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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the meaning of digitization?

In contrast to digitalization, digitization is turning existing non-digital processes into digital ones.

For instance, instead of creating an e-commerce store (digitalization), digitization is using a cloud-based accounting system to replace a paper filing system. Same system, same process, different (and digital) tool.

There are two parts to this. First, it’s the process of turning an existing analog product or record into a digital one. For instance, turning a paper-based change approval into a digital one by scanning it into a PDF.

Second, it’s about the automation of business processes and workflows. For instance, when you take that scanned copy and use it to automatically kick off the change workflow.

Over time, these processes and workflows become completely digital – and thus, are digitized.

What is a digital transformation in business?

Digital transformation in business is when businesses leverage existing digital technology and deploy new digital solutions so they can be better at whatever they do.

This often goes along with centralizing existing technology, adding and scaling new technology, replacing processes, and changing systems so that they can better serve customers in a digital age (and cut costs and boost productivity while they’re at it).

What an eCommerce platform does

When we were putting together this list, we quickly ran into a problem: what IS an eCommerce platform?

After all, a CRM like Salesforce is responsible for generating revenue — does that make it an eCommerce platform?

To clarify things, we looked at a few common definitions.

Gartner defined eCommerce platforms as:

“A tool that facilitates  purchasing transactions over the Web, and supports the creation and development of customer relationships across multiple retail, wholesale, mobile, direct and indirect sales, call center, and digital sales channels.”

They go on to say that:

“Key functionality for this technology includes the creation and management of product catalogs, Web storefronts, shopping carts, and product recommendation and personalization.”

G2 has a similar definition, saying an eCommerce platform is:

“A comprehensive software tool that allows merchants to build and manage a digital storefront for their products or services… they allow e-commerce businesses to do things like customized product information, manage web content and layout, allow online transactions to occur, and adjust the platform according to businesses’ online needs.”

So from the experts, it looks like an eCommerce platform has to do a few key things: 

  • Process and manage transactions online
  • Build and manage a digital storefront (an eCommerce store)
  • Manage inventory of said storefront
  • Design and customize said storefront, from the user experience to the visual design to the personalization needed to drive an omnichannel experience.

Those are the table stakes features of an eCommerce platform.

Of course, eCommerce platforms have moved past these core functions as they have transformed from single-use applications to networked platforms, adding on additional functionality via plugins and third parties to increasingly deliver the total customer and commerce experience users expect.

Specifics tend to depend on… but generally may include:

  •   Marketing automation and product retargeting
  •   Recommendations and customization
  •   Subscription creation and management for subscription services
  •   Customer relationship management
  •   Advanced web hosting
  •   Advanced design functions
  •   Personalized customer experiences
  •   Content management
  •   Sell-everywhere functions (social, marketplaces, etc… )

The list goes on. The sheer number of vendors and the nature of platforms means that the functionality is essentially endless; however, most major providers will offer at least some level of the above with their product.

 

What to look for in an eCommerce platform

Now that we have a good idea of what they are, let’s dig into what you should be looking for. 

What tool you need is going to depend on what you want the platform to do and what organizational outcomes you are hoping to achieve.

For instance, if you’re a small association who just wants a web store to sell branded merchandise and donate the profit back to your members, then you might prioritize a platform that focuses on ease of use for web design, has more all-round features and comes with great support. On the other hand, if you have a giant catalog and want to deliver highly personalized communications that tie into your platform of choice, you might need something more complex.

So rather than listing “must-have” features, here are a few questions you should consider when you’re evaluating eCommerce solutions. 

Building a Mobile Site vs. Native App: How to Make the Choice

The key takeaway is that there are a handful of distinct advantages for both mobile sites and native apps. The choice between prioritizing a mobile site or an app isn’t always clear cut. But answering a couple of key questions can help you make that call:

  1. How much time and money do you want to spend? If your budget or timeline is tight, a mobile site should be your first port of call
  2.  How much flexibility do you need? If you want to be able to update your content or design at a moment’s notice, a mobile site is going to be your best bet
  3. Do your users need offline access? If so, you’ll need to develop an app that stores content locally
  4. Is personalization a need-to-have? The ability to personalize a user experience can often be a nice-to-have feature; but if personalization is a fundamental part of the user experience, you’ll need to build a strong native app
  5. Do you need access to device functionality? If access to a camera, location-services, or any other device features would significantly improve the mobile experience, you can put another point in the app column 

Of course, there are other questions you could ask depending on your business needs and objectives. Maybe, for example, you want to monetize your app, in which case you’d need to ask yourself whether you want to bring in cash through ads on a website or subscriptions to a mobile app. These questions don’t cover every scenario. But they’re a good place to start.

What’s the difference between a mobile site and a native app?

First things first, before you try to decide between building a mobile site or a native app, it’s useful to understand the major differences between the two.

What are mobile sites?

 

Mobile sites are similar to any other website: they are made up of linked HTML pages that users access through an internet browser, and they can display data, text, images, videos.

But unlike traditional websites, mobile sites are actively designed to be compatible with the smaller displays and touchscreen interfaces of mobile devices. Mobile sites can also incorporate a handful of features that traditional websites cannot, from location-based services to click-to-call features.

It is worth keeping in mind that responsive web design (an approach to web design that ensures that site elements are fluid across any screen size or aspect ratio) is becoming increasingly standard—and expected by users). A few years ago, it made sense to distinguish between mobile and traditional sites. But today, most websites are designed to be flexible enough for both traditional desktop users and mobile users on any device type.

What are Native Apps?

Native apps work differently. Rather than accessing content through a web browser, users download and install these applications straight onto their mobile device, usually through a portal like the iOS App Store or Android’s Google Play.
Native apps are also designed to run on specific operating systems (think iOS or Android). This generally lets native apps access all of the features and functionality of that operating system—but it also means that if you want your app to work across different operating systems, you will have to build a separate app for each one.

Right off the bat, there are obvious differences between mobile sites and native apps. But their basic functionality is the same: they are designed to give users a mobile-friendly experience.

So, how should you decide which to develop first? You can start by weighing up the pros and cons of each one.

 

Key Findings in Whether to Build a Mobile Site or Native App

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the big question of mobile site vs. native app: the choice boils down to your specific needs. When you’re weighing your options, try to keep your budget, your business goals, your value proposition, and the needs of your users at the front of your mind.

It’s also worth remembering that this isn’t a black and white choice. You can always loop back and develop an app once you’ve built your mobile site and vice versa. But in this post, we’ve tried to arm you with the info you need to decide which option to prioritize. We’ve covered the core differences between mobile sites and native apps, unpacked their pros and cons, and given you some questions to kick off your search for the perfect mobile solution.

 

What about hybrid apps?

Of course, there aren’t just two ways to provide a mobile experience. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention an obvious third option: hybrid apps.

Unlike native apps, hybrid apps are designed to work across multiple platforms. Rather than being developed for a single operating system, hybrid apps are built using a single code language and various third-party integration that allow for device-specific interactions.

Hybrid apps combine some of the biggest perks of both the native app and mobile site worlds. As a mobile site, they’re relatively inexpensive to build (compared to a native app) and they can be used across devices. Like native apps, they allow for some great features like offline access and personalization.

But hybrid apps come with some issues that should give you pause to think. They are cheaper to develop than native apps, but they can be more expensive and resource-intensive to maintain in the long run. They might not provide optimal or consistent user experience, because the base code is the same across all platforms. And they tend to be a bit buggier than native apps and mobile sites.