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E-commerce partners add competitive edge

By Retail Technology | Wednesday May 29 2013

Independent study finds retailers and manufacturers becoming increasingly reliant on e-commerce technology providers to deliver a strategic advantage

E-commerce and multichannel management software firm hybris has announced the results of a study carried out by Forrester Consulting, which found companies are working more closely with providers of technology systems to manage their retail businesses than ever.

Entitled The Path to Commerce Service Provider Maturity, the goal of the study was to gain insight into the demands on today’s e-commerce leaders and how, what hybris terms “commerce service providers” (CSP) may need to evolve to better meet the needs of this growing division of retail management.

Cultivating commerce relations

It revealed just over half (56%) of senior e-commerce decision makers said they have an active relationship with a CSP, where only 12% historically had such a relationship. At the same time 21% currently have no CSP connections, but plan to within the next four years.

The results were based on a quantitative survey of 156 marketing, IT & e-commerce professionals at European firms with at least $20 million in online revenues and an additional combined quantitative/qualitative survey with senior executives at 21 European CSP firms.

The research also found that the increasing use of CSPs was attributable to the growing complexity of managing today’s retail businesses and the need for e-commerce operations to serve their customers across multiple channels and touchpoints.

According to Frank Schoutissen, vice president channel at hybris, “the fast changing face of commerce, and consumers demanding ever more flexible and dynamic ways to buy, both on and offline [means] many businesses are finding it challenging to make their e-commerce solutions scale to meet these expectations”.

He continued: “As such, CSPs are seen as a valuable asset to help extend the technology to meet these demands.”

Multichannel adds complexity

The study also discovered that around 90% of CSPs surveyed agreed that the demand to provide multichannel commerce is behind the increased complexity of the projects they are delivering. It concluded that enterprises were looking across the entire business to see how to drive revenue from sales, no longer viewing e-commerce operations in isolation. 

It also points to mobile commerce as another driver, with 59% of enterprises surveyed stating that they have worked with a CSP to help support this increasingly important channel and to integrate it with the rest of the sales side of the business.

The Forrester study stated: “Today's commerce technology projects are complex, and growing e-commerce revenues mean the bets are getting bigger. E-commerce executives are increasingly reliant on partners to help them architect, select, implement and support their commerce technology while simultaneously seeking collaboration with strategy and customer experience.”

Mastering specialist sector expertise

However, in its key recommendations, Forrester added: “On paper, commerce service providers have a sea of opportunity in front of them, but many lack the maturity to meet the increasingly complex demands of their clients. CSPs must find their niche, be it in retail, high tech, consumer products, healthcare or telcos. Deep industry expertise is a must for CSPs – clients demand it. Being a jack of all trades, but master of none simply won’t cut it – retailers expect deep expertise in online, store operations and supply chain, while manufacturers will demand help with channels, ERP [enterprise resource planning] integration and field sales.”

The research paper is available for download (after registration) here.

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