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June 04, 2013

eCommerce: Completing the Customer Experience

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

The impressive growth of cloud computing and the evolution of the Anything-as-a-Service delivery model has changed the business playing field and, along with it, the balance of power within many sectors. The idea that what used to be sold as proprietary, on-premises products are now being bought and used on a pay-as-you-go basis has created a new customer-vendor paradigm, where the customer wields much more power than ever before, and where consumer purchasing patterns are making their way into business environments.

Without question, the evolution of social media and the emergence of mobile devices as a de facto standard for communications have played major role in how customers interact with their vendors, and have created a massive disruption in the way businesses must market, sell, deliver, and service their customers. All of these topics will be heavily debated and discussed at ITEXPO Las Vegas.

But, for all the communications technologies, customer engagement platforms, data analytics capabilities, and marketing mechanisms that have become integral to building a successful business, it can all fall apart if the purchasing and acquisition process is overly complex or fragmented. Particularly in software- and service-driven environments, the expectation is that customers can finalize their purchases as easily as they can surf the Web to research products, which means vendors must ensure their eCommerce platforms are attractively designed, intuitive, tightly integrated with their back end CRM and ERP systems, and easily adaptable to new products or markets to ensure continued growth.

“Time to market is everything and business users are becoming frustrated because they are buying more like consumers,” explained Carl Theobald, president and CEO of Avangate (News - Alert), which boasts a wildly successful eCommerce platform, if you consider its 85 percent year over year growth the past five years. “Vendors need to put together new offers and get them to market very quickly, but the lag time due to complexity in IT is challenging.”

As the shift from business-wide purchasing to individual or departmental buying continues, software and services vendors must be able to deliver greater choice and flexibility and segment their offers granularly to accommodate the changes created by the consumerization of IT.

“It’s a difficult transition for businesses,” noted Theobald. “It can become quite a mess when IT departments have to have to deliver consistency across customer touchpoints, transact at every touchpoint, optimize business models on the fly, and reach new global markets.”

And it all has to happen in a globalized economy and in a customer-friendly environment, taking into consideration payment platforms, delivery process, entitlement, fraud management, support, refunds, sales channels, cross-border payments and regulatory issues.

To help today’s businesses navigate around the turbulence of a changing market, Avangate has developed what it calls a customer-centric commerce solution, that allows software and cloud services vendors to deliver consistent customer experience across all products and markets. Theobald calls it a complete Commerce-as-a-Service solution, including everything a business needs to execute its eCommerce strategy quickly and efficiently, focusing on it products and customers, rather than the complexities of building an integrated commerce solution.

Avangate’s latest release extends its advanced subscriptions setup and management, usage-based billing, advanced retention management, cross distribution channel management to unify data and treatment from direct and indirect channels. As a bonus, Avangate boasts a network of some 3,800 affiliates, which provide instant marketing and branding to a global prospect base, including many widely recognized brands such as CNET and

Its latest release is specifically designed to allow businesses to embrace the new customer models, allowing them to:

  • Transact at every touch point via optimized online selling channels; mobile; direct sales and service points; channel-enabled sales and service portals; and API integration;
  • Optimize new business models on the fly with a flexible product catalog; multi-revenue model billing automation and management; self-service setup, testing and reporting tools;
  • Reach new global markets instantly with localization best-practices, localized payments and taxation services, as well as distribution networks to drive sales to international, as well as micro-vertical markets.

For businesses truly looking to get started immediately with a holistic eCommerce platform, Avangate offers a pure self-service product, which customers can deploy on their own, while eliminating the challenges IT departments often when launching new products or entering new markets.

For all the talk of business needs around customer engagement, loyalty programs, multi-channel marketing and communication, and support, much of those efforts are for naught if the purchase itself becomes an obstacle. Just as customers have grown accustomed to making purchasing decisions on their own terms, they also must be able to make the purchases on those same terms – wherever they are and whenever they want or need to. Simply, a holistic eCommerce platform enables businesses to quickly and easily roll out new products and services, and allows customers to make transactions in the same manner, is no less critical to rounding out a positive customer experience.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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