Roman’s Rants: E-Commerce is Easy (my arse!)

NeandertalerIt should all be so simple: there is loads of software to build a webshop with. There’s expertise, there is experience, there is people. You would think that selling stuff online would be a no-brainer, thirteen years after the mother-of-all-shops, osCommerce, went live. But hell no, bringing a commerce business online that has a sprinkle of individualisation and a little bit of scale still is a fucking pain in the arse.

Thirteen years, measured according to Internet standards, is a hell of a lot of time. But guess what? Nothing seems to have changed! Coders are still writing importers, struggling with stylesheets and deal with lack of documentation – like in the bloody days of yore! As mentioned before, if you’re using standards – and frigging stick to them! – you’ll probably be fine. If you’re thinking out of the box or – lo and behold: innovate! – it’s a drag.

But it’s not technology alone: In all those years, a common language that both coders and business-people understand, hasn’t been found. There are misunderstandings that you wouldn’t imagine happening to educated commerce people in the 21st century.

This goes to show that what Johannes Altmann alluded to on stage at this year’s OXID Commons is oh so true: Consultants, agencies, commerce pundits everywhere are talking about the next big thing. Come up with ever-new social-mobile-responsive-big-data-in-the-cloud loads of shit. But the reality is: Most merchants are dealing with the most basic things. Getting their payment processes to run properly. Getting their product data in order. Setting up a website with a checkout process for crying out loud.

I’m in commerce, I’m trying to help merchants get their stores online. In comparison, if I was in catering, I’d still be dealing with spears and flintstones.

(Image by mueritz)

4 Responses to Roman’s Rants: E-Commerce is Easy (my arse!)

  1. fendi911 says:

    nice rant, Roman – but have a look at this: https://medium.com/what-i-learned-building/d233f02d52a5

    imho there´s way too much technical discussion where merchants should stop for a sec and think about strategy

    • Roman Zenner says:

      You’re right, but the point is, that in the scenarios I’ve outlined, merchants are totally blocked by the technical problems that should’ve been solved ages ago.

  2. I agree with Roman that it can be a major pain to do basic stuff like importing data and getting integrations for ERP systems, payment service and shipping providers to work.

    From my experience, all parts of the ecosystem are partly responsible for this:
    – many merchants have awful data at hand (especially those which had not been in e-commerce before)
    – many web agencies aren’t trying hard enough to set up professional processes, learn about the business and the tools
    – many ERP systems aren’t laid out to be really extensible. There is no standard ERP which really fits to the customer and you have to be able to easily expand the customisations to the web.
    – many third parties (payment service providers, shipping providers and the like) providing awful testing environments which look nothing like the real thing ™, having no official integrations for even the most popular platforms, having no easy-to-implement API to integrate their stuff (or – one may dream – a standardised API for payment, shipping, product information, …).

    Of course there are enough people out there who know their stuff and get it right. But there are also many who don’t.
    Why is that? Well, thirteen years may be a long time in web history but it isn’t that long in human history. ;-) People on all sides still have to catch up with the new requirements and connectivity. Until not that long ago, integrating systems like the ones mentioned above was a topic for the big players primarily. Nowadays, your mom-and-pop-store next door also needs these things.

  3. fendi911 says:

    Matthias, thanks for your comment – and I agree with a lot, but actually it underlines my point – there´s too much focus on technical details ;)

    Take a real world example: if you want to start a “mom-and-pop-store” in your neighborhood – would you start with thinking about an automatic door and barcode-scanner-cash-desk first? Or would you start with a simple cash only solution and focus on your offering and service first?

    The underlying question is: do you want to enter the competition with products, assortment, service and pricing or with technology? – Do you want to be a merchant or a nerd? ;)

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