Expert Interview with Craig Ross on Brand Identity and eCommerce

Craig Ross is VP of Sales forĀ Nexternal, one of the best eCommerce platforms online. He was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about eCommerce, and what consumers and businesses alike should be looking for.

How important is brand identity during an eCommerce transaction? Does it matter once people are checking out on your site?

Brand identity is critical, and customers will expect to interact with your brand throughout the entire online shopping experience. If your brand's promise is lost during the checkout experience, your customers will leave and go to Amazon instead. Many smaller brands do not fully comprehend the importance of having their brand identity present through the entire process, and then they wonder why their conversion rates are not what they should be.

How would you recommend a business choose eCommerce platforms? What should they look for and why?

The ability to have their brand identity extend through the entire shopping experience is the first thing a business should insist on. If their eCommerce provider is pushing them into a template-driven system, their conversion will suffer. The second is tools to drive traffic to the online store. Without traffic, the best store in the world will not provide a single benefit. The third is that the system should provide a platform that allows for full and efficient business management. For example, regardless of how the customer shops, the merchant should be able to service and interact with them in a consolidated interface. The eCommerce system should have sophisticated integration capabilities so that the merchant does not spend their days running manual tasks. Even a benefit as simple as integrated shipping label creation can make a business significantly more efficient. Finally, businesses should choose a system that is continuously evolving. The commerce landscape is changing faster than ever, and if a system doesn't evolve, its customers will be at a disadvantage in less than a year.

What are some challenges businesses new to eCommerce may not anticipate?

Many businesses that are new to eCommerce fail to account for the impact that Amazon has on the market and how they need to compete in this new reality. New eCommerce merchants need to be laser-focused on marketing. Those that are focused and have a plan tend to perform very nicely.

How important is automation to eCommerce?

It is super important. Without it, the merchant spends a large part of their day on mundane tasks like credit card processing, shipping label creation, inventory control, etc. If those processes are automated, a merchant's team can spend a lot more time on sales and marketing tasks to grow their business. The opportunity costs of a system that requires many manual processes can be tremendous.

What's next for eCommerce?

Within the next few years, I believe that the walls between retails sales and online sales will completely disappear. A customer is not going to make the distinction between buying online vs. buying at a physical location. The customer simply expects to be able to purchase from you in the manner that is most convenient for them at the time they need to make the purchase. We already have many great tools to help merchants confront what is becoming the new reality, and we continue to explore additional innovative new ideas. I am really excited by what's happening in the industry and the opportunities that this will create for innovative brands.

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