Can ‘low code, no code’ close the commerce skills gap?

GUEST BLOG: In this guest blog post Conor Barr, CPO of retail integration platform Patchworks, discusses whether low or no code could help those low on tech skills to excel in the e-commerce market. 

E-commerce is booming. The Covid-19 pandemic saw a 12% increase in EU businesses starting or escalating their digital sales. Virtually overnight, the pandemic accelerated consumer demand for online capabilities world-wide.  While many met the challenge to pivot, the real test will be building a sustainable long-term e-com business.  

With customers and competitors flocking online, it’s placing huge pressure on businesses and brands looking to differentiate and win with great virtual buying experiences. They now face the challenge of deciding which tech to invest in, what will accommodate future services, experiences and scale. It’s especially challenging for small/medium size companies whose pre-Covid revenue from e-com was much smaller than it is today.

Complexity has gone into hyper-drive

It’s now a constant play to remain current and ensure a significant return on tech investment. E-tailers will have to set a focused tech direction – coupling best of breed tech early on and understanding key struggles such as what causes Overselling and Underselling – or risk getting left behind.  

It now goes beyond best of breed tech but also, how to connect all these disparate applications; only then can there be a fluid exchange between these apps, resulting in the true strategic benefit.  For many it’s also about how to integrate, run and maintain them, using the skills-base they already have.

Tech-hungry e-commerce faces tough decisions 

While there’s tech aplenty, the one thing that’s in short supply is skilled IT staff.  According to Deloitte 71% of CEOs anticipate that the skills shortage will be their biggest business disrupter.  At the same time a survey of HR professionals by McKinsey & Co states that 61% believe hiring developers will be their biggest challenge in the years ahead.  

The global shortage of traditional developers is now a major issue for e-commerce – especially with large incumbent brands and the metaverse set to suck up top talent.  Inability to recruit or hold on to developers could leave them facing growing holes in their IT-capability, just when they need it the most. 

So how can they plug the gap and build a long-term strategy to deliver competitive advantage, and support continuous change and growth?  And how can they take the pressure of their existing teams by making integration easier?

Low code application platforms (LCAP) can help plug the gap and carry the load

There is pressure on companies to go into overdrive too early, building bespoke solutions instead of starting with a turnkey or minimum viable product (MVP). Utilising Integration Platform as a Service (iPaaS) such as Patchworks enables a core hub of all systems. It releases businesses from complexity concerns, by providing a centralised means to manage and orchestrate all integrations in a secure manner. 

LCAP platforms like these rely on low-code/no-code (LC/NC) app development and integration, using point-and-click or drop-down menu interfaces, commerce businesses can design, test and run new functionalities in hours and with minimal or even no programming skills. They provide a close fit to business and customer requirements, and typically cost much less than in-house developed systems.  

They also offer the ability to quickly set up powerful integrations that free up operations to devote time to other key business functions.  This means that non-technical teams can create and maintain integrations by performing field mapping and transformations within dashboards using intuitive UIs. Saving valuable time and resources and tapping into the potential of tech stack investments through a single pipe.

It’s time to democratise development

Not only does LC/NC make innovation faster and cheaper, but it also democratises it. Using built in tools, anyone in the organisation can take on the task of digitalising e-commerce processes.  

Those with first-hand experience of the challenges, workflows and customers can now build the best solutions, and test and iterate them until they’re optimised to achieve their goals. Nothing is lost in translation, there are fewer bottlenecks and a stronger focus on business objectives whether it be efficiency or revenue. For e-commerce businesses this helps them maintain momentum and growth even if IT professionals are in short supply.

Effortless IT is now in big demand

According to Gartner, the worldwide low-code development technologies market increased 23% in 2021 to $13.8 billion.

And it’s not just on the development side that LC/NC is in demand. Most retail businesses now require ten or more specialist softwares to operate effectively, so integration is also critical. LC/NC can help to remove, reduce and automate manual business processes, taking the heat of existing teams and leaving them free to focus on other business-critical functions.  

The message for e-commerce businesses is that they’re no longer limited by their skills base.  With LC/NC e-commerce technology, it’s possible to create rich, interconnected user experiences across web, mobile, conversational, internet of technologies (IoT) and augemnted reality (AR) applications, using the talent they already have. 

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