Be prepared for the major e-commerce tech trends of 2020, outlined by Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer at commercetools.
Front-end developers, not back-end developers, rule the retail tech roost
It used to be that the back-end developers were at the top of the tech skills pyramid, but with how far tech for the front-end has come, the tables have turned and front-end developers are overtaking them. Today, user experience is key to retailer success; demand for front-end developers is higher than ever. However, with front-end skills evolving all the time and the profession increasingly hard to train for, 2020 will see the widening of the front-end developer skills gap. Therefore, the overriding message for CIOs is to treat your front-end developers like kings and queens. With such huge competition for e-commerce developers, it’s vital brands do all they can to attract and retain talent.
GraphQL will be used increasingly
Graph query language – GraphQL – will grow in usage next year as it makes it so easy to consume rest APIs (APIs for the internet), or in other words, for front-end developers to do their jobs. With this technology, all a front end developer has to do is to describe what data they want and issue the query to GraphQL. This results in GraphQL calling the appropriate rest APIs to retrieve just the right amount of data that is requested, and then returning to the developer a single JSON object for the developer to render the page they want. GraphQL offers a host of benefits to retailers’ front-end developers, from the reduction in development times to the fact that there is far less code to write, test, maintain and run overall.
Legacy platforms are finally dying and vendors are consolidating
Legacy software vendors are lying to customers – they claim to have modernised but remain on the wrong side of technology trends. 2020’s consumers will have no patience for anything less than perfect when it comes to retail experience. Being fully aware of this, brands and retailers know they need commerce platforms that offer maximum flexibility and ability to change front-ends and adapt to changing customer expectations – namely headless whereby the back and front-ends are de-coupled, making it far easier and quicker to improve the customer-facing side of e-commerce. They also know that the more lines of code they add to legacy systems, the more brittle they get. We’ll see more consolidation of vendors of commerce solutions and legacy platforms are cast aside and more companies go headless.
As retailers shift away from monolithic, legacy platforms they are also moving towards microservices – small, self-contained applications that can be developed and deployed individually. API-driven microservices allow developers to easily and quickly update specific parts of the front-end, resulting in shorter release cycles and faster time-to-market. They also allow retailers to achieve true omnichannel experiences for their customers as all the information is coming from the same back-end. This enables retailers to always stay one step ahead of the competition.
Bifurcation of retail
The next decade will see the continued polarisation of retail into two markets, value and premium, and unrelenting squeezing of midmarket players. Investment in the right technology – e-commerce platforms that allow merchants to easily test and improve their systems pretty much on the fly – will allow them to differentiate with outstanding customer experience – key to survival for premium brands.
Up in the clouds
While cloud has been with us for about a decade, many applications that claim to be “in” the cloud are just “on” the cloud. Earlier generations of commerce platforms and other applications related to delivering customer experience were just deployed to virtual machines on a public cloud, essentially just using public cloud as servers for hosting. That’s not cloud. “Real” cloud applications are part of the cloud ecosystem, as if they were built by the cloud vendors themselves. Real cloud applications are built using APIs, microservices, have distributed architectures, are multi-tenant, and follow other cloud-based architecture principles. Real cloud applications also interact with the larger cloud ecosystem by eventing data out to the cloud and allowing serverless functions to be injected into the application.
About the author
Kelly Goetsch is Chief Product Officer at commercetools where he oversees product management, development and delivery. He has expertise in commerce, microservices, and distributed computing, having spoken and published extensively on these topics.