I’ve been called upon to present on agile commerce many times over the last year, and when I do I most commonly start with this quote:

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

It’s from John F. Kennedy, a man that I admittedly don’t know that much about, but the sentiment in this message rings true for me. I am a passionate reader of history and taken too literally, JFK’s quote could seem to tell us not to look back for answers. But my take away from it is rather that you must learn how to build the future from lessons of the past. Don’t dwell only in tradition and “how it’s always been.” Far too many businesses have driven themselves to the wall over the last few years (Borders, Blockbuster, HMV, etc.) because they clung to the belief that what had made them successful in the past would remain their source of competitive advantage in the future.

One thing that history does tell us is that not only is change the law of life, but the pace of change is only getting faster. And that’s where the concept of agility comes in. I’ve written before about why agile commerce is more than just “multichannel done right.”  Absolutely, the imperative of putting the customer at the heart of everything you do and serving them coherently and consistently across touchpoints is critical. But agile commerce builds on this by focusing on the need to achieve organizational agility.

As the pace of consumer change increases and new touchpoints rise and fall with frightening speed, eBusiness executives can’t afford to spend months building business cases and seeking justification before they build the capability to interact with their customers on these touchpoints. They need to get lean, win quick, or fail fast and cheap. They need to foster a culture of measured risk-taking and embed agile ways of working into their company culture.

And for many organizations, this is difficult stuff!

In our agile commerce playbook, we dig deeper into what it means to be successful in the cross-touchpoint reality we now face: from describing the consumer behaviors driving the need to transform, through building a plan to deploying the necessary organization and then measuring the results. We have found that successful multitouchpoint, agile businesses align around four common principles:

·         Architect the experience. When launching new touchpoints such as mobile, many brands focus on optimizing that touchpoint as an individual experience. Agile thinkers don’t try and replicate every piece of functionality on every touchpoint; instead, they create carefully architected customer journeys that satisfy both the customer and the brand.

·         Be “customer obsessed.” Agile businesses are breaking down traditional channel-siloed organizations and are creating both temporary and permanent cross-functional structures to aid in their transformation. These firms are embedding customer insight into every decision they make and are enabling customers to seamlessly transition from one touchpoint to another in a way that makes sense to the customer.

·         Enable with technology. Agile businesses can act responsively. They can deploy new, integrated touchpoints as opposed to standalone channels. They can respond in real time to changing customer behavior across touchpoints. This requires a consolidated approach to technology, creating core enterprise engines for functions such as CRM, analytics, or commerce that integrate via a defined API service layer into touchpoints that are optimized according to their role – mobile, stores, social, etc.

·         Encourage transformation through cross-touchpoint metrics. Some transformational strategies can be surprisingly simple. Cross-touchpoint metrics like Net Promoter Score are critical to encouraging agile behavior, ensuring that colleagues are rewarded for being customer-centric rather than channel-siloed.

But one trait that all successful agile businesses share is a vision. A clear, concise, and shared vision of a multichannel future is the cornerstone of a successful agile transformation. Whether this is driven from the top down by a C-level director or through a cross-functional groundswell, agile organizations can all articulate a vision for how their customers will interact with them in the future.

In our agile commerce playbook, we examine how you can discover, plan, act on, and optimize your own agile commerce approach, breaking down this complex, cross-discipline problem into 12 chapters that will show you the strategies and frameworks that leading agile practitioners are adopting. The Executive Overview is a good place to start.

Agile cCommerce is a reality for organizations, so welcome to the era of agile commerce…