As the calendar flips to 2012 we all seem to feel the urge to assess the near past and look to the near future. 2011 was a year full of industry rattling M&A and meaningful growth in eCommerce channels in the face of tough economic head winds. But, we have all already read too many posts recapping and listing 2011’s big events. Besides, we lived it already, time to move on. So what is 2012 bringing the world of eBusiness technology? A few things to look for:

·         Can eBusiness stand the heat and share the love? CEOs everywhere are waking up to eCommerce’s role across channels. eCommerce is one of a small number of bright spots in 2011, with year-over-year numbers ranging from +15 to +25%. It is no longer a rounding error on the year end results. As a result, investment in eCommerce and how it integrates to and within other channels has skyrocketed in priority. (CEOs still think in “channels”, for now.) eBusiness leaders and their technology peers suddenly find themselves tossed in the back of a getaway car. Suddenly there is lots of cash, urgent deadlines, unclear direction, and lots of people yelling directions at each other.  Who is driving this thing? Educating senior leadership on what agile commerce means, setting a technology direction, and planning a transformation roadmap will be critical to a successful, organized getaway. (See below for the analogy)

·         Mobile commerce is ready for its close-up. 2011 was the year that mobile commerce proved itself. Traffic and sales through smart phones and tablets have registered meaningful numbers. It is not uncommon for clients to describe mobile commerce in the 5-15% of web traffic with conversions in the 75% of web range (Them's real dollars, my friend). Often this is with companies’ still delivering terrible user experiences flush with Flash, roll-overs, and static templates that were designed for 19” monitors not your smartphone. In 2012 expect mobile commerce to hit the mainstream as devices gain share, and customers become comfortable. Gone are the questions of whether customers buy via mobile. eBusiness leaders are responding by significantly raising their investments in mobile commerce, tripling or quadrupling mobile commerce budgets to add or redo sites and apps. And don’t think this is just a retail or B2C thing, mobile will penetrate every business and customer interaction and impacting multiple customer touch points.

·         APIs, APIs, Oh My. APIs are nothing new. But in 2012 it will become a key topic for business leaders needing increased flexibility from their technology platforms and applications. Adding new customer touch points, driving integrations across channels, and mashing up your business with new partners will accelerate investment in APIs. This will drive a lot of business to commerce services providers and third-party API management companies to help develop and manage APIs that will be used internally and increasingly externally. Your IT department can develop an API, but are they going to support it and drive it? eBusiness leaders will need to add a new hybrid role of the API manager who will combine product management, developer, marketer, and business development skills. Yet another role it will be hard for the eBusiness leader to hire for.

In 2012 we will see a continued evolution of eCommerce into a core strategy every business leader needs to understand and think about. There will be tactics and tacks that crisscross the landscape from marketing, social media, merchandising, supply chain, and (yes I will use the words…) your channels. Businesses with a clear vision of their brand and customer, who have the technology capability and a culture of testing, will reap the benefits and pull away. Of course, good products help too.

Don't make your eCommerce technology strategy come across like this:

For clients, a few reports which may be useful (subscription required):

The Agile Commerce Platform

Trends 2011: Staffing And Hiring For eBusiness

Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce

Mobile Commerce Forecast: 2011-2016

The State Of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social, And Mobile

The Disruptor's Handbook