Joe Tarragano – Retail Practice Director, Transform
Joe Tarragano is the retail practice partner at the consulting firm Transform, which focuses on digital transformation and multichannel strategy, design and delivery, where he has led projects for retailers such as Argos, New Look, Sainsbury’s, Debenhams, Halfords and many more. Joe was previously a client of Transform’s at eBay, where he spent six years in a variety of leadership positions across Europe.
What are the new eCommerce technologies or approaches that you think will have the biggest impact on consumer behaviour and sales in 2016?
“Predicting technology adoption is always challenging but also starts with the tools rather than the customer needs. So the approach that will continue to have most impact will be the move to a more customer-centric way of behaving.
Many retailers are still working to put the right metrics and organisational model in place to ensure that they can really understand the customer and deliver for them, and this will continue. It will then translate into certain tech enablers being needed, which almost certainly focus on personalisation at the front end and continuing emphasis on single views of customer, stock & transaction at the back end.”
Which regions or markets do you foresee huge growth in eCommerce in the coming year?
“Regardless of any current blips in the economy, it would seem easy to presume that China will continue to be a massive growth market. And focusing on that market and getting it right will likely lead greater results that experiments across a swathe of others.
Nonetheless, for those with the capacity to support wider exploration, especially those with a luxury or ‘British’ angle to market, getting an early understanding of the Middle Eastern markets might be wise. And surely Flipkart can’t continue to keep growing by hundreds of percent in volume each year?!”
Which sectors of the economy are most ripe for digital disruption in 2016? And how will this impact on eCommerce?
“All sectors will experience substantial disruption. Be it blockchain, the connected self, autonomous transportation, the internet of things or any number of other smart approaches, we can be sure that the pace of disruption will accelerate as firms deconstruct value chains to better serve customers than incumbents who presumed that their scale created barriers for competitors.
Disruption in insurance, banking, health, and travel to name just a few, has come to seem predictable. Automotive is a market I personally find fascinating, and it’s clear that several manufacturers are trying to build innovation capabilities, better utilise CRM and data, and experiment with new models. But whatever the industry, expect it to experience substantial change, and expect that the techniques of ecommerce will be applied to it, and the consumer behaviour trained through ecommerce will set expectations for it.”
What still represent the biggest barriers to eCommerce success for a brand or retailer?
“To be successful, an organisation needs to understand what its customer wants, know how to make money from that, and then organise to achieve that. The biggest barrier therefore remains the lack of agility inherent in most corporate operating models and in their lumbering legacy IT systems.
Until retailers have rolled back the spaghetti code they’ve layered on top of SAP, Websphere and the like, the cost and duration of any change is staggering, and taking advantage of opportunities such as hub-and-spoke fulfilment, participation in international marketplaces or tailored omni-channel experiences becomes just too challenging.”
What roles do you see becoming more important for eCommerce businesses this year?
“The rise of the CDO type role, which could be a digital director or customer director or some similar title, seems likely to continue and I welcome it. While notions such as ‘digital’ and ‘customer’ must in time become integral to every employee rather than domain specific expertise, creating a leadership role to act as a lightning rod and drive effective transformation from the top seems sensible.
An attribute of smart digital leaders is that they are evidence based and understand testing, and to support them we will see an increasing number of data scientists joining ecommerce teams: being able to really understand the customer data and do the propensity modelling will become a critical component of successful ecommerce. Similarly, as silos start to dissolve and firms start to achieve more of an end-to-end capability and viewpoint, we will see the rise of the service designer rather than the user experience expert. eCommerce is part of an overall customer journey that spans physical and human elements and thus ecommerce teams will look to add design thinking that thinks beyond pixels and can see the whole experience.
I expect that we will also see more agile coaches being used, as retailers either attempt to transition to an agile model, or they attempt to fix the issues that have arisen in their existing transition attempts, as they wrestle with how to successfully build a twin-speed IT capability.”