You are a company that is looking for a new commerce solution, and you don’t know where to start. How do I pick the right product? Can I narrow down my list of potential suitors right off the bat? Most likely, and it’s possible to find a product that is built closer to your specs than you might have thought, often leading to a quicker time-to-value.
Navigating a Crowded Commerce Space
The commerce platform space is growing, with the number of vendors increasing and competition intensifying. This leaves a lot of businesses in a position of uncertainty in how to select a platform, and whether or not that platform is the right fit for them. If you’ve seen the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce, there are the perennial leaders, but also some very niche players with pointed solutions.
Generally speaking, customers will usually narrow their search pretty quickly to a short list based on some key factors including features, functionality, and general cost. For example, a small or medium sized business is less likely to select IBM since it may be cost prohibitive, whereas a large, multi-national B2B manufacturer is not going to pick Demandware given its limited B2B feature set. (Note: It will be interesting to now see how the Salesforce acquisition of Demandware and the native Salesforce B2B solution in CloudCraze will evolve going forward) As a result, platforms can be quickly struck based on feasibility or application to their business. But the question is still, which one will suit me best?
This is where differentiation surfaces between a lot of the niche platforms, and select offerings from the leaders in the space. These platform companies are achieving this differentiation by aligning their product to the key functions of their customers’ digital business. Primarily, we’ve seen this unfold as starter web-store solutions for specific industries, or as a dedicated solution to a particular industry or feature. Here’s a look at both.
1. Starter Web-store
Many of the leading platforms have turned their attention to starter stores, which offer an “out of the box” website that caters to specific lines of business. For example, SAP Hybris offers a Telco Accelerator, (among many other Accelerators) which allows for a standard experience for businesses in the telco space (Mobile phone providers, for example). Demandware and the SiteGenesis default storefront generally targets footwear and apparel retailers and brands.
To enable these storefronts, the back-end tooling is built in a way that supports the management of the data required to run the website. This generally means that this management process has already been thought through and built, requiring minimal modifications and quick adoption from business users.
Why is this important? Companies are continuing to look for mechanisms to get to market quickly with new solutions, and having a starting point for an online experience is one of those options. With a company’s “buy-in” to the overall site structure and experience, minimal styling and functionality changes can be made to reduce the time-to-value.
2. Dedicated Solution
For some industries and business types, targeted solutions have been built with that focus in mind. MyWebGrocer, for example, focuses on the digital commerce capability for all things grocery. Now, could a full service commerce platform support the grocery industry? Sure, but the selling point from MyWebGrocer is the end-to-end solution for a grocer’s digital presence where another platform might require customizations, etc. Insite Software targets its solution solely to manufacturers and distributors – as a result, it’s a very appealing option for those types of businesses since all the R&D for the product has been centered around that focus.
Feature or Business Process Focus
Other dedicated solutions come in the form of a specific function or feature to support a business or set of business processes. Not all companies need a full-fledged solution, and are in need of a very specific capability to support their overall digital commerce business.
Digital River enables businesses to expand without the headaches of growing the overall infrastructure of the commerce operations, by taking on payment processing, order management, customer service, etc. Meanwhile, Apttus focuses its core offering on quote-to-cash within the commerce space, appealing to companies where seamless interaction between sales reps and end customers is key to their business. In these solutions and a host of others, the idea is that customers want to avoid customizations and attach themselves to a tool that can empower their business quickly and allow both top-line growth and increased operational efficiency.
The key for companies looking at these type of options is knowing which one will provide the quickest value and payoff for their business case. In some cases, it could mean sacrificing on other areas of the commerce suite for the time being in order to rapidly enable a specific capability. If a commerce solution’s focus is on product and content management, it’s very possible it doesn’t have a robust order and fulfillment process tool set. And that very well could be OK for now.
So What IS the Best Platform for Me?
Is there a recommendation on which vendor to select? No, because there is not a true “one size fits all” approach or solution. But when going through the process, the above details should be critical factors on how to think about “which platform is right for my business?” and how to gain an advantage in the marketplace in a shorter time frame.
Pointed questions need to be asked of the vendors on how their product will cater directly to your business, goals, current staff skill-set, and maintenance/hosting needs. A company’s ability to answer those questions and clearly demonstrate their platform capabilities to tell a compelling story should really be expected.