How can retailers deliver continuous innovation to their ecommerce websites?
It is widely acknowledged that online shoppers have become savvier and are increasingly empowered. Their perception of a retailer’s proposition is progressing at a furious rate; what was once considered unique and impressive, is now just the norm.
But retailers are struggling to innovate. Or put more simply, to deliver change to their websites quickly. That is not to say the ideas are not there – they are – but the complexity of the digital environment (that drives the ecommerce landscape) is hampering their implementation.
An ‘innovation’ will often need to work through the business and IT, to an integration partner (who may involve a required third party), and through design and development. It can take weeks or even months to implement, by which time it does not seem as exciting or as pioneering as it once did.
A range of problems, such as unclear ownership, complex decision making processes, lack of internal business and technical resources, and integration partners who are unable to drive a process, can all result in an inability to manage both internal and external resources, in a way that makes it impossible to deliver continuous improvement to the ecommerce website.
There are many terms and approaches served up by the industry as a silver bullet: agile, lean, continuous delivery, continuous deployment, continuous development, and continuous integration to name a few. All of them have merit, but they must be well understood by the retailer as the demands placed on staff are high. Taking ideas from the whiteboard to the webpage, on a truly continuous cycle, is not simple.
So how can retailers deliver continuous innovation?
1 Organisational structure
Retailers must structure their businesses in a way that provides both internal and external teams with clear lines of ownership, across the roadmap and the associated budget. People must be afforded sufficient time to generate ideas that over time (through a defined process) will progress to the point of being a business requirement, ready for implementation. The more streamlined the process, the better. Complicated sign-off processes and excessive numbers of functional stakeholders will invariably slow the process and increase costs.
2 Systems integration partner
Looking outside the organisation, retailers must find systems integration partners who understand their internal ways of working and can, or more importantly endeavour to, lead the retailer through this transformative process. Putting these processes and practices in place takes time, money and technology. Investments must be made early in the process, with return measured over the medium term.
And for retailers who are in the process of developing an ecommerce site on a new platform, early can mean very early. Putting the infrastructure, design, build and deployment process for ongoing innovation in place prior to ‘go live’ will set the company far ahead of the majority.
By discussing the rate of expected change in the future, as a key success factor with the integration partner, is an important step to surfacing this issue, and will give retailers a view of their SI partner’s ability to continuously improve the proposition.
With the focus, more than ever, on customer experience, retailers need teams of people generating fresh ideas and new thinking, within a structured delivery process that nurtures innovation and enables change.