E-commerce’s biggest challenges

Posted: Wednesday 28th September 2011 in eCommerce Technology, Thought Leadership.

Flexible technology is essential for success in e-commerce

As online trade continues to grow, your online teams face a number of challenges. I’ll try to summarise some of the trends.

E-commerce is in the spotlight

As economies continue to struggle, even the strongest retailers have disappointing like-for-like sales figures. The only area that shows any growth is online.

This puts e-commerce on a much higher footing, makes it more strategically important and subject to far greater attention than ever before. Every click, conversion and sale is being watched with increasing scrutiny.

Pace of change

It’s no longer enough to just have a website. Big and growing pure-plays and some canny multichannel retailers are changing the game.

Well-funded and agile, these new businesses can move at a pace that’s difficult for others to match. And this ability to quickly go forward pervades everything they do: pricing, offers, website features, product range – they think and act at a different speed. If you want to compete, you have to keep up.


Between any good idea and reality sits development work. But increasingly, traditional enterprise or custom-built e-commerce platforms are unable to respond to the speed of change that e-commerce teams demand. Often costly and time-consuming to change, these platforms are not the business-enablers teams once thought they were.


One of the major benefits of e-commerce is its ability to drive efficiencies in a business – to do much more with much less.

However, some retailers (especially those who’ve been online for a while) are finding it difficult to realise these efficiencies. Typically, this is the result of legacy systems, poorly implemented or now irrelevant software tools, and poor integration between systems as the business has evolved and changed.

The resultant resource needs and process bottlenecks increase cost and reduce flexibility: the costs to rip everything out and put more relevant systems in place are high.


The opportunities for mobile are huge: handset activations globally exceed 600,000 per day. A mobile strategy is essential for any retailer.

The challenges are numerous however, and so you must:

  • Gain buy-in from the board room (and down) to move forward
  • Move quickly to realise your mobile ambitions before competitors do
  • Embrace technology and remember that old legacy systems can prove incredibly difficult to integrate with
  • Be patient, since efficiencies can be hard to realise if sales are initially small and getting a mobile system working can cost a lot and take time

This is a battle of flexibility and athleticism. We’re seeing these issues more and more – and all together – which means you need to adapt (and ensure that your systems enable you to do so) to win.

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