What’s the difference between commerce innovation on legacy platforms vs. commerce innovation on MACH-fueled solutions?
Well, for one, with MACH, innovation actually happens. But from the outside, the difference isn’t always clear — sometimes monolithic commerce suites seem like a safe, time-tested option. The best way to truly assess the differences is a side-by-side comparison. So, to illuminate the stark contrast, we posed pressing commerce questions to commercetools Chief Strategy Officer Kelly Goetsch and a legacy tech Naysayer.
Read on to get the full picture, but be warned — the Naysayer’s perspective isn’t pretty.
What trends in commerce right now should companies be responding to?
CSO: Retail has experienced massive shifts in consumer behavior in the last two years, and that will continue to inform commerce trends. More than ever, great experiences matter — leading more companies to invest in modern commerce solutions, direct-to-consumer retail and commerce portfolios that bundle best-of-breed solutions. These are all smart moves, but the most important “trend” to respond to is whatever your customers want.
Naysayer: Here’s a trend companies can respond to: me falling asleep when I hear this question. Unless they have an urge to hand-deliver me a 12 oz. ribeye, why should I care what the customer wants? That’s none of my business. As a legacy platform, I’ve seen a lot. And I know that chasing customers is never a good look. Great experiences? Customers are buying products, not backpacking through Europe. “Headless commerce” and “cloud storage” may as well be the Trevi Fountain, because all you’re doing with them is throwing money away on a wish that won’t come true.
In your opinion, what is the most important capability or feature for a commerce solution in 2022?
CSO: The most important feature is composability. Your brand is uniquely your own, and your commerce solution should be, too. In 2022, companies need to be able to keep up with customer demands through API-first, mix-and-match solutions. Best-of-breed services unlock better customer experiences, allowing you to quickly add the features your customers want. Vendors can only do one or maybe two things really well. For a vendor to think they can offer commerce, OMS, CMS, CPQ, CRM, a call center and more all in one platform is illogical.
Modern commerce requires the flexibility and agility of composable commerce. And it’s easier than ever to buy the absolute best point product that meets your business’s unique needs. When you’re stuck on a clunky, monolithic platform, customers notice. Resistant retailers risk falling behind.
Naysayer: To me, the most important features are products and checkout. Simple enough, right? Your commerce solution should know when to ignore customers and keep doing what you’re doing — which, frankly, is all the time. Commerce is about processing transactions, not putting on a Broadway show. Your customers want to buy things faster, whenever and wherever they want? Good for them, but that smells like greed to me. “Clunky” and “monolithic”? I prefer chunky and terrific.
People have been buying things for hundreds of years. I say, don’t fix it if it ain’t broke. Because when you go headless, commerce is only “getting fixed” in the “taking Fido to the vet” kind of way, and nobody wants that. Resistant retailers may fall behind, but at least they still have their dignity. Ignore all the “customer needs” talk and keep doing what you’re doing. Remember: Markets change. You shouldn’t.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities in modern commerce?
CSO: The biggest opportunity with modern, headless commerce is the fast time to market. Companies can roll out new features, promotions and products as they wish, giving them a freedom to experiment and iterate that they never had before. Each business and tech user can work in the tooling best for their product, not a one-size-fits-all monolith forcing a prescriptive way of work. Updates that once took months can be rolled out nearly instantly, driving innovation and faster customer experiences.
New solutions set brands free from the rigidity of legacy platforms, with agile architecture that enables them to move faster and lower the stakes of misfires. With updates and innovation always at your fingertips, how could you not accelerate your commerce experience? Innovation == iteration.
Naysayer: For me, the biggest opportunity in modern commerce is a tie between clocking out early and drinking at my desk. Some days, it’s impossible to decide. All this talk of “innovation” and “moving fast” makes my head spin. Doesn’t anyone know how to relax anymore? I was once told at lunch that if I kept eating at the rate I was going, I’d get indigestion. I didn’t appreciate the comment, but it was a good lesson. Brands that move too fast will get indigestion … or something. I’m a commerce platform, not Hemingway — you can put the metaphor together yourself. Point is, moving fast just wears you out more quickly.
Isn’t the ceremony of yearly updates kind of fun? If they happened all the time, it wouldn’t feel special anymore. So drop your fantasies of “moving fast” and join me to celebrate my next update: date unknown, time unknown, BYOB. Gifts encouraged.
What do brands get wrong when it comes to eCommerce?
CSO: Brands go wrong when they opt for an “in-the-box,” one-size-fits-all suite. On the surface, these monolithic platforms seem like the smart choice, carrying big brand names and touting the ease of a one-stop platform. But most brands quickly see how these promises sour, locking them into outdated, slow-moving commerce capabilities.
Composable commerce is the flexible, modern alternative. Your brand should dictate your commerce features, not an outdated platform. With MACH architecture, you can take back the power and break free from legacy limitations.
Naysayer: What brands get wrong about eCommerce is thinking about it more than once a month. Can people buy your products online? If the answer is yes, you’re golden. Why waste precious time building an experience that makes customers’ lives easier? Close your laptop and let them figure it out themselves. You get time back and they build character — it’s a win-win.
You know what else is a “one-stop platform?” Airplane meals. And I’ve never heard a single complaint about those from my fellow first-class flyers. You get meal No. 1 or meal No. 2. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, it’s Beef Wellington at 36,000 feet. Picking and choosing different menu items just seems exhausting. Anyway, now I’m hungry again. What were we talking about?
How should brands think about commerce across channels?
CSO: The defining word is omnichannel. Your commerce experience no longer has to be confined to certain channels and features. With MACH architecture, you can deliver a unique, branded experience wherever you sell — and allow customers to seamlessly move between channels. The future isn’t a choice between physical retail and eCommerce, but rather a challenge to make all channels work together, all at once. True omnichannel experiences are finally possible. Brands that take advantage can truly meet customers where they are. Which, in 2022, is everywhere.
Naysayer: Why are they thinking about it at all? The only acceptable type of “commerce across channels” is flipping back and forth between QVC and QVC 2. Customers may want to buy things across channels, but people want a lot of things. A live-in chef, a catalog renaissance, a million dollars. But even Mick Jagger knows we can’t always get what you want. It’s time to start settling. Stop worrying about omnichannel-AI-social media-5G mumbo jumbo, and embrace what you are now. Leave omnichannel to people watching TV in a fancy hotel — you’re A-OK right where you are.
In three words, how do you view the future of commerce?
CSO: Limitless commerce possibilities.
Naysayer: What? Wasn’t listening.