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Why Ecommerce Is Still Broken for Retailers

From a shift in consumer behavior to the technology itself, ecommerce has changed quite a bit over the last 10 years. Gone are the days of clunky plugins, static merchandising, and non-responsive, desktop-only sites. For online retailers and brands looking to avoid the fates of their brick-and-mortar counterparts, the message is clear: keep up with the times or get left in the dust. So why is it that, despite the many advances in technology, it’s still so time-consuming and costly to set up, scale, and grow an ecommerce business?

In this blog post, we’ll explore a few of the challenges that still plague retailers when it comes to managing and operating a successful online shop. Here’s why ecommerce is still broken for brands and retailers:

Technical Debt

If you’re a fairly seasoned retailer, then it’s likely that the ecommerce platform you started out with is no longer the go-to industry standard. It’s no surprise—some of today’s leading business-class platforms were created before the first iPhone! Rather than addressing the technical debt, retailers often make or alter business and marketing decisions around their ecommerce platform’s limitations, as well as the constraints of their UX. Yet the more unaddressed technical debt you acquire, the more likely you will need to pay to fix it down the line. For instance, legacy systems often feature plugins that haven’t been checked for code quality, so one wrong move can break your entire site, resulting in lost time, money, and work.

If you’re on a version of a ecommerce platform that is being deprecated, then you’ll need to migrate your site in order to stay secure, extensible, and cost-efficient. An open source SaaS or PaaS solution, like the Reaction Platform, handles all of the technical upkeep for you, so your team can focus on marketing strategy. By replatforming often, you’re effectively future-proofing your business from becoming obsolete.

Talent is Hard to Come By

With adoption by the likes of Facebook, Walmart, and Netflix, Node.js is one of the most sought-after job skills on the market today, according to Forbes. It's no wonder why more and more devs are switching from the old LAMP stack to MEAN—results from Stack Overflow’s 2016 Developer Survey show that full-stack JavaScript developers who work with React earn a better salary than their peers. Yet many of today’s leading legacy ecommerce platforms are still built on PHP, which is no longer the fastest-growing tech stack. This discourages developers who are constantly honing their skills from working in ecommerce.

Make sure the commerce platform you choose is actively building, improving, and refactoring its codebase to keep up with web development trends. The best way to do this is to look into open source projects with an active, growing community around it. Open source ecommerce platforms tend to have an ecosystem built around them, with good developer docs to boot. Learn more about open source, then check out our repo.

An Ever-Shifting Customer Journey

With the rise of omnichannel, marketplace, conversational commerce and the blurring line between content and commerce, “twists and turns in the customer journey have become the new norm,” says Chris Stone, Chief Product Officer at Acquia. In order to keep up, according to Stone, an organization must emphasize flexibility, renew focus on automation, and rethink personalization.

So why do so many ecommerce businesses continue to stand still when the world is whizzing right ahead of them? It's the inability to get personal. Legacy platforms make it difficult to create a shopping experience that’s tailored toward customers’ growing expectations. Customers want instant product recommendations, merchandise that’s dynamically tailored to their location and tastes, and the ability to browse multiple retailers in one place. As tech giants like Amazon continue to innovate and take over the retail world, these expectations are just going to get higher and higher.

So what’s the solution? We think it’s real-time reactivity. Real-time helps retailers and brands engage more shoppers at a quicker speed—and in ecommerce, every second wasted hurts conversion. We believe that offering dynamic promotions and personalized merchandising is key, and that's why we're building toward this future vision. We hope that with Reaction, every single event will soon be tracked without a single page reload. If a customer views a product for the 5th time over the last two days, our real-time platform will automatically know to shoot over a promo on the 6th visit, all without page reloads.


There’s a lot that goes into setting up, recruiting for, converting from, and future-proofing an ecommerce platform, but it shouldn’t cost your business your sanity. Retailers deserve to work with a solution that grows alongside them. It’s been a bumpy ride, but the future of ecommerce looks bright and boundless.

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