Part of the challenge of being involved with eCommerce and retail technology, is attempting to predict, plan and build the future of these technologies.
Whilst change in technology occurs at a rapid pace, progress - as a slightly different concept - is slower to occur. For example, 25 years ago, eCommerce was in its infancy, yet we had sites with landing pages, listing page, product detail, shopping carts. These were relatively static, hand-crafted affairs, and once setup, largely ignored - occasionally an order came through from a brave customer.
And yet 25 years later, we have landing pages, listings, carts … you get the picture. Has anything really changed?
eCommerce now accounts for 20% of trade in most general merchandise and apparel retailers; the sites our customers use today are highly dynamic, reacting to customer and competitor behaviour in realtime, adjusting views and offers to provide maximum value, and are a critical system for any competitive retail business.
This march of progress is relentless, and so the constant question remains - where are we headed now?
Twenty-five years ago, eCommerce systems were typically built as one-off’s, often by “someone in IT”. The next generation saw a plethora of vendors touting off-the-shelf systems, which was followed by consolidation to more specialist digital agencies implementing an even smaller set of platforms. Through to today, where the direction is to an even smaller group of specialists developing and deploying their own technologies, it’s almost a full circle – yet different.
This pattern is seen across technological revolutions - the initial rush to a disaggregated and competitive market, before increased sophistication sees inevitable consolidation into a small set of specialist providers.
It’s this trend that gives us a clear steer on where eCommerce is heading. Sophistication is a major driver and has increased to the point where build-your own systems are untenable. The big leaps in sophistication and capability come from these increasingly specialist providers.
It’s said that the American market typically leads the direction (although not necessarily the technology) by 5 years, and that direction filters through, where the present future is clearly moving toward eCommerce systems being a “system of systems” – a group of independent, specialist systems, connected to each other in some way.
So, if that’s now the present – what’s the future? Coming back to direction - increased specialisation and sophistication from independent systems. Systems and products that you can use immediately, that can connect quickly, and give you time back to focus on your business, is very much where the competitive advantage lies.
Selecting and connecting the right systems to support your strategy is key. We’ve all seen the platforms that labour under the complexity of too many add-ons, 3rd party trackers or installed extensions, unable to be resolved back to a stable base. This future of connected specialist systems will require a focus on consciously managing the complexity of this approach, preserving your ability to adapt and reap the rewards of the capabilities you choose to adopt. What’s exciting about this future is the increasing availability of highly sophisticated tools, previously only available to those with the budgets to afford them, becoming more accessible to a wider range of users. This is resulting in far better customer experiences, more efficient business operations, and the ability to compete on a level playing field while holding on to the ability to adapt and grow.
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