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E-retail report highlights tech shortcomings

By Retail Technology | Monday February 17 2014

E-commerce deficiencies across key areas of functionality are forcing many companies to re-platform, according to new research published

The results of an industry survey released today has highlighted significant under-performance across many critical aspects of e-commerce technology and services.

The first Technology for E-commerce Report from market research firm Econsultancy, produced in partnership with systems integrator Neoworks and based on a survey of 552 e-commerce and marketing professionals, found only a fifth rated their systems as ‘good’ in respect of high-quality site search functionality. And even though more than half of respondents (56%) said this was critical. 

Product management, content management, support for mobile and in-built search engine optimisation (SEO) capabilities were also highlighted in the report as key areas of functionality where e-commerce software platforms were failing to deliver.
When asked about the most significant technology-related challenges to growing an e-commerce business, ‘integration with current and legacy systems’ emerged as most significant. This area was cited by 43% of company respondents and 39% of supply-side respondents as one of the three greatest barriers to selling successfully online.

Product development falls behind the times

The research found that 22% of companies surveyed had migrated to a new e-commerce platform in the past, while a fifth (20%) said they were in the process of re-platforming. A further third (32%) said they were considering re-platforming in the future. 

A further 69% of companies were planning to increase their e-commerce technology investment over the next 12 months, while 67% of supply-side respondents said their clients were planning to do the same. 

In response just under two-thirds of companies (65%) said they were planning to hire more staff to work on their e-commerce properties in the next year. 

But the greatest barrier preventing companies growing their e-commerce business as fast as they would like was, ‘lack of budget and resources,’ cited by 50% of client-side respondents as one of their top-three challenges. 

Nigel Atkinson, co-founder and solutions architect at Neoworks, said: “The research shows some significant mismatches between merchant expectations and perceived product and service performance. Understanding where these gaps are is the first step in the process of closing them.”

Skills shortages and customisation issues

Linus Gregoriadis, Econsultancy research director, said: “Many of those companies surveyed are investing in new e-commerce platforms because of limitations with their existing e-commerce solutions relating to poor functionality, integration difficulties and their inability to scale.”

He added: “As well as facing technical challenges, it is clear that companies are struggling to find people with the right skills to improve their e-commerce capabilities. On the plus side, it is good to see companies making significant investment in their technology, while also planning to recruit more staff."

But, given the shortage of e-commerce skills currently available, Gregoriadis also said it was no surprise that many merchant companies were having to turn to third party integrators to customise their platforms. 

In fact, the majority of client-side respondents (60%) said their companies are using a customised package or solution as their e-commerce technology, as opposed to packaged applications (25%) and on-demand or hosted, software as a service (SaaS) e-commerce (11%).

Just over a quarter (27%) of client-side respondents said they had already used a systems implementer or integrator, while a further 9% said they were planning to. 

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