Developers: Retailers’ Secret Weapon for the Holiday Season
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, with online sales records smashed yet again. Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday all saw record online sales this year, and the spending is expected to continue through the rest of the holiday season. While the sales numbers make exciting headlines, a group driving retailers’ success — developers — is less in the spotlight.
From the social media ad that catches a customer’s eye to the final checkout experience on mobile or web, developers have an enormous impact on the path to purchase. According to research from Nielsen and Stripe, 51 percent of consumers will abandon a checkout page if it takes too long to load, which adds up to thousands if not millions of lost collective retail sales.
Developers are best equipped to build smooth checkouts and prevent abandoned carts. Unfortunately, retailers increasingly misdirect their engineering resources. Developers waste an inordinate amount of time addressing “technical debt” — everything from refactoring to maintaining legacy systems. In fact, Stripe found that software engineers spend nearly four hours a week alone rewriting bad code, adding up to nearly $300 billion in lost productivity annually.
To avoid this loss, retail leadership must take stock of where their developers currently focus their time, and then assess whether these projects will add definitive business value or eat away at limited resources. After all, developers are currently in short supply. By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related jobs in the U.S., and only 400,000 graduates to fill them. In the face of this deficit, it’s mission critical that businesses effectively manage the engineering teams they already have.
Retailers face a unique challenge: not only are developers hard to come by, but they’re also responsible for building frictionless digital shopping experiences. Sid Millspaugh, vice president of technology at RealTruck, a leading retailer of truck accessories, explains, “No matter what they’re buying, customers now expect two days to delivery, not two days to get the order out the door. Hours, seconds even, count.”
To help developers exceed those customer expectations, retailers should outsource engineering tasks when possible. Retail developers don’t need to create their own identity management, communications or payments systems from scratch. API-based services can tackle these infrastructural tasks for them. Then developers can spend more of their time on higher-impact projects, such as building creative loyalty programs or finding new ways to engage customers online.
Thando’s, an online retailer and social enterprise specializing in women’s shoes, has seen the benefit of this firsthand. “As we continue to scale as a global company based in Nigeria, maintaining a secure and seamless shopping experience for our customers is more important than ever,” Co-Founder Taffi Ayodele explains. “We chose to outsource a variety of developer tasks and, as a result, we’ve seen fewer abandoned carts. Now 40 percent of website visitors make a purchase.”
Finally, in addition to buying instead of building when possible, retailers should involve developers in technology and business strategy conversations. At RealTruck, where 100 percent of revenue comes from online sales, stakeholders partner with developers on every decision that touches e-commerce to scope projects, set expectations, and problem solve. The RealTruck engineering team has completed 120 projects in two years, partly due to effective communication between business and engineering departments.
When empowered to focus on revenue-driving initiatives, developers are force multipliers. By increasing the multiplying power of developers — the developer coefficient, if you will — retailers can make better use of their limited resources and focus their energies on exceeding even the most ambitious sales goals this holiday season.
Jeanne DeWitt is head of North America revenue and growth at Stripe, an online payment processing company.
Jeanne DeWitt is the Head of North America Revenue and Growth at Stripe, a technology company that builds economic infrastructure for the internet. Everyone from brand-new startups, to giants like Google and Facebook, use Stripe’s software to accept payments and run their businesses online.
Prior to Stripe, Jeanne was the Director of GSuite SMB Sales for North & Latin America at Google, then lead go-to-market strategy as the Chief Revenue Officer of Dialpad, a communications startup.