Why digital agencies dont get agile commerce

I got the same old story at a retailer in Melbourne today. They’re in a tough position because because they can’t scale their website operations to meet the demands of their customers. They’ve got problems with data synchronisation; they’re unable to get consistent promotions in their stores and online; and customer records are not flowing correctly between channels. Click and collect simply isn’t an option because there’s no order management or universal view of inventory. Sure, their website LOOKS great, but the foundations are terrible.

As I’ve stated before customer-centric systems are now critical components of enterprise architecture, just like ERPs such as SAP and Oracle were 10 years ago. To meet the ever changing needs of the connected consumer requires a suite of components that make it easy to integrate both data and business processes for all parts of the business including inventory, orders, distribution, payments, products, pricing/promotions, customers and marketing. This is the foundation – the plumbing and the wiring – upon which you build agile commerce solutions that adapt readily to your customers’ needs. And yet we still see so many retailers that are prepared to entrust this, their new lifeblood, not to the plumbers, builders and electricians, but to the guys that specialise in the window dressings!

Getting cross-channel commerce right doesn’t just require retail systems knowhow. It requires a project methodology and approach that’s enterprise proven. It requires a team experienced with retail back-office systems and processes. It’s not just about how the customer interacts with the website, it’s about merchandising, picking systems & inventory movement, and handling returns and refunds. I’m certainly not saying that design isn’t important, because it absolutely is. But customers expect simplicity and familiarity, and it’s all too easy to get carried away with your front-end.

Most designers have limited integration experience – having built their ‘reputations’ on sexy websites with shopping carts; SEO and email marketing. They also don’t have the right business model to deliver true cross-channel retailing solutions, because fundamentally, their billing model is based upon cycles of rework, consulting and rework. They bill by the hour. They aren’t in the game of managing a tight up-front specification, project management, development and integration to a budget and then handing over the keys to the car.

Forget spending $50K or more on multiple rounds of designs for your new website. I’d suggest budget no more than $10K for the complete design of phase 1. Find some world-class sites and model your site on those structures, or build on the framework provided by your infrastructure provider. Focus on the fundamentals – architecture, plumbing, wiring, and concrete foundations. Put these in place and take a couple of months to iron out any process issues. And then go to town on your designs.

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