Q&A - Dan Heffernan

A publisher’s webstore is a critical step in the online journey of converting would-be subscribers into fully paid-up subscribers. Creating customer confidence online, dealing effectively with shopping cart abandonment and receiving accurate real-time analytics, are all key to ensuring a publisher’s e-commerce platform is maximising returns for their business. Martin Maynard talks to Dan Heffernan, VP and chief product officer at AdvantageCS about what works, and what doesn’t, in the world of e-commerce.

By Martin Maynard

Q. Why should a publisher consider upgrading their webstore?

A. Online user experience is everything. The demands of an increasingly mobile and social media savvy audience means that the ways in which users expect to engage with, and ultimately purchase, a publisher’s products must evolve too. Here are a few examples of what we believe a webstore should deliver:

* Easy and flexible changing of shopping cart flow to maximise successful check-outs based on A/B testing

* Creating customer confidence by using recognisable logins such as Facebook and Twitter

* Ability to sell product bundles – like print and digital – at special prices, with minimal set-up or configuration time

* Viewing shopping cart abandonment in real-time and enabling timely responses with abandon cart emails

Take the last point; we know from our experience that nearly half of all abandon cart emails are opened, and that over a third of clicks result in online purchases. It’s having business intelligence like this driving a publisher’s webstore strategy that will ensure return on investment in this area.

Q. Should a publisher attempt to build a webstore in-house or purchase an off-the-shelf solution?

A. We would recommend purchasing an already-built, out-of-the-box e-commerce platform rather than going down the bespoke route. An e-commerce platform can be easily tailored to reflect a publisher’s brand and meet their needs. In choosing an e-commerce platform, it will eliminate huge amounts of development time and means a publisher can start with a working website that can be adjusted.

Importantly, not all e-commerce solutions are the same! There are a large number of solutions in the market today but many are unable to handle subscriptions. Functionality such as regular payments and automatic renewals can leave many e-commerce platforms wanting – in actual fact, what you need is a subscription e-commerce platform. In one example, we had a client who implemented a popular e-commerce platform that wasn’t able to handle products that included a subscription. AdvantageCS responded by building a platform that delivered e-commerce coupled with a powerful subscription and sales capability.

Q. What other areas of the business should a publisher look at when considering a new e-commerce platform?

A. A publisher should ensure that their e-commerce platform is tightly integrated with their CRM system. This would, for example, mean that a customer who has just lost their internet connection could telephone a customer service representative, who would then be able to quickly locate the abandoned shopping cart or browser history, and help them to continue their payment journey to a successful check-out.

Similarly, a publisher should ensure that their e-commerce platform can be integrated with tools like Google Analytics. Real-time data on user behaviour at the webstore – which products are receiving the most views; country-specific data etc – will inform the online strategy and ensure publishers can take full advantage of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.

An e-commerce platform should also include flexible marketing functionality that allows subscriptions marketers to try new ideas and pricing strategies. This will ensure that marketers can reduce the time it takes to get successfully tested ideas to market, and fail quickly those that do not work.

Marketers are coming up with increasingly complex cross-selling opportunities, which an e-commerce platform should be able to manage. Take, for example, gardening and home magazines selling cases of wine or overseas holidays; this type of cross-selling is creating valuable new revenue streams for many publishers. A publisher should ensure that this functionality is included in a new e-commerce platform.

Q. Having made the decision to purchase a new e-commerce platform, how long would it take to implement?

A. This is a tough question because it largely depends on the size and scale of the overall project. A website can be up and running in a matter of hours or days, but, to integrate it fully with a CRM or financial system will take time. However, once a publisher has chosen an e-commerce platform, we would estimate that they could expect it to be up and running with a full subscription enabled e-commerce website, integrated with their back-end systems, in three months.

Of course, if a publisher is already a customer with us, they could expect to have a new website, integrated with their existing Advantage system, in a matter of days!

Advantage software by AdvantageCS is a world-class subscription, marketing, product management, processing, distribution and analytics solution for information distributors. Leading publishers around the globe - including eight in the UK - rely on Advantage for: subscription management, multi-product brand extension, e-commerce and multi-channel sales, digital access, e-products, consortia sales management, business intelligence, membership and donation management, fulfilment, customer service, and conference / event management, with a multi-lingual interface, and high availability. AdvantageCS serves the consumer, business-to-business, and STM markets.

Direct contact: Philippe van Mastrigt, Director, European Operations. Email: Tel: 020 3026 1287 Website: