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Flexible Digital Commerce Teams

Editor’s note: This is the third in a three-part series on composable commerce.

How to Build Flexible Digital Commerce Teams

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Authors: Paul Lynch, LiveArea and Nina Jonker-Völker, Frontastic

September 28, 2021

According to a 2021 Gartner survey, 95 percent of retail CEOs are planning to increase their investment in digital capability. This can lead to plenty of opportunity for digital commerce teams, but also high expectations around scaling up the existing eCommerce business (optimization) while simultaneously spinning up new digital initiatives that differentiate the brand (innovation).

In the first two articles in this series, we’ve taken a look at the difference between optimization and innovation in eCommerce, and how composable commerce can give teams the time and tools to achieve both.  

To wrap up the series, this article will focus on ways companies can set up a culture of testing and experimentation that supports both optimization and innovation, and how a Commerce Frontend Platform can help speed up the path to both.

Creating a test and learn culture

How quickly a brand can react to change is an increasingly important factor to eCommerce success. Technology is only a piece of the puzzle, and teams are adopting new ways of working to ensure they can flex to meet the needs of modern shoppers.

Learn to speak everyone’s language

Changes to digital strategy will impact the day-to-day work of multiple teams, and involving different voices early on in the decision-making process creates a shared vision and helps everyone learn to communicate as plans evolve and pivot.

Everyone from senior leadership to those managing the experience should understand, at a high level, how technology systems communicate with each other. Inversely, technology teams should be well aware of the impact their decisions have on the customer experience and business operations. Collaborative design thinking workshops, user journeys, and capability planning sessions can help build this knowledge.

There will still be compromise and prioritization along the way, but building up the trust and visibility between teams early on helps make those conversations less difficult.

Shake up team structure

Digital commerce is always changing, which means ongoing collaboration between departments is needed to keep the momentum. With that in mind, many companies are exploring new cross-functional team structures.  

In a recent webinar on modern commerce, Flaconi’s Head of Engineering, Adeel Younas, shared the cosmetic company’s approach when it made the move from a monolithic architecture to MACH (microservices, API first, cloud native, headless) technologies. With the idea of starting small and expanding, Flaconi needed a strategy that let them maintain the legacy experience for their main audience while experimenting with MACH in a smaller market.

“We created a new team that works only in the new platform, and staffed that team with the experts from the existing domain teams, so that we have all the expertise that can cover the complete customer journey in one team and work on the project independently,” said Younas. “Once that first shop was developed and launched, the team dissolved to go back into the domain teams with the knowledge and experience to involve the others.”

Increasingly, companies are making these types of cross-functional teams permanent by breaking out the experience into capabilities that are owned by individual teams. The team is responsible for the roadmap, technical decisions, maintenance, and improvement of the capability, as well as regular updates and demos to keep the company informed on progress.

“Our goal is to create product teams that can independently drive their own projects,” said Johannes Klaiber, CTO of flaschenpost, about the Swiss wine retailer’s move to this modular approach to digital commerce.

Define the right metrics

 In cross-functional teams, different people will have different definitions of success. Finance representatives may lean towards revenue metrics, marketers towards experience stats, and developers towards operational efficiency. Defining and prioritizing objectives and measurements is key.

For optimization, these metrics are often more straightforward and can be proven with trendlines or A/B tests. Experience objectives may include metrics like average order value (AOV), conversion rates, cart abandonment rates, repeat customers, site traffic, and bounce rates. As Google rolls out its new Core Web Vitals, technical aspects around content loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability will likely influence objectives. Time to market, Jira tickets made, number of deployments, and other operational factors can also be valuable measurements.

Proving the value of innovation requires a bit more creativity, as there isn’t a previous version to directly measure against. General changes, such as net promoter score (NPS) or percentage of growth compared to the market average can be used to gauge high-level impact. Perhaps more important is defining metrics around key milestones, such as new users or revenue increase, that must be achieved to justify the initiative to move forward at each stage.

How a Commerce Frontend Platform helps kickstart flexibility

Earlier in this series, we looked at how composable commerce helps teams break free of legacy monoliths without requiring a big bang replatform. Companies can leverage easy-to-integrate MACH solutions to quickly improve high-priority parts of the experience and gradually improve the rest over time.

The modularity of MACH means that change can start in any spot. For many companies, creating a modern, fully API enabled frontend is the first step.

Separate the frontend experience from backend construction 

A frontend that talks to other systems exclusively through APIs is able to decouple the customer-facing experience from backend tools. Data is shared in a standardized way, allowing you to switch off capabilities in your legacy platform and replace them with modern solutions without disrupting the customer experience.

Optimization: Erase the technical debt of legacy solutions and bring high-performing experiences to market quickly.

Innovation: Experiment with backend technologies and new initiatives without risking business as usual.

Leverage the flexibility of Software-as-a-Service

MACH tools, like Frontastic’s Commerce Frontend Platform, are delivered via the cloud as a service. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendors handle the infrastructure of the software and provide automatic, continuous improvements, so the solution is always up to date.

Optimization: Get new solutions up and running quickly and take full advantage of the cloud to drive speed and scale.

Innovation: Spin up proof of concept projects (POCs) quickly and with minimal infrastructure investment, giving teams the freedom to be creative.

Provide a workbench for everyone

A Commerce Frontend Platform that has features and workflows for backend developers, frontend developers, and business users, lets each team member work efficiently on what they do best.

Optimization: Individuals have the tools to work autonomously.

Innovation: Collaborative work can happen in parallel with easy-to-use features that build confidence in change.

Curious to learn more about getting started with composable commerce? Take a tour of the Frontastic Commerce Frontend Platform to see how you can create, test, and optimize your customer experience with ease.  

Looking for a partner to help transform your commerce experience? Learn how LiveArea helps you harness the power and potential of digital business.

Check out the first post in this series: Optimization Versus Innovation in Digital Commerce

Check out the second post in this series: How Composable Commerce Gives Teams the Time and Tools to Innovate

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