Go Channel Centric to Build Flexibility into Your Digital Commerce Business

Flexibility, flexibility and more flexibility!

If there’s one lesson we’re learning rapidly as we continue to battle for business continuity and survival in the face of the CoronaVirus Pandemic, it’s that we need to be more flexible.

Not only as individuals by changing our personal habits and behaviors to avoid infection, but also as businesses where we’re facing a myriad of both rapidly changing rules and evolving consumer shopping patterns.

Never before have sayings like the below been more true, and facing these changes becomes even more difficult when we can’t predict what the next change we face will be.

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When the pace of change is relatively slow and predictable, the more traditional slow and steady business planning and IT change approaches are often sufficient to meet the change needs of the business.

However, the pace of pandemic change is anything but predictable and slow, and requires us to seek out, discover, understand and implement new business and IT models for business support in 2021 fast forward steroid mode.

Over the last 10 years Etail Solutions has developed the Etail Vantage Platform, or EVP for short, which was built from the ground up not only as a fully scalable transaction based system, but the platform was also developed utilizing a “Channel Centric Architecture.”

This effectively allows users to connect many disparate sales channels and sources of inventory across multi-companies and multiple systems types in order to manage millions of complex digital commerce and supply chain functions as if operating on one network.

The EVP platform accomplishes this by pulling all of the data from these connected channel nodes for Sales Channels and Inventory Sources and then normalizes it at the core allowing for advanced management and optimization of the entire business ecosystem.

Easiest way to understand the Channel Centric Architecture approach is by thinking of a Hub and Spoke, where every connected channel type is a Spoke for which communications, taxonomies and transactional requirements are defined to interact as required and then connected to the Hub for Normalization via embedded Product Information Management and Master Catalogue capabilities. To get an idea what this Channel Centric Architecture looks like in this case see the below diagram:

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As you can see from the Hubs in this diagram, these connected Channels can be many different systems types, and now let’s move from the background on what Channel Centric Architecture is, as it’s time to jump in and share some potential use cases.

Pandemic Facility Closures

As cases continue to rise in the second wave of the CoronaVirus Pandemic, with new, more contagious Covid19 variants now spreading, there’s real possibilities you may need to at least temporarily close one or more fulfillment or distribution centers. Since many operations are now hard wired to operate in standard day to day order taking, drop to FC / DC for fulfillment and then shipment, if you’re not prepared for these closures, order disruption may occur. Utilizing a Channel Centric Architecture, should such a closure occur, orders can be redirected on the fly to any other connected Inventory Channel whether Store, Other DC/FCs or even connected Suppliers or Distributors with needed products. And if needed, with a Channel Centric Architecture already in place, new Inventory Channels can also be easily connected up to 4 times faster than traditional integration methods.

Smooth New Systems Implementations

Having personally lived through more nightmarish new systems implementations than I care to remember during my career, I know this one is a real threat to disrupt your operations. Typical new systems implementations require preparation and loading of the new system and then prescribed testing before “going live” with the business. With a Channel Centric Architecture, the new system can be connected in parallel to current system with small portions of order flow directed to the new system to ensure functioning properly before cut over.

Overcoming Legacy Systems Paralysis for Multi-Channel Operations

Having dealt with major legacy systems issues in past roles, it’s often difficult to make needed improvements based on the current systems of record you must deal with. Utilizing a Channel Centric Architecture approach, it’s truly incredible the progress which can be made both rapidly and cost effectively to overcome such situations, and as this is a methodological approach, there’s likely no scenario which can’t be improved often resulting in what appears to be a custom system accomplishing precisely the orchestration needed for both your customers while still feeding legacy systems of record what they need to operate.

Flexible Third Party Logistics Management and Changes

No matter how careful the selection process, at some point you will almost certainly experience a third party logistics failure somewhere in your network. Such failures can occur for many reasons, but for example’s sake let’s say the third party logistics provider you’ve been using has gone bankrupt and ceased operations. Again by having a Channel Centric Architecture in place, any other connected Inventory Source could be immediately utilized to pick up the slack versus hard wired scenarios where it could be days or even weeks before you could get up and running again. Additionally, any other providers already connected to this same Channel Centric Architecture could be rapidly fired up to support business needs and minimize the period of disruption.

Flexibly Connecting Systems For Headless Commerce

In order to function effectively in a Headless Commerce mode requires flexibility to connect and disconnect systems which support your back end functions from the customer experience front end which may need continuous modification to keep customers fully supported and engaged to increase conversions and enhance customer lifetime value. As the type of User Interfaces for potential sales processes continue to increase so to will the systems to which you need to connect without disrupting you core technology stack. By utilizing a Channel Centric Architecture, many Headless Commerce technologies can be easily connected and trialed to determine value without majorly impacting overall transaction processes.

The above represent only five examples of how a Channel Centric Architecture can build resiliency and flexibility into your IT operations and your overall business.

In the coming years, we will no doubt face other types of tough changes that are unforeseen, unexpected and for which we could not ever know to be prepared.

Great to know that with a Channel Centric Architecture already deployed you’ll now be ready for them and then fortunately these challenges won’t even matter!

To view this entire article from Jeff Ashcroft on LinkedIn, click here.

Jeff has over 30 years of large scale, complex, consultative and direct logistics and supply chain systems experience from warehouse floor to boardrooms of major retail, brand, third party logistics, consulting and IT organizations. Solid base of capabilities and practical approach to helping people and organizations develop AND implement solutions that work. Passionate about improving digital commerce and the ability of distributed logistics to drive improved supply chain sustainability with LOWER costs AND better customer experience