Editor’s note: The pace of digital commerce implementation and transformation is accelerating for many business organizations, and for many companies, that means significant changes lie ahead for their ecommerce technology infrastructure. As the business world weans itself off old and outdated legacy systems and replaces old technology with new cloud and software-as-a-service applications, new tools for headless, connected commerce and artificial intelligence applications such as ChatGPT are emerging on the ecommerce scene. But are these new tools and programs “must have” or “nice to have” B2B ecommerce applications? And how soon must companies make the call on evaluating and implementing new ecommerce technology? In this question-and-answer article, Perficient digital experience, commerce and omnichannel services consultant Ty Rhudy offers up some key answers.
Digital Commerce 360: How likely are companies to use newly emerging digital commerce applications and services in the wake of a slowing economy and business productivity?
Rhudy: Companies are rethinking how they approach digital commerce. Digital commerce platforms used to just be shopping carts. These days it is either thinking of a digital experience platform (DXP) model, custom model, or some form of headless. Many brands are considering headless in the next few years. However, even more importantly, we are seeing customers consider the transformative capabilities of product information management and distributed order management as part of their ecommerce application strategy for omnichannel operations. The digital maturity part is truly a huge part of what is right for the right customer.
DC360: How fast (or slow) are companies moving their ecommerce applications to the cloud and software-as-a-service products?
Rhudy: Not as fast as you might think. We have seen that customers have had challenges getting to the cloud or in the alternative being able to pull the data they need from the cloud for some API capabilities in their solutions. There is no doubt however, customers are moving to the cloud. It is just taking more thought into how to approach it.
DC360: Is connected commerce real? If so, what is it?
Rhudy: Honestly, it is aspirational at this point. I speak with dozens of companies and cannot tell you one customer I have met with that can deliver on connected commerce. However, all want to move towards this through the proper commerce foundation that is aligned with a digital strategy that aligns with their core customers. Helping companies build those foundations that can deliver connected commerce capabilities is what is real.
DC360: How fast (or slow) are B2B organizations embracing connected commerce?
Rhudy: I would say slowly at this point. Customers had the stress test of the pandemic to see what was broken, what needs improvement, and how to help grow again. This is a critical pause for customers to really take this next step forward in digital/connected commerce as part of their core strategy. There is no decrease in the customer expectation that wants connected commerce.
DC360: Headless commerce keeps making news. What exactly is it, and are more companies using it, and for what purpose?
Rhudy: Headless commerce is the notion of picking the best-in-breed technology and utilizing microservices vs. monolithic platforms to deliver commerce capabilities. I think this will continue to gain steam; however, there is still a lot of value in DXP solutions for an organization (or a package of DXP solutions). To be able to deliver on headless requires a high digital maturity and lots of work around people and process to execute. This is still true with DXP models but with a little less risk. We believe that there is ample room for headless and DXP approaches. The puzzling one is when customers choose to go custom. The capital needed to deliver modern experiences in taking a custom approach is significant. We believe more customers will move away from this model.
DC360: Is ChatGPT for real? If so, what role does it play in B2B digital commerce?
Rhudy: Yes and no. ChatGPT is still very new. I think with any AI solution (ChatGPT, Search, natural language processing, machine learning) it is important to not think of it as a buzz word but a use case. We help clients all the time determine what is the use case most appropriate for their business with these solutions. For example, chatbots we have implemented for automotive brands, etc. There is power in the application of these technologies. It is plainly important to get some guidance in how to adapt without risk. We have many models around this.
DC360: Are you seeing companies spend more – or less – on ecommerce applications and services this year?
Rhudy: We are seeing a bit of a re-think in 2023. However, with all the market disruptions in areas like Google 360 deprecation, the slower move to cloud, the dynamics of headless technology, the consideration of experiences with new AR/VR sets (like Apple), we are seeing some important things ahead for 2024. The smart clients are working on these things right now.
DC360: How do you see ecommerce platforms evolving in the next 2-5 years?
Rhudy: Honestly, it is less about the platform and more about how organizations set up their technology to align with business needs and capabilities. We will be helping our clients extract the full value of the platforms in delivering business outcomes more than platform features.
DC360: What do you think are the “must have” vs. “nice to have” ecommerce applications or services companies need add now as opposed to later?
Rhudy: We see a ton of importance in PIM solutions. This is a solution that aligns deep into the heart of an ecommerce business in how they manage and share product information. Also, distributed order management is a transformative solution related to commerce. Also, we have yet to really see the full value of a content and commerce system fully leveraged to provide personalized experiences at scale. But that future is coming!
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