Scott Rigby, Chief Technology Advisor & Principal Product Manager at Adobe explains the considerations you need to have when choosing a commerce platform for your business.
In the last couple of months, a lot of businesses have realised the value and importance of commerce to their business. Traditional businesses have had to pivot to moving online and be able to provide the products and services through digital channels.
In addition to that, we've seen B2B businesses also having to pivot and sell directly to the consumer. There is a significant increase in attention being put around commerce and the importance of future-proofing businesses for future disruptions.
So what are some of the key things that you should be thinking about when thinking about what's the right commerce technology for your business?
Flexible, agile and scalable technology
There are many commerce solutions out there in the market and affordable technology that provide template type sites to be able to get your business up and running reasonably quickly. The problem is, over the long term is that you're stuck within a template type site, you have no ability really to customize and deliver the bespoke experience that helps you differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Experience is really the most important thing for customers. Products and services have effectively become commodities and that is what is really going to differentiate you from templated sites.
You need to be thinking about technology that delivers flexibility, scalability and agility for your business as different needs arise. Recent world events over the last couple of months highlighted that businesses that had ecommerce technology to deliver in a B2B fashion, had to pivot very quickly to offer those same types of products or services directly to consumers those B2B channels disappear. This also happened to B2C business that only used commerce technology for a couple of discrete transactions. Everyone had to ramp up really quickly to be able to provide those commerce capabilities across the full breadth of their portfolio. With templated technologies do not provide the depth and ability that you really need to future-proof your business.
A single technology for all of your commerce use cases
Most businesses won't have the perfect system from the beginning. We tend to take iterative steps in deploying commerce across our business. But we have to plan for the future.
So when buying technology, we need to be thinking about the future application and how it can scale to meet that. If you have a business that is both B2B and B2C, then it's ideal to have a single technology to deliver both. Some of the other areas that you need to think about when considering whether to have a single technology platform or multiple technology platforms, is if you have multiple different brands, multiple different types of languages or multiple different sourcing or fulfilment for your products.
Is the platform going to scale to your needs for your business over the longer term so that you don't have to go back and re-platform, reintegrate new technology into your business, have to re-educate your employees and your business or your partners that you're working with and so forth?
Leveraging customer data to drive your commerce strategy
Not all technology is the same. The same applies to data. Data is the voice of your customer telling you about their behaviour, needs, the products that they are focusing on, where they're at in their lifecycle and purchase activity with your brand.
Now, what you really need is the ability to be able to slice and dice that data, deep dive into it and analyze it. You want to be able to have different types of dashboards based on roles and responsibilities in your organization. More importantly, what businesses are really looking for now is the artificial intelligence capability of software providers, because it is going to help you accelerate your insights and the actions that you're taking as a business to deliver the best possible customer experience into market.
So you really want to understand the different types of machine learning capabilities that a software provider gives to your business, which could be everything from identifying interesting new segments that you should be targeting to product recommendations.
Ecosystem of support
An important consideration is making sure the technology has partners that are available in the market to be able to support it. How many partners have that capability to not only implement the technology but also be able to operationalize it within your business, to be able to crawl, walk, run with that technology, to help scale you up and develop your maturity around that technology?
Some can create more of a burden on you and your organisation to build up the capabilities to support that technology going forward. You need to look for a rich partner ecosystem to be able to support you and provide the knowledge and capabilities, training, mentoring, shadowing and support that you might need to be able to drive the most value out of that technology.
This is the ability for this technology to be able to integrate with the other technology that is used for your business. It would be lovely to say that there is a technology provider that provides everything to everyone. There simply isn't.
The likelihood is that you're using multiple technology vendors within your business and you need technology to have an open integration structure and not some closely-guarded technology where you're forced to use their own different modules and not give you the flexibility that you need to be able to leverage the technology that's best fit for your business.
You need open APIs and a marketplace where developers are producing and evolving those APIs as the different technologies are updated that you can leverage and connect the datasets together without you having to custom develop them yourself.
It is quite easy to think and look at the initial upfront price tag, but effectively you get what you pay for. Some solutions out there might have a low upfront cost, but the additional cost that sits behind the scenes, such as trying to find and pay for very hard to find resources with the skills to develop on that particular peculiar technology that's unique to yourself, or there no ecosystem, or it's closely guarded and doesn't have the integration capability. You need to look at the total potential cost of ownership at a much more macro level.
Does the technology provide flexible licensing and scaling capability? So as your business grows, then then the cost is commiserated with them, with the features and functionality that you're using as you as your business grows.
Does the solution provide the capabilities that your business needs? Not just for today, but a year from now or three years from now, so that you're not having to re-platform at some point into the future?
Are the technology and vendor actually continuing to invest and develop and grow and expand the functions and features and capability of the product so that you're getting the latest and best capabilities to ensure that you stay at the forefront of your competition?
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