For a conference which principally focussed on ecommerce and the opportunities presented to retailers by the latest ecommerce thinking, there was a curious apparent lack of affection for platforms coming from the stage during the retailer panel session at Ecommerce Futures Conference 2012.
Despite being recognised as innovators in online retail, Zia Zareem-Slade (Head of Online at Selfridges), Romain Eude (CTO, My-Wardrobe.com) and Ruben Lightfoot (Ecommerce Manager at Howies), and all with more than a little interest in ecommerce, none of them seemed to find ecommerce technology exciting.
Zia revealed, “I don’t get up in the morning thinking about platforms”. Ruben, who recently implemented Howies new site on Magento Enterprise, went further;
“I want a forgettable platform” was his opening gambit.
And of course these provocative statements were merely to make the point that ecommerce technology is a means to an end, not the end in itself. Ruben brought the conversation back to reality. “I want a nimble agile platform”. And Zia qualified her earlier point. “Ecommerce technology is the key enabler but it’s not interesting in itself”.
Forgettable Ecommerce: The Ideal Solution
What retailers dislike it seems is the need to spend so much time thinking about what their site can – and more often cannot – do for them. As Zia said, she wants to spend her time thinking about the customer journey through Selfridges – both on and off-line. She doesn’t want to spend her time thinking about the enabling platform or hosting. Ruben made much the same point. He and his team are focussed on creating a seamless experience for their customers.
Interestingly, the conclusion of the session of course focussed on how the latest platform, such as Magento, allows retailers to improve the customer experience in exactly the ways that they had wanted. These new platforms make it easier to test and learn; they allow retailers to be flexible; they make it easy to try out new ideas and offer better ways of giving customers what they want. On top of that, they remove the biggest barrier to improving customer experience online – cost (in both time and budget).
So do these experts, these sage leaders of store best practice, really dislike ecommerce platforms? Of course not. What they dislike are the old, slow, expensive and inflexible systems that stop them from thinking about their customers when they wake up in the morning.