Adopting technology early is a challenge every business may face at some point in their growth and development. However, technology is now moving so fast that what might have seemed risky in the past might today actually be the safer bet, to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition.

What are the benefits of adopting technology early? 

Adopting technology early has many benefits, some of which can easily be overlooked such as:

•    Delivering more innovative experiences to customers that stand out in a crowded market
•    Becoming more efficient and cost-effective 
•    Keeping high-performing employees engaged with cutting-edge technologies
•    A longer life cycle of new technology to improve, enhance and fine-tune for future growth
•    Scalability for future growth 

For example, one of the next big trends in eCommerce today is the move to headless deployments. This means the frontend of your website is decoupled from the backend of your website. This can be advantageous because it offers more flexibility for scaling your website and supporting customers across multiple touchpoints. One of the major drivers of headless commerce is the rise of Progressive Web Applications (PWA) that provides users with a rich, interactive experience without the usual barriers of native mobile applications.

PWAs were introduced in 2010 by Google launching the Angular web development framework so in many ways it’s not that new, having been around for over 10 years. However, the ranks of companies reaping the benefits of PWA technology are still relatively small, especially in the eCommerce space. It is a great way to take advantage of a lower total cost of ownership by moving early into a new technology that is here to stay long term. That way you won’t have to switch to technologies as it becomes more mature and you will save long-term costs.

When PWAs were first being introduced to eCommerce platforms five or six years ago, the technology wasn’t fully mature.

However, even back then, the long term value was clear:

•    Rich user experiences
•    Lower cost to deploy & manage than native apps
•    Improved agility and flexibility
•    No dependence on app stores

One of the early adopters of PWAs on Magento Commerce is Beta Brand which uses Magento Commerce for their commerce engine. They decided to use Angular as their Web Development Framework and built their storefront as a PWA back when most eCommerce companies weren’t even thinking about PWA. By being early adopters, they attracted quality development talent and built a strong technical foundation that has positioned them for growth now and in the future.

As JH, an Adobe partner found, the lifetime cost of a PWA is significantly lower than a traditional website build. In addition, companies implementing PWAs get all the other benefits like more flexibility, better user experience, and faster load times, among others.

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If adopting technology early has so many benefits, then why shouldn’t everyone do it!? Well, adopting too early can have risks.

What are the signs it’s too early?

You can’t get a reliable quote. If you are getting quotes from multiple vendors that have large variance, it might be a sign that vendors don’t know how to quote for the new technology yet. This means there could be unexpected costs because vendors don’t have much experience yet. 

It’s not clear it will be a winner long term. Some new technology could be a fad. This could be risky and mean you will choose something not many will adopt long-term and will be hard to service or find talent for.

You can’t afford the learning curve. Early adoption can come with some additional costs, such as finding talent that is more scarce or simply training around the new technology. It might also have more bugs or issues in the early stages that require fixing. It might also lack third party add-ons or integrations that you are not prepared to build and support yourself.

These project risks may (or may not) outweigh the potential benefit right now. “Too early” will differ for every merchant based on this risk assessment.

What are the signs you are too late?

Your competition is way ahead of the curve. This might seem obvious, but many companies don’t realize how far ahead the competition really is. Simply looking at their website isn’t enough to tell. They may have advanced processes and technologies on the backend. You may have to do some digging to really find out how far ahead the competition really is.

You’re losing market share. As consumers and businesses gravitate towards better experiences and more efficient companies you may lose market share due to outdated technology. This could be a sign your company is way behind the curve technologically.

You struggle to attract or keep technical talent. Technical talent wants to work on cutting edge stuff. They don’t want to work on legacy technology that will become obsolete. If you struggle to retain technical talent this could be a sign you are behind the curve and are adopting new technologies too slowly.

Your digital presence is limited. If you have a very limited SEO, social media, and email footprint, your presence is clearly limited. A small digital presence could be disastrous for many businesses that are too late to adopt new technology.

Most of your processes are manual. If you are spending way too much time as an organization manually doing things that could be automated, you could become uncompetitive. Things like data entry, signing documents by hand versus digitally, etc, add up in time and can often be automated via integrations or other means.

The costs to catch up are very high. The technology barrier can get very high if you haven’t invested much in keeping your technology stack current. Building the needed systems and technology could incur higher investment of time and money to make your business competitive.

How to take the lead as an early adopter

Take an iterative approach 
As the saying goes, you can’t eat the whole elephant in one bite. You could start by adopting something new like PWA on a small scale or perhaps even for a portion of your business or website. Start small and iterate to grow from there. 

Identify trends that might require new technology 
Customer expectations are ever-evolving and often the driver of new trends in technology. Just as mobile commerce fueled the rise of PWAs, current trends like visual search, IoT, and immersive commerce are driving innovative design patterns and technologies. Understanding your customers’ expectations and behavior can help you identify trends that could give you a competitive advantage. 

Identify the leading new technologies that are fastest growing to help capitalize on those trends. 
Once you identify trends you believe will have an impact on your customers, it’s important to understand the barriers to address them with your current technology. Is your API flexible enough to support your needs across all your customer touchpoints? The Magento Commerce GraphQL API may be able to help. Are you able to surface relevant products to your customers? Adobe Sensei powered product recommendations and visual recommendations offer leading-edge solutions to product discovery. 

Being an early adopter means making bold decisions to unlock incredible potential. Research new technologies and trends that are paving the wayboth in your industry and in adjacent ones. Inspiration can come from anywhere (Tinder was one of the earliest adopters of PWA after all). By leading early, you can jumpstart your growth and increase market share while improving efficiency and reducing costs. 

Read more from our TCO series

Posted by Contributor