Top Commerce Platform Essentials for 2013

More than one quarter of retailers are poised to re-platform commerce technology over the next 18 months, and the race is on to leverage seamless multichannel customer experiences as drivers of online revenues and market share.
But today, the way retailers think of commerce technology has fundamentally changed. Brands are now selecting technologies that can support marketing, shopping, buying and service capabilities across a multitude of digitally enabled customer touchpoints.
In the coming decade, retailers will be disrupted at an increased rate, requiring brands to empower their partners to innovate and optimize the customer experience, creating opportunities to drive profitable business growth. This will be done by leveraging a commerce platform – one which can be exposed through services, managed in the cloud and extended to support changing business needs over time. Getting there won't be easy—it will require retailers to know how to focus their commerce technology spend for maximum ROI and bottom line impact.
Investments in commerce technology should always align with a retailer's unique goals and requirements. However, there are a handful of fundamentals that all commerce platform projects should share:
A single view of, well… everything. Consumers shop across all channels, often interacting across many at the same time. The Pew Research Center found that last holiday, 46% of smartphone owners used their device to look up reviews while shopping in-store. Consumers now expect all their interactions to be consistent and contextual. Your commerce platform must enable a single view of inventory and customer interaction while enabling the right offer at the right time to the right customer. The right platform will aggregate and manage data to integrate tightly with your other back-office systems.
Omnichannel capabilities. Consumers are impatient and are increasingly demanding convenience. Your commerce platform must support cross-channel fulfillment and business processes to enable customers to shop and receive items as conveniently as possible. Leverage the advantage of having stores as pick-up "nodes" in the fulfillment network and unlock the inventory stashed in all locations, turning stores into pick-pack-ship locations. The commerce platform will be critical to enabling multiple back-office systems to support these business processes and customer experiences.  
Global readiness. Regardless of your current geographic reach, commerce architecture must be prepared to do business in global markets. The most capable commerce platforms leverage technology that's designed to support complex global business transactions from the very beginning (e.g. multi-language, multi-currency, tax, and regional requirements like trade compliance). Managing variations of content in a consistent way is also critical to a global platform capability, and running these global sites on a shared technology and infrastructure will lower costs and simplify operations.
A flexible and focused technology partner. As you begin to plan your commerce platform project, it's important to focus on the long-term agility of the technology, deployment models and partners involved, as well as those who have a reputation for being easy to do business with over the long-term. The platform should help future-proof the business through agile technology, a flexible architecture and wide range of options for how you pay-for, deploy, use and partner around the solution.  
Brian Walker is senior vice president at hybris
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