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The Death of the e-Commerce Web Site

I am amazed at how many companies are still convinced that building a "killer" e-commerce web site should be their top priority. Sure, if your primary customer base is Consumer, then that may be the singular way for your customers to interface with your company. But if your customer base includes SMB or Enterprise customers and the majority of your effort is focused on building a beautiful web site, you're way off base.

It isn't 1995 or 2000.
The way in which SMB and Enterprise companies want to do business is not by going to a web site and entering all their ordering information. That concept is long dead. SMB and Enterprise businesses want to work within their own environments and operational models, not be forced into an artificial workflow that is designed by the company that wants to sell solutions.

What has changed?
All companies have their own operational workflows, their own systems (ERP, CRM, PRM, etc), their own data, their own processes and policies. The old-school concept of e-Commerce dictates that "you will come to my web site and purchase goods and services using my workflow, my process, my policies". This does not work because it does not integrate with any data, process or policies of the purchasing company.

In the real world, the purchasing companies have their own purchasing process - it may be simple and it may be complicated but it's their own process. They have their own approval processes. They have their own budget process. They have their own data  related to their customers or contract manufacturers or channel partner or their leads or their opportunities or their deals. In reality, all of these processes, policies and data are leveraged during the purchasing process but typically it's a disjointed effort because the old-school e-Commerce approach doesn't acknowledge the reality.

What's the reality?
The reality is that commerce needs to be approached in a balanced way. Two key concepts:
1) Integration Strategy - A web site that provides product information and some basic ordering capabilities must be balanced with an integration strategy that allows SMB and Enterprise customers to purchase in a variety of methods including B2B XML or really any format that works for them.
2) Modular or Service Oriented Architecture - All process and data should be easily connected or integrated into the purchasing company's process and data. For example, if there is configuration process required, ensure that it can be leveraged as a stand-alone service and/or replaced with the purchasing company's own configuration process. Ensure that all relevant data can be shared throughout the purchasing process so that you can combine data to make better, faster decisions. Ensure that processes are abstracted and broken into chunks in order to eliminate contradictory processes or duplicative processes.

Bottom Line
If your company is spending the majority of it's time, effort, people and budget on a killer e-Commerce web site, run to the nearest exit but first try to talk some sense into them. The old-school, 1990's web site is not today's answer to growing your business.


  1. Excellent in-sight. I probably know one such e-Commerce application ! I think the key is knowing your customer and how they want to run business with you. Obviously 1 Shoe would not fit all and the key is make it lite and design such that it can be integrated to cater to different market segment.

    But that is achievable only with fresh and different mind set. Historically many company carry their baggage of old, committed and I am not saying they dont think differently but they fail during execution.

    One classic example is any time someone asked to write a web application, the immediate thought is JAVA + ORACLE. Performance has to be worked within limits. Why such thinking ? Why not look at Performance + User Experience + growth segments and then choose technology which fits?


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