Digital Commerce: What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Mark Treshock

There are three areas where good digital commerce projects frequently go bad. By keeping these in mind, companies that are new to digital commerce can avoid the most common pitfalls that can potentially derail their projects.

1. Integrations with legacy systems

Digital commerce projects can touch almost every major system in the enterprise. Many of these legacy systems are not exposed via services, which can make getting data in and out challenging. Do not underestimate the complexity of these integration points.

As you start scoping a digital project, think about the integration points early, as these will often be the most time-consuming parts of development and testing. Consider using a dedicated integration tool such as an enterprise service bus (ESB). Make sure to leave time and budget in your project for selection and implementation of the tool if you don’t already have one available. Also, testing of these integration points is critical to make sure the data flows correctly.

  • Have you thought about all of the back-end systems that will be “touched” as part of the project?
  • Are your back-end systems exposed via services or some other mechanism?
  • Do you have an enterprise integration platform, and is it available to your project?

2. Data and content

Digital commerce requires bringing together a large amount of data and content from across the enterprise, and in many cases, exposing it to your customers. When companies first go online they are often surprised by the amount of information and content that is needed. A typical digital commerce site or app needs the following:

  • A product catalog with meaningful product information
  • Inventory, price, and promotions information
  • Payment history and other financial data
  • Customer information, order status, and history
  • Additional assorted data and content needed to support the customer experience

As mentioned above in the section on integration, getting the data from where it is to where it needs to be to support digital commerce can be a challenge. In some cases the information exists, but it needs to be processed and edited into a form that’s useful or can be shown to a customer. Other content will need to be created for the site.

As an exercise, consider a very basic product information page for your business that contains only the information a customer needs to make a purchase decision. For each piece of information and element of content, ask where that information exists today, and if it’s in a format that you would want to show to your customers.

  • Have you included the requirements of digital selling in your data governance planning?
  • Do you have a content strategy?

3. Customer experience

The customer experience starts as a blank slate. This can be both liberating and terrifying at the same time, since creating an experience that is compelling and useful to your customers is critical to the success of your digital business. However, it is easy to take on too much at once.

When creating a customer experience, it is best to start simple and add to the features and capabilities over time. It is extremely important to understand the back end implications of customer experience decisions. For example, showing the stock levels of a product—e.g., “there are 3 left”—might be a great customer experience, but getting that information from the back end might be too complex, time-consuming, and costly.

Many digital commerce platforms have accelerators, which include some form of a “starter store.” Use these as a starting point, but remember they are not typically meant to be used as is and without modification.

  • Does the experience support what the customers want to accomplish?
  • Have you considered the back-end implications of your customer experience design?
  • Have you considered available accelerators and starter stores?

Curious to see how you measure up?

Take an e-commerce self-assessment to see how you can deliver the omnichannel experience.

For more information on the omnichannel experience and other factors driving digital transformation, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is changing the business landscape, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

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Mark Treshock

About Mark Treshock

Mark Treshock is the Customer Engagement and Commerce Lead in North America for the Distribution Sector at IBM GBS. He can be reached at