Agile Commerce: Know It When You See It

 

Here at Forrester, we’ve been evangelizing the concept of agile commerce for a while now, and we are working on a stream of research building on the concept and digging into exactly how leading organizations are transforming themselves to embrace the era of agile commerce. One of the questions I personally get asked is what exactly does an agile business look like? How do you recognize one?

In speaking to a number of leading practitioners in this space, I have found that there are four things that agile businesses have in common. They:

  • Architect the experience. Agile organizations don’t allow touchpoints to emerge randomly or operate independently from one another. They design compelling cross-touchpoint experiences that are meaningful to their customers and add value to the brand, like “Click and Collect” for a retailer or mobile-driven online check-in for an airline.
  • Are customer-obsessed. Agile commerce means putting the customer at the heart of every decision, bringing quantitative and qualitative customer insight to every decision, and even reorganizing around the customer life cycle to focus teams on what the customer needs, not what the channel thinks.
  • Enable with technology. Agility demands some key underpinning enterprise technology components, such as a commerce platform that can serve the Web, mobile, and stores. But it also requires that touchpoints are unshackled from back-end systems by a common set of commerce APIs.
  • Encourage transformation through cross-functional metrics. Ultimately, people drive agile businesses, and in order to encourage agile transformation, leading practitioners are realigning their departmental and personal KPIs and incentives to be cross-functional and cross-touchpoint in nature.

I dig deeper into each of these dimensions of agile transformation in Agile Commerce: Know It When You See It, and will continue to build our research out over the coming months to delve deeper into these themes, answering the key question: How? But one other thing that I have come to believe as I’ve been looking into how agile businesses function is that agile commerce is more than just “multichannel done right” as I’ve heard it termed.  

The term “omnichannel” is being bounced around these days, and yes, an agile commerce strategy is everything that a good omnichannel strategy should be. It allows customers to transact on multiple “channels” (we prefer the term touchpoints) in a way that makes sense to them and enriches both their experience of the brand and the value that the brand derives from the customer (because let’s be honest, banks and retailers are in this to make money).

But an agile commerce strategy is so much more than just omnichannel.

Agile commerce is a mindset of leanness, speed to market, customer enablement, and proactivity in the face of the increasingly complex and volatile business environment we all face. One of the exemplars of this is John Lewis. Demonstrating its ability to launch compelling new customer experiences that enhance its brand proposition, it has recently announced the launch of a popup store in Devon – a perfect example of a brand that architects its customer experience, is customer-obsessed, enables with technology, and measures its results with cross-touchpoint metrics.