Most brand-side professionals know what they want to achieve from digital transformation – but are not necessarily clear on which technologies will get them there, or the implications of individual choices they make along the way.

This has created a valuable role for consultants in guiding brands through this change: aligning the strategic needs of the businesses with specific choices and solutions that they’ll need to achieve desired outcomes.

One of the leaders in this space is Rick Watson, the CEO and founder of RMW Commerce Consulting, bringing 20-plus years of experience to the table as a consultant, and also as a solution founder. 

In this episode of Martalks, we discussed topics such as helping businesses understand the technical implications of adoption, and the importance for vendors of building trust with your network through your marketing efforts.

You can listen to the podcast in full here, and read on for a summary of our key talking points.


Consulting to achieve strategic priorities beyond ecommerce

Beyond increasing turnover, a given retailer may have a range of strategic objectives which they can achieve more effectively with the right tools. Rick’s narrative painted a picture of brand leaders navigating a wide range of different entities’ interests – of the investor, of the consumer, and of the brand itself – as they strive to innovate and evolve.

Rick shared the story of a $200m business, of which around $50m was accounted for by ecommerce. The owners of the business were looking to sell in the next 6-12 months. 

“The question they asked was pretty simple, but I think it was insightful: “If we’re going to try and sell this business in a year, what are we going to hear when we come to market?” 

Help us do some pre-diligence on our own business, so that we can get ahead of the pitfalls that might challenge our valuation, or that potential buyers might ask.”

In this case, the immediate pressure of chasing an acquisition brought those three parties’ interests into sharp focus. In other scenarios, finding that laser focus might be more difficult.

Rick explains that this is a skill he acquired from his mentors at ChannelAdvisor.

“Scot Wingo and Michael Jones were my principals at ChannelAdvisor. They showed me the value of entrepreneurship, caring about what customers want, staying focused on a task. 

“Michael was a really good guide for me in terms of what a great product manager was, what that really meant, and how to combine sort of both business and technology with a focus on what customers are doing, and making sure that the business is always focused on top priority.”

For those who are not aware, both Wingo and Jones played a crucial role in growing ChannelAdvisor prior to its IPO in 2015, pioneering a multi-channel approach founded on intimate knowledge of their retail clients’ business models, and how to pivot from one method of selling to another. 

Later in our conversation, Rick spoke of a company that made a similar strategic shift: a multi-million-dollar wine brand that wanted to start selling direct-to-consumer.

“Part of what we’re doing is helping them understand how they should build a supply chain that supports a direct-to-consumer business, given that they have stores and existing warehouses for a B2B business that might be selling to grocery stores or restaurants or the Liquor Board. 

“That was sort of an assessment exercise: what is the state of the organization today? What are the people, processes and technology that the business is working with today? And assessing the options such as: should we be using a 3PL? – should we be developing our own capabilities?”

Whilst the task of facilitating or building appropriate solutions eventually falls to a system integrator, consultancies lend some their greatest value by anticipating the questions that will crop up along the way.

Pairing retailers with appropriate martech

Rick – like many of our guests on Martalks – touched on the complexity of MACH adoption for brands: in particular, the difficulty of forecasting ROI when replacing a monolith with a composable stack.

“The composable approach is really a different path. Sometimes you’re separating out your PIM, your OMS, your CMS, maybe you’re even hosting an edge network provider to distribute your content. There are just many more pieces to consider. 

“It’s hard to predict the cost upfront, and each of them has a different pricing model. And so you have to know what your usage of those components might be to build your overall ROI. Whereas the ROI for Shopify is much easier to know.”

We heard a similar anecdote on a previous episode of Martalks from Chris Lemmer of SwiftCom. Many brands in South Africa remain wedded to WooCommerce – despite its limitations – due in part to the difficulty in visualizing the total cost of ownership of going headless. 

A composable stack should provide a foundation from which brands can improve customer experience, reduce operational burden, and sell across new channels. Retailers increasingly recognize this – though they are justifiably cautious of change – and welcome trusted advisors to help them muster up the courage to make the leap.

Stay abreast of the latest developments in martech

We spend a lot of time talking about composable startups on Martalks, but Rick rightly says that all businesses should be keeping abreast of the latest developments from the likes of Amazon and Shopify.

In the latter case, we discussed Shopify’s continued growth via Shopify+ which has allowed it to continue to scale through enterprise clients.

“Everyone knows them as the best provider for the little guys. My suspicion is, at some point, more marketing to the same base becomes a little bit diminished; diminishing returns for them from a growth point of view.” 

Listen to the full episode of Martalks for further content on B2B marketing advice for technology firms and more.

For the ultimate ecommerce perspective, check out the Watson Weekly Podcast. Rick’s podcast is essential ecommerce show covering a full range of retail, business and tech themes from perspectives ranging from fresh startups, to the likes of Amazon and Shopify.

Check out Rick’s podcasts here.

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