Why technology can be the enabler or the inhibitor to your strategy
Much has been written in recent years about what retailers need to do to survive and how their strategies need to evolve to remain relevant. There is no shortage of views on what organisations need to do to compete with the likes of Amazon , as well as other disruptive players and those traditional competitors that are adapting quickly. Most retailers agree they need to evolve to compete and the way to do that is through innovating. The question is innovate how? And where? And when? And that comes down to strategy. Technology is often described as an ‘enabler’ but what if the opposite is true? What if technology is preventing retailers from innovating and remaining relevant to their customers?
Retailers are investing ever-greater amounts to compete locally and globally, adapting to competitive market threats through upgrading technology platforms that support omnichannel trading, internationalisation, customer services and the store, for example. Meanwhile, the major technology vendors are building out their stacks to offer greater functionality in these areas, offering a one-stop shop to solve all your strategic objectives. The downside to greater investment and reliance on the stack is greater lock-in to a technology ecosystem that can become ever-more costly and difficult to maintain. A further problem with this is you end up relying largely on your principal vendors for innovation. Projects are becoming more and more complex and time-consuming, with every change, upgrade or new deployment requiring weeks of planning, development and testing.
The other side of the equation is the plethora of new tech start-ups providing tools and technology that solve precise challenges, or enable new services and capabilities that Retailers need to compete to remain relevant. It is this innovation via early stage and young technology companies that is changing the game, allowing the rapid adoption of new technology, shorter timeframes for delivery and lower cost of ownership. The issue, however, for retailers is how do they meet their strategic objectives by leveraging their current technology investments alongside these innovative new technologies without ending up with a spaghetti architecture?
Our view is that we now have the perfect storm of opportunity. The cloud has become the real enabler by allowing us to procure services rather than servers, and allowing us to scale up components or services at a micro level rather than to scale up an entire platform to meet demand. This means new functionality can be delivered much more rapidly, and new services adopted for specific purposes, reducing complexity, cost and risk. This also allows us to plug and play new tech, test and learn – to innovate at pace. Coupled with this future retail architecture is the need for more control and ownership of the front-end customer experience since this is what really drives competitive advantage. Moving to a loosely coupled architecture, adopting a cloud infrastructure and a micro-services approach will be how retailers remain relevant in the age of digital disruption. And for the stack vendors? Well the smart ones will adapt just as their retail clients will need to, or they will get replaced by more agile players.
This transformation in how technology is procured, packaged and provisioned will create winners and losers, the final question is: are you ready for the future of retail architecture?
If you would like to hear more about eComp’s vison for future retail architecture you can get in touch with us at [email protected] About eComp
eComp is an ecommerce advisory business offering IT and ecommerce strategy; technology evaluation; project evaluation, audit and rescue; and technology due diligence services.http://ecomp.co.uk/