Retail-as-a-Service: What it Means for Commerce Innovation and Survival

Retailers burdened by legacy store technology and disparate commerce systems are hobbled when the focus becomes point-of-sale (POS) lanes, hardware and disjointed commerce engagement. 

These retailers are at the mercy of software vendors who control the applications that drive current commerce experiences and are led to deliver one-off initiatives to fill gaps in customer expectations. The crux of the omnichannel challenge is this continued proliferation of regret spend and inability to scale with precision and agility.  

The power to build enhanced customer experiences as fast as customers imagine new ways they want to interact with brands propels retail success. From browsing through fulfillment, building and delivering unique customer experiences with speed and agility is a critical competitive advantage. 

Therefore, retailers must add technology, innovation, and agility to their list of core competencies, alongside merchandising, sales, service, and traditional retail lines. And they must have tools to design, build, and manage commerce experiences that differentiate their brand and respond to customers across all touchpoints.

RETAIL-AS-A-SERVICE: CROWN JEWEL OF CONTROL

Enter the Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS) platform, the engine that puts the critical transaction processing services, including complex store processing, in the cloud to be used by retailers to build the commerce experiences they need. Since transaction processing is critical to efficient, long-lasting engagement but isn’t a differentiator, a RaaS platform is based on a headless architecture that empowers retailers to develop their unique commerce experiences iteratively and on-demand. RaaS provides the answer retailers have been waiting for — efficient, scalable execution of transaction processing without being tied to a software vendor’s user experience. It’s the answer that enables leaders like Amazon, Alibaba, and JD.com to continuously iterate on customer expectations, while legacy systems force retailers to repetitively modify individual interaction points. 

How does a RaaS platform position forward-thinking disruptors keep up with the retail juggernauts? It makes critical, commoditized store and commerce functions available as microservices on a cloud-native architecture, which eliminates complexity and duplicate development efforts. The engine gives retailers full control over the user experience and interface to build out innovative digital experiences at scale fast. They build once and deploy everywhere without rebuilding backend commerce functionality. 

RaaS embodies the best of all worlds. In addition to paving the way to frictionless customer journeys with a channel-agnostic commerce engine, it offers scalability and reliability for high-volume transaction processing that is inherent in cloud-native architecture. The retailer’s control over experience development in the store and at every touchpoint supports rapid, purposeful transformation to facilitate their strategic growth initiatives and provide meaningful competitive differentiation. 

WHAT’S HEADLESS GOT TO DO WITH IT?

Digital experiences are intricate, entailing a huge number and variety of calculations. In traditional store and commerce systems, front-end functions are tightly coupled to backend processes and are not easily modified or shared across touchpoints. This arrangement leads to redundant development—a waste of time and resources that doesn’t provide the competitive differentiation retailers strive to attain. 

With RaaS, diverse customer experiences are powered from the same engine. For instance, in the case of curb pickups and linebusting, nearly all the commerce functions used to manage, prepare, and engage with customers on a pickup order are the same services used to execute mobile linebusting checkout. Functions such as managing quantities, discounts, coupons, substitutions and voids, basket calculations, and more are used from the engine as retailers craft experiences that engage customers based on use cases and objectives.  The retailer is empowered to build the experience that matters to their business knowing they have the commerce firepower to deliver.

Unlike traditional legacy applications, a headless architecture separates the CX/UX layer from the back-end/functional layer. Retailers build it once and deploy anywhere, aligning the customer experience across all touchpoints without time-consuming, duplicate development efforts. New experiences created more quickly seamlessly transcend store, web, mobile, or emerging interface technologies (voice, AR/VR, mixed reality). This agile infrastructure, continuous iteration and independence from the software vendors enables a test-and-learn environment that Tier One retailers need to disrupt. 

EMPOWERED, PROACTIVE, AND IMPACTFUL

Staying relevant requires retailers to look for opportunities to provide additional services and improve existing ones. They must proactively and continuously reinvent and innovate to strengthen connections between customers and their brand(s). Amazon returns at Kohl’s, Kroger pick-ups at Walgreens, and full service banking at Australia Post are a few noteworthy examples of alignments that enhance the customer experience by extending the reach of valuable services while removing friction from omnichannel journeys. 

With RaaS, retailers can more easily target efforts to create disruptive, impactful experiences  versus “commoditized” commerce functions that don’t differentiate or deliver value.

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