As we move deeply into the holiday season, the possibilities and limitations of e-commerce are once again becoming clear. Consumers across industries increasingly shop online; in fact, the majority of Americans now prefer to do so, that number goes to 67 percent for younger generations.
Of course, that increased desire for online shopping has also increased competition. Businesses of all sizes and industries now offer their products and services through their own website or third-party marketplaces like Amazon. To succeed in this crowded environment is becoming increasingly lucrative, but also difficult.
How can you maintain your edge? How can you be the one company in your industry that offers your audience a superior online e-commerce experience than your competitors? One step is to get the framework right. That’s where Azure Services can step in.
App Service and Insights
Modern e-commerce is more than just a static website filled with product pages. At its best, it’s an interactive experience in which your audience can read reviews in real-time, create wishlists, and purchase related items dependent on their search and buying history.
This degree of dynamism cannot be achieved with web development alone. Azure’s App Service helps you build the mobile and web apps that can more likely achieve it. Easy deployment and scalability make for the perfect companion for any online store looking to go beyond their website.
Of course, building applications is only the beginning. Once live, you have to make sure that they perform as intended, minimizing down times while maximizing performance. That’s where Microsoft’s Application Insights platform steps in.
When connected with other Azure applications, these analytics are real-time and visualized. They allow you to reconcile your efforts with actual performance, both from your apps and the larger website. As a result, you will be able to make tweaks and improvements over time to improve shopper experience and maximize your revenue.
SQL Deployment Database
As you develop your e-commerce solutions, how are you handling the data? Azure suggests a simple solution: use its own DBaaS platform. The benefits of Azure SQL Database for e-commerce, as highlighted on its website, are significant:
- Built-in intelligence allows for continuous improvement. The result is a constant fine-tuning that optimizes performance and protects against threats.
- Inherent scalability. “SQL Database provides in-memory OLTP that improves throughput and latency on transactional processing workloads up to 30x over traditional table and database engines and delivers faster business insights with up to 100X faster queries and reports over traditional row-oriented storage.”
- Ability to service multiple customers. Combine your customer management database into a single instance per customer for more effective communication and management.
- Protect and secure app data. Sensitive data is dynamically masked and encrypted. A 99.99% availability rate ensures secure operations even in unstable conditions.
Combine these, and you arrive at the perfect relational database solution for your e-commerce operations.
Personalized Marketing Opportunities
Among its many individual solutions, Azure also provides architecture frameworks that integrate these individual solutions into a greater whole. The result tends to be more efficient, streamlined operation in the ways in which these solutions are integrated and implemented.
One perfect example of this framework, as it relates to e-commerce, is Microsoft’s Personalized Marketing Solutions Framework. It combines apps that range from analytics tools to machine learning platforms to ensure that each message speaks personally to individual customers within your target audience.
In e-commerce, personalization is becoming more important than ever before. Almost 90 percent of consumers state they are more likely to shop on a website that offers a custom experience tailored to their interests and needs. At the same time, only a fraction of merchants implement wholesome personalization because of challenges with gaining data quickly, completely, and accurately.
Azure has the potential to bridge this gap. Its personalized marketing tools are designed to not just gather data, but analyze it quickly to offer real-time (and even predictive) trends and opportunities. The result is a better infrastructure on the backend, with more personalization opportunities for potential and current customers.
Content Delivery Network
In e-commerce, as it is across industries, content marketing is becoming increasingly crucial. As audiences are turning away from the increasingly pervasive traditional marketing, successful businesses have found ways to cut through the clutter with value-focused content. This content addresses pain points, answers questions, and only subtly promotes the brand.
But even as you develop that content, how can you get it in front of your audience in a way that is both authentic and persuasive? Azure’s Content Delivery Network can help.
In a modern digital environment, content has to reach a variety of media. From mobile apps to IoT devices (such as smart TVs and consumer electronic appliances), not accounting for these difference can result in lags at best. Azure’s platform streamlines the process, ensuring your content gets delivered to its various destinations in tact, quickly, and successfully.
If you sell your products online, an integrated search function is absolutely crucial. No less than 30 percent of your audience will use it to find the products they’re looking for, and they tend to convert at significantly higher rates than those who don’t.
Ideally, site searches should go beyond correct indexing. They need to include specific filters, tags, and a design that is easy to find and use. Functions like autocomplete and synonym results can provide immense value when looking to increase the chance that your audience finds the products they’re actually looking for.
Azure Search can help you get to that point. It’s a cloud-based service specifically designed to optimize the website and app search experience for your business. As an automated service, it taps into Microsoft’s existing natural language processing knowledge, increasing the chances that even voice-based search will be successful. Implementation is quick, as is indexing your searches and scaling up as necessary.
Building a Better E-Commerce Infrastructure Through Azure
In short, Azure offers not just one, but a suite of services designed to help you build a more successful e-commerce platform. Online giants like Pandora have been able to take advantage of these services to improve their digital presence and maximize transaction value. As a result, an integrated Azure e-commerce platform comes with a number of benefits:
- Analyze on-site customer behavior for more informed product and marketing decisions.
- Streamline the transaction process to provide security and convenience to all entities.
- Scale your business inventory and transaction capabilities to account for seasonality and growth.
- Optimize your supply chain to approximate just-in-time inventory benefits.
- Automate IT infrastructure processes to focus on improving sales and growing your business.
But where do you start? How can you ensure that the above services and solutions are deployed in a way that actually benefits your e-commerce business?
Depending on the size of your operations, you may be able to attack implementation of your own. More likely, though, you will need an external partner who has experience and expertise in Azure, and can build your platform for sustainable success.
We want to be that partner for you. Through web hosting and extensive experience within Microsoft’s cloud platform, Applied Innovation has made a name for itself as an IT partner for companies from Hilton to Reuters. Contact us to learn more about a potential partnership, as well as the benefits of the above Azure services for your e-commerce business.