Digital commerce encompasses all of the touchpoints and processes in the consumer journey. This means that all of the tools, processes, and technologies used to create the online offer are critical to the overall definition.
Cold and snowy Michigan winters always bring a great opportunity to spend a Saturday afternoon playing video games with my son. On one such occasion, he decided to convince me that we should invest in an Xbox and Wii, in addition to our PlayStation game system. “Imagine all of the fun me and my friends could have. The Wii has some epic interactive games, and we already know that we love Xbox’s first-person reality games. And what if we could connect them all together so I can interact with my friends on the PlayStation while playing these games?” he confidently proposed.
Of course, my inner 15-year-old was excited about this idea, but the sensibility of a 40-something dad eventually took over. These consoles definitely represent the best features available; however, there were three serious flaws. One, shelling out upwards of US$250 for each system alone is rather extravagant. Two, all three systems become outdated quickly as new consoles arrive on the market every couple of years. And possibly most important, games and data cannot be stored and used across devices.
Although indulging in my resident gamer’s dream is not as crucial as a business’ decision to invest in digital commerce technology, my son’s reasoning is very similar to those heard in today’s boardrooms.
Many executives prefer to purchase a range of point solutions and try to integrate them together. But this assumption often lead to a useless “black box under the TV” that brings disappointment to stakeholders and leaves their customers feeling underwhelmed.
Grown-up realities for a maturing digital commerce world
The digital commerce technology market is littered with solutions that all claim to own a particular niche. Scott Brinker, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive, estimates that over 3,500 technology providers across 50 categories had a presence in the marketing technology landscape in 2016. This trend represents an 87% surge in just one year.
Why the rise in software solutions? Well, I think there are several reasons, but it’s mostly related to today’s buying journey. Currently, there are over 2.6 billion smartphones in use, and that is projected to hit 6 billion by 2020. With smartphones, laptops, and tablets, customers can engage with their favorite brands whenever and wherever they like.
CEB recently reported that 57% of the buying process is completed before their first interaction with sales. If service is poor, 60% of customers abandon the purchase and go elsewhere, as cited by the American Express Global Barometer. Both of these new realities are further exacerbated as customers choose their own path through the buying journey, which is rarely like anyone else’s.
The boardroom dilemma: Buying the suite vs. integrating point solutions
A recent IDC Infobrief, “The Next Steps in Digital Transformation,” sponsored by SAP, identified the top digital investments that support a single view of the customer includes: collaboration, CRM, e-commerce, and enterprise resource planning (ERP). But all too often, the debate in the boardroom is not what kind of technology is needed. Most executives are concerned about the best way to leverage these top investments given the vast selection of functionality available and the fickleness of the digitally empowered customers.
Do you buy and integrate point solutions or leverage a suite of pre-integrated software? Like the gaming consoles, multiple point solutions can be a strategy if your organization has the time and resources to evaluate this ever-expanding space. And let’s not forget the importance of a strong technical team to help ensure that all integrations are consistently maintained.
If you’re like most businesses where free time is in short supply, another option is a portfolio approach. A software portfolio provides customers with several leading software solutions under one roof. Plus, natively developed integrations between the offering lowers total cost of ownership and helps ensure data is easily leveraged across them.
How to choose a digital commerce suite that delivers affordability and continuity
To help ensure that companies choose the right suite for their needs, Gartner offers some sage advice in its report “Critical Capabilities for Digital Commerce.” IT leaders and those responsible for digital commerce vendor selection are encouraged to:
- Collaborate with business leaders to identify goals and specific requirements for a digital commerce platform based on desired outcomes and customer experience
- Manage costs by understanding how vendors deliver required functionality – whether through a native commerce platform, partner or third party, or custom development
- Acknowledge that native functionality usually saves time and money, especially when the feature is included in the base platform price
- Understand and manage business requirements at a detailed level
- Compare available platform functionality to corporate needs and priorities, integration efforts, and customization requirements
- Avoid overbuying and creating a more involved solution than necessary
By guiding the purchase decision of your next digital software investment with these criteria, companies can find a solution that delivers on their wishes while making the best long-term financial sense. Or in the eyes of my son, we’d probably pass on integrating the Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation. In the meantime, we’ll buy another game for the PlayStation and enjoy ourselves until spring finally arrives in Michigan.