Head of Ecommerce
The last three years have presented particularly unsettled waters for ecommerce leaders to navigate. Ecommerce was already transforming, but the pandemic led to a period of massive growth that forced rapid change. At the same time, the fallout from events like Brexit caused operational challenges for many organisations. To cope, ecommerce leaders had to accelerate their digital plans – meaning many discarded existing strategies and condensed three to four years of digital transformation into a matter of months.
In the short term, this “kneejerk” digitalisation allowed businesses to spin up an ecommerce website or app quickly. But in the longer term, many risk being left with a technology stack that is neither futureproof nor fit for purpose. In fact, despite the increase in spend, our research finds businesses lost an average 10% in revenue due to downtime and website performance issues in the last two years. That’s the kind of loss that cannot be absorbed more than once.
Moreover, even as high-potential technologies emerge – from NFTs to the metaverse – the economic outlook is worsening. Ecommerce faces yet another tipping point. The need for a futureproof digital strategy has never been more important. Businesses need to take stock of their digital investments now to understand where their ecommerce infrastructure isn’t performing and ensure they maintain a competitive edge.
The impacts of kneejerk digitalisation
Investments made into ecommerce solutions in the absence of a clear delivery strategy cause several challenges for businesses. We are seeing three main areas of impact:
- Poor ROI: While most businesses ramped up spending to support digital sales and purchasing, only a third (36%) of ecommerce leaders said that the ecommerce tools and services they invested in at the outset of the pandemic are delivering “a lot” of ROI. This shortfall in expected ROI typically stems from a hasty implementation process coupled with a lack of user experience testing – meaning businesses haven’t assessed if a new feature or implementation is genuinely needed by users.
- Growing technical debt: Most ecommerce leaders (88%) say they are worried their ecommerce investments have created technical debt, and they are right to be. Technical debt is amassed when the quality of code or a new solution is sacrificed for speed of release. Because the evolution of ecommerce has been accelerated to such a degree, compromises and shortcuts were made to deliver updates and new services quickly. The shortcuts made during this time have now turned into blockers to further change that impact ecommerce performance, experience, security, and scalability.
- Not fit for the future: Ecommerce leaders estimate that their current ecommerce infrastructure will be outdated within the next two and a half years. An awful lot can happen within this timeframe. An out-of-date tech stack will greatly affect business’ ability to be agile and innovative to respond to future trends. Whether that’s further unexpected global events, continued digital advances, or being able to react to fluctuating customer preferences and behaviours.
Building resilience and driving innovation
So, how can ecommerce leaders mitigate these impacts and adopt a futureproof digitalisation strategy that balances resiliency with innovation? Firstly, companies must be more strategic in where they invest to maximise ROI. The strategy must be wholly customer focused so that spend is directed towards to ecommerce tools and services that deliver exceptional experiences. Customers want omnichannel experiences that are unified across all digital platforms and touchpoints, including everything from consistent branding, payment options, search functions and account information.
Secondly, companies need to optimise the infrastructure and assets that support their existing ecommerce operation. This means consolidating tools and services to eliminate points of digital friction in the user journey and address disjointed experiences across digital channels. This optimisation also gives internal IT and development teams greater agility, enabling them to adapt quickly to market changes and business objectives, as well as to shifting user preferences and new technologies.
Thirdly, ecommerce is a fast-moving sector. We’re currently seeing a whole new digital economy emerge in the form of the metaverse, accompanied by advances in digital payments, such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Ecommerce will be a leading player in this digital world. The businesses that will prosper will be those equipped to take an iterative approach to transformation to minimise risk of technical debt. Savvy ecommerce leaders will adopt a strategy of continual improvement where teams make small changes often, rather than following a multi-year roadmap that dates rapidly. This will allow businesses to strike a balance between updating the backlog of IT while innovating and introducing new features.
Foundation for future success
Ecommerce has faced a turbulent couple of years. Very few companies were prepared for the accelerated transformation that resulted. If there is one key lesson that ecommerce leaders can take away from this time, it’s the importance of adaptability in the face of rapid change. As the digital economy continues to evolve, ecommerce leaders must take steps now to ensure their business has the ability to respond and thrive. With a customer-centric strategy that ensures digitalisation truly benefits users and that supports rapid, incremental change, businesses will ensure a foundation for future success in in an ever-shifting digital landscape.