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With e-commerce more important than ever for retailers, it’s web developers that are brands’ secret weapon, writes Mac Wang. 

It’s no secret the online opportunity for retailers today is immense, and it’s growing rapidly by the day. Currently, online shopping in Australia accounts for more than $23 billion annually, an 11.5 per cent jump from 2016. While the opportunity is growing, so too are customer expectations and competition. Retailers could be missing out on opportunities by ignoring one of their most important resources — their developers.

From the social media ad that catches a customer’s eye to the final checkout experience on mobile or online, developers have an enormous impact on the path to purchase journey. According to research from Stripe, half of Australian customers will abandon a purchase if it takes too long to enter payment information. This can add up to thousands, if not millions, of collective lost sales for Australian retailers. Developers are key to preventing this loss and maximising the opportunity, building smooth checkouts and preventing abandoned carts.

The developer drought

Unfortunately, retailers increasingly misdirect their engineering resources. Instead of focusing on building an online experience that maximises the opportunity for retailers, developer time is being wasted addressing “technical debt” — everything from refactoring to maintaining legacy systems. In fact, Stripe found that globally, software engineers spend nearly four hours each week rewriting bad code, adding up to nearly $117 billion AUD in lost productivity annually. Aussie businesses are also feeling the strain, with two-thirds reporting their developers spend more time addressing technical debt than on strategic projects.

To avoid such loss, retailers must take stock of where their developers currently focus their time and assess whether these projects will add definitive business value or eat away at limited resources. After all, developers are currently in short supply and the gap is deepening. According to a new report from the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and Deloitte, an additional 200,000 technology workers are needed in the next five years for Australia to be a world leader in the digital economy.

Leveraging technology to focus resources

Retailers face a unique challenge: not only are developers hard to come by, but they’re also responsible for building frictionless digital shopping experiences. To help developers exceed these customer expectations, retailers should leverage infrastructure to outsource engineering tasks where possible. Identity management, communications, and payments systems don’t need to be built from scratch. API-based services like Shopify, Twilio, and Stripe can take care of these, freeing up developers to spend more time on higher-impact projects, such as building creative loyalty programs or finding new ways to engage customers online.

Small business parcel delivery startup Sendle is one business that has taken a developer-centric approach to remain nimble and ahead of customer expectations. With a sophisticated technology stack taking care of the engineering legwork, Sendle’s developers are able to focus on value-generating tasks and developing its offering in ways that genuinely matter to customers.

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 revenue-driving initiatives to keep up with, and exceed, customer expectations.

By Mac Wang, Head of Growth ANZ at Stripe