There aren’t many things that experience change as quickly as the technology world, and the pace of change is enough to exhaust even the most hearty of technologists from time-to-time. One of the primary reasons for this exhaustion in the commerce world is related to how people think about commerce platform technology in particular.
Lately, it’s been very similar to the late 90’s, when it was all about Y2K and the certain disaster that would befall us all if we didn’t make the conversion to four-digit dates. A lot of money was spent re-platforming to large ERP systems like SAP, Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards. That time wasn’t much different that the current day, in many ways.
Now, it’s about making your commerce platform as capable and adaptable as possible. With all of the offerings in the current landscape, many are moving toward large commerce platforms for many of the right reasons: scalability, performance, flexibility, and so on. Many tend to look at the core platform as a be-all end-all — at least in the short-term — for resolving all that plagues them in their current environment. It’s absolutely critical to get the platform selection right, but it’s even more critical to view the platform as a component of your commerce solution and not as its centerpiece.
…the core platform should be chosen for its ability to exist as a component within an ecosystem…
The truth is, Your eCommerce platform should not be the center of your eCommerce universe. In fact, if there is any centerpiece to a eCommerce ecosystem, its the customer and, as cliche as that sounds, it’s still true. Even in the typical commerce business the center is perceived as a different spot when seen from different perspectives. To some, the center is the commerce platform, to others the OMS, the PIM, or the Financial system. These and other reasons are why the core platform should be chosen for its ability to exist as a component within an ecosystem and not as its centerpiece:
Resolving Issues Quickly and Creatively
When any system grows too big for it’s own good, it generally too big for the customer’s good. Service oriented architectures have been around a while for a reason. Because they’re flexible and extensible — and they perform. Take a look at what’s going on in the cloud — even infrastructure is now a service, including the ability to run micro-services for fractions of a penny on someone else’s hardware.
It’s incredible if you think about where we were 10 or 20 years ago. When everything around you is treated as a service, NOT treating your commerce platform as a service creates a unique scenario where your solution must perform and and adapt according to widely acceptable standards or it will become a bottleneck.
A mature commerce business likely has a PIM, OMS, commerce platform, marketing automation systems, custom back-end integrations, digital asset management, CMS, and on and on. I’ve spoken with clients who “live” in their OMS. And others who live in their PIM. And still others that live in a custom legacy system. The truth is, that any bottleneck to your customers is a bottleneck to your business. Focusing on one component may cause you turn a blind eye to others.
Make sure whatever platform you consider is capable of changing with the times. Ideally, it should fit into a loosely coupled, service-oriented architecture and align with current deployment models so updates can be made quickly and the platform can scale to any degree necessary. All to better serve the customer.
Responsiveness to Market Change
If the market moves toward a particular style of experience and your chose platform does not support it effectively, guess who’s behind. Now, one could argue that you can implement just about anything on any of the popular platforms, and that is true to a degree. However, it isn’t about whether it can be done — it’s about whether it can be done quickly.
Even more importantly, if you find yourself shying away from specific user experience ideas because they are difficult to implement in your platform’s templating system, then you’re in a position of following your competitors instead of leading your customers.
Your Customers Will Change, If You Don’t
In the end, if you’re stagnant and unable to respond because a monolithic platform or a singular focus has hindered your ability to expand, you will lose customers to providers who keep their experience engaging and efficient and manage the end-to-end process with customer service and efficiency in mind. One thing for certain is that customer expectations will change. Responding to those changes quickly is the only way to have a consistent and lasting impact.