How Retailers Sustain Their Ecommerce Platforms

Digital brands and native retailers who have invested in e-commerce in recent years have seen significant growth in their online revenues during the pandemic. Yet many brands were not digitally prepared for the consequences of COVID-19.

The impact of closed stores, reduced contact center capacity and lack of customer meetings resulted in operational challenges and lower revenues. With the economy slowly reopening, the shift to digital shopping for consumers and businesses is permanent. Online retailers need scalability to handle the kind of surge that occurred during the pandemic and to ensure growth in the years to come.

Every retailer needs to sustain their investment in e-commerce, and the following trends illustrate how to achieve this goal.

Headless commerce offers agility retailers

A headless platform creates a separation between user experience on the front end and processes on the back end.

This separation has become critical in today’s environment. Retailers need the agility to test new experiences with their users without any constraints. A headless platform gives retailers the flexibility to build, test, and deploy innovations independent of any back-end changes.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing customer journeys

Artificial intelligence is the engine of the consumer shopping experience. It benefits the lifecycle of the customer journey – from ad spend and site personalization, to content creation and execution optimization. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can improve back-end efficiency and automate time-consuming tasks. It can also optimize fraud detection and supply chain operations to increase margins. In the future, websites are expected to run on autopilot and create hyper-personalized experiences.

Visual setup supports online shoppers

The pandemic has changed the mindset of consumers and created high expectations for product discovery. Consumers often see less value in visiting a physical store, even for large product purchases. Retailers are moving away from static photography to take advantage of 3D models and interactive augmented reality experiences. Consumers can now customize 3D products online or preview how a product will look in a room of their choice.

Top Mistakes Prevent Retailers from Taking Advantage of Trends

Despite the trends, retailers are making platform technology mistakes.

The first and foremost mistake is procrastination. Historically, retailers took years to develop a business case and then bring a new platform online. The average time to market has decreased significantly. Retailers need to focus on rapidly deploying capabilities across the enterprise, leaving no brand, division, product line or market behind.

The second most common mistake is creating the Band-Aid effect. Retailers may not be able to get a budget or internal alignment to switch platforms. Therefore, they are taking short-term steps to modernize parts of their platform or add vendors to fix the underperforming features of their existing e-commerce platform.

The problem with this approach is that retailers aren’t getting to the root of the challenge. Instead, they are layering solutions on top of an existing platform, which creates more complexity. This approach often creates integration issues, points of failure, data synchronization, and monitoring performance bottlenecks. The Band-Aid effect makes it more difficult to replace an e-commerce platform afterwards.

The way forward for retailers is agility and flexibility

How can retailers avoid these mistakes and follow the right trends? The answer lies in agility.

If a retailer is developing a list of requirements for a new platform, they should focus on quick wins first, selecting a pilot or proof of concept program. Teams should resist the temptation to overload their RFP; not all imaginable future requirements are always necessary at once.

Flexibility is also a good practice. An ideal e-commerce platform enables retailers to operate across all their divisions, brands, markets and product lines from a single cloud-based instance, innovate and rapidly deploy Platforms.

Every retailer has learned (potentially the hard way) that e-commerce is key to sustaining revenue over the past few months and that the pivot to digital buying will not return after the pandemic. Deferring upgrades due to constraints, risks or other technology investment priorities is no longer a viable strategy. At the heart of these upgrades, the trends tell us, will be headless commerce, AI, machine learning, and visual configuration.

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