Credit: Dreamstime Stock Photos

Commerce platforms — past, present, and future

Business used to drive technology but now technology is driving the business.

  • The enterprise Commerce platform market was essentially a three-horse race between IBM, Oracle, and SAP hybris roughly till 2015, give or take (and I was fortunate to be riding two of them during their glory years.) These platforms are packaged applications with guard rails and require SIs to customize and implement brand-specific processes. Several large retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 list drove billions of dollars in GMV each year. The platforms were successful but their time has come.
  • The cloud happened! There is an old saying in the cloud world —

Either you’re born in the cloud or not :)

  • Very few software platforms successfully made the transition from on-premise to cloud.
  • The cloud revolution was followed by microservices, APIs, headless, and now composable. The platform capabilities got decomposed into API-first, stateless and scalable components following MACH principles which are built bottoms-up by several newer Commerce platforms and component vendors that specialize in one thing really well that is antithetical to the notion of platform as offered by the enterprise vendors.
  • The newer platform/component vendors are now competing on the underlying architecture vs capability. This is an important shift! In my view, this is the shift of power from CMO to CTO and a driving force behind the above two points.
  • Online commerce is roughly a 20-year-old market with most of the features and processes well-defined to be commoditized. The idea of cart, catalog, content, campaigns, payments, returns, and so on are commoditized and are not expected to change. What will change though is how they will surface in the shopper experience and where it will interface with the backend business processes enabling retailers to innovate new experiences rapidly. Naturally, the focus now is on agility and not on functionality.

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.




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