For the past decade or more, successful businesses have learned that in order to stay competitive and dynamically engage their customers across multiple channels, they need to have a much stronger focus on technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has established just how important it is for businesses to have a robust digital architecture that allows them to react to changing customer trends with speed and agility. In fact, according to a 2021 survey, around 7 in 10 retail professionals say that the pandemic and associated lockdowns accelerated their digital transformation by at least two years.
The current economic climate might be one of uncertainty, but it’s also one that’s filled with opportunity and there’s never been a better time for businesses to put e-commerce technology first and start exploring its potential. But what characteristics make a successful e-commerce business? Is it enough to simply invest in a cloud-based e-commerce solution and adopt a headless approach to digital infrastructure? Or is there something more to being a successful tech adopter?
A culture of innovation
Before the digital pressure created by the pandemic, when businesses were carefully feeling their way through digital transformation, Gartner sent out a stark warning that too many businesses were neglecting cultural change as part of their transition. An analyst wrote, “For any transformation to be successful, people need to buy into your vision. Both culture and technology demand equal attention from the project leader, because culture will form the backbone of all change initiatives for their digital business transformation.”
Sadly, too many businesses fall into the trap of investing in technology as a singular strategy. But in order for that investment to work, it needs to be part of a much greater whole. In other words, companies should be looking to adopt an almost tech startup mentality when it comes to innovation.
Take Walmart, for instance. Over the past few years, the company has redefined itself as a technology innovator, launching its Tech With Purpose campaign. It captures a holistic approach to technology across all aspects of its business, from automated assistants in its grocery outlets to using blockchain technology to trace fresh produce and give customers more insight. Beyond that, the retail giant also launched its very own employee app and gave all staff a new smartphone to ensure that its technology-first approach would be felt throughout all facets of the business, knowing that getting staff involved as part of the overall company culture would pay dividends.
Its so-called ‘innovation playground’ attracts new tech talent and gives employees the ability to put big ideas into practice if only to test theories and acquire new learnings. It’s reminiscent of Google’s ‘Moonshot Factory’, also known as ‘Project X’, which gives employees free rein to innovate and explore new technologies.
The importance of collaboration
There was a time in e-commerce when every retailer felt the need to do things by themselves and on their own terms. They might hire a tech agency or an IT partner to help them with implementations and maintenance, but it was largely an isolated affair. Even agencies themselves operated as islands, protective over their customers and their own proprietary solutions. However, that time has now passed.
When all retailers had to worry about was setting up a website and creating a Facebook page, lone agencies and in-house solutions worked just fine. But in today’s always-on, multi-channel digital landscape, it’s virtually impossible for one single vendor to master every trick in the book. Distribution and delivery, for instance, is no longer a case of simply sending out a confirmation email and posting goods to somebody’s door. Instead, customers expect to be able to book time slots, pay for expedited shipping, see where their packages are in real-time, and receive instant updates via SMS or WhatsApp. The delivery component of a retail business, therefore, takes on its own life as a project that needs to be scaled and tweaked over time.
This is the very basis of what’s known as ‘composable commerce’. Instead of a retailer keeping everything in-house, or outsourcing to one ‘jack of all trades’ agency, technology vendors are working to master specific aspects of the modular e-commerce architecture, knowing that it can be interoperable with other specialist tools thanks to the new composable architecture. This allows tech agencies, or even retailers themselves, to create best-of-breed solutions with a patchwork approach that captures specialist functionality across every aspect of the digital platform. It also affords them the means to differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating unique architectures and technology stacks that can, in some cases, even increase the value of their business.
Ambition for growth
We referenced Gartner above, and part of their suggested solution for all-encompassing digital transformation was a four-step plan for mindset change. Businesses should start by outlining their vision for a ‘growth mindset’, involving staff in the discussion, and designating project leads. Next, they should define the behavioral attributes associated with this vision, from departmental accomplishments to changing how customers interact with the business. Only then can the next two steps - implementation and monitoring - really begin. Too many companies leap to the implementation phase before they’ve sufficiently outlined their strategy and adopted a growth mindset.
Here at Emporix, we’re focused on helping companies with an innovative mindset and a strong vision to achieve their technology goals through e-commerce. Get in touch today to find out more about us, our range of composable commerce solutions, and our ever-expanding partner network.