Throughout our many years in the digital industry, we have had first-hand experience of guiding some leading global manufacturers through what can be a daunting process of selecting and investing in digital platforms and the litany of potential pitfalls involved. In this article, we will take you through some of the advice we typically give to our clients on what to be aware of and consider when going through the selection process.
There is always an ever-present thin line between a successful digital project and the ones that fall short of hitting their mark. A lot of factors should be taken into consideration, including both current and future needs, whether or not you need a lot of flexibility and technical capability or what level of integration with third-party systems such as CRMs, ERPs, or Payment Gateways you require.
To find the right digital platform for your needs, perhaps the biggest challenge will be narrowing down your essential requirements. This will, in most cases, involve input from multiple internal departments and other stakeholders. If you are already using a digital platform and looking to make a change or upgrade, you should build your list of priority features by analyzing your current pain points and future company needs. Although there are plenty of digital platforms to choose from, here are points that you should consider during your selection process:
1. Features and functionality – is selling products your digital platform’s primary use?
Many different digital experience platforms offer capabilities for online stores via plugins or modules, while some are built primarily for commerce. During your research phase, you must consider and be clear about how robust your digital experience platform’s functionality needs to be. You also have to think about its ease-of-use, accessibility, maintenance requirements, how many products and services you have, and what payment options to offer. Consider if the digital experience platform will provide other ease-of-use functionality such as the ability for customers to search for products or part numbers and filter by additional values.
2. Integration – are connections to your back end or third-party systems required?
The digital experience platform’s ease of integration with other third-party systems (e.g., Payment Gateways, CRMs, ERPs, and analytics tools) essential to your day to day operations and order fulfillment processes should also be assessed and verified. If having seamless integrations with external databases to enhance user experience and reporting is a priority, then be sure to select a digital experience platform that has robust APIs and supports two-way synchronization and synchronization logs to allow you to easily track tasks and history, monitor the process using real-time reports, and identify issues quickly. It is also then vital to ensure you select a digital agency that has proven experience in integrating with your third-party systems of choice and can provide ongoing support, maintenance, and upgrades without impacting live projects.
3. Security – do you collect or store sensitive data?
If so, at the top of your list must be a digital experience platform that is capable of securing that data, and one that complies with the GDPR or any other regulation specific to the manufacturing industry. Top of your list should also be a digital platform that proactively updates its software to protect against online attacks and breaches, as these threats are ever-evolving and changing. Some of the most well-known digital platforms have had, at one point or another, some serious security issues that need to be taken into account.
4. Usability – does the digital experience platform match the skills of your team?
Although many offer similar basic features, most digital platforms have different back-end user interfaces and therefore appeal differently to administrators and editors. This is an important point to note, especially if your company doesn’t have an internal technical admin team to work on the platform. The best way to determine the usability of any digital experience platform is to request a demo and to have your team test out the interface and general functionality. Ensure to also factor in the levels of onboarding and training offered by the digital agency and platform provider.
5. Support – how business-critical is your digital experience platform?
If you are, for example, planning on implementing a full end to end digital experience platform tied into other systems, any outage will tend to have an immediate effect and impact on day to day operations. It is important to determine the length of time you are prepared to wait for any potential issues to be resolved. Ensure that your chosen digital agency and platform provider offer tiered levels of technical support, to give you a range of options to select from. Ensure to factor this into your budget planning.
Although not exhaustive, having answers to these and more questions has helped our manufacturing clients to narrow down and select the digital experience platform that was right for them, and best suited to their unique needs.
Interested in learning more? Then why not join us on our upcoming webinar on July 8, 2020 for more insights and great tips: Top digital transformation trends helping manufacturers get to market faster.
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