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Composable Business Is More Than A Buzzword

By Robert Hetu | November 18, 2021 | 0 Comments

Technology and Emerging TrendsSymposiumRetail Trends

As retailers attempt to comply with customer demands for unified commerce experiences they struggle with the complexities of inventory, pricing and associate knowledge across channels. CIOs must provide unified commerce processes through a composability approach that can support customer demands. Recently I had the opportunity to present on composable business and the future of the retail agenda at our virtual Symposia.  You may be aware that composability was a driving theme for Gartner Symposium this year.  I know, yet another buzz word.  But I am totally bought into the idea that composable business is the only possible future for retail.

The Problem

To set the stage for the session I recalled a recent personal experience at a US home improvement retailer. I was is planning to make a significant purchase for a home remodel but was really confused when looking at the choices online.  I wanted to see products and get some advice, but an opportunity to leverage a live commerce experience was not available.  So, I visited the store. At the first retailer, I found very few items on the shelf, and despite several attempts, could find no one to assist me.  I left at that point, heading to its major competitor just down the road.

Thankfully, this store did have some items in stock that I could examine, and I was able to find an associate to ask questions. While looking at the products I asked the associate if it was better to buy one now.  He responded that I should go online anyway as the prices are better, and stock availability in store wasn’t very good.

This is one of many experiences all have had with multichannel retailers as each struggle with the complexities of inventory availability, pricing consistency, and associate knowledge across channels.  All exacerbated by the lack of online/offline integration. Our most recent survey data shows that 71% of retailers plan to increase the number of stores so digitalization of the physical is an ongoing challenge.

As we have seen, Covid 19 accelerated customer demands unified commerce experiences, and retailers have attempted to comply. But be honest, the execution of many of your new customer facing processes are put together with rubber bands, paper clips, thumbtacks, and glue.

The challenge that faces you as IT leaders is how replace the rubber bands and thumb tacks with technology that enables the business to be successful by supporting digitally driven existing and new business models. What if I could have requested a live shopping interaction on the mobile app?  Or simply scanned the item, received accurate available to promise, with the best price, and alternative choices?  What if the associate had instant access to the same?  New unified commerce processes must be supported by composability of people, process and technology that can support customer demands.

Competing Forces

Using responses from our 2022 CIO and Technology Executives Survey, we identified 6 drivers and 6 challenges for composable business in retail.

Opposing Forces for Composable Business

The presentation goes through each of these forces in more detail.


Some of the recommendations identified include:

  • Leverage a learning-oriented, continual and forward-looking planning process.
  • Shape multidisciplinary teams to align on value.
  • Accelerate innovation and improve execution to meet unplanned future demand.
  • Continuously monitor and share insights about execution.
  • Practice adaptive strategy to spot and respond to opportunities
    and threats.

For those Gartner that missed the presentation, the slides have just been published Retail CIOs: A Composable Approach Should Top Your Agenda for the Next 24 Months

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