Changing consumer behaviors are driving retailers to unify technologies

Existing retail infrastructure, architecture, and applications are straining to keep pace with rapid advancements in consumer technology and behavior, according to a recent report from the National Retail Federation (NRF), Ecommerce Europe and the Ecommerce Foundation entitled Building the Business Case for a Unified Commerce Platform.

The new report validates the critical need for the retailers to “redefine their architectural approach” to technology including core merchandising, marketing, supply chain and business administration applications, which are all straining to keep pace with rapid advancements in consumer technology and behavior.

The crux of the problem, according to the report, is that “loosely coupled legacy systems originally implemented to solve specific problems for specific channels are not equipped to adequately serve connected consumers. The limitations of complex and disparate technology environments increase the risk of unsatisfied customers, rising costs, and lost revenue.”

These problems are not lost on retailers. In a survey of more than 300 retailers, the NRF found that 53 percent of retailers surveyed plan to implement some form of a “unified commerce platform” over the next three years to consolidate key data, business rules and functionality currently maintained in multiple silos. Over the next 10 years, 86 percent plan to move to a unified commerce platform.

While the vision is clear, there is no agreed upon definition on what exactly constitutes a unified commerce platform. It’s not as though one can go out and purchase a unified commerce platform off a shelf somewhere and expect it to optimally managed POS, ecommerce, call center, CRM, mobile and Web content management.

Instead, what a unified commerce platform represents is a rethinking of the way CIOs organize and manage their teams. Many organizations, the report explains, are establishing a new role that combines strategic oversight of customer-facing systems. This in turn allows IT to operate with the speed and responsiveness required in today connected world.

Ultimately, the vast majority of retailers will adopt a sophisticated business and technology roadmap that allows them to continue to flawless serve customers today while gradually simplifying and integrating technologies around a set of core best-of-breed solutions. For many the right approach will involve building around an omnichannel ecommerce system such as Demandware tightly integrated with a best-of-breed content management system such as FirstSpirit to ensure a seamless customer experience.

If you are finding that you are struggling to keep pace with customers’ expectations, it may be time to consider a unified commerce platform. Please drop me a line if you want to discuss this further. I look forward to hearing from you.

Download the full report from NRF's reference library here.