Buying Commerce Software?
Why Flexibility pays off for true Innovation
Many businesses are looking for a new commerce platform to support the digital transformation of their organization.
During this process, it is important to keep in mind that digital transformation is not a one-off project or investment. To digitally transform an organization means creating technological, operational, and organizational foundations for continuous innovation. Digital transformation is an ongoing process that shifts and evolves over time with changing customers and internal stakeholders’ needs. You may know what changes you need to implement now, but you can not predict with 100% accuracy what your organization will need in one to three years from now.
We can only be sure of one thing: the pace of technological change will continue to accelerate, and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing environment is the reality for any business that wants to survive and prosper.
It is not enough to migrate once to a modern system. When choosing technology, the most important quality is to have a system that enables rapid innovation and adaptation and doesn't trap the business in doing things in one predefined way so your business remains agile and flexible.
When you evaluate new digital commerce tools to power your digital transformation you need to assess their flexibility from three different perspectives:
1. Flexible and modular software architecture
Each business is unique and selected software system should fulfill its unique requirements and be able to adapt to a unique business environment. I want to emphasize this, software should be able to adapt to business instead of forcing the business to operate in the way the software works. It should be modular and flexible to fill the required space in your IT ecosystem without bringing unnecessary baggage like unneeded features or complexity.
This flexibility will ensure the software system meets the current needs of the business and will be able to evolve in the future.
This ability to adapt to future needs is as, or even more, important than satisfying the current requirements. A flexible and modular system will keep development costs down and will allow the IT team to use agile processes to quickly iterate and deliver enhancements and new functionalities.
2. Flexible Business tools
In addition to flexibility on the software level, business users should be empowered to experiment without always approaching IT with software change requests: if it comes to new business models, marketing and merchandising approaches, or pricing and discounts.
That requires powerful and flexible back-end tools that allow all kinds of experimentation like defining different offers based on customer segmentation, or making them truly personal for each consumer, and innovating with marketing campaigns, social media, content, or promotions to create a truly unique customer experience.
The more opportunities that business users have to be creative without waiting for IT, the faster they can react to changing customer needs and market trends. They will be able to address competitive threats and find innovative ways to grow the business.
Powerful, flexible, and user-friendly backend tools is another component required to achieve a successful ongoing digital transformation.
3. Flexible Integration options
OK, you have made sure that the system you selected for digital commerce is based on flexible, modern architecture, and provides your business users with powerful, flexible interfaces to implement new approaches without IT help. Now let's talk about another important characteristic - flexible integration options.
Specialization among software vendors is an increasing trend driven by the proliferation of SaaS services. It used to be you would buy a system which had all required components for e-commerce business. The software vendors were packaging more and more functionality into a single system effectively creating a vendor lock and limiting choices. While this still could be the case with some vendors, quite often the best of breed applications are found as stand-alone services offered by companies who specialize in a particular area. These services can be content management, PIM, marketing campaigns, fraud prevention, conversational commerce, personalization, or price optimization.
In the rapidly changing landscape of digital commerce, you don't want to be locked in when making integration choices. Instead, you want to have the freedom to choose the best systems to integrate into your commerce solution, try them out with minimal effort, and be able to switch when a promising newcomer arrives.
In order to do so, the system you choose should have flexible integration options. The digital commerce system should have both front-end and back-end API and the ability to import and export data. The most important consideration here is how much effort it takes to implement a new integration.
If to try a new system, you need to plan for a three-month development cycle, you may not be able to find time and resources to do it. To allow true integration agility you need to look for availability of ready to use pre-integrated solutions that should be as close to plug-and-play as possible. You also need to look for business contracts that allow for an extended trial period before you commit to a longer-term agreement.
The three dimensions of flexibility in digital commerce systems
When selecting a commerce system to support the digital transformation journey of your business, assess it along three dimensions of flexibility:
- flexibility and modularity of software architecture
- flexibility of business tools
- flexibility to integrate with the best of breed technology solutions