Delivering an Omnichannel, much less Unified Commerce experience, starts with platform modernization, including its’ own set of challenges.

What are the most common challenges to delivering a modern Unified Commerce platform, and where do you start?

First of all, know you’re not alone. In a late 2020 survey we conducted with partner Artisan Studios, 35% of executive respondents (most in the Retail industry) stated they currently did not have current projects to replace legacy systems (almost all of whom have legacy systems internally).

In fact, legacy systems are regularly the #1 issue in moving to a Unified Commerce solution. Years ago, consulting for a Fortune 500 Retailer, the issues to cross-channel integration were well known internally and remain a decade later:

1) An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system too customized to “safely” upgrade, and

2) A Point of Sale (POS) investment similarly customized across thousands of stores.

Not only were these legacy solutions unsupported in their current states by the original vendors and fragile in their performance, they perpetuated business process issues across the tens of thousands of employees trained on how to use the antiquated solutions.

The obvious question here is - Why would a Retailer, much less a Fortune 500 company that relies on Commerce, fail to prioritize or justify a legacy system replacement?

The #2 issue in modernization is simple: there is not enough perceived benefit for the replacement cost. Let’s take a practical example, an excerpt from Spin Selling by Neil Rackham (pgs 76-78), in a conversation Neil had with his friend about his car:

FRIEND: How’s your car, Neil?

NEIL: Not too bad. It’s getting a bit old, but it still gets me around.

FRIEND: So you’re not thinking of a new car, then?

NEIL: No. I can live a little longer with the one I’ve got.

FRIEND: But your car must be at least 7 years old. Doesn’t this mean that you can’t
claim any depreciation on it for business use?
NEIL: I suppose that’s true.

FRIEND: So you’re losing a couple of thousand a year in tax write-offs?
NEIL: I’d not worked it out - I didn’t think it would be that much - but you could be right.

FRIEND: And doesn’t a 7-year-old car mean that you’re getting lousy gas mileage?

NEIL: It’s true that I always seem to be filling it up. Yes, it never gave me good mileage -
and lately it seems to be getting worse.
FRIEND: And that’s also leading to higher costs for you?

NEIL: Yes, it’s expensive to run...

FRIEND: And if it does break down, isn’t it going to be increasingly hard to find a garage
that stocks spares for a 7-year-old car?...

NEIL: Yes, that’s a worrying thought. You know, I’m beginning to wonder whether the
time’s come for me to change.

It’s easy to see the same conversation in the context of a legacy solution.

Across any financial decision, there are a host of both known and unknown revenue and margin impacts. A careful review of market reality is many times needed, rather than a corporate perception, which acts as an echo chamber. Without product (or service) market fit, however, there may be a much more serious issue at play...

Lack of vision plus execution is the third most common problem in adopting a Unified Commerce modernization mindset. Beyond business justification, does the company operate primarily out of protection or growth? Status quo or innovation? Seclusionary security or ongoing investment?

Hellen Keller stated it best, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision."

In the same (late) 2020 report we conducted, we asked executives to describe their current Digital Commerce platform, as noted below:

We knew from the start that the terms ‘Unified Commerce’ and ‘Omni-Channel’ were many times conflated (and we explain the difference in the Report), but the classifications were helpful in being able to analyze the overall data. ‘Unified Commerce’ as a term had only been recently popularized, and we had a hypothesis that those executives who stayed on top of market trends were also those that were able to match vision and execution.

In another survey question, only one third of respondents were ‘Highly Confident’ in their organization’s ability to keep up with consumers shifting demands:

Of those that were ‘Highly Confident’ there was a mix of Multi-Channel, Omni-Channel, and Unified Commerce respondents.

But here’s the kicker: every single respondent of the ‘Highly Confident’ answer also described their current Digital Commerce platform as a ‘Unified Commerce’ platform. Throughout the survey results, it was evident that those organizations that stayed on top of modernization were also the ones best equipped to handle market and consumer demands.

After all, as businessman Mark Hurd so eloquently stated, “Without execution, ‘vision’ is just another word for hallucination.”

Check out our Unified Commerce Report if you’d like more data-driven insights into commerce modernization!