Disrupting E-Commerce: How Digital Networks Are Creating A Better Consumer Experience

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Not too long ago, the key to winning customers was in the quality of products or services an organization was able to deliver. However, with estimates claiming that by 2020 e-commerce sales will exceed $27 trillion, things have certainly changed. The rise of e-commerce and the popularity of smart devices, has shifted the balance of power away from retailers and brands and put the consumer squarely on top. Customer experience metrics are now the end-goal, overshadowing traditional notions of value such as price, performance and availability.

Customer experience is a term used to represent a customers’ perception of how the company treats them. These perceptions affect their behaviors and build memories and feelings that may drive or dissolve their loyalty. Today, a single negative experience from one consumer can snowball within hours into a social media backlash, and result in millions of dollars in lost sales and a damaged brand. So how can some e-commerce companies execute flawlessly and always seem to delight their customers while most are struggling just to maintain mediocre performance? The answer often lies in the underlying disruptive technology and the process disciplines that have been built to exploit them.

How Modern Day Networks Are Enabling a Digital Advantage — Not a Digital Divide

Companies and solution providers are realizing that the flawed architecture of single enterprise-centric solutions cannot be patched up to support today’s highly dynamic and interconnected business environment. Just as cloud-based social networks have created new approaches to how we manage our personal and business relationships, new network platforms and the resulting communities are changing how business is conducted between the end consumer and all the companies on the network.

These innovative network platforms are designed from the ground-up to represent an interconnected community of business partners that work together to satisfy consumer requirements. A company connects once onto the network, and a sophisticated permissions-based framework manages the information each individual organization sees and determines who can interact with whom and in what way. The network manages common plans and provides a transaction backbone that all network members share. Networks allow everyone to be the center of their own universe, yet they provide each member with enterprise services that seamlessly connect to their business partners.

This is one of the many reasons the market is moving from clunky, sequential processes to dynamic and agile networks. Not only are modern networks highly responsive, they provide a single version of truth across trading partners and enable all to plan and execute together; in real-time. Networks are also intelligent, as they use autonomous decision making agents and are increasingly evolving towards touchless processes. Networks orchestrate execution in lock-step across members by focusing on the only thing that matters to everyone; serving the end customer. Push oriented business-to-business (B2B) integrations are now replaced by a pull oriented consumer-to-business-to-business (C2B2B) networks. Then, there is the beauty of the “network effect “which is where all participants get greater and greater value as more members join.

Before the advent of a multi-party, multi-enterprise business network, it was hard to imagine zero information delay across a long value chain. Now, analysts and researchers are only beginning to appreciate the full value of connecting communities and eliminating information delays within a business ecosystem. But, just as social media and social networks have made a colossal impact on interactions and how individuals gather information such as politics, the enterprise systems space is also in for a transformative change. for businesses.

Tips to Starting Your Own Digital Transformation Journey

Historically, and like traditional ERP systems, any enterprise system implementation often required a big bang approach to deploy. This approach proved to be enormously expensive, too long and too risky. In addition, it continues to cost companies significant dollars to support. More importantly, the inability to adapt these systems as business needs change is killing the agility of the companies to keep up with the pace of business. To overcome these challenges companies are adopting their own digital transformation initiatives in an effort to supercharge their business and to create a better customer experience. However, before embarking on your journey it is important to consider the following tips:

#1: Connect Your Parties via a System of Engagement
The new generation of network cloud solutions is designed fundamentally different as a System of Engagement (SoE) versus the System of Record (SoR) design of ERP software. A SoE spans across SoRs and is designed to be network-centric to facilitate collaboration amongst partners around a transaction or workflow, i.e. order-to-cash. Unlike ERP, exchanging information with partners is not an add-on but a core part of the platform. It’s much like how LinkedIn is designed for social networking vs. a stand-alone contact management application. You can track your contacts with both but one is purpose built for easy collaboration and automated updates vs. simply maintaining a list of contacts.

Networks are also deploying integrating AI pattern recognition and machine learning to create Systems of Intelligence that add new levels of intelligent analytics on top of Systems of Engagement to enable disruptive business models. Agent-based machine learning combined with POS pattern recognition and predictive AI agents drives planning and execution agents to deliver optimal results, high value and impressive ROI numbers, fast. That’s why many companies begin their journey by onboarding onto a digital network and deploying an overlay Control Tower solution, which Capgemini Consulting defines as a central hub with the required technology, organization, and processes to capture and use supply chain data to provide enhanced visibility for short and long term decision making that is aligned with strategic objectives, first. 

Once your supply chain partners are connected to the network, each party can easily publish updates such as schedules, capacity, statuses, etc., and all parties will receive the info by simply subscribing to receiving the necessary information. Rather than having to build one-to-one interfaces with each partner, this results in significant time and costs. The benefits of eliminating information delays, real time visibility to all, and single version of truth alone pay huge dividends. 

#2: Choose Your Path
Once connected, companies then must choose between a “dual platform” or “replacement” strategy approach and map out the digital transformation journey accordingly. If you are locked in and need to preserve your investment, then a dual platform strategy that embraces legacy systems is often the best method. Rather than making costly modifications to the legacy systems, an overlay of services from the network can orchestrate business processes between functions and between companies. This will add agility and extensibility to partners. Companies can evolve at their pace and minimize risk. 

However, if you are an emerging business not yet locked in or, if your legacy systems are already unsustainable, then a network as a straight replacement strategy may be appropriate. In this instance, companies start by deploying the new platform as an alternative to legacy, which enables them to simplify their business and introduce agility.

#3: Look to the Cloud
Regardless of the approach, cloud network platforms can be deployed in months rather than years.  The platform is modular unlike monolithic ERP systems. It allows for short step-by-step projects - similar to sprints in an agile development methodology - that are rapid, self-funding, and low risk. Cloud platform solutions are designed to be continuously upgraded providing new capabilities on a frequent basis. For traditional ERP systems, you are locked into expensive upgrade cycles where it’s not uncommon to spend millions more to re-implement the system to take advantage of new capabilities.

Greg Brady, CEO and Founder of One Network EnterprisesGreg Brady, CEO and Founder of One Network Enterprises

Aligning all parties to consumer behavior and predicted trends no matter how far removed a company is from the end customer drives higher quality growth and fiscal health. However, to enable this requires real-time propagation and translation of both consumer and predicted behavior across multiple levels of the business network serving the consumer. A network provides this ability and enable new business models that focus on aligning supply and services with consumers. Visionary companies are already adopting digital cloud networks to drive breakthrough results and the choice is clear if you want to create a truly memorable customer experience you need to disrupt or be disrupted.

Greg Brady is CEO and Founder of One Network Enterprises, a global provider of a secure, and scalable multi-party business network. For more information, contact Greg at gbrady@onenetwork.com or visit www.onenetwork.com

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