eCommerce has completely re-written the rulebook when it comes to selling products and services. It has provided businesses with massive opportunities for growth and enabled the exploitation of new markets across the world, but has also given smaller companies or start-ups the ability to quickly establish a thriving business. It is not surprising, therefore, that competition is fierce.
The most significant challenge for any merchant now is that they simply cannot stand still in this fast-paced environment. The competition certainly won’t be and so complacency is just not viable.
“At the moment, it really is a race to invest. The pace that eCommerce is growing, and the pace that data handling, segmentation and all the marketing tools and systems are evolving means that if you are not absolutely at the forefront of it, then you’re probably falling behind in comparison to others,” said Dan McIvor, Director at Swanky. “As an agency, our constant challenge is to be thought leaders; to be innovating, to be selecting and finding the right platforms and partners, and helping merchants invest their money in the best possible people and tools.”
As a commercially-aware eCommerce design, development and optimisation agency of Shopify Plus merchants, Swanky is constantly looking to find innovative solutions to help its clients reach their eCommerce goals. In 2016, Swanky became one of the first three agencies in Europe to be awarded the title of Shopify Plus Experts; an accreditation which recognises its commitment to providing businesses, both big and small, with stunning websites that drive conversions. Once a Shopify Store is launched, the agency provides post support services to help merchants continue growing through conversion optimisation and marketing.
“We help merchants identify the opportunities on Shopify and how their ecosystem might look,” explained McIvor. “We will work with them to build a fantastic new website, in a very commercially sensitive way, producing something that is going to use best practice in terms of customer retention, and increasing conversion rates and cart values. That might include implementing new review systems, new inventory control systems, new multi-channel systems, and so on.”
The importance of data management to Shopify Plus merchants
Through its experience, one of the most important aspects that Swanky believes Shopify Plus merchants need to address and understand is data management and the subsequent integration of business systems to manage data effectively.
“I think data management is really underestimated – just how crucial it is. Merchants have such hugely varying data pools; so many different systems that are storing data in so many different ways. We often find ourselves explaining the importance of these systems and how they will be of value in the future. For example, a good ERP system linking to a good eCommerce system. These are both investments for the future for most businesses. Organisations are now realising that their data needs to be mobile and accessible, and they need to be able to move it between systems in a really clean way, not hacking things together,” explained McIvor.
“Having a dedicated integration platform at our disposal enables us to connect these systems in a really robust, managed way, rather than hard-coding this over here and that over there. It’s the best way forward; the most efficient way to deliver fast growth. We don’t try to do it in-house. We have the technical capability to build integration solutions, but we have no appetite whatsoever for it, or the economies of scale to reliably handle it. We simply don’t want to specialise in doing that. Data integrity is absolutely crucial and therefore we want to work with partners who understand that and are going to handle the data consistently. This is one of the reasons why we signed a partnership deal with Codeless Platforms.”
Having trialled and used other products within the market, which didn’t live up to expectations, Swanky started using Codeless Platforms’ BPA Platform, especially the dedicated Shopify Plus connector, and immediately signed a partnership deal.
“I think that the attraction with Codeless Platforms is that you’re not just brute-forcing problem-solving. You have built a platform which is specifically created to be flexible and to be rapidly developed, iterated on and deployed, in any situation. I think the main thing is just having a partner that handles integrations and connectors well. Not having to worry about those aspects of the project and knowing they will be taken care of,” declared McIvor.
“We don’t want to get involved in areas that we can’t excel at. So having Codeless Platforms as a partner allows us to very confidently recommend it for integration and automation projects. It frees us up to do the things that we are really good at, which is working on the commercial design, development, optimisation, marketing and so on. The most important thing for us is that our clients are looked after and get a good result.”
The benefits of business process automation
The most common connectors that Swanky now implements for its Shopify Plus merchants are those dedicated to ERP, inventory and fulfilment systems. BPA Platform provides simple integration between Shopify Plus and these systems and can also automate many of the business processes required, such as the downloading of sales orders, uploading of product information, pricing and stock levels, as well as fraud risk assessment.
“The more we can do with a single platform for managing shared data, the cleaner things are going to be, especially for mobile data. The important thing here is that when data is accessible as well as mobile it is possible to experiment with different business systems and platforms. You can move from the platform that has served you well for the past two or three years to a platform that is going to serve you better for the next two or three years. It doesn’t have to be a complete nightmare, which it has been historically,” explained McIvor. “In fact, we are defining this for our clients. We want to be forward thinking for them. We are advising them to think about data management via integration and automation in specific timescales. We present the case for these changes and nine times out of ten they agree with us, which is great.”
Swanky can easily demonstrate the cost savings and benefits to Shopify Plus merchants by automating manual processes. However, it’s the automation and movement of useful, insightful data that can lead to bigger and better opportunities.
“The initial cost-saving scenario is where a company identifies an area of the business that is being performed manually, such as moving one set of data from one system to another, measuring the cumulative amount of time it takes that employee to perform and then calculating the resulting cost that it incurs. So yes, you can quite quickly find savings in automating that movement of data and sensibly moving data between systems,” said McIvor. “However, the other scenario, which I think is even more beneficial, is moving the right data between the right systems. This can reveal commercial opportunities.”
“A prime example of this is a project we worked on for a branded shoe retailer. The company had an annual turnover of £3-4 million sales from online activities. However, it didn’t have a worthwhile loyalty scheme and didn’t include any marketing materials in customers’ packages,” detailed McIvor. “We identified that if we captured customer preferences and affinities from the website, such as particular brands and sizes, time of purchase etc., and then automatically pushed that data into the ERP system, we could predict sales trends and build meaningful projections. More importantly, we could create print material inserts for customer specific offers and invitations to take part in a loyalty scheme. By doing this we increased repeat custom by somewhere in the region of 25%. The value of that to a business with over three million customers is really substantial.”
For more information on how BPA Platform can add extra functionality to your Shopify Plus eCommerce project, download the brochure below or call us on +44 (0)330 99 88 700.