Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research.
Every year RSR surveys retailers to find out about their current and emerging e-commerce plans. This year we had 123 qualified retail respondents, and what they told us pretty much wrote the title of the ensuing report. We call it Getting Real About Shopper Journeys – and as you look through some of what we learned – it quickly becomes clear why we did.
Fully 90% of survey respondents this year agree that more site traffic now comes from mobile than ever before, and 51% of respondents strongly agree. That result is nearly the same whether looking at the results by "Winners" (those with the best sales numbers) or "Laggards," by vertical, or by revenue.
Retailers are scrambling to keep up. Twenty-five percent of respondents say mobile still offers less than desktop, but 40% of Winners say their mobile experience actually offers more than desktop vs. 23% of all others. And 47% of retailers with $1-5 billion in revenue offer more on mobile than desktop compared to a measly 9% of those in the $5 billion and over category.
By vertical, mobile is a place where fast moving consumer goods retailers (FMCG) could potentially differentiate, and should. But only 7% of grocery respondents offer more via mobile compared to 42% of general merchandise retailers.
For additional context around technology investments, 74% of respondents view their e-commerce platform as the platform for delivering mobile experiences to consumers. FMCG are on board – 87% see it as highly valuable vs. 74% overall. But this is still a blind spot for the biggest retailers — only 50% see it as highly valuable.
Retailers also appear to be returning to the idea that the e-commerce platform should be doing more across the enterprise. Options for using the e-commerce platform in other channels saw significant growth from 2016 to 2017 in the respondents citing the options as "highly valuable" (Figure 1).
And finally, we asked retailers to indicate favorability towards cloud delivery methods. We saw shifts here as well. In 2016, only 25% strongly agreed that cloud is a differentiator in an e-commerce offering. In 2017, that grew to 39%. Winners more strongly favor cloud over all others by 49% to 28%.
As we turn toward examining retailers' investment plans, this context is important:
- Mobile is creating new pressures on the e-commerce platform, and retailers’ mobile sites have not necessarily kept up with the importance of mobile from a traffic perspective.
- Retailers are back to viewing their e-commerce platform as their overall digital platform – which has implications for employee-facing capabilities as well as customer-facing.
- Retailers are increasingly comfortable with the idea that cloud is an essential part of delivering a digital platform, even as they look to extend that platform across channels.
We broke digital commerce capabilities into two sections: digital infrastructure and digital customer engagement.
The weight of an aging digital infrastructure
Retailer adoption and future interest in digital commerce "infrastructure" technologies suggest a big replacement cycle is looming. Retailers place a high value on everything from a modern e-commerce package to price and promotion tools, customer identity management, and content management among others (Figure 2).
Note in the chart above that green denotes relatively high levels of response within the category (the columns), yellow denotes a regular level of response and red denotes a low level of response. Different categories have different thresholds for the color. For example, anything below 50% in "High Value" is considered a low level of response, while in the rest of the responses, anything less than 15% is considered a low level.
There are a few places where retailers indicate net-new capabilities will be coming soon via budgeted projects: content management, price and promotion tools, and customer identity management. But when it comes to retailers who already have solutions but are looking for change, this is where an upcoming replacement cycle, across almost every infrastructure technology within the digital domain, looms large.
Digital infrastructure shifts and opportunities
Almost everything increased in perceived value from 2016 to 2017, by an average of 13 points, though site performance monitoring was virtually unchanged (58% in 2016 vs. 59% in 2017) and the percent citing responsive design as highly valuable fell from 62% in 2016 to 59% in 2017.
Retail Winners are generally more likely to value infrastructure technologies than laggards and others, by an average of 12 points. Of note: Retail Winners value responsive design and a modern e-commerce package more so than other performance bands, who have placed more emphasis instead on unique mobile applications (Figure 3).
Overall, Retail Winners have implemented, and are still satisfied with, their infrastructure solutions — but that does not make them less likely to look for replacements. With few exceptions, Retail Winners are just as likely to be implementing and looking for change as others. That impacts both planned and budgeted projects, with fewer Winners reporting those than less well-performing retailers.
Over the years, we’ve found that Winners tend to be early adopters in the e-commerce space, a contrast against more conservative approaches in other parts of the retail enterprise. The result is a higher "implemented" base for Retail Winners than competitors, and thus more emphasis on a replacement cycle than net-new capabilities. When 49% of Winners (noted above) agree that cloud solutions are the future of their digital commerce capabilities, it suggests the potential for a big uptick in cloud adoption of digital platforms in the near future.