5 Digital Transformation Tips for Retailers Interested in E-Commerce

July 30, 2021

At a glance

  • Embrace e-commerce: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of e-commerce among retailers and the trend shows no sign of slowing down.
  • Follow best practices: Retailers interested in digitizing their storefronts should follow five digital transformation best practices to ensure customer satisfaction and adoption.
  • Get outside expertise: To ensure a successful (and cyber-safe) transition into e-commerce, enlist the expertise of Aprio’s Digital Transformation & Cybersecurity Advisory Services team.

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The full story:

Digital retail and e-commerce platforms have become more prevalent over the past decade — but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, their popularity has exploded.

E-commerce in the United States grew by 44% last year, with consumers spending over $860 billion online with American merchants over the course of 2020. According to Digital Commerce 360, this represents the highest annual e-commerce growth rate in the U.S. over the past two decades and is triple the 15.1% jump we saw in the space in 2019.[1]

Before your business dives into the digital world, there are some important best practices you should consider first.

1. Spend time perfecting your web hosting infrastructure

Some retailers mistakenly believe that shifting to e-commerce is as easy as designing and launching a website with an online storefront. But the process is so much more complex than that. You need to optimize your web infrastructure for performance and future scalability, as well as cybersecurity (which we’ll explore in greater detail below).

When it comes to optimizing your web infrastructure, prioritize the following:

  • Migrate to the cloud: Hosting your e-commerce platform on the cloud comes with significant benefits, such as more flexibility and adaptability for future business growth; greater capacity for storing and hosting information; and most importantly, cost-efficiency.
  • Develop strategies for decreasing downtime: One of the biggest risks to revenue growth, your brand reputation and customer loyalty is website downtime, and it’s a risk you need to work on mitigating before it happens. Downtime typically takes place during peak shopping seasons (think the holidays or sales promotions) when storefronts are inundated with more orders than usual. Pay attention to spikes or major changes in your website traffic. This will help you pinpoint certain times of the year in which you may need to make capacity adjustments to better serve more shoppers.
  • Make site speed a constant priority: Another big risk to revenue growth and the customer experience is slow page load times. In fact, according to Kissmetrics, 40% of consumers abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load. What’s more, a one-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.[2] Make sure your website content and images are well-optimized for top speed and performance. You can accomplish this by utilizing image management techniques or tools like content delivery networks, among other options.

Partner with a third-party expert in digital transformation and e-commerce to help you fine-tune your website infrastructure before you launch digital shopping capabilities to your customer base.

2. Get feedback from your customers

Aside from the strength of your web infrastructure, your customer base is one of the most critical resources you have to create and maintain a successful digital experience. Before you launch your e-commerce platform, spend a lot of time and effort communicating with your customers and soliciting their feedback through surveys, focus groups and more.

Ask your customers: What do you value most in your digital shopping experiences? Which online storefronts do you like the best, and which storefronts do you dislike? What diminishes your online shopping experience? Use their responses to these questions to tweak, tailor and perfect your own e-commerce platform to ensure repeat business and ongoing customer loyalty. You can also use customer feedback to create an omnichannel experience that extends offline and introduce services (think curbside pickup or on-demand delivery, both of which flourished during the pandemic) to better meet evolving customer needs.

3. Digitize all of your processes

Speaking of creating an omnichannel experience, it’s important to acknowledge that your e-commerce platform doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Success today shows up when a retail organization blends the buying experience between online and physical locations. This may include providing options for customers to buy products online, have them shipped or available for pick-up at your store, or buy products in-store and have them shipped home.

You need to evaluate your entire business model and standard operating procedures to ensure that your omnichannel experience fully integrates and aligns with the digital aspects of your business.

Focus on digitizing operational tasks and processes that are essential to the customer experience. These may include point-of-sale (POS) contact touchpoints, data entry and inventory management. You also need to ensure that the individuals responsible for managing these tasks are included in and trained on process improvements.

4. Invest in top-notch cybersecurity solutions

Due to shutdowns instituted across the country, consumers spent more time online last year — and more online engagement and activity creates more opportunities for cyberattacks. Globally, cybercrime damages are expected to reach $6 trillion this year.[3]

Retailers planning to focus on e-commerce need to be extremely vigilant about their cybersecurity safeguards and procedures. This includes making investments in a superior cybersecurity technology stack, including tools to manage intrusion detection, web application firewalls to patch real-time vulnerabilities and bot management, among other solutions. Keep in mind that you need to protect every inch of your e-commerce operation — including both your hosted web infrastructure, where customers directly access your digital storefront, and other security boundaries at the edge of your network, which may be especially vulnerable to hackers.

5. Gain internal buy-in, particularly from management

Your e-commerce endeavors will never be successful if you don’t have the full engagement and support of your organization — especially the managers or executives at the top of your org chart.

Keep in mind that total buy-in may require some organizational changes, as well as a comprehensive change management strategy and communication plan. Come prepared to management discussions with regular updates on digital transformation initiatives and priorities, as well as tangible key performance indicators (KPIs), projections that demonstrate ROI and clear timelines for e-commerce implementation. These ideas are far from exhaustive, so we recommend enlisting the expertise of a third-party provider to help facilitate the process alongside you and your team.

The bottom line

Adopting e-commerce and moving into the digital world are exciting steps for your business. At Aprio, our Digital Transformation & Cybersecurity Advisory Services team regularly helps clients like you navigate the digital transformation process, from top to bottom, with positive results.

Related Resources

Schedule a free consultation with us today to get started.

[1] Fareeha Ali, “U.S. ecommerce grows 44.0% in 2020,” Digital Commerce 360, January 29, 2021, https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/article/us-ecommerce-sales/, accessed July 2021.

[2] Brian Sutter, “Vrooom! Why Website Speed Matters,” Forbes, May 19, 2017, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281986, accessed July 2021.

[3] “2017 Cybercrime Report,” Cybersecurity Ventures and the Herjavec Group, October 2017, https://1c7fab3im83f5gqiow2qqs2k-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/2015-wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-Cybercrime-Report.pdf, accessed July 2021.

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About the Author

Jeff Kramer

Jeff Kramer is Aprio's Executive Vice President of Digital Transformation Advisory and Cybersecurity | Specializing in providing managed IT solutions and advisory services to small, medium and large businesses in manufacturing, consumer products and insurance. In an evolving world, Jeff is there to provide ever-adapting solutions to meet any client needs.