E-commerce Disruption Guide: How to Future-Proof Your Brand
Times move fast, and while that has always been true, it really seems like the last few years have been on caffeine. We saw 10 years of growth in just 3 months within the e-commerce sphere, and while that is certainly an impressive figure, that doesn’t mean that it was a net positive for everyone.
Plenty of brands suffered from the sudden socially-distanced surge of e-commerce, and while it’s nobody’s fault for not predicting a sudden global pandemic, it was on certain brands to not be properly future-proof with their business.
Nobody saw COVID-19 coming, but the rapid digitalization that came with the virus didn’t come out of the blue. Brands who were able to spot these trends early and act on them accordingly were better off for it, and the brands who either were unaware or simply didn’t act… not so much.
That being said, future-proofing isn’t exactly a simple check-the-box optimization, and looking directly into the future isn’t exactly possible, so what are brands to do? In a few words: update their software, build a loyal base, and chase infinity. With these three pillars, brands can champion their e-commerce disruption instead of risk being disrupted.
Update your software
Don’t just hit update on the software you already have — make sure your software is keeping up with the times! Technology is moving faster than ever before but, unfortunately, a lot of brands are suffering from software and infrastructure that is simply stuck in the past. While legacy programs might have made sense with earlier iterations of the internet, these same programs can be a curse for brands that are looking to digitalize into the modern e-commerce sphere.
A big and nearly-non-negotiable property of modern software is making sure it’s cloud-based. Technology is moving faster, sales are moving faster, and data is moving faster. By making sure software like PIM is cloud-based, you’re able to keep your information up to date and ready at all times. Especially as brands begin and continue to scale with D2C, being able to keep up with the data can mean the difference between keeping up with the e-com boom or getting left behind.
Other tech properties like headless architecture and Artificial Intelligence are big buzzwords for important reasons. The former helps make sure your platform is always ready for quick future changes, and the latter helps you study more data than ever before and predict trends more accurately than ever. Both are fundamental in making sure the future doesn’t catch you by surprise.
Build a loyal consumer base
Easier said than done, of course, but one important step in future-proofing your brand is by building a strong and loyal consumer base. The reason here is less about immediate sales and profit, and more about building a cushion for changes.
Keeping up with the industry inevitably means implementing changes at practically every level, and staying ahead of the curve can sometimes mean gambling… and losing. Take Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco for example. In an attempt to not get left behind in the soft-drink industry, Coca-Cola announced a new formula for their drink, which would come to be known as “New Coke.”
This announcement did not reinvigorate their massive customer based — at least, not in the intended way. The largest soft-drink company in the world was immediately met with thunderous backlash after this decision went public, and customers demanded the original formula be brought back. Once Coca-Cola adhered to these demands, market share shot through the roof.
It might seem ironic that the same customer base “bullied” Coke backward, but that’s actually precisely the point of this section. It is because of that loyal customer base that Coca-Cola was able to survive one of marketing’s biggest blunders in history, and even come out profiting on the other end of it. While most brands probably won’t have such an immense success story, building a connection between your brand and your customers, and making sure that community sentiment is solid, is a crucial cushion to have when it comes to testing out changes.
We all make mistakes, but it’s on us to make sure our next mistake doesn’t bankrupt us.
Finally, we have perhaps the most important concept of this piece: infinity. More specifically, let’s talk about the “infinite game,” as described by author and speaker Simon Sinek. The fatal problem that a lot of brands face, according to Sinek, is that they are trapped in a finite mindset. Brands are worried about the metrics for this quarter, the performance for this year, and how competition is doing on finite measures in finite periods of time. While this certainly isn’t unimportant, it is limiting.
A recognizable and powerful example is Blockbuster. Trapped in a finite game, Blockbuster was too busy trying to maximize short-term profit with their usual model and ignored an increasing consumer interest in streaming. In staying true to their physical rental model which had worked thus far (in finite intervals), Netflix was able to position itself right in the center of the consumer interest, quickly rendering Blockbuster a relic of the past.
For a brand to truly be future-proof, it needs to be able to look beyond finite metrics and timeframes. Profit, growth, and improved performance are always good and important, but finding a legitimate purpose or “just cause” to follow gives brands an infinite goal that transcends the quarterly reports. Not only that, but when this “just cause” aligns with customer values, it can make the point of building a strong and loyal customer base much simpler, and can make keeping up with the industry and updating your software more than just a calculated risk.
It might seem like a bit of a philosophical note to end on, but then, preparing for an uncertain future is a bit of a philosophical question to ponder in the first place. The biggest takeaway here is that the ability to acclimate is important, and providing yourself with the necessary tools for acclimation is paramount.
Modern software can make updates and overhauls quick and painless, a strong customer base serves as insurance for inevitable bumps in the road, and an infinite mindset frees you from the constraints of short-term results.