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Nov 2, 2023 | 4 minute read

Don’t Succumb to Commerce Stockholm Syndrome

written by Bryan House

“You’ll never get fired for buying [insert legacy tech company name here].” The software world is filled with lore about job security and vendor selection, or the value of dropping a vendor’s name in industry cocktail conversations. In reality, too many tech implementations end up super painful for the teams involved. Projects often go far over budget, take twice as long as expected, and are difficult to disengage from when it comes time to change. The story remains the same across industries, and the battle wounds are evident by survivors of these nightmare deployments. So much for making the “safe choice.”

Even today, the commerce world still suffers from a Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to sympathizing with software vendors who are perceived as safe choices. Among industry insiders, it's a well known fact (often treated as a joke) that your project will take twice as long to launch and cost twice as much as the originally quoted budget. Still, teams suffer through the consequences of their commerce platform selection because they’re too risk-averse to choose the best vendor for their requirements. Instead, they choose a vendor in the right position on an analyst report they can share with their executive team.

Mavericks vs. Laggards

When it comes to selecting commerce technology, the safe choice can be anything but safe. In the current economy, companies can’t afford to go over budget on a replatforming project before the implementation is complete. However, consulting an analyst report is enough for many companies to simply run with a well-known commerce platform without even considering the alternatives. The classic definition of a laggard is someone who won’t take a chance — even if it means innovating or improving their company’s situation.

Others go with an implementation partner’s recommendations, and rely on blind trust that the vendor and implementation partner will stick to timelines and budgets. I’ve heard so many war stories of bait-and-switch projects that promise certain pricing and deliverables, but are so far out of the ballpark it’s borderline obscene.

Instead of accepting analyst claims (many without firsthand experience of their own), mavericks have the resolve to take a chance on emerging technology if it’s the right choice for them. These mavericks could care less about skating through their careers. They are willing to make bold choices in an effort to make a lasting impact on their companies. Most importantly, they know how to partner with technology companies who listen to their requirements and execute on their vision relentlessly. Maverick commerce leaders belong with maverick vendors.

How to choose a commerce vendor like a maverick

So, if you’re not choosing out of fear, what is the best way to make a vendor selection like a maverick?

  • Focus on customer experience. Consider the vendor’s approach to customer success. Look at their approach to the presales process. Many will go above and beyond in this phase to make an implementation work for you, which may be enough of a unique differentiator to take the plunge.
  • Look for pricing transparency and authenticity. Some vendors will slash their implementation prices in efforts to win a bid. Further down the road, there’s an inevitable web of complexity that leads to exploding implementation costs. Do your due diligence up front to understand exactly how costs will be allocated in your vendor’s services model. In other words, what will they do to drive sustainable value for you instead of focusing on maximizing their own billable hours? Do they overwhelm you with technical complexity and ask you to just trust them?
  • Do a chemistry check with the team. While it may sound intuitive, more commerce teams should take into consideration the people they’ll be working with during the implementation process. Do they have proven experience implementing solutions with similar brands? Do they have the creativity to solve your problems, even if the path is not obvious or apparent? The right team will move mountains to make your project work for you.

In the vendor selection process, it’s important to ask yourself: Am I empathizing with my captor, or am I willing to break free to try something that’s best for my company? If no one made maverick vendor choices, we’d still be operating on-premises servers vs. scaling companies on AWS. We’d still be on Oracle instead of faster, more modern open source database counterparts. No one would ever innovate or take a chance on building something great. It’s time the commerce world got out of its own way and started behaving like mavericks.

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