How Retailers Can Accelerate Digital Transformation Now

Retailers are challenged by the gap between their monolithic tech stack and today’s customer expectations. Modernizing existing systems or undergoing a complete digital transformation is a long, risky project that requires lots of resources, and the customer experience doesn’t improve until the entire project is done – which may be too late.

With the stakes this high, it’s hard to visualize a short-term solution, let alone one with any kind of longevity. But there is a way.

What’s Going On Behind the Scenes?

Within legacy retail organizations, marketing and ecommerce teams are plagued by fears of falling behind, with no end in sight. Ecommerce leaders feel that they can’t achieve their goals because they’re held up by IT. Behind the scenes, IT is handcuffed with constant firefighting, site maintenance, and outages.

Teams that are bogged down by the weight of their systems find that even simple changes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take months to complete. These hefty systems are so intertwined and fragile that one small change can take hours only to have a negative domino effect on dozens of other areas unexpectedly.

As a consequence, the company innovators quickly become afraid of trying new things for fear of costing their own company money and being labeled as a cost center. They also miss out on opportunities to keep up with competitors around the holidays or take advantage of a spike in traffic due to PR.

With these old systems, the risk is just deemed too high. The result? Digital projects are often put on hold, stalled midway, or get so diluted that they become ineffective.

What Remedies are Retailers Turning to?

When a company finally decides to make a change, many retailers choose to replatform (again). Today, that usually means replacing old systems with new, cloud-based systems. However, replatforming comes with a whole list of expensive side effects:

  • Retraining staff on new systems
  • Redesigning the front-end with new technologies
  • Relearning maintenance requirements
  • Lost opportunity cost

Intrepid retailers are hoping to break the replatform cycle by building a more agile architecture in-house. From what we know, this can take a 200-person-team up to two years to build. Most retailers are below that ability or lack that kind of capital, making it an unlikely choice.

How to Do It Better

Slowly replacing your monolithic platform with microservices and best-of-breed solutions is a good idea, but it’s all about how you do it.

Retailers should introduce a standalone, enterprise front-end known as a Front-end as a Service – which essentially puts a new coat of paint on their current ecommerce platform, and keeps the new look if they do replatform again.

A Front-end as a Service introduces a separate customer-facing experience built on modern CX technologies (today that means Progressive Web Apps, Accelerated Mobile Pages, and native apps). The cloud-based solution offloads the stress of deploying, scaling, securing, and monitoring high-performing front-end apps, and the single set of developer tools empowers the team to quickly build amazing shopping experiences with PWAs, AMP, and native apps on one unified codebase. Most importantly for retailers looking to modernize their tech stack, it includes an API-friendly architecture to easily add, swap, or remove any backend system across all touchpoints.

This enables retailers to do customer-first modernization as the potential to generate more revenue lies with the front-end customer experience. Mobify customers see a 23-40% revenue uplift with this approach, and are able to generate results in a matter or months rather than years. You can then use your extra profits to fund larger, riskier backend projects with minimal impact to the customer experience.

The Bottom Line

With a Front-end as a Service like Mobify’s, you’ve got the option to start from the outside in by improving the customer experience on mobile quickly with an API-led Progressive Web App that’s separated from the backend. When the time is right, extend the PWA to tablet and desktop, and gain agility to make backend changes independent or your front-end experience.

With this method, you’ll gain the freedom to replatform, remove, or add backend systems, while keeping your new front-end consistent and profitable.

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