs. The choice is not easy – mainly because it is such a critical element of your eCommerce success. When faced with this decision we hope this post will help you draw up your own evaluation criteria – and if you need help then do not hesitate to ping us!