In recent times, I have observed retailers who have ventured into E-commerce discard their e-stores and set up a different or newer e-commerce stores. Apparently, the main reasons attributed to such technology investments include:

  • Embracing new technology opportunities such as omni-channel
  • The last platform was created as an experiment and the need to invest in more expensive and promising technologies, since the model had proved to be successful
  • The last platform had scaling issues and suffered crashes with spikes in traffic

Although, the above reasons are justified, e-commerce is a dynamic landscape and players needs to evolve with changing times. However, personally, I would say that, rather than working on your backend platform, even your existing platform can be architected to help you in evolution. In a fast growing market, there will always be newer requirements and technologies. If your existing platform cannot help you in that evolution, probably, it was not worth that investment in the first place.

So what can you do?

Think ‘Product’ not ‘applications’

  • Retailers need to change their mindset about e-commerce platforms and think like technology firms when it comes to building good e-commerce stores. Good technology firms invest in building ‘products’ rather than ‘applications’. An application is a collection of features set to solve a certain problem, whereas a product has its own life cycle. It is built to test waters, evolve with time and be prepared for features that might not be even know today
  • A product approach focuses on the underlying architecture and choice of stack rather than features that might attract consumers in the short term. In the E-commerce context, a product approach will focus on building a robust framework, which is architected for scale and seamless integration with other engines. An application approach will focus on creating a store with features like your competitors at the lowest cost possible
  • Also a product approach is ‘evolution centric’. It is built keeping in mind that features will come an go and are the more tactical part of the E-commerce game, but what is more important is that the core underlying platform. That often means more planning in the architecture design phase, a long term vision on the project and choosing a better technology resource / partners to build the platform for you. The application approach is ‘feature centric’ and focuses on achieving feature goals

Advantages of thinking E-commerce ‘Product’ and not ‘applications’

If E-commerce is not just another experiment to you and as an organization you are planning to bet big into E-commerce, a product approach can bring you multiple advantages:

  • Quicker go to market: A product focuses on the MVP approach where the retailers tries to take the bare minimum to the market as quickly as possible rather than focusing on fancy features that might take more time. The more fancy features are launched in phases. Thus you hit the market quickly and start generating revenue quickly
  • Capability to incorporate market feedback: Since the platform is architected to evolve, it is easier to incorporate market feedback and make enhancements into the E-commerce product
  • A longer product life cycle: A product approach allows to you build and remove capabilities while leveraging the same backend
  • Reduced technology investment in the longer run: which comes with a longer product life cycle
  • Adding and removing features as and when required

But all is not so easy
The above description of a product methodology might be appearing too good to be true. There are multiple reasons why retailers are still going for a ‘application centric’ approach.

One of the prime reasons is that retailers’ e-commerce departments still have a traditional mindset and are not thinking at technology companies. Thus, there is a need for education of a possible better option. Also, a product approach comes with a cost of getting a product manager and a product team, a more mature technology vendor and making the board / senior management believe in the maverick path. Having said that, the product approach is not new and most of the E-commerce start-ups have adopted it. It is just that the traditional retailers and enterprises are not thinking in this direction.

What we do at Kuliza

Needless to say, we at Kuliza are big evangelists of the product approach to e-commerce platforms. For the last 9 years we have helped multiple organizations and startups build their products (such consumer facing, productivity and business software) and we plan to bring the same methodology into enterprise e-commerce platforms.

Here are a few points on how we bring the ‘product’ methodology into practice

  • Open source: We leverage emerging open source frameworks for client’s product development that allows us to build robust backend and evolve the product to new limits
  • Understand emerging roadmaps: We constantly research on emerging technology and business roadmaps in E-commerce and take these into considerations while architecting the ecommerce products
  • SOA architected: We build a service oriented architecture for all our application for easy integrations with new tools and screens
  • Iterate: We believe in taking out the MVP quickly to the market, and rapidly add new features based on the market demand

However, the above constitute just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to understand more about how e-commerce platforms should be engineered like a ‘product’, please ping me and I will be more than happy to help.