The 7 deadly sins of digital commerce development

7.4.2016 -

Consultants are supposed to present solutions to problems. In my previous blog post, I discussed 10 best methods to develop digital commerce. Shortly after that post, readers started asking for the worst methods and practises.

In this post, I call them the seven deadly sins of digital commerce development, even though only a few of these ‘vices’ can be traced back to the original deadly sins presented by Dante. Starting with the worst one, I work my way down to the least severe. Most sins are related to management issues and operational models, others to technical solutions.

Can you identify any of these in your business?

1. Management doesn’t know what’s going on

The worst case scenario: People responsible for a company’s vision and organisational direction cannot see how the competition or customer behaviour is changing. This means everyone in the company lives inside a bubble with eyes closed and tries to maintain the status quo. Superficial transformation programmes focus on preserving the existing state of affairs. People often say that top management is not committed to implementing change. It’s even worse if top management is completely ignorant of existing circumstances and committed to the wrong transformation programmes.

2. Customer is wrong

Decades of experience about commerce guarantees nothing these days. Customers’ behavioural patterns and values have been shifting very rapidly during the past twenty years. Arrogant self-confidence sparked by corporate history and earlier success stories, combined with disrespect toward customers, guarantee lousy results.

3. Lack of passion

Passion is the key to success in life and in business. Often results are even better when a project is in the hands of an internally passionate team of two or three people with matching personal chemistry. At the opposite end of the continuum, red tape and going solo maximise the chances of failure.

4. Business development manager syndrome

Digital commerce is just commerce. Unfortunately, many see it as a project. The goal of a project is to develop a new online store or service. When the main focus remains on development issues, the commerce aspect is easily forgotten. Everyone loves developing, but no one cares enough about operating the store and selling more.

5. Paranoia

Sometimes you bump into delusions that hinder or prevent digital commerce development. Until recently, it was a common belief that your online store cannibalises your business; therefore, you should make customers visit your store outlets in person. There are other smaller-scale examples, too. Several retailers refused to display product availability in their online store because they didn’t like the idea of making their stock balance information available to their competitors. I wonder where these delusions came from?

6. Single goal approach

In my best practises blog, I discussed the culture of experimentation and IT systems development approaches. An opposite approach entails establishing a huge goal and making your way toward it without any milestones, quick wins or any visible achievements. This single goal approach undermines the meaningfulness of the development work and postpones cash-flow generation into the distant future. The business needs often change along the way. In the worst case, the company pushes development projects over the finish line regardless of the outdated concept.

7. Ugly data

I’m tempted to describe data quality with another word, but let’s leave it at ‘ugly’. Digital commerce is about openness and transparency. Data is one of the most important ingredients of great customer experience. If I picked one deadly sin from the technical perspective, it would be the low quality of existing data, outdated information, duplicates, etc. Organisations treat their second most valuable asset with baffling disregard and manage their business with gut instincts instead of information.

The best and worst practises go hand in hand. Simply put, if you focus on the best ones and try to avoid the worst ones, you are off to a good start. You can begin by reviewing the sins your company might be committing. Then you can root them out one by one.

Juha Luomala

Juha Luomala

I am a digital commerce expert and Solteq’s ‘Mr. Portfolio’. I work closely with company management teams and key personnel, and participate in planning new projects and operational models. I listen, challenge, consult and coach. With this understanding, I also lead Solteq into new solution areas. It’s a pleasure to work in a field where there’s never a dull moment.

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