By Rob Garf, Vice President of Product and Solutions Marketing

Ubiquity of internet access, across a myriad of devices, is forever altering how consumers interact with retailers. And the role of technology leaders is more critical than ever in the changing face of our industry. The constant and unpredictable change requires commerce platforms, and the organizations that bring them to life, to become faster, more agile and smarter.

Given this dynamic, I hosted a dedicated peer forum at the 2013 Demandware XChange Conference with sixteen retail technology executives to discuss how they leverage their digital commerce platform across channels, and IT’s role in the future of commerce. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Lack of organizational alignment and competing incentives remain as two of the biggest challenges to achieving seamless experiences across channels. The impact is felt by store associates, who grapple with diverting sales to the web channel, deal with online returns, and in many cases become fulfillment centers. The impact is also being felt between “ecommerce” and “retail” technology groups where a delicate balance between speed and enterprise architectural integrity must be struck.
  • Mobile is a top initiative and attendees favor web-optimized devices over native applications. Several clients use our responsive design capabilities and others see it as a key enabler to increase development efficiency. Participants discussed the requirement to design for mobile first versus it being an afterthought.
  • The convergence between store and ecommerce technologies is accelerating. This is not only critical to simplify the environment, but also to effectively manage promotions, pricing, and merchandise across channels and devices. There was resounding agreement that the POS of the future will look a lot different than the heavy, ISP-based POS of today – and the ecommerce platform is a logical candidate to be the software backbone.
  • Inventory visibility remains a challenge and opportunity. With the myriad of systems utilized to manage inventory, these tech leaders discussed ways they leverage Demandware for real-time access to inventory availability – enabling cross-channel capabilities such as buy online/pick-up at store and endless aisle. While the technology is available, organizations still struggle with data integrity and process change issues.
  • Participants are finding that cloud is not only a more cost-effective delivery vehicle for retail technology – particularly for commerce platforms – it also allows them to move faster and lighter into areas such as pop-up stores.

Demandware’s tech leader community is vibrant, and because our model takes away much of the burden, it’s great to focus on how their organizations move and grow faster in the midst of our new retail reality.