You hear a lot of talk these days about what a struggle retail is.
The “apocalypse” talk has simmered down a bit, with cooler heads recognizing that what’s happening is not a collapse, but a transformation — a transformation that some retailers have been unable to anticipate and weather. But still there are plenty of stories of gloom and doom, such as Sears, Toys R Us, Bon-Ton, Radio Shack etc.
So, it was interesting to run into Kushagra Shrivastava earlier this year at IRCE. He’s the managing director of Yahoo Small Business and he has a very un-apocalyptic view of retail, which he shares in the video interview below.
Listening to Shrivastava, whose organization in now part of Verizon, it’s clear that not everything is wonderful for small retailers and for those just starting out in ecommerce. But the challenge is closer to an embarrassment of riches, as opposed to a lack of vision or the absence of a future. The problem, he says, is that when it comes to selecting technology partners that can help retailers succeed, there are too many choices.
It’s something we’ve heard before. Not only is there a rich roster of companies that can automate ecommerce chores from marketing to merchandising to order management to fraud protection to fulfillment to customer support, but it can be extremely difficult to determine which among them is right for any particular ecommerce business.
That challenge could open the door to solution providers that mold themselves into full ecommerce platforms, not in the traditional sense, but in the sense that every aspect of ecommerce sales and marketing and operations is offered in one unified product. At the same time, Shrivastava says, it is unlikely that the unified platform model will be the only way for retailers to go.
Many will still want to be able to pick out pieces of their ecommerce tech stack from a robust marketplace of tools and solutions. In our longer conversation, Shrivastava seized on the example of Intuit as a tool for managing ecommerce accounting. It’s a fantastic product, he said, that’s established in the market. Why not use it?
“I don’t envision companies building another accounting tool,” he said.
Shrivastava’s vision of ecommerce companies cobbling together a number of technology companies to run their operations, sounds very much like the digitally native retailer model, an idea that is helping a number of companies come from seemingly nowhere to become retail success stories.
The idea is to orchestrate, through a number of tech providers, rather than operate. That keeps companies nimble and scalable as they build market share an iterate on products.
The debate over whether it’s better to go with an all-in-one platform or a combination of best-in-breed solutions is one that has been going on for years. Talking to Shrivastava makes it pretty clear that it is an issue that isn’t likely to be settled any time soon.
Contact Mike Cassidy at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.