The Role of Open Source in the Future of Online Retail
"Skillfully and deliberately arranged rather than arising naturally or spontaneously."
This is how the Oxford English Dictionary describes the word “engineered,” and so Engineered Ecommerce is how we can describe how online retailers of the future will operate. In fact, global research institutes, such as Gartner, are already showing through research that engineered ecommerce is not only the way of the future but that it’s already beginning to happen.
This is a journey into the future of digital business through engineered ecommerce. Within these pages, you’ll find several unique examples of how engineered ecommerce eliminates common business pains and how each progressive step forward is beneficial to not only the individual departments, but the business as a whole. When realized, engineered ecommerce is capable of transforming online retailers of today into the powerhouses of tomorrow.
Table of Contents
02 / Introduction
03 / Table of contents
19 / The first steps
What is Engineered Ecommerce?
But first, what exactly do we mean by engineered ecommerce? Simply put, online retailers of today require much more than just an ecommerce platform. There is no single platform capable of everything these businesses need. Instead, businesses rely on an ever-changing landscape of individual platforms — a mix of proprietary, open source and custom — for managing supply chains and fulfillment, customer relations, marketing and personalization, finances, analytics, reporting, and so on. When you stop to take inventory, dozens of platforms typically make up the toolkit of a single business. Engineered ecommerce takes a critical look at the big picture. It seeks to understand how all of these individual platforms can connect, making them connect through open source frameworks, and skillfully and deliberately arranging them to create a unified, incredibly efficient ecommerce architecture. This unified ecommerce architecture, as shown in figure 1, is the holy grail of digital business.
Figure 1: Traditional Ecommerce vs. Engineered Ecommerce1
Engineered ecommerce is used to solve digital business pains
While arranging and connecting business platforms into a unified architecture is the end-goal of engineered ecommerce, the process of doing so is designed to solve digital business pains.
Some of the bigger pains engineered ecommerce is used to solve are:
Ending the replatforming cycle
Online retailers have been led to believe that they have two options for development; proprietary (buy) or custom (build). While many companies are able to choose one or the other and live there comfortably early in their lifecycle, most established retailers don’t fit nicely into either end. These businesses feel growth and workflow challenges related to frameworks that are either too rigid (proprietary) or too expensive and complex to maintain (custom). The gap between these solutions seems too big to overcome either way and they are left struggling, going around in circles searching for new solutions.
The effect of this struggle is that these businesses enter a replatforming cycle where they believe changing their ecommerce platform will solve their pains but, without looking at the larger picture, they will most likely be in the same situation again in 2-5 years. A report by Internet Retailer titled 2019 Leading Vendors to the Top 1000 E-retailers reported that “49% of retailers say their ecommerce platform is their top budgeted priority over the next year.” How many of these businesses are entering a replatforming cycle that they are destined to repeat? To this we don’t know, but experience tells us it’s likely many.
“You can choose to make the software match your business, and make your business better, instead of having to force your business into the box of whatever SaaS platform you're using, or whatever prescribed commerce platform you're using.”
Acro Media, "One Entry Point - Commerce for Online and Real World Transactions,” 10 April 2018, Becky Parisotto, Director of Business Development.