Enabling Business Transformation through Digital Commerce
Digital commerce is often thought of as sales channels, targeting customers and selling products. This isn’t untrue, but it’s a view that many organizations have which is based on a limited understanding or lack of technical knowledge of what digital commerce could be. A recent Gartner report that surveyed 88 organizations currently using a digital commerce platform summarizes how these organizations view digital commerce.
“They view it as a sales channel (where the customer is the primary target, and selling products is the ultimate goal) rather than a way to transform the business.”1
Some of you might be nodding your head right now. After all, the same report found that "44% have either acquired software or are using a SaaS solution, whereas 26% have built their own digital commerce platform"1. That's almost half of respondents reporting that they acquired the digital commerce software they are using or are using a SaaS solution. If the digital commerce platform was acquired, I'm of the opinion that it's probably just an extension of the overall business and not the cornerstone of the entire organization. If using a SaaS solution, I believe the organization was probably sold on features that are easy to use and quick to market. Business transformation probably wasn’t considered beyond this at the time the digital commerce platform was established.
In contrast, for the 26% who have built their own digital commerce platform, the report found that "When respondents with digital commerce platforms are distinguished by the type of platform (acquired or custom-built), those with custom-made platforms experience 12% more in average digital revenue from their platforms."1. It's important to note here that custom-made in the report doesn't necessarily mean 100% custom. The report defines custom-made as a platform that is not based on any vendor commerce platform (i.e. not SaaS) or is based on open source. Examples of a few common open source platforms for digital commerce are Drupal, Magento and WordPress. Getting back to the report, I believe that the 12% difference is due to the fact that these companies are more involved in their digital commerce architecture already and are therefor already tailoring their digital commerce experience to their business, their products and their customers. They're already experiencing transformation through digital commerce.
Embracing digital commerce to unlock its full potential
The full potential for digital commerce can be very transformative for a business. Going back to the Gartner report, they state.
“In order for digital commerce to achieve scale and leverage IT expenditure, organizations need to focus on transforming the business with product and service innovations, differentiated customer experience, and use of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This will help organizations generate growth from new product offerings, new ways of selling, new sources of revenue and new business models.”1
In other words, instead of thinking exclusively about sales, businesses should embrace the entirety of digital commerce and think outside of the box to enable business transformation and reach new heights. They mention innovation, customer experience and IoT, but to me fully embracing digital commerce also includes business automation, analytics, AI and more. It’s not just about your ecommerce platform anymore, it’s about the entire ecosystem of your digital commerce operation, also known as your commerce architecture. When you consider this as a whole and then start to devise a strategy around it, this is what enables business transformation.
The following graph from the Gartner report shows how survey participants ranked reasons for embracing digital commerce.
Source: Gartner, "Survey Analysis: Organizations Need to Improve the Customer Experience to Fully Exploit Digital Commerce," 4 February 2019, Penny Gillespie.
Here's my take on the top three reasons as shown.
- "To improve customer satisfaction"1
This was the top ranked reason and it isn’t too surprising since the customer experience is the best way to differentiate a business from its competitors and to keep customers coming back.
- "To innovate or transform the business"1
This was next and I find this one interesting. To me, this shows that the respondents understand that the digital commerce landscape is changing and they want to change with it, even if they’re not sure how right now. By the way, Acro Media can help you with this.
- "Cost reduction through automation of the sales process and customer self-service buying"1
Like customer satisfaction, this also makes sense to me given that so many modern applications these days have the ability to connect to one another through API integrations. Automation is a cost saver that will only help a business's bottom line and enable successful scaling.
How transformative is your digital commerce operation? Have you fully embraced digital commerce? Are you ready to compete with the next-generation of online businesses? If not, that’s OK. By looking into this now you’re already starting the transformation. Stick with it and you’re sure to gain an edge on your competition.
Digital commerce experts
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1 - Gartner, "Survey Analysis: Organizations Need to Improve the Customer Experience to Fully Exploit Digital Commerce," 4 February 2019, Penny Gillespie