Retail Tech in 2022: Predictions for What's on the Horizon
If 2020 and 2021 were all about adjusting to the Covid-19 pandemic, 2022 will be about finding a way to be successful in this “new normal”. So what should retailers expect in the upcoming year, and where should you consider making new retail technology investments? Omnichannel is still going strong Who would have anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic would still be disrupting lives after two years? For the retail industry this means more of the same - omnichannel shopping. Despite the hope many of us had for the end of the pandemic and the gradual increase of in-person shopping, retail workers can expect to continue accommodating all kinds of shopping experiences – online shopping, brick and mortar shopping, buy online and pick up in store, reserve online and pick up in store. Even beyond the pandemic, the face of shopping is likely forever changed. This means retailers need to start considering the long-term tech investments required to meet transforming customer expectations. Adopting solutions that offer a single view of the consumer gives you the unique opportunity to personalize offerings, products and loyalty programs to their demand. With a superior consumer experience, you can achieve repeat business and increased customer loyalty. While many retailers may have thought they could “get by” with their current solutions until the pandemic ends, it’s time to rethink that approach and start exploring more long-term solutions to improve omnichannel shopping experiences. Leaner tech stacks over many specialized solutions In 2022, you should explore solutions that allow your IT teams to do more with less. The typical retail tech stack looks something like the diagram below. Legacy, relational databases are supplemented by other specialist NoSQL and relational databases, and additional mobile data and analytics platforms. As a result, retailers looking to respond quickly to changing consumer preferences and improve the customer experience face an uphill battle against siloed data, slow data processing, and unnecessary complexity. Your development teams are so busy cobbling solutions together and maintaining different technologies at once that they fail to innovate to their full potential, so you’re never quite able to pull ahead of the competition. This is the data innovation recurring tax (or DIRT) . Think of this as the ongoing tax on innovation that spaghetti architectures, like the example above, legacy architecture costs your business. As technology grows more sophisticated and data grows more complex, companies are expected to react almost instantaneously to signals from their data. Legacy technologies, like relational databases, are rigid, inefficient, and hard to adapt, making it difficult to deliver true innovation to your customers and employees in a timely manner. Your development teams are so busy cobbling solutions together that they fail to innovate to their full potential, so you’re never quite able to pull ahead of the competition. It’s time to rethink your legacy systems, and adopt solutions that streamline operations and seamlessly share data to ensure you’re working with a single source of data truth. Many retailers recognize the need to upgrade legacy solutions and get away from multiple different database technologies, but you may not know where to start. Look for modern data applications that simplify data collection from disparate sources and include automated conflict resolution for added data reliability. Also, consider what you could do with fully managed application data platforms, like MongoDB Atlas . With someone else doing the admin work, your developers are free to focus on critical work or turn their talents to innovation. Digital worker enablement will increase retention For employees, 2022 looks set to continue last year’s trend of the “ Great Resignation ”. To combat worker fatigue, and retain your workforce you need to prioritize worker engagement. One way to better engage your employees is through mobile workforce enablement. While many companies consider how to engage their customers with a more digital-friendly work environment, you shouldn’t forget about your workers in the process. Global companies like Walmart are starting to invest in mobile apps to enable their workforce. A modern, always-on retail workforce enablement app could transform the way your employees do their jobs. Features like real-time view of stock, cross-departmental collaboration, detailed product information, instant communication with other stores can simplify your workers’ experiences and help them to better serve your customers. Your workers need an always-on app that syncs with your single source of data truth, regardless of connectivity (which may be an issue as retail workers are constantly on the move). But building a mobile app with data sync capabilities can be a costly and time-intensive investment. MongoDB Realm Sync solves for this with an intuitive, object-oriented data model that is simple to use, and an out-of-the-box data synchronization service. When your mobile data seamlessly integrates with back-end systems, you can deliver a modern, distributed application data platform to your workers. Huge investment in the supply chain From microchips to toilet paper, disruptions in the supply chain were a huge issue in 2020 and 2021, and the supply chain pain continues in 2022. And while there continue to be supply chain issues beyond the control of retailers, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate some of the pain and prepare for future disruptions. Warehouse tech is getting smarter, and you need to upgrade your solutions to keep up. For starters, consider adopting the right application data platform to unify siloed data and gain a single view of operations . A single view of your data will allow for better management of store-level demand forecasts, distribution center-to-store network optimizations, vendor ordering, truck load optimizations, and much more. With a modern application data platform, all this data feeds into one, single view application, giving retailers the insights to react to supply chain issues in real time. With disruption set to dominate 2022, as it did in 2020 and 2021, investing in proactive solution upgrades could help your business not only survive, but thrive. Want to learn more about gaining a competitive advantage in the retail industry? Get this free white paper on retail modernization .
What is MACH Architecture for ecommerce?
In the past, retailers faced the looming battle of brick and mortar vs. digital buying experiences. While most in the retail industry accepted the inevitability of needing some kind of digital experience, COVID-19 forced retailers to refocus efforts to digital-first, or at the very least, hybrid digital and in-person buying options. What customers expect (and why legacy systems don't hold up) Which leads us to one of the underlying problems for modern retailers: legacy architecture. The digital solutions many depend on aren’t able to meet consumers’ digital-first (or at the very least digital-friendly) ecommerce expectations. Today’s customers expect: Mobile-friendly architecture - People shop from their phones. If your ecommerce experience was designed with web-first in mind, only retrofitting a mobile component to meet buyer demand, you may need to rethink your mobile offering. Omnichannel experience - Beyond having a mobile-friendly buying experience, consumers want to carry their purchasing power from channel to channel and even into the physical store. Think buying online and picking up in store (BOPIS), or starting an order from your phone and completing it in store, or vice versa. Dynamic product catalogues - Consumers want ample choice and a smooth search experience. Can your systems hold up with thousands of products all displayed, searchable, managed, updated, and dynamically enriched with discounts, product offerings, and more? They also expect real-time stock availability, both in store and online. They want to know you really have an item in stock at their local store before venturing out to buy it. Personalization - Personalization is so ingrained in the online retail experience now that consumers have come to expect it. They want real-time recommendations for the items they’re interested in, with predictions based on past online purchases and searches, items in their cart, and in-person buying experiences. Why is it difficult to live up to these expectations? For many in ecommerce, they’re still running monolithic applications built as a single, autonomous unit. This means even the smallest changes, like altering a single line of code or adding a new feature, could require refactoring the entire software stack, leading to downtime and lost business. In addition, the long-term opportunity cost of having your development team waste time simply maintaining and patching such a brittle ecommerce system is a constant drain, or Innovation Tax , on your business. So retailers face a unique challenge. The thought of overhauling their current systems lead to fears like downtime, expensive investments in new solutions, and ultimately, massive loss of profit. But providing an e-commerce experience that lives up to consumer expectations isn’t optional anymore; it’s how your business thrives. That’s where the MACH Approach comes in. MACH Approach: ecommerce modernization with flexibility in mind So, what’s the MACH approach and, to put it bluntly, why should the retail industry care? The MACH approach, championed by the MACH Alliance , an industry body of which MongoDB is a member, is focused on facilitating the transition from monolithic, legacy ecommerce architectures to modern, streamlined e-commerce applications. Microservices - Microservices break down specific business functionalities into smaller, self-contained services. Instead of taking your whole application offline to add new shopping cart features, you update specific elements of your architecture without disrupting the entire application. This affords developers a level of flexibility that monolithic systems can’t compete with. Greater developer flexibility means minimal downtime, faster updates, an improved experience for consumers, and ultimately faster time to value for your business. API-first - APIs, the pieces of code allowing communication between separate applications or microservices, should be at the forefront of solution development, instead of an afterthought. An API-first approach to development is just that — APIs are built first and all other actions are developed to preserve the original API for greater consistency and reusability. This approach ensures planning revolves around the end product being consumed by different devices (like mobile) and APIs will be consumed by client applications. Cloud-native - At this point, to say “the cloud is the future of app development” is cliche; we’re already there. Building and running applications exclusively in the cloud, whether public or private, allows you to reap all the benefits of cloud development from the start. There are also some cost-cutting benefits to cloud-native environments. You avoid the investment that often comes with on-prem equipment. Most cloud SaaS options have pay-as-you-go cost structures, ensuring you only pay for what you use and leading to most predictable monthly expenses. Using managed cloud solutions, like MongoDB Atlas , also frees up your development team to focus their efforts on where they’re needed most — actually developing your application — instead of sinking valuable time into burdensome administrative tasks. Headless - If your application is down, even for a minute, you run the risk of the consumer simply moving on to another retail option. Downtime equates to lost profits, so to avoid the dreaded disruption to your revenue stream, take a headless approach to application development. With headless, changes to the front end (web store layout, UX, frameworks, design, etc.) can be made without interruption to back end (products, business logic, payments , etc.) operations and vice versa. What's the upside for ecommerce? The four elements of the MACH approach come together to help ecommerce businesses reframe operations, avoid downtime, preserve revenue, provide the best user experience possible, and ultimately ensure your solutions are able to develop and evolve. To maintain a competitive advantage in a growingly competitive commerce market, your application needs to keep up. The MACH approach to ecommerce could be the ideal way to set your application and your business apart. Want to learn more about the MACH Approach and the role cloud-native database solutions like MongoDB Atlas play in the evolving world of digital retail? Get your free copy of Ecommerce at MACH Speed with MongoDB and Commercetools today.