In e-commerce, a few short years can bring breathtaking change. I’ve been in this game for more than twenty years, and have witnessed many incredible changes over those two decades.
Looking back, the technology powering my first e-commerce store I built in 1995 in my college dorm room was laughable. Despite its rudimentary nature, it was revolutionary for the time — simply having an online store provided a huge technical advantage.
While I have a fondness for that simple first store — it helped me pay for medical school and eventually retire from practicing medicine — it paled in comparison to the e-commerce technology we built to power my last business started in 2009. On the strength of the tech powering our many online stores, we raised over $100 million in venture capital.
The e-commerce platform we built in 2009 was cutting-edge and allowed us to disrupt several retail industries, but even that technology is now obsolete. Such is the nature of e-commerce — the technology powering your store must constantly evolve our you’ll go out of business.
Every few years a dramatic change in the underlying technology powering these online stores happens. Through those 20 years, I’ve seen half a dozen paradigm shifts in e-commerce… we’re currently in the middle of perhaps the most dramatic change I’ve seen to date.
If your site is even four or five years old, you are likely missing out on many game-changing e-commerce innovations that have become commonplace in the past half decade.
Here are four critical innovations that have happened in the past few years — if your store’s e-commerce platform doesn’t leverage these features, you’ll need to upgrade your technology to remain competitive:
Custom built software
In 1995 we had no choice but to build our own e-commerce software — there was no other option. Even in 2009, large volume stores like ours had little choice but to build our own platform from scratch. Today, the most logical route for all but the largest online stores is to use a highly-customized version of existing platform. Rather than having a couple dozen developers on staff like we did earlier this decade, a business similar to our could operate with a single in-house developer or even use outsourced programming talent.
Managing your own physical hardware is a dinosaur from a bygone era. Moving your store to a cloud hosted, managed solution means no more server outages, on demand scaling for high volume days, and good riddance to countless other headaches of managing your own servers and software.
Mobile first, responsive design
The shift to mobile is real — over half of all e-commerce transactions are completed on mobile devices. Mobile design has massively changed in the last couple of years. Older e-commerce software is woefully lagging in the mobile-first design elements needed to be competitive today.
Embedded Marketing technology
E-commerce marketing technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the past half decade. In fact, the lack of embedded marketing technology in existing ecomemrce platforms was the reason we started building Engine, our proprietary e-commerce platform we use for our clients.
The tools we built are much improved versions modeled after the customer acquisition and customer relationship management tools that allowed us to acquire 11 million email subscribers, 8 million fans, and raise over $100 million venture capital at our last e-commerce business.
After reading this, if you’re frustrated with your e-commerce platform, you are not alone — recent research from Internet Retailer shows that nearly half of all e-retailers want a new e-commerce platform.
While it blows my mind that literally half of all e-commerce stores are frustrated with their current platform, the reason is simple: while software like Magento 1.0 and Open Cart were cutting edge when they were first built in 2008 and 2009 respectively, they are a full technology cycle behind. While I doubt that many people are still using a Motorola RAZR or the original iPhone (2008’s most popular phones), many stores are still using technology developed in 2008 or earlier to power their stores.
If you need help moving to a modren, mobile-first, cloud-hosted, cutting-edge e-commerce platform, drop us a line. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the bottom right of your screen in the chat window.