AWS for Industries

Retail Executive Conversations: Solving for retail agility with headless commerce with Ultra Commerce

As retailers around the world continue to demonstrate resilience, tenacity, and a capacity for innovation, we continue to explore the technology that powers their success. We’ve embarked on a series of conversations with executives from Amazon Web Services (AWS) retail expert partner organizations, to showcase their leadership and innovation during these times.

In the latest installment of our Retail Partner Conversations blog series, we chat with Brad Turnbull, CIO at Ultra Commerce, a next-generation enterprise ecommerce platform. In this blog, Turnbull talks about his views on the importance of modernizing digital storefronts with new commerce services to enable growth and innovation for retailers.

AWS: Help our readers understand your vantage point. What are Ultra Commerce’s key segments in the retail industry, and with what type of retail executives do you interact?

Brad Turnbull: At Ultra Commerce, we’re focused on solving ecommerce challenges for retailers to empower their growth through marketplace models, complex product sets, and fulfillment models. We’ve powered billions of dollars of digital commerce transactions for global brands including Amway, Royal Caribbean, Sotheby’s, and Total Wine. Retailers use the Ultra Commerce platform and service to deliver key commerce capabilities for their needs today with flexibility to grow and scale tomorrow.

Though most retailers have figured out the basics of ecommerce by now, retailers who are looking to grow and scale are constantly experiencing growing pains created by the limitations of their current platforms, especially when integrating new technologies and services.

Focusing on new trends for retailers is an important piece to this. We’re seeing significant interest in subscriptions (recurring delivery), as well as companies creating new interconnected brands or storefronts running on a single platform. There’s also a growing segment of traditional distributors and brands that are looking to move into retail. Those companies have discovered the efficiency and cost savings of creating a retail storefront that leverages the same platform and product database as the business-to-business (B2B) digital enterprise is a huge advantage.

Working with our retail clients, Ultra Commerce service and account teams provide support across several departments starting with marketing (CMO, Marketing Directors) and digital teams (VP and Directors of ecommerce). In addition to the executive level, we build strong relationships across the marketing and business teams at any retail enterprise client.

The marketing team will leverage the capabilities of the Ultra Commerce platform to:

  • Create and manage promotions
  • Monitor marketing results
  • Track analytics
  • Connect the storefront to marketing platforms like email and customer relationship management (CRM)

Meanwhile, the business team is actively using the platform for everyday business management, including things like inventory, shipping and fulfillment, and interacting with customers.

On the technical side, if our customer is building or managing their storefront internally, we’ll work with a project lead and a broad technical team including CTOs, CIOs, and developers directly.

Retailers are looking for a next-generation solution, which is why we not only have a full coverage modular API at Ultra Commerce, but it’s also the basis for everything we do. On top of this, our enterprise level capabilities are ready to go for marketing teams, right out of the box.

AWS: Retail companies are managing through a period of unprecedented disruption. What have been the biggest challenges facing your retail customers?

Brad Turnbull: Maintaining growth and scale is a challenge for many retailers. Yes, retailers can reach a certain level of success with their existing technology solutions, but there’s always a chance they’ll either outgrow the technology or simply find a new and improved one. No matter the reason, many retailers we work with are tired of their current technology stack holding them back. Though adding new services and platforms is an option for retailers, it might not be the most viable one, as it leaves retailers with a resource-intensive spiderweb of technology services, where nothing is integrated, and everything is expensive to maintain.

From artificial intelligence (AI) to personalization, new sets of technology buzzwords are constantly grabbing the public’s attention. With the next big thing always on the horizon, it’s easy for some retailers to forget about core business tenants like customer service, inventory availability, and other functions. To help mitigate these issues, retailers want to invest in modular or composable solutions that are built to securely integrate together and can expand over time. At Ultra Commerce, we place tremendous value in our API and developer toolkits that make those kinds of integrations possible.

AWS: How do you see retailers adjusting their operating environments to current market dynamics and changing consumer expectations?

Brad Turnbull: Recently, we’ve seen retailers make smaller investments in the new technologies that are solving their pain points and core business challenges; this includes the selling, fulfillment, and operations of their digital commerce initiatives. The focus for ecommerce leaders and business teams has moved away from a start-over mindset to an incremental investment approach. The phased (step-by-step) approach is only possible with a commerce platform built to integrate with other services.

Another thing that’s changed is consumer expectation, particularly after COVID. This includes:

  • Demands for fulfillment choices
  • Types of payment options
  • Real-time information for pricing, at hand
  • Ultra-fast delivery

The migration from traditional online shopping to mobile was already in the works for consumers, but it’s been sped up dramatically in recent years.

AWS: The retail industry is incredibly resilient. As you look forward, what role do you think technology and the cloud will play for retailers? How do you see technology enhancing the customer experience and improving operational efficiencies?

Brad Turnbull: I believe the biggest challenge the cloud environment, and our infrastructure, has solved for retailers is the ability to scale on demand. For example, when flash sales and holiday traffic spikes hit, it’s no longer the fire drill it used to be. Gone are the days of people sitting in a server room furiously setting up new servers.

Looking to the future, security will undoubtably be one of the biggest factors for retailers. With consumers bound to hear about security breakdowns, hacks, and other issues, even the biggest retailers will feel anxious. Knowing this, security must be at the top of retailers’ minds if they want to maintain the highest security standards and assure customers that their personal information is secure.

AWS: With the current disruptions in the retail industry, how is your company innovating to help your customers?

Brad Turnbull: First and foremost, our product roadmap is customer and partner-led. We listen to our agency and implementation partners as well as our clients and customers directly to understand the unique challenges they’re facing every day. With our experience, Ultra Commerce is focused on continuing to build and enhance our platform to solve real world problems that retailers face. From challenges with scale and service, or growing pains due to missing key ecommerce selling features, we want to enable retailers to meet customer expectations with online store experiences that empower growth.

To help our retail customers, we release core platform updates on a regular basis and roll out updates to customers when they need them. We are also intensely focused on support, a core tenet of the platform and our service. Not only does the technology support team have to be available 24/7, but it needs experience to understand retailers from their perspective.

With all the new changes in the marketplace, new sales channels, and shifts to new retail environment, we knew it was paramount for our technology platform to be flexible. Because at the end of the day, retailers aren’t always looking to (or even able to) completely re-platform their entire technology stack every few years.

AWS: There’s so much talk at the moment that the shopping experience has changed, and there’s a new normal going forward. What does this new normal look like to you, and how do you think the retail experience will look three years from now?

Brad Turnbull: I completely agree, the shopping experience has changed. Retailers are still figuring out how to deliver the best experience for the customers. For example, the buy online pick-up in-store (BOPIS) experience is still relatively new for many stores, meaning the logistics can be complicated for some retailers. Real-time inventory, in-store returns, and matching promotions are just a few issues retailers are trying to solve for, issues that can have a major impact on a customer’s experience.

Apart from these challenges, retailers also recognize that some of their best customers are those who shop both in-store and online. To engage these customers, retailers need to adjust their offerings and marketing accordingly, focusing on the single view of a customer who shops everywhere.

Going forward, the new normal is simply understanding that solving these issues will always be an ongoing process.

AWS: What excites you about the future of retail?

Brad Turnbull: Between new technologies in personalization, AI, and automation, there are many new capabilities that retailers can use to deliver more customized customer experiences, targeted promotions and customer-specific shopping journeys on storefronts in the near future. How those services connect and integrate back into the ecommerce ecosystem is something we’ll continue to pay close attention to and I’m sure we’ll be integrating many of them into storefronts for our customers.

I don’t think the industry expected as much progress with direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that have grown quickly. Their success has taught older, more traditional brands and retailers some interesting tactics and technologies, leaving some behind the times. Seeing how those companies adjust and make some investments to freshen up their digital presence will be something to keep an eye on.

AWS: Thanks for chatting with us, Brad. We appreciate your insights and expertise.

If you have questions for Brad, Ultra Commerce, or AWS, please comment on this blog. To learn more about Ultra Commerce get in touch on their contact page.

Additional reading

Ultra Commerce transforms online selling with next generation, end-to-end ecommerce platform on AWS »

AWS Partner Spotlight

Ultra Commerce is a cloud-based headless commerce platform that helps businesses of all sizes build and launch modern ecommerce experiences. Built for B2B, B2C and Marketplace with connected commerce modules including storefront, order management and product management, Ultra Commerce delivers the agility to innovate across the entire enterprise powered by a modern headless commerce platform. With offices worldwide, Ultra Commerce boasts a truly global network of teams and partners to best service their international clientele, offering more than just a platform but a technology partner for them as they grow.

For more information about Ultra Commerce, visit

Connect with Ultra Commerce »

Ultra Commerce in AWS Marketplace »

David Isaacs

David Isaacs

David Isaacs is a Senior Partner Development Manager at AWS. In this role he supports GTM initiatives for technology partner companies. David has a strong interest in building businesses & creating frameworks for sustainable growth. Prior to joining AWS David ran Revenue Operations across APJ for LogicMonitor and Pure Storage. David holds a ME in Mechanical & Aerospace from the University of Auckland and a Certificate in Business studies from INSEAD.

Brad Turnbull

Brad Turnbull

Brad Turnbull serves at CIO at Ultra Commerce, based in Sydney, Australia. As CIO, Brad is responsible for working with the operations, infrastructure and product teams to continue to develop the commerce platform product and delivery for global enterprise clients. Brad joined Ultra Commerce in 2013 as Solution Architect working directly with clients to plan and build their commerce implementation. Prior to joining Ultra Commerce, Brad served as Lead Infrastructure Engineer at Servcorp.