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Commerce anarchy is taking over — but what are the causes behind it?

Success! The sweater someone has been eyeing all month is back in stock — and on sale — according to the Instagram ad they just scrolled to. But as this potential buyer hops to the brand's website to snag the deal, the item is already gone, or the discount price is nowhere to be found. Failure.

In an increasingly chaotic retail world, this scenario happens every minute of every day, often resulting in disappointed consumers and lost sales opportunities. The rise of social commerce — such as Instagram Shops and Pinterest Shopping — has overwhelmed brands that typically manage multiple channels via many different systems. 

This is what is becoming known as commerce anarchy: the struggle brands, retailers, and service providers face managing the increasingly complex paths between products, services, and consumers. But what causes commerce anarchy, and how can companies stay on top of it and thrive in the crowded commerce space? 

The causes of commerce anarchy

When 51% of organizations use at least eight different channels within their customer experience (CX) programs and product information is typically spread across four separate IT platforms. Obviously, misalignment can occur if they’re not properly managed. 

There are several causes of commerce anarchy, both internal and external. Let’s first take a look at some of the internal factors contributing to commerce chaos:

  • Data: If your product data is not unified and exists across various systems, it can cause chaos internally. Without centralized data, your information may vary across channels and result in inaccurate inventory count or prices. 
  • Visibility: If your product information exists on different platforms, you lose complete visibility into your channels, campaigns, and individual digital assets — meaning you’re often driving blind attempting to navigate them all and maintain consistency in metrics. It’s even more difficult if you have regionally dispersed systems, non-existent or inappropriate processes, and the resulting lack of insight that follows.
  • Cost escalation: If your cost per sale keeps rising and you keep repeatedly paying for the same processes, chances are you’re slower to market than your competitors. If you don’t fully understand your total cost of ownership and potential synergies, you risk falling victim to commerce anarchy. 

Left unchecked, internal commerce anarchy can result in high costs and low margins, slow time to market, high product return rates, over-reliance on IT for business operations, and loss of brand control. But you also need to consider the external causes of commerce anarchy: 

  • Channel proliferation: Channel proliferation has led to increasing complexity as brands attempt to navigate new ecommerce opportunities. It’s important to hop on new channel opportunities as they arise, but you also have to maintain a delicate balance between how your customers perceive your brand to be, and where you know your brand needs to be online.
  • Competition: Too often your competitors may be better equipped to manage commerce anarchy. If so, then you’re probably losing customers to them. New cloud-native startups and hyperscale retailers that are already investing in product content and feed management will inevitably and continuously win market share over those that aren’t prepared to proactively manage their channels.
  • Regulations: Staying compliant is essential if you want to succeed in ecommerce. But if you don’t have a handle on your product information and data, you won’t be fully aware of the regulations your organization has to comply with. When you manage multiple systems and processes, it’s a challenge to stay on top of every single regulation and standard. 

Manage channel complexity 

External commerce anarchy results in uncompetitive offers, reduced market share, an API arms race, and ever-changing competitive dynamics. 

Don’t risk disappointing and losing your once-loyal customers with out-of-date and inconsistent product information on your channels. Now that you know the causes of commerce anarchy, you can work to calm it. If you want to create customer orders from commerce chaos and win market share, you need to focus your efforts on managing the complex paths between your products and your customers.

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