What small businesses can learn from enterprise when it comes to tech

- March 11, 2024 3 MIN READ

As commerce becomes increasingly competitive and fast-paced, a retailer’s ability to adapt quickly is essential for survival. And for all retailers, regardless of industry or size, the software they use plays a pivotal role, writes Shaun Broughton, Managing Director, APAC at Shopify.

In years past, fully composable solutions — essentially bespoke technology  with unique components and modules — were viewed as the superior choice. Big retailers were enthusiastic about being able to customise their tech to suit their exact needs.

However, for many, it soon became clear that full customisation brought with it a burden of unnecessary complexity. There were too many moving parts, especially when multiple vendors were involved. This required internal tech leaders with niche expertise to design architecture and then execute it, resulting in slow operational flow, missed opportunities, and higher costs.

To better understand the tech challenges that today’s retailers face, Shopify partnered with International Data Corporation (IDC) to gain insights from over 1000 enterprise-level retailers. Although the survey focused primarily on larger businesses, there were plenty of insights that can be taken and applied to small businesses.

With this in mind, here are a handful of things small businesses  can learn from big enterprises when navigating the software landscape in 2024:

Speed, flexibility and cost are key

Speed and simplicity should be at the forefront of retailers’ minds in order to create a more seamless experience for customers. For example, faster check-out times and streamlined processes are ways to ultimately increase overall conversions. However, as more businesses embrace omnichannel shopping (or what Shopify likes to call unified commerce), so does the complexity of retail operations, making retailers demand more flexible commerce solutions.

According to IDC, the majority of enterprises use a mix of different tech solutions. Some (27 per cent) use a combination of modules and apps from different companies, while others (29 per cent) use all-in-one-solutions that cover everything, but most (45 per cent) have a blended approach using a mix of different parts for different needs. It’s no surprise that the blended model is popular as it allows businesses to adapt quickly, provide better customer experience, and save on costs. This is important for large enterprises and small businesses alike, as it doesn’t require advanced technology skills like the other approaches do.

A scalable solution is vital for growth

The IDC research showed that enterprises need a platform powerful enough to grow with them. A lack of technology scalability was the second most common internal challenge they cited (31 per cent), behind a lack of digital skills (38 per cent).

SMEs with ambitions to grow want to be sure that their tech provider has maximum uptime to handle increased checkout traffic with ease, as a website that crashes during peak periods can erode customer trust and loyalty, and ultimately hinder sales. Shopify exemplifies what it means to be reliable at scale with 99.9 per cent+ uptime, and the proven ability to handle 40,000 checkouts per minute without interruption. This level of dependability provides small retailers with the peace of mind they need to focus on expanding their business.

A strong partnership with your platform provider is a must

In today’s fast-paced, challenging environment, companies cannot afford glitchy, cumbersome solutions that take too long to implement, fix, and update. In fact, 71 per cent of enterprises would move to a composable solution to achieve higher system compatibility, and 72 per cent are influenced to switch for ease of use.

The truth is that to overcome complexity and address their specific needs, retailers need more than just a commerce platform. In fact, developing strong partnerships with commerce providers that act as consultants can be a huge weight off their shoulders. Providers who can identify issues and offer customised solutions that integrate seamlessly with existing IT infrastructure will enable retailers to focus on their core business — without getting bogged down in technical complexity.

When it comes to choosing software, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and retailers must build their tech-stack to suit their individual business needs and objectives, whether that’s full platform, headless, or modular. That said, retailers should ensure that their platform is fast enough, flexible enough and reliable enough to support them as their business evolves and grows into the future, and that their platform provider is able and willing to support them through that.

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