In my earlier career, I spent a lot of time and effort working on e-commerce for multiple locations. Each of them had their own catalogs, each had their own pricing, implementation capabilities, and delivery systems. No two was the same. To make things even more complicated, they all had different on-site managers with different philosophies about what would work and what wouldn’t. Essentially these were on-site managers who knew about day-to-day management, but really did not know the first thing about e-commerce.
When it came down to it, the biggest challenges revolved around two primary issues. First, catalog depth proved to be a major weakness. They never really committed to the e-commerce platform as a sales tool. They knew cash and credit cards and a cashier working a register. They were literally afraid of e-commerce because as on-site managers, they couldn’t really grapple with the operational concept. It was not their objection to e-commerce as a buying portal…they all did it. They couldn’t process the methods of effective operationalizing of the e-commerce process.
The second thing was catalog depth. In part because of their lack of operational adaptation, they also resisted building catalog depth. They felt that a dozen or so items and they were good to go. It was a turn-off for their customers. Who wants to buy from a site that only has twenty items on it? Unless is it highly specialized — and these operations were not that — you must have catalog depth to lure the shoppers of today who value choice and make determinations about the legitimacy of a vendor because of the depth of their offer and the quality of the presentation.
The folks at Mountain Media crafted a well-done article on catalog development. I do not know that sharing this with my on-site teams would have made much difference. I suspect not. It is very challenging to rationalize against ingrained misconceptions and fear. But it might make a difference for others who are headed down the path of e-commerce development. And given today’s world, a retailer without an e-commerce presence forever limits their buying audience.