eCommerce Solutions: 3 Weighty Reasons Why Top Brands are Abandoning the Monoliths in Droves

As companies across all industries pivot to digital, the landscape of full stack / monolithic ecommerce solutions has expanded. However, there’s a now growing trend among top brands to move away from monolithic commerce technologies that combine content presentation capabilities with catalogues, carts and commerce.

Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than half of all commerce sites will integrate technologies from more than 15 vendors to deliver a digital customer experience. [1]

We see the following reasons why leading companies are abandoning full stack solutions.

1. Transformation: Going digital is no longer just about going online

Top brands realize that digital transformation is not just about making their catalog “available online.” They are re-examining their fundamental value propositions, re-architecting customer experiences, and using technologies to express consistent offerings and services across all touchpoints.

For example, vehicle manufacturers are reimagining the way cars are researched and bought. Retailers are utilizing augmented reality to allow customers try on clothes virtually. Manufacturers are inviting customers to co-create their own pieces through mass customization. Telecoms are enabling the design of custom bundles.

These customer experiences combine best of breed content, marketing, industrial automation, commerce, and consumer technologies to reach a digital-centric customer. Naturally, industries will have different requirements. Typically, monolithic platforms are not always able to easily connect with customers beyond traditional browser based front end.  Consequently, top brands are abandoning them in favor of ecommerce technologies that can adapt to any touchpoint (wearables, watches, cars).

2. Flexibility: Full stack solutions limit customer experiences

The most imperative business reason is also the oldest: companies need to differentiate or die. If a company simply wants to just present their catalog online, then a full stack / monolith solution could be the right way to go. However, when major brands seek to create new customer experiences, elevate new business models and disrupt their industry, traditional “add to cart” and “product review” functionality fails to deliver. Reacting to new customer demands, creating new services and customer experiences requires innovative thinking and technologies that bring that new thinking to life.

For example, a major cruise line knew that the only way to fight commoditization was to disrupt through customer experience.  They sought to eliminate the friction points of a cruise all while driving increased revenue with innovative on-board commerce touchpoints.  Now, passengers receive a bracelet with an embedded device which enables on demand food and beverage purchase, excursion booking, interactive gaming, personalized entertainment, sophisticated wayfinding and more. Passengers can move seamlessly from ship to shore, open their stateroom door without a key and purchase any item, service or excursion without a wallet.

Traditional monolith solutions struggle to enable this new customer experience.

3. Agility: Respond to new customer touchpoints

Monolithic platforms – even those with broad partner ecosystems – lack the ability to rapidly monetize completely new touchpoints, or to support new geographies with all the pricing and regulatory implications they entail.

Consider the problem of creating a way for people to purchase merchandise from their Apple watch. How does a monolithic ecommerce solution interact with this new touchpoint? How will a retailer’s development team respond to a new operating system that they have never worked with before?

As we enter the era of the Internet of Things, top brands may have to work with hundreds of new customer touchpoints that require integration and custom development. This is laborious, time consuming, and increases time to market.

Adopt a “best of breed approach”

For innovative brands, the days of full stack / monolith ecommerce are over. The way to achieve business transformation, continuously differentiate and remain agile is to adopt a best of breed approach to customer experience technologies. To power complete digital commerce functionality, companies must look for a sophisticated system that allows them to leverage any touchpoint, any legacy system, any content management system and any third-party application.

Consumers have come to expect the ability to transact with brands anywhere and at any time. Are your legacy systems struggling to deliver the experiences your customers have come to expect? Contact us to find out how our agile, API-first commerce platform can give you the ability to get ahead of customer demands, while continuing to take advantage of investments you’ve made in your legacy platforms.

[1] Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce, 2017


Experience-Driven Commerce: 6 Ways to Become an Experience Business

This post is based on a keynote by Brad Rencher, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Adobe at the Summit 2017 conference.

Companies that consistently provide positive customer experiences enjoy higher sales and customer loyalty.

A Forrester study comparing revenue growth at several companies in their customer experience index found that leaders outperformed laggards by as much as 24%. Other surveys (and everyday experience) also show that people are willing to pay more for a brand that consistently delivers and delights.

“We are riding an “experience business” wave. This is the battleground where all of us will compete in the foreseeable future,” says Brad Rencher, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Adobe.

Customer experience isn’t just a fancy way of saying the customer is always right. It’s a change in mindset and tactics. “Brand awareness has been replaced by brand purpose,” says Rencher. Marketing has shifted from telling people what to buy to listening to what they need, and providing it in the right way, time and place.

New technology has also made it possible to understand and interact with customers in powerful ways. Advances in big data and analytics can reveal a person’s needs and preferences for completely personalized interactions. Mobile and social media open new touchpoints. Agile, extensible experience-driven commerce solutions pave the way for powerful omnichannel campaigns.

But the big question is, “How do you use those technologies?” Rencher provides the following learnings from some of the most successful customer experience campaigns.

Know and Respect your Market

Use data to anticipate what people want, but assure them that their privacy is protected. Digital efforts should make your company feel like a personal shopper, not a stalker.

How do you tread that line? As mentioned in these rules for content marketers, most consumers understand the value of predictive recommendations. 73% are willing to share at least one piece of information. 40% of those who don’t trust companies will ease their concern if you ask permission for data. It boils down to trust: earning it, and keeping it.

Speak in One Voice

Many sales, marketing, customer service, online and retail efforts operate in silos. Align your efforts around a customer persona, and use platforms that can orchestrate and synergize your efforts.

Use Technology with a Purpose

Technology is a means to an end. Use it only if it adds to the customer’s digital experience or builds your business. If it leads to slow load times or adds unnecessary clicks or layers of information, take it out.

The best technology leads to concrete benefits that solves a problem, simplifies a process, or elevates an experience. For example, the luxury cruise line Carnival introduced the Medallion: a small wearable that’s connected to each guest and interacts with 7,000 sensors on the ship’s decks. It provides personalized recommendations, activates temperature controls the second you walk through the door and helps you locate family members. Even though it’s based on breakthrough technology, it still responds to a universal need: the chance to switch off your brain and have fun during your vacation.

Increase Customer Touch Points

Domino’s is consistently one of the top 10 companies in terms of online transactions, alongside giants like Amazon and Apple. Customers can order a pizza through the website, app, tweeting the pizza emoticon, or partner sites. They can also follow their order’s progress, and interact with people at every stage. “Hold the anchovies!”

By the end of 2016, 60% of Domino’s sales have come from digital ordering channels. “They’ve turned the Internet of Things into the Internet of Pizza, and I completely support them for that,” quips Rencher.

Delight at Every Turn

Customer delight comes from exceeding expectations and creating a positive reaction. In some cases, it means creating services that people didn’t know they wanted until they arrived.

Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Instead, his car changed the way people travel, and decades later, Mercedes Me changed the way people used cars.

The Mercedes Me turns the car into a complete digital experience pod. Record the routes you take, set preferred temperature controls, instantly locate where you’re parked, or relay your location during an emergency.

Ride the Next Wave in Experience-Driven Commerce

Rencher says that customer experience represents a new era in commerce. “This wave is about goose bumps, it’s about smiles, about bringing people together,” Rencher noted. “It’s even about nothing – it’s about doing our job so well that consumers don’t even know that you and I exist.”

Elastic Path’s agile, API-first commerce platform gives you the ability to quickly create experiences that delight customers by embedding commerce in new touchpoints as the adoption of consumer technologies continues to accelerate. Many of the keynotes at Adobe’s Summits in Las Vegas and London highlighted Elastic Path customers.

Want to learn more about becoming an experience based business? Book a demo today.


Amazon and Whole Foods Did Rotten Tomatoes Spark a $14 Billion deal?

When Amazon announced its bid for Whole Foods, you could practically hear the screams coming from the C-suites at Kroger and Wal Mart. When a giant like Amazon bites into your market, the chances of survival diminish—and the grocery industry is already famous for thin margins.

Buying physical locations is an interesting strategy because most grocers are doing the exact opposite. They are all working like mad to bring online shopping and unified ecommerce to customers.

More people are buying groceries online. A January 2017 report from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen predicts that online groceries will grow five-fold by 2025. The report indicates that 25% of American households buy some groceries online now, up from 19 % in 2014. More than 70% say they will engage in online food shopping within ten years. Of those, 60% expect to spend about a quarter of their food dollars online.

Of course, Amazon is already in the food business. They launched Amazon Fresh in 2016 in 20 cities across the United States as well as in Berlin, London and Tokyo. For $14.99 a month you can order groceries from Amazon Fresh. Amazon Pantry sells non-perishables like cereal, chips, rice and coffee for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 per box, and Amazon’s Prime Now offers items from local grocers in some cities. With a finger tap and a Dash Button people can order many household products including groceries, but not fresh foods. Customers can also sign up for periodic delivery of laundry detergent, toothpaste, diapers, paper towels and other items frequently purchased in grocery stores using Subscribe and Save. Aside from this, if you have an Amazon Echo device equipped with Alexa, you can build a shopping list then ask Alexa to buy the groceries on the list for Prime Delivery.

Why Buy Physical Stores?

With all these services already in place, why is Amazon looking to buy physical stores? In a word: spoilage. According to a recent story in Bloomberg, Amazon experienced challenges with the high cost of losses caused by food going bad, an issue it didn’t have to solve with videos or books. Bricks and mortar grocers discount softening tomatoes and pork cutlets near their expiration dates or sell them to re-manufacturers. Apparently, at Amazon Fresh, partially spoiled food items were returned by irate customers and/or discarded at an alarming rate.

According to the story, the main reason Amazon began delivering groceries through Prime Now was to devolve spoilage risk back down to local suppliers; buying locations eliminates the problem. Vertical integration with a company like Whole Foods that already knows the business is a great way to learn, and along with retail outlets Amazon gets local warehouses, landing pads for drones, and established supply chains.

Rotten tomatoes sparked a nearly $14 B deal?

Did rotten tomatoes really spark a $14 Billion deal? Maybe, but Amazon also had another problem. No one currently associates the brand with groceries. Books, clothes, electronics, car parts, everything and a kitchen sink –but not food.

The company would have to spend billions educating consumers that now they offer food. Maybe that’s not a huge stretch for a company with so many controlled touchpoints, but why build when you can buy? They could not have made a more strategic marketing move than to purchase a high-profile brand like Whole Foods, a brand associated with high quality (also high prices, but maybe Amazon can help with that).

As with Netflix, Amazon started out as a trusted platform for other sellers. The interface still reflects that legacy. But they mastered discoverability, reliability and trustworthiness well before any other mass retailer. While those characteristics are huge, it will be interesting to watch how they integrate the Whole Foods brand ethos with their own. Will stores be renamed Amazon Whole Foods?

The company is always innovating, and with the move to own-label offerings, it may alter its digital experience strategy in various portions. One could imagine them splitting digital experiences up by line: Amazon Entertainment, Amazon Foods, Amazon Retailer. Alternatively, will they eventually become like the department stores of the past? As Sears here in Canada enters bankruptcy protection, Amazon is charting a course to enter that category. What’s next in store for Amazon? Own-label clothes? There’s Amazon Prime Wardrobe for that. Sporting goods? How about cars?

Who knows where the giant will take its next bite?

What we do know is that all other industries are starting to feel the impact of Amazon and other tech giants as they broaden their markets. Customers are demanding better experiences when interacting with brands and Amazon’s mastery of discoverability, reliability, speed, and innovation give them a head start. To survive “Amazonification” brands across all industries need to quickly figure out how they can deliver a fundamentally better experience through a unified ecommerce platform, to their customers, now and in the future.

Traditional monolithic ecommerce platforms limit how quickly you can react to meet or exceed customer expectations. Contact us to find out how our agile, API-first commerce platform can give you the ability to get ahead of customer demands, while continuing to take advantage of investments you’ve made in your legacy platforms.