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  • Writer's pictureJohn DeCaprio

Retail, we're breaking up. It's not you, it's me.

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

Love letters to retail - Correspondence #2 (read the last in the series)

Dear Retail,

I hope you remain well; the news is filled with accounts of the failing health of your four walled home and I am so very concerned about you. I just hope that your family is taking good care of you, helping you develop the seamless commerce experiences that are required for your return to health.

A chance meeting with your younger brother eCommerce provided a glimpse into how your family is dealing with your illness. I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how much your bro, eCom, had matured since we were last together pre-COVID. His growth is simply amazing, he may just be my new favorite family member – my apologies to you Retail.

All kidding aside, I hope our time apart has provided you, my dearest retail, with a renewed passion to make the changes that are required to rebuild the relationship we once shared inside your four walls. Until that time, I hope you don’t mind if I spend my time with your brother eCommerce. For the sake of our future, I hope you miss me as much as I miss you.

Love, Your biggest supporter.

As a kid growing up, I observed my parents speaking about one relative or another and they seemed to always categorize each with one of the following comments: they were considered a success, full of potential or simply fighting the good fight. On the rare occasion that none of these adjectives applied, the phrase, "bless their heart", was always on hand.

The life of eCommerce has followed a similar path, maturing steadily over the years, but only recently achieving the full status as a success. This was never more evident than when I began purchasing online groceries for my +80 year old parents who, after the second such order, informed me that they had it covered. Not only had they set up their own account, but they had also placed orders for delivery and curbside pick-up. It’s really no surprise given eCommerce’s history of user centered design. What is a surprise was just how prepared they were, and how quickly they moved to respond to a rapidly changing market.

Unfortunately, not all is well in retail, even within eCommerce. While some bask in the sunlight, success is not evenly distribution across the industry as far too many manufacturers and traditional retailers remain laggards. Their inability to keep pace with the evolution of a seamless commerce experience is holding them back. Those falling into this category can best be characterized with the phrase, “bless their heart”. The time for being viewed as “full of potential” passed some years back, and let’s face it, “fighting the good fight” is no longer enough in today’s challenging market. Most importantly, ditching this nasty slur will require some introspection, and a dive into some good self-help topics. Some of my favorites include:

It’s just business, quit overthinking everything: As you would with your core business, follow the purchase funnel to arrive at metrics that actually mean something, that are actionable, that empower your teams to make informed decisions. Where metrics don’t exist, build them, even if that means inventing them. Also, make sure to look at each metric’s

downstream impact. All too often success is defined within each phase of the purchase process, without looking at its impact on the overall purchase funnel. Once this is accomplished, try segmenting these same metrics based on distinct user profiles. This is especially useful when purchase or usage patterns differ as they would with categories such as hair care where a 50-year-old female’s needs differ significantly from a 20-year-old.

Deconstruct for growth: In order to realign your organization around a metrics/KPI driven culture, start first by making this a priority for the organization, not just a task on someone's to-do list. As a top priority, it will receive the level of introspection required by your leadership team to ensure metrics are hard hitting, actionable and empowering to your organization. The actual process is rather strait forward, what is hard is dealing with the politics associated with completing a process that challenges traditional thinking. In order to break down silo's consider leveraging an outside consultant as the project lead. In doing so, you can amplify the discussions surrounding what metrics matter in todays market. Interested in learning more:

Your BRAND IS UNIQUE, your website is not: Unless you are one of the few manufacturers or retailers that have a truly unique value proposition, chances are you’d be better off if your website closely followed someone you aspired to become. Quite honestly, differentiation through a fully customized website perfectly tuned to your business model is no longer a viable strategy. Digital commerce has matured to a point where consumers now expect to follow specific usability patterns while shopping. As a result, building a custom eCommerce site is no longer a competitive advantage, unless of course, you are a mega-retailer able to educate consumers on new shopping patterns. Even then, few situations would cover the increased costs required to support the initial deployment or ongoing maintenance costs.

If you self-identify as being in the “bless your heart” category, you probably fall into one of following situations. If you are fortunate enough to be on one of today’s leading eCommerce platforms, challenge your team to justify the level of brand specific customizations they currently maintain. If they prevent you from migrating efficiently to each new software update, it may be time to reconsider your strategy. If you are on a second-tier platform or a home-grown solution, challenge your team to justify the benefits of maintaining this strategy. Chances are good that upgrading to a leading platform would elevate your sites usability, far exceeding the benefits from remaining on your fully customized site.

Fortunately, eCommerce platforms have evolved to a level of sophistication that will deliver the brand customization you demand without requiring all that one-off coding. This will enable you to remain on the current version with less cost and future disruption, enabling your shoppers to take full advantage of the new bells and whistles as they are launched, not years later when your team finally justifies the budget to upgrade.

Find your eCommerce twin, then upgrade: If your approach to eCommerce requires attention, start by finding your online twin, both in and out of your core category. A simple benchmarking process will help align leadership, enable the team to honestly grade your online experience. Once complete, identify the platform(s) leveraged by your online twins, connect with their developers to explore how your company might leverage their platform(s) to one-up your twins. With this information in hand, you are ultimately prepared to build a requirements document, initiate your re-platforming project. In order to break down silo's and traditional thinking, consider leveraging an outside consultant as the project lead. In doing so, you can amplify the discussions surrounding what online experiences matter in today's market. Interested in learning more:

Dear Retail,

Sadly, I have resigned myself to the fact that it will be some time before we are able to rekindle our love within your four walls. It’s not your fault, really, we just grew apart.

I know it’s not fair to you, but we want different things. You had to know that we've been growing apart for some time now and that I’m obsessed with a need for experiences that support the purchases I make. For the time being, I need to focus on myself while I figure things out. My new eCommerce friends, including your younger bro really seems to get me.

You will forever be my first love, and I do hope we find our way back to each other as we both evolve into the best version of ourselves.

Love, Your biggest supporter.

Thank you for exploring Love letters to retail - Correspondence #2 (read the first in the series)

About: PANDECA is a consortium of independent consultants led by John DeCaprio, an industry veteran with experience scaling global enterprise level solutions spanning eCommerce, Omni-Channel and Store Engagement platforms. A focus on operational excellence and bottom-line impact is leveraged to deliver value across the purchase funnel.

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