Two decades ago, anyone with an online storefront was considered a forward-thinking innovator. Now, if you don’t have an e-commerce presence, you’re behind the times. This is true all the way from the largest corporations down to the smallest startups.

This mass migration into the digital marketplace was spurred forward even faster when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered brick-and-mortar businesses across the globe.

Now that businesses great and small have been herded en masse into the e-commerce world, the ground-breaking aspect of simply having an e-commerce presence is no longer a distinguishing factor. If you want to find e-commerce success in the 21st century, you must go a step further by embracing digital transformation as well.

Defining Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a buzzword these days, and as such, it tends to feel vague and a bit nebulous. However, the actual concept behind the words is quite simple.

In a nutshell, digital transformation is the process through which businesses adapt to new technologies in order to meet shifting needs in industries, markets, customer expectations, and business procedures.

In a sense, this concept is nothing new. Transformation has always been a driving force in business. Ever since the wheel was invented, innovation and creativity have spurred changes that have forced businesses to either adapt or fall by the wayside.

The last few centuries saw a rapid increase in the speed of this business transformation until the digital age sent the rate of change through the roof. With new tech appearing on a near-daily basis, the 21st century has seen transformation — and more specifically, digital transformation — at a never-before-seen pace. The breakneck speed of this change has completely revolutionized the way we do business. It no longer refers to a minor tech upgrade or a new cloud-based management system.

Digital transformation is a massive, cross-cultural, global evolution that is constantly taking place. While technological adaptation is part of the process, in many ways tech is little more than an agent for much larger changes. New technologies regularly create reverberations throughout the business world, affecting customer expectations, disrupting industries, and even changing how societies interact and function.

In other words, digital transformation doesn’t just have to do with the need to keep your hardware updated or to integrate a new app into your team’s day-to-day activities. It refers to an era-defining shift in business, primarily spurred by the digital revolution that is constantly taking place around us.

Embracing Digital Transformation in E-commerce

The natural question that follows is how digital transformation specifically applies to e-commerce. After all, if a printer shifts from a warehouse, bulk-printing model to a print-on-demand option, they’re utilizing the digital tools available to transform their business operations — i.e., embracing digital transformation — whether they have an e-commerce store or not.

So, how does digital transformation specifically impact the e-commerce market, and how can those with an online selling presence use it to stay ahead of the competition? It’s a good question, and like most questions in the digital era, it has a plethora of different answers. Each of these brings its own value to the table, and collectively they can be used to find e-commerce success.

That said, here are a handful of the best ways that e-commerce business owners can embrace digital transformation.

Start With the Right Mindset

First thing’s first: it’s essential that you adopt the correct mindset if you want to properly take advantage of digital transformation in the e-commerce space. As already hinted at earlier, the first step in truly tapping into the benefits of transformation is understanding the fact that simply having an e-commerce store no longer equates to digital transformation in and of itself.

At this point, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, practically everyone has a presence online. Mom and pop shops can set up an Etsy or eBay store. Site builders like Wix and Square make it easy for restaurants to establish an online ordering option. Giants like BigCommerce and Shopify have created intuitive, easy-to-use, e-commerce-focused website tools that are very affordable, even for small businesses.

The point is, if you have an e-commerce store, that isn’t enough to stay ahead. You need to take things a step further by cultivating a growth mindset towards your e-commerce endeavors.

Always be looking for ways to innovate and learn more about potential changes that can affect or improve your website, such as making it more responsive or accessible. Rather than considering each upgrade or change in procedure as a means to an end, foster an attitude of continual learning that is always ready to take the next step in the digital learning journey aimed towards developing an ever-improved e-commerce site.

Prioritize the Customer Experience

If there’s one theme that is defining the future of digital transformation in e-commerce, it’s the classic mantra that the customer is king. E-commerce has long been focused on things like technology, functionality, and cybersecurity.

Now that those have become normative factors of an e-commerce site, though, the emphasis has clearly shifted back to the customer. This customer-centricity is important to understand, as the expectations and experiences of your customers will likely become an increasingly important factor going forward.

It doesn’t matter if you’re launching a new e-commerce store or updating an existing one, maintaining an ongoing customer experience strategy has become essential to navigating digital transformation — and by extension, finding e-commerce success.

Remember to Research

Another key factor in truly embracing digital transformation is getting comfortable with conducting perpetual research.

For instance, a customer-centric strategy and a growth mindset are important elements to help you strategize and set the right tone. However, they don’t always provide detailed, actionable advice about how to apply new technology to your online storefront.

That’s where research comes in. Whether you are doing the research yourself or you have a part of your team dedicated to digital transformation, it’s important to spend time learning how new technology is impacting your industry and customer expectations.

This will help you proactively find developing tech that can improve your business in multiple ways. For example, consider your internal workflow. Everyone uses a different tech stack to keep their e-commerce store running. By maintaining an open mindset and always researching new options, you can utilize things like remote work tools, digital data management, and other cutting-edge tech to help your store run as smoothly as possible behind the scenes.

Research will also help you to quickly identify improvements that can significantly impact the customer experience of your digital storefront. Things like security, platform choice, architecture planning, shipping, and scalability can all be addressed quickly and effectively by maintaining a willingness to research new technological developments that impact your e-commerce store.

Digital Marketing

Finally, there’s digital marketing. While most digital marketing refers to offsite things like email campaigns, brand awareness, and social media platforms, there’s one critical aspect of digital marketing that takes place right on your e-commerce site: content marketing.

Search engine optimization (SEO) typically consists of creating a company blog that contains valuable, user-friendly content optimized to rank high in search engine results pages. This brings traffic to your e-commerce site.

While SEO is an important part of most e-commerce businesses, it once again can be significantly impacted by digital transformation. As things like searcher intent and algorithms change, the way that search engines view your site can also shift. This makes it important to maintain an up-to-date SEO strategy that is thoroughly researched and takes new tech and trends into consideration.

Staying Ahead With Digital Transformation

It’s no longer good enough to simply have an e-commerce site. If a site isn’t constantly adapting and embracing digital change, it will quickly fall behind and become irrelevant.

Fortunately, the ability or inability to “change with the times” isn’t just a struggle to avoid falling behind. If — as a business owner — you can learn to embrace rather than eschew digital change, you will not only keep your e-commerce site alive and well. You will use digital transformation to stay ahead of your competition, keep customers happy, and ultimately find e-commerce success.