Selecting The Right Services Firm Can Make Or Break Your Project And Your Business

When commerce platform initiatives kick-off the discussion naturally turns to commerce platforms, order management solutions, content management, search, and many, many other point solutions. Often the question of who will help integrate the solution is left for last. This is frequently a mistake.

In fact, selecting the right services firm can make or break your project, and therefore your business. As commerce programs that reach across customer touch-points get more complex and risky, the process of selecting a services provider has become increasingly critical to businesses' success or failure. Yesterday's relatively simple eCommerce projects have become today's customer experience, business, and technology transformation programs.

These programs are not simple, and require an investment in time, money, and resources. It is not a matter of just wiring up the commerce platform, but instead a whole set of business processes, systems, and strategies will also be impacted. And these skills and expertise are very difficult to keep on staff, requiring companies to supplement with external services providers. Companies now require a multi-disciplined vendor partner to guide decisions upon which rest millions of dollars of revenue, brand differentiation, customer satisfaction, and careers.

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How To Prioritize Your eCommerce Technology Investments

2011 is in the books, and I certainly hope your business in 2011 reflected the macro trends favoring online and mobile commerce. But as the calendar rolls over and we (quickly) fire back up after the holidays it is time to look at 2012’s plans and ensure we are laying the foundations for a successful year and beyond. But that begs the question of how best to manage the prioritization of technology investments in an environment of increased budget, and increased visibility. Some of you may be done with this, but many of you are still in the midst of making your decisions. As you complete your prioritization of projects for 2012, some things to keep in mind:

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A Look Ahead At eCommerce Technology in 2012

As the calendar flips to 2012 we all seem to feel the urge to assess the near past and look to the near future. 2011 was a year full of industry rattling M&A and meaningful growth in eCommerce channels in the face of tough economic head winds. But, we have all already read too many posts recapping and listing 2011’s big events. Besides, we lived it already, time to move on. So what is 2012 bringing the world of eBusiness technology? A few things to look for:

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Microsoft Folds Its Hand And Abandons Commerce Server: What It Means

With other enterprise players such as IBM, Oracle, hybris, eBay and others at the table betting heavy on commerce solutions, Microsoft announced today that it is folding Commerce Server and leaving its shrinking pile of chips behind. While others have invested heavily through acquisitions, product investment, partner recruiting, and have been increasing their focus on commerce, Microsoft will walk away and hand over the product to a third party –Ascentium. Oh how much the game has changed; in 1999 Microsoft was the one with the tall chips.

Ascentium, a Bellevue, WA based digital agency and commerce services provider, will be taking over all the intellectual property rights, future product development, marketing, and support of Commerce Server from Microsoft.

What it means for Microsoft Commerce Server clients:

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The Agile Commerce Platform: Commerce as a Service will transform commerce technology

We are in a highly disruptive time in the world of commerce technology. Consumers are interacting in increasingly unique ways empowered with ubiquitous Internet connectivity with fun and easy to use interfaces and tools. Their expectations are impacting how companies market, manage their supply chains, organize, and measure the business. The needs of “the platform” seem to evolve from one week to the next. What we used to call eCommerce Platforms are now not only powering webistes, but also mobile sites, mobile apps, call centers, and in-store or in-branch interfaces that both customers and staff are using – sometimes together.

But there is an even more fundamental change about to occur – the agile commerce platform. The agile commerce platform will expose commerce as a service (CaaS) to support all touchpoints with customers. A services enabled platform which will enable eBusiness & Channel Strategy leaders to drive differentiation, respond to changing customer expectations, and enable creative business relationships to support business adaptation and facilitate growth*. Commerce solution providers from across the map are building CaaS solutions.

This is the topic of my latest report.

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Oracle Buys Endeca: What it means

 

The eCommerce technology landscape continues to be reshaped in 2011. This morning the music stopped, and Endeca was sitting in the laps of Oracle, as they announced it has acquired the search, CXM, and BI* solution provider. This acquisition is a strong signal of Oracle’s focus on commerce and is a key piece in a larger puzzle.

Why did Oracle buy Endeca?

·         CXM. When Oracle bought Fatwire they cited the emerging CXM trend. But there was one problem, what was going to pull that all together with a strong, well-attributed, rich index of content, customer, and transactional data? Question answered as Endeca will fit in very nicely as a complement to ATG, Seibel, and Fatwire as a CXM solution to drive personalized, dynamic, contextual experiences across consumer/client touchpoints.

·         B2B. Endeca may be known as a search and guided navigation solution for B2C commerce sites, but it has a particularly strong value proposition for B2B companies with large complex product assortments – such as manufacturers and distributors across many industries. This acquisition will strengthen Oracle’s value proposition in B2B opportunities. Some may argue that search has been largely commoditized by Solr, but in these applications that is not yet the case. (That is evidenced by the combined success hybris and Endeca were enjoying together up to this point.) This acquisition will strengthen the Siebel, Oracle ERP, and ATG B2B offerings all together.

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Target.com Crash Not A Site Failure But A Failure To Forecast

Much has been made over the last two days of the Target.com crash and availability issues following its Missoni promotion that launched on Tuesday. Coming on the heels of the site’s relaunch on IBM Websphere Commerce after many years on the Amazon enterprise solution led many to speculate that there was a serious mistake made in the building of the new site. But this is not a failure of the new site, this is a failure to forecast.

When Target's marketers planned the media blitz and direct marketing around this Missoni promotion, launching the collection with great fanfare — and at the same time online and in-store— they likely planned on a web traffic response and resulting sales of 2-3x normal. That would be a terrific outcome, no doubt justifying the expense and effort of the multichannel promotion. I am sure no one forecasted a 10x normal response, and peak traffic 3x Black Friday traffic peaks. And beyond just the click-through, the consumer behavior on the site after click-through was unusual. This was not a product they were promoting, but a collection, and consumers were placing many, many items in their cart, well beyond the typical 1-2 items per cart a B2C site like Target's would expect.

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Time to Optimize For The Era of Agile Commerce

Hard to believe, but it has been six months since our report “Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce” has gone live on our site. Since that time I have had the opportunity to have countless conversations with eBusiness and multichannel leaders about what this new era of consumer connectivity, technology advancement and the changing relationships they now have with their customers. We’ve talked about how their technology strategy, organizational approach, business metrics, supply chain, and customer experience have been evolving and what they have been learning along the way. We’ve talked about strategies to drive business transformation. We have talked about how to get started. And we have talked about how difficult it can be to change the way companies work.

Just the other day I had a conversation with a senior eBusiness exec, and I thought she summed it up very well. She said, “The thing is, the customer is already there. No matter how much we want to think things are the same, they are not.”

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Enter the Commerce API

 

Today Demandware announced their much anticipated Open Commerce API. While many clients may not be in a position to take advantage of this immediately, the value of APIs like this extends well beyond the typical feature release. That value will be in enabling their clients to extend the customer touchpoints they can manage with the core commerce platform well beyond their web and mobile commerce sites. In the era of agile commerce, commerce platforms like Demandware’s will increasingly be leveraged to power many consumer shopping and buying touchpoints  such as mobile apps, kiosks, in-store/branch solutions, interactive TV, social commerce, and embedded commerce. You can look to Tesco’s mobile shopping solution in Korea, or Ralph Lauren’s embedded commerce in their New York Times iPad App ads to see how a commerce API can be used. Robust, secure, well supported APIs will enable examples like these to be done in developer friendly ways to streamline development, enable innovation, and ensure quality customer experiences that leverage a consistent back-end commerce solution.

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Ascentium, Cactus Commerce, And The Evolution Of Commerce Systems Integrators & Agencies

Today Ascentium, a US-based independent digital agency announced its acquisition of eCommerce services provider Cactus Commerce. In the past, Cactus specialized in Microsoft Commerce Server solutions, often paired with SharePoint and its CommerceLive framework. The newly combined company with 500+ staff, offices in the US, Canada, and United Kingdom, and more than $65 million in annual revenue will focus on the design and delivery of commerce and content solutions. Among the many other acquisitions over the past year, this deal stands out as a bit unusual. It brings together a creative agency and a commerce and marketing systems integrator (though arguably Cactus has been more than that to many of its clients). In some ways, this marks the beginning of something we will see more of in the near future — the combining of agency and integrator to become commerce solution providers. 

This is the evolution of system integrators, consultancies, and agencies into something a bit different. We are now calling these firms global commerce service providers (GCSPs). These firms are adapting to the changing needs of clients for integrated services across channel strategy, interactive design, and technology capabilities in order to support the changing business needs in the era of agile commerce. Future services providers like the new Ascentium will combine:

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