What’s wrong with eCommerce tools?

Why don’t eCommerce platforms behave like blogging platforms?

  • Is it because the cool developers don’t want to work at ecommerce application developers?
  • Is it because all the big ecommerce platforms started life the best part of ten years ago and can’t flip architectures just like that?
  • Is it because the kind of fancy features you find at social networking sites are so much fluff that would only get in the way at an online shop?
  • Is it something to do with Microsoft?

So what do I actually want from an ecommerce platform? Well, there’s all the obvious stuff like good integration with fulfillment, stockholding and accounting; really flexible merchandising; easy addition of new SKUs and lines; outstanding usability and accessibility and so on…

Then, what I’d really like to see, beyond all that, is:

  • A really clever user model. Product pages ought to behave like photo pages at flickr: if you’re a logged-in admin user everything’s editable right there, in-line and if you’re a customer it’s a locked-down, read-only page with an ‘add to basket’ button.
  • Up-to-the-minute page creation and editing with inline editing and drag-and-drop. Product pages that behave like blog entries.
  • Really obvious, easy-to-grab widgets in one, simple platform-neutral format that users can ‘tear off’ and stick in their own sites with no fuss so they can sell my stuff via their blogs or MySpace pages.
  • An ultra-powerful, geek-friendly API with hooks for all the right systems and at least two levels of interaction (super easy HTTP plus gnarly REST and SOAP for the grown-ups, say).
  • Pages that love to be shared. Share this page, bookmark it, DIGG it, send it to a friend, save it to my desktop, send it to my mobile, print it nicely, widgetise it, send it by post to my Grandmother, roll it tight, bounce it off a satellite…
  • A clever way of mapping individual SKUs onto stable, predictable URLs. The SKU is retail’s fundamental unit but you don’t want to expose the raw data to customers so you need some kind of helpful translation layer between the database of SKUs and the web site.
  • Tools that make life easy (and fun) for merchandisers and marketers. Create a promotion, feature a promotion, delete a promotion. Run a survey, split the creative, throw a ten minute sale, add a ‘free with purchase’… Direct and flexible. No obstacles.
  • Reporting that’s as pretty (and helpful) as Google Analytics.

This is a work in progress, based on what I’m learning here at King of Shaves (mainly from customer care/IT/web site guru Nicky Springle). I guess I’ll add to it as I go along.

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  1. Steve,

    I share your frustration. Current eCommerce solutions are cumbersome and difficult to manage for many of us who are exposed to a more social/open web.

    Our open-source eCommerce platform, Magento (http://www.magentocommerce.com) will improve on some annoyances. Hopefully over time, we can meet some of the high marks you have set in the post.


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