Modern Retail

Retail to Etail: How the Shifting Paradigm of Retail Impacts Your Ecommerce Site Today

Retail to etail - ecommerce site

Etail has really come into its own this year. With the challenges of the pandemic hitting retailers world-wide, some have been able to rise to the top and meet the new reality of cross-channel shopping head-on by taking an ecommerce-first approach. Others were pressed for quickly converting physical B2C and B2B operations to digital means to connect with their customers.

These two very different approaches to the challenge of becoming fully digital reflect a widening division between two very different e-retail strategies and paradigmatic camps: 

  1. Ecommerce-first
  2. Retail is retail

In the hyper-compressed world of the global shutdown and the urgency to get online – fast – many retailers have opted for quickly getting online by any means necessary, and thus opting for Option 2: just quickly getting online with existing systems, data, and technology. 

But enough time has now passed that this approach is starting to reap what it’s sewn: data errors. Unhappy customers. Shipment tracking issues. And more.

Building an ecommerce strategy from the ground up

We at VL OMNI have seen this many times over the course of our 26+ year history of moving data and helping merchants automate their integrations strategically. A few cutting-edge merchants approach ecommerce as it’s own channel with it’s own unique needs and data requirements. But change is clearly in the air: more and more merchants are seeing that old retail data is a detriment to your ecommerce operations. 

It’s a “round hole, square peg” scenario: data designed for bricks-and-mortar operations just isn’t how the most successful ecommerce retailers survive and thrive. They see ecommerce for it’s unique needs and instead start from the ground up with data updated for digital channels.

This may sound like a huge undertaking — and, to a degree, it is. But the consequences of not addressing your digital channels properly from the start are starting to show in those who approached digital as “retail is retail” since many made the conversion at the start of the pandemic.

But not to worry – it can be fixed with the right combination of strategy, strategic partners, and dedication to becoming ecommerce-first.

Your retail data is creating issues for your etail channels

The issue is that it isn’t just retailers who were corralled into ecommerce due to the pandemic. There’s been a fundamental shift from bricks-and-mortar to ecommerce over the past decade or so, and ecommerce has – up to this point – been treated by the market as a sort of afterthought. Ecommerce departments are often offshoots, and ecommerce projects have been commonly second to brick and mortar operations.

The accelerated shift to ecommerce couldn’t have been predicted, but this has exposed the weak points in the “retail is retail” approach to ecommerce, treating it as just another channel: ecommerce hasn’t been effectively planned for or managed.

And this directly impacts your business, your customers, and your bottom line. As a top-tier data integration consultant in the Shopify Plus space, VL OMNI sees this first hand with many merchants. The interaction is almost always based around bad data or data errors. As a data integration platform, VL OMNI moves data – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s a classic “garbage-in, garbage-out” scenario, and data integration platforms only translate and move data, not cleanse or correct it.

How bad data affects your ecommerce site

The core issue is that this bad data is almost always from bricks and mortar retail. Old data meant for completely different channels where customers are shopping in a completely different way compared to how it is in ecommerce. So it is really no surprise when issues arise. 

One example is product data that was never organized to work for digital channels. Housed in a PIM or ERP, brick and mortar data maybe has a single dimension or two – one for B2C, and one for B2B. But digital channels each require a specific formatting of product data, including sometimes specific product pictures and tailored descriptions and tags per channel. With old retail data, there’s little way to manage this effectively, and your operations will hit roadblocks or else will create cumbersome manual work-arounds.

A better way to approach etail

The good news is that there’s a tangible solution to this problem. It involves strategy, time, and investment, as every good project does.

And, there’s no other way around it: retailers need to start from their data and work their way up. To become truly ecommerce-first, you have to treat it as its own unique entity with unique needs instead of trying to force old paradigms on a new model. 

How to rethink your business strategy for ecommerce 

The first step is to look at your core applications: do you have the right applications to feed the right data into your etail channels? At minimum, an ERP is crucial, but we are seeing more and more retailers adopt the new application category of PIM to more effectively manage product data across many channels (including bricks and mortar). 

Second, surround yourself with the right strategic partners to connect everything together. In the world of ecommerce this usually consists of an agency specializing in ecommerce and digital, and a strategic data integration partner who can connect your applications together so that everything flows and is automated. These partners have the experience, expertise and resources to help you navigate ecommerce; after all, we specialize in what we do, and we do it for many, many merchants. 

And finally – and most importantly – you will have to revisit your data to ensure it’s being built out for maximum effectiveness across all your channels, physical and otherwise. There’s no avoiding it – this is crucial and very necessary homework for your business that you’ll eventually have to do.

After all, it’s clear that ecommerce isn’t going anywhere fast. Bad data is affecting your etail channels and ecommerce sites today. So best to start now!


VL OMNI is a serverless platform for agile and scalable iPaaS ecommerce integration and a top Shopify Plus Data Integration Partner. From ecommerce platforms, ERPs, EDI, or marketplaces, we strategically integrate your applications together to create a seamless experience at the operational level and enhance your business’ customer experience. Learn more about VL OMNI here.