Future-proof Omni-Channel Driven Commerce
The last decade has been one huge digital adventure for retail and business-to-business (B2B) companies. With tremendous growth in ecommerce and so many new opportunities, it was like doing a short track race with marathon distances. In a way it’s strange to realize this is only the beginning of the journey and that your IT ecosystem might not be up to the challenge…
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ecommerce market share has grown from 3.5% market share to 9.1% in the last decade. This growth has almost been exponential for the last five years. Together with low market share, this fast growth predicts that there are still huge growth opportunities.
Ambitious retail and B2B companies have already benefited from these opportunities. New kids on the block started with a traditional brick and mortar retail business and grew rapidly by going online. One of the clients we serve with our ecommerce agency started with a single shop in 1995. As a young and ambitious player, they started an ecommerce website in 2002 and grew to a dominating market share in the years to follow. They engaged the entire supply chain, sold the company to a multinational enterprise and are dominating The Netherlands and surrounding countries ever since.
The other way around has occurred as well. Many successful ecommerce retail businesses started as a pure player and rolled out their market strategy towards offline. They are serving their customers with top notch Omni-Channel experience. One of the better examples to me is Suitsupply. What started as a one man online business grew to a worldwide business with over 70 stores across the globe and more than a 1.000 employees. Suitsupply captures the entire customer journey within the IT fundament of its company. Whether you buy online or in their stores across the globe, you’ll have the same outstanding experience.
Digital evolution and IT
All these opportunities disrupted the market and led new players to outpace industry leaders. Companies needed to act quickly in order to keep up with market development. The digital commerce evolution had begun and with such speed that it resulted in a diffused IT ecosystem and contradictory IT solutions. Solutions that were mostly only focussed on either traditional commerce or ecommerce. And in order to keep up, new philosophies must be discovered.
The ever-changing and increasing amount of commerce channels forces companies to look at their IT landscape on a transcending, strategic level. The question that IT and commerce departments should be asking each other is “Is our IT ecosystem future-proof, able to adapt quickly to new opportunities at any time?”.
Omni-Channel commerce is inevitable to ensure an optimal customer experience and in order to be future-proof, you should first look at your data. Because your data is your biggest possession. Both Omni-Channel and Data-Driven commerce require a solid foundation to ensure the correct data is provided and maintained. To ensure automation is reliable and to provide flexibility, you need this proper foundation. Because the better the foundation of your company is, the easier you can manage and adapt to opportunities and change. Being able to rely on your IT ecosystem gives you the confidence to become more successful with your company.
A new era
There’s a movement of new technologies and approaches that challenges the established order. For decades traditional IT companies served their market with offline focused and Operating System (OS) specific software solutions, trying to bend these solutions towards online channels. Businesses are moving their software to the cloud, becoming OS and and location independent.
So the traditional strategy will reach its limits. These former solutions are rooted in old fashioned software and the source of its code is often not open and accessible. It’s usually difficult to connect to other systems without complying to a whole range of requirements. Let alone dealing with high rated and limited expertise. This new era will end the world of vendor lock-in and open up opportunities for open source software.
In order to become future-proof, companies should be progressively shifting from the ad hoc adoption of new software solutions, tools and channels to a headless IT landscape with one single truth of data distribution. There are so many new platforms, approaches and opportunities that the necessity for flexibility will rapidly increase. Departments within companies must become agile, be able to change/experiment with new opportunities. A company must know that the source of its data is safely separated and distributed from one point. Start preparing wisely, become platform independent and more flexible and future-proof with headless solutions.
Having all these sources and types of data within your company, it’s of importance to gather all data and being able to reuse it. Eliminate multiple sources of product catalog data. Sync and distribute stock from one place. Merge your valuable customer information and really know it’s the right data. Using a headless solution for centralizing your data gives you the ability to combine and (re)distribute data in an efficient manner.
Unfortunately data is often unstructured or stored in a way that is not directly usable for other purposes. The centralized solution for your data must give you the ability to apply business logic, transform and map sources of data. This way it’ll reduce time to market and the risk in erroneous and duplicated data.
To acquire a platform for centralizing your data, it has to be fully scalable to be a long term asset. As your company evolves and growth ambitions are achieved, your company’s foundation must stay rock solid. The platform must be scalable, both vertical as horizontal. As many software solutions are known to be partially scalable, in-depth research is important to assure whether a solution on your shortlist can both scale horizontally and vertically.
Set course to the future
No one can foresee the future. But you can prepare yourself in some ways. Treasure your biggest asset. Your data. Give yourself the agility to use and reuse your data. Now you know that the path of ‘tying data together’ is a dead-end path. It’s not taking the easy road, but it will definitely help you preparing yourself for future benefits.
Do you have omni channel ambitions?
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