With the economy in the UK showing fragile signs of recovery, this seems an opportune moment to have returned to one of our recurring themes with these special reports, ecommerce platforms. While nobody except the most optimistic is expecting the kind of retail boom we enjoyed just before and after the turn of the millennium, consumers look happier to part with cash, even for big-ticket items, and accordingly companies are showing more signs of looking to invest for the future.
But what kind of future? It’s a pertinent question considering that a recent report by Bill Grimsey, The Grimsey Review, was a specific riposte to an earlier assessment by Mary Portas, The Portas Review, on behalf of the government.
Our guess, for what it’s worth, is that we’ll see high streets and retail centres where there will certainly be fewer shops. However, it’s not all bad news. There’s huge potential for specialist stores operating out of premises that will probably double as HQs for processing online and mail-order sales. At the other end of the spectrum, bigger retailers will need a bricks-and-mortar presence because customers will expect, for example, to be able to order online and pick up an item at a convenient time. Digital technologies will play an increasingly visible role within both kinds of stores, especially as 4G rolls out with its promise of making digital media ever-more pervasive.
Within both kinds of companies, the ecommerce platform will play a crucial role, underpinning operations. Indeed, we may soon come to view the ecommerce platform simply as the commerce platform. It’s a term that will encompass the enterprise-level software used by big players and, we’d speculate, software-as-a-service technology used in pop-up stores that may, for example, only be in situ for a few weeks to tie in with a specific event.
Of course, it will be a while yet before we reach this scenario, but retailers still need to keep an eye on what’s ahead and prepare accordingly. To come back to the idea of upgrading the (e)commerce platform, it’s more and more important than ever for companies to choose systems that will prove adaptable within this future landscape.
We hope the articles within this special report will help with this selection process, in addition to offering practical advice on current operational issues. Ecommerce platforms are a subject we’ll certainly be returning to next year.
Each of Internet Retailing’s series of special reports explores key questions facing retailers today. We welcome your ideas and suggestions for future themes at email@example.com
Chloe Rigby and Jonathan Wright