Retail Has Outgrown Its Platform (Here's Why)

Stephen Henly

Retailers have always had a front row seat at just about every digital big bang – Internet, mobile, e-commerce, Big Data, analytics, and now artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. Most retailers know that the lines between online and offline blurred long ago, and that we should have dropped the “e” in e-commerce, and just call it “commerce,” by now. Smart retailers are already approaching consumer messages and touch points seamlessly, irrespective of disseminated channels.

But if the consumer brand experience is to be holistic, then surely mustn’t be the platform behind it? (Even more so, now that the likes of AI, chatbots, interactive signage, and IoT are gaining pace across Europe.) The trouble is, the pace of innovation and adoption means that the industry has outgrown its old commerce platforms. It’s something I’ve been reading about in IDC’s new research report, “Evolving the Digital Core,” and have decided to make it the subject of this blog.

IDC makes a compelling point: The profound changes impacting the industry indicate that retailers need a new platform to grow into the next decade. This “omnichannel retail commerce platform” encompasses all the core capabilities that let you differentiate customer experience – seamless commerce regardless of channel, along with business model agility and streamlined operational efficiencies.

But not everyone has a platform that can meet the expectations of the impatient, unforgiving, low-loyalty thresholds and demands of today’s digital consumer, let alone take them into the next decade. And what exactly does “good” look like when it comes to a modern retail platform? Below is a short snapshot of IDC’s advice about what you should aim for in your next platform:

  • Omniexperience is necessary: Omnichannel customer experience management should be first on your checklist. This includes not just the user experience, which should be seamless across all touch points, but also the digital marketing and customer services experiences. That means consistent execution of promotions and marketing campaigns, integrated with campaign management and promotion-planning applications.
  • Start your engines: You’ll also need an omnichannel commerce engine, providing a single transactional engine regardless of channel. It should also include unified commerce capabilities across order capture, configuration, payment, and delivery.
  • Order up: A good commerce platform will of course include omnichannel order fulfillment that enables real-time omnichannel fulfillment decisions and optimized execution that’s integrated with your supply chain applications.
  • Content savvy: Retailers will also need omnichannel content optimization so that content can automatically be adapted, personalized, and distributed across channels and devices. And this content should be managed under a unified approach, regardless of your content management and digital asset management systems. In other words, integrate it tightly with your underlying data foundations, such as customer databases, and IoT data.

As retailers master what has become the third generation of e-commerce, the opportunity to widen the competitive gap and leverage this platform approach for growth and profitability is accelerating – with no signs of slowing down. IDC found that by 2019, AI will change how 25% of merchants, marketers, planners, and operators work, improving productivity by 30% and KPIs by 10% to 20%. That’s huge. But only if your retail strategy is founded on a modern omnichannel commerce platform to get you there.

For more, download the IDC report, “Evolving the Digital Core.”