The last three years have been a period of fundamental transformation in how online retailers operate. The basis for this change has been the explosion of specialized, low-cost, web-based applications that power most online retailers. These ‘apps’ leverage technology to solve critical issues that have traditionally inhibited retail startups from more effectively competing with larger players with more people and resources.
The concept of “there’s an app for that” enables growing retailers to build lean, efficient, and robust organizations driven by easy to use solutions specializing in one primary business function. The specialization aspect of this B2B application boom comes in stark contrast to the late-90s / early-aughts IT “revolution” that can be epitomized by centralized, clunky and expensive IT systems that large organizations spent years implementing and hundreds of thousands of dollars building out (i.e. the dread that most people associate with the term, 'ERP').
Today the picture is very different - online retailers have hundreds of applications to choose from that provide them with the freedom and flexibility to deploy the right application for each of the 8 primary business functions. The lynchpin of this strategy is the Google Apps Marketplace that enables all businesses to discover, evaluate, and deploy applications in a brilliantly simple way. To give you an idea of what this looks like in practice, here is a typical e-commerce retailer's app ecosystem based on this model:
The theory behind the app ecosystem makes a lot of logical sense - retailers can choose the right application that best fits their company, stage, needs, and budget. This concept was great in the beginning, as small businesses were ramping up with one or two applications and generating significant productivity gains from a specialized app solving a specific problem for a growing retailer (i.e. Zendesk to manage customer support tickets). However, as this app-focused operations strategy continues to develop in practice, the process of maintaining five to eight different applications becomes a source of considerable strain on a growing online retailer's operations.
To give you an idea of how multiple apps can strain a retailer, this graphic illustrates how all these different applications are employed for a typical web-store transaction:
The app-ecosystem was designed to provide flexibility to e-commerce startups. However, in practice multiple applications create a fairly disjointed and inefficient experience. The lack of a central vehicle to unify data and workflows prevents a retailer from being as effective as they need to be in this hyper-competitive economy - Here’s why:
Running an e-commerce store requires a central command system to make everything work together efficiently and make running the business work better for the entire team.
In the disjointed app-ecosystem that powers most modern e-commerce operations - there are considerable limitations to working with data that lives in disparate systems:
Building a data-informed organization becomes a cascading challenge for solely app ecosystem companies without a central command for information to intelligently flow seamlessly from one business function to another.
These major barriers essentially drives the need for an e-commerce central command system to keep your business running at its best.
Online retailers need a centralized command system to make managing all of these applications a coherent process:
It looks like, after a flurry of new niche apps in the marketplace, there is a now a major driver for retailers to consolidate their core systems into one central platform instead of dealing with several, disparate systems. Centralizing your systems empowers retailers to be more agile in conquering larger competitors with more resources - you are smaller, smarter, more nimble, and need the power of a system to propel you forward.
Learn about how Brightpearl can fully integrate your business and be your central command: