According to a recent eBay study, 77% of shoppers now expect a seamless, integrated experience, no matter what the channel: in-store, online or mobile. And would it surprised you to know that Forrester says that 71% of shoppers expect to view store inventory online, with more than 50% expecting to buy online and pick up in store?
At the same time, pressure from the C-suite is mounting. Digital commerce now represents more than 100% of the growth for some companies, and CEOs are calling for omni-channel integration and innovation to drive double-digit revenue growth, and create more efficiencies to drive bottom line profitability–no easy task.
The age of omnichannel: What it means for business leaders
Today’s business leaders are turning to e-commerce technologies for some of the answers to these complex business challenges. However, as part of a broader omnichannel strategy, e-commerce re-platforming projects are bigger and more complex than ever.
Not long ago, many e-commerce platform initiatives were treated as “side projects” that ran under the radar and outside of the traditional technology roadmapping processes. That has all changed. The technology buying process has become very complex.
Purchasing e-eommerce technology is a team endeavor that often includes the head of e-commerce, IT, marketing, retail and finance. Given the impact of e-commerce, and its broader strategic importance, decisions now even involve the CEO and sometimes the board of directors.
In the past, many companies viewed e-commerce as a “shopping cart,” and developed experiences that could be best characterized as “racks and stacks.” Today’s customers demand more, and reward companies that deliver outstanding experiences. As a result, brands are investing in redesigns and omni-channel functionality in an effort to offer more deeply engaging experiences that bridge customer touch points. Many of these discussions revolve around richer brand and product content, social integration, store inventory lookup, ship to/reserve in-store capabilities, and digital integration of in-store experiences.
In the past, mobile was often treated as an afterthought. Companies focused on desktop experiences and often stripped that down for a mobile version. Today, companies recognize mobile as the connective tissue between physical and digital experiences. As a result, they are closely scrutinizing e-commerce platforms and service providers for their mobile capabilities and expertise. We are beginning to see companies approach a “mobile-up” or “mobile-first” outlook on design.
As e-commerce evolves as part of broader omni-channel solutions, it requires greater involvement across the enterprise in defining requirements, designing the experience, and testing. Today this includes e-commerce, IT, store operations, logistics, and marketing − and often intersects with B2B and International divisions. This makes running an e-commerce platform project much more complex, and requires a strong governance process to ensure priorities are aligned, tradeoffs can be vetted, and projects don’t get bogged down in an endless spin cycle.
An e-commerce platform can no longer be viewed as a point solution. It sits squarely in the middle of today’s omni-channel solutions. To enable the rich omni-channel experiences that customers are demanding, the platform must seamlessly integrate with back-end systems, including distributed order management, CRM and ERPs, as well as the expansive third-party ecosystem that empowers capabilities such as customer reviews, recommendations, analytics, and retargeting.
Speed to market is critical. Long gone are the days of 12-18 month e-commerce platform roadmaps. As the projects become more complex, those same companies are demanding faster time to market. More often we see companies with 6-9 month timelines.
So, more complex technology integrations, more stakeholders, cross-channel functionality, and engaging design − and all with dramatically shorter timelines. The stakes could not be higher for companies, and the margins for error could not be smaller.
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