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Why flexible digital commerce teams are key to brand success

By Paul Lynch, Vice President and General Manager at LiveArea, a Merkle Company, EMEA

95% of retail CEOs are planning to increase investments into digital capabilities this year, according to Gartner. However, scaling the existing ecommerce business whilst introducing new digital initiatives can be tough to juggle.

To better cater for the rapidly changing customer demands, many brands are now introducing new ways of working to shake things up internally.

Singing from the same hymn sheet

Changes to digital strategy will impact the day-to-day work of multiple teams and involving different voices early in the decision-making process creates a shared vision and helps everyone learn to communicate as plans evolve and pivot.

Everyone from senior leadership to those managing the experience should understand, at a high level, how technology systems communicate with each other. Inversely, technology teams should be well aware of the impact their decisions have on the customer experience and business operations. Collaborative design thinking workshops, user journeys, and capability planning sessions can help build this knowledge.

There will still be compromise and prioritisation along the way, but building up the trust and visibility between teams early on helps make those conversations less difficult.

Revamp team structure

Digital commerce is always changing, which means ongoing collaboration between departments is needed to keep the momentum. With that in mind, many companies are exploring new cross-functional team structures.

In a recent webinar on modern commerce, Flaconi’s Head of Engineering, Adeel Younas, shared the cosmetic company’s approach when it made the move from a monolithic architecture to MACH (microservices, API first, cloud-native, headless) technologies. With the idea of starting small and expanding, Flaconi needed a strategy that let them maintain the legacy experience for their main audience while experimenting with MACH in a smaller market.

“We created a new team that works only in the new platform, and staffed that team with the experts from the existing domain teams, so that we have all the expertise that can cover the complete customer journey in one team and work on the project independently,” said Younas. “Once that first shop was developed and launched, the team dissolved to go back into the domain teams with the knowledge and experience to involve the others.”

Increasingly, companies are making these types of cross-functional teams permanent by breaking out the experience into capabilities that are owned by individual teams. The team is responsible for the roadmap, technical decisions, maintenance, and improvement of the capability, as well as regular updates and demos to keep the company informed on progress.

The right metrics can differ

In cross-functional teams, different people will have different definitions of success. Finance representatives may lean towards revenue metrics, marketers towards experience stats, and developers towards operational efficiency. Defining and prioritising objectives and measurements is key. However, there is no one shoe fits all approach, whether they are optimising technologies or innovating teams will also have different metrics.

For those who are optimising processes, the metrics are often more straightforward and can be proven with trendlines or A/B tests. Experience objectives may include metrics like average order value (AOV), conversion rates, cart abandonment rates, repeat customers, site traffic, and bounce rates.

As Google rolls out its new Core Web Vitals, technical aspects around content loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability will likely influence objectives. Time to market, Jira tickets made, number of deployments, and other operational factors can also be valuable measurements.

Proving the value of innovation requires a bit more creativity, as there isn’t a previous version to directly measure against. General changes, such as net promoter score (NPS) or percentage of growth compared to the market average can be used to gauge high-level impact. Perhaps more important is defining metrics around key milestones, such as new users or revenue increase, that must be achieved to justify the initiative to move forward at each stage.

A team can make or break success

To be successful in today’s retail landscape, brands must be able to react to changes quickly and agilely. Technology is a huge part of being able to do that, but the way teams work can have a huge impact on business operations. That’s why it’s essential that new ways of working are introduced to provide solutions that meet the needs of shoppers now, and in the future. 

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