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GUEST COMMENT Why martech infrastructure investment is a go-to in a downturn for ecommerce

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Thomas Peham is VP of marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok

The pandemic has fast forwarded infrastructure investment for retailers. Businesses had to scramble to upgrade and adjust their tech stack to meet the new online and digital demands. In fact, according to research, the ecommerce market grew by 10 years in the first three months of Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns. However, fast changes in the short-term may not necessarily translate into long-term gains.

And now we have the “r” word – the word recession is everywhere; on every news channel and on people’s minds – making it a prime time for businesses to look at areas to cut back. One of these areas for many, including retailers, could be to put marketing infrastructure investments on hold. 

However, this could come at a cost because although there may be diminished consumer demand in some areas, the competition is fiercer than ever and let’s not forget that we are living in a digital-first world. And for online retailers to be able to attract and retain customers, it is vital that the user experience is as flawless as possible. After all, our recent survey revealed that poor website user experience costs UK ecommerce sites £1.41 billion in lost sales every year with 48% of UK consumers saying they abandon purchases due to bad design and user experience.

Retailers, we have a martech infrastructure problem

The truth is that the standard crop of tools that support content distribution aren’t up to the challenge of today’s marketing environment and are outdated to cope with what marketers need today. In the second quarter of 2022, mobile devices generated 58.99% of global website traffic, according to Statista. And this is not really news. Since 2017 mobile phones have been a major source of website traffic, consistently hovering around the 50% mark, and permanently surpassing it in 2020.

You may have already noticed that user experiences businesses provide aren’t keeping up with the pace of new channels and frontends. There are multiple reasons for that, and one comes down to outdated content management systems (CMS) and legacy tools that marketers don’t really like to touch at all.

A Forrester report has smartly highlighted that “as organisations produce more experiences that leverage a common back end, the value of those services and assets increases relative to the cost to create them. Brands grapple with the challenge of delivering content to new endpoints (e.g., web, mobile, smart displays, voice assistants, and marketplaces), so it’s important to manage content and experiences centrally to drive reuse. This makes updating and analysing — and optimising — experiences more efficient as well.”

This highlights the importance of establishing one central content hub that allows you to reuse content across channels and platforms. You don’t want to keep creating content silos just because your existing systems are not supporting a new channel (such as mobile apps). 

Take full advantage of present-day tech that can scale with your business

It’s time for retailers to move away from monolithic systems to a more modern solution. A monolithic system does all of the work behind the scenes (called the back end) as well as what the viewer sees on the page (called the front end). A monolithic – call it all-in-one – solution is great for a simple website or simple use case. 

Headless CMS evolved as a solution to the shortcomings of the traditional monolithic systems. The headless system separates the presentational layer from the back end. You can use the same core “body” (back end) to create as many “heads” (front ends) as you may need – websites, phone apps, voice-activated assistants, smart watches, VR headsets to name just a few.

Apart from just allowing you to quickly connect with more channels, there’s a myriad of other benefits too – think about fast web performance and the benefits of having one central content hub for ALL frontends. 

Keeping all your content in one place with a headless CMS means that you’re able to save costs and improve efficiency, which is important during a recession. You can centralise all your content in one place – no matter how many channels. This way you’re saving cost by getting rid of other unnecessary CMSs. With a headless CMS that is fully SaaS with no hosting, updates or maintenance in the backend, you’ll have less development resources to build and maintain your UX. What’s more is that you’ll need less content marketers on your team because it’s so much simpler to use, making faster time to market with less or the same resources. 

Marketers are also increasingly on the front lines of the security battle. Content is as much attack surfaces as they are a way to keep in touch with your customers. In fact, Storyblok’s research has found that 32% of some of the world’s largest businesses encounter a CMS security breach every single week. A headless approach reduces the number of entry points into your business – it reduces it down to just one. Keeping track of the constant raft of security updates, patches and plugs that comes with a traditional CMS is a full time job.

The main point is that retailers should be focusing on taking full advantage of present-day technology to help the business overcome the challenges of a recession. The benefit of a proper headless technology is that it also future proofs your business. It is flexible, adaptable, scalable and can be easily integrated with other applications that your business uses. That means that you can always start small and then keep building up your stack as budgets increase over time and consumer demands change.

As the economy braces itself for the looming recession, it may be all too tempting for retailers to forgo plans to update their martech stack or invest in SaaS platforms. However, continuing to operate cumbersome legacy architecture can prove a false economy in terms of business limitations and operational inefficiencies when it has, perhaps, never been more important to perform at peak. 

Thomas Peham is VP of marketing at enterprise CMS Storyblok

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