We will be seeing significant investment in e-commerce technology and platforms as demand for e-commerce increases and as companies innovate their multichannel retail offerings this year. The real winners will be platform providers that provide true commerce suites.

The concept of a commerce suite has evolved out of a driving requirement to combine what used to be very different technology, retail and marketing angles. Each one of these angles meant that you would end up with a mash-up of technologies, like content management for your front end promotional and marketing platform, catalogue management for your product information and then finally, your e-commerce engine to take the order, take payment, check for fraud and pass off to the appropriate fulfilment partner.

This mash-up of technologies would then need to be combined with all the subsequent technologies that are needed for functionality, such as analytics. This mismatch means it has been difficult for companies to evolve and innovate their e-commerce platforms to take into account different e-trading ecosystems, such as being able to work with partners like Amazon, Apple, eBay, Google, or even other approaches to commerce as demonstrated in China. It has also prevented companies from innovating for different devices, channels and from providing a true omnichannel experience, between both online and instore worlds.

In addition to this, the world of fulfilment has been changing; no longer are companies able to rely on one fulfilment model. Organisations are faced with multiple fulfilment partners, different types of fulfilment including traditional ship to consumer, ship to store and in store pickup models. Each require varying levels of complexity and integration requirements. Today, commerce suite platforms provide a one-stop platform that combines all of this together, under one architecture and one technology.

Commerce platforms have evolved to combine a number of functions under one umbrella ecosystem, including content management; product information management; order management; customer services; analytics; fulfilment management; promotions and campaign capability. This one-stop platform allows companies to be more agile and cost effective when operating their e-commerce infrastructure.

The evolution of these suites, of which we rate hybris as the best provider, is causing companies to think about and take on the replatform of their own current e-commerce estates. I am seeing a number of my customers and partners now undertaking these projects. When embarking on a redesign of an e-commerce solution, organisations should consider the following five elements:

  1. A commerce suite platform which has the capability of providing one platform for all commerce requirements including a marketing platform; content management platform; campaign platform; brand platform; product platform; promotions platform; order platform and finally, fulfilment management.
  2. Commerce architecture that works with the suite, the fulfilment partners, your e-store design and your multichannel retail strategy.
  3. A model that takes into account your consumers, your markets and regions, but also considers economies of scale between your stores.
  4. An integration approach that is open and encompasses common standards. Integration needs to be plug and play to allow for different fulfilment models and partners.
  5. The right retail control and optimisation approach that works with the site, the commerce suite and the data produced by your consumers to optimise trading, provide feedback and ultimately, help provide intelligence to improve sales.

So moving into 2013, it is estimated we are going to see a 12% increase in online retail growth in the US and Europe, but a far bigger percentage increase in terms of e-commerce technology investment. We will also see agencies really getting to grips with the commerce world, with them starting to undertake the challenge of building significant commerce practices.