One of the best solutions out there for managing content is, and has been for a while, Sitecore. When we decided on which systems to select for the upgrade of our software infrastructure, we started looking at which CMS to base the solution on, since content is really what brings us visitors to our store. According to Gartner, Sitecore is now in one of the best possible positions according to Gartner as published on Sitecores website about Gartners magic quadrant for WCM 2015.
In a modern e-commerce solution where content is helping us reach good positions in the search engines for relevant keywords, it is really important that we are able to build the new website to elaborate on how the current e-commerce store is performing. We can see that the pages that have the highest conversion rate are those that are driven by content such as product comparisons, knowledge sharing and ways to solve problems by our products.
We have been looking at other e-commerce solutions, and most of them have some capabilities when it comes to content, but it is really basic. The pages that are really good landing pages combine content and product information in one place. This seems to be a bit of diffecult problem to solve with the different solutions. Either you will have a really good CMS or you will have a really good e-commerce solution for selling products. Most solutions are not yet enabled to have the perfect mix between content and products.
Sitecore Commerce Connect
In Sitecore, there is a standardized way of implementing e-commerce in the experience platform from a frontend and backend perspective. There is an object model that can store product data and ways to integrate with it just enough to suit your business needs. There is an object model and ways to manage shopping carts, customers, orders, prices, inventory, discount codes and all the components that are required to create an online store.
It is possible to implement an e-commerce solution based on Sitecore without using Commerce Connect, but then every e-commerce solution would become unique. There are probably several solutions out there doing just this that are working just fine too.
What I see as the main benefits from my point of view of using Commerce Connect is:
- The data model is standardized. In every implementation using Commerce Connect, a product is a product.
- There are pipelines that are invoked to integrate with backend systems for all the commonly used use cases in an e-commerce site.
- It is possible to use plugins from the Sitecore Marketplace regardless of which backend system that I am using.
- It is by design possible to integrate several backend systems in the different pipelines, such as having a PIM system providing product information, the ERP system providing prices and stock etc.
- One commerce solution with a product repository shared along the different sales channels such as our smaller more specialized e-commerce stores and market specific stores.
In the following posts, you will learn how we have used the combination of Sitecore and Commerce Connect to integrate with the underlying PIM and ERP systems, payment service providers, CRM system etc.
The backend for e-commerce
For those of use that have been working with a lot of different e-commerce solutions, we have learned that there is seldom a solution that is great for everyting. It is often the case that the best total solution is created from a combination of several underlying systems interoperating together as the solution. Due to the requirements with a content driven business, we were not able to use the pure e-commerce solutions such as Magento and needed something that could help us with several of our requirements on a backend system.
We have selected STORM as the e-commerce backend. This is for several reasons, but perhaps mostly because:
- There are APIs in Storm to provide Commerce Connect with all the data is requires for building a commerce solution based on the idea behind Commerce Connect.
- It provides us with a way of populating our products with technical data from the content providers such as CNet and Icecat, since we are selling mostly well known standard products. We want to spend time having great product information, not chasing already known technical attributes.
- It allows us to have a flexible strategy for stock by implementing and selling a much wider assortment by using our suppliers stock and drop shipment from the suppliers that provides this for us.
- Rules for setting prices based on purchase prices and competitor prices which means that we may have attractive prices in some categories, but not too attractive compared to our competitors.
- A true SAAS solution that is constantly being improved.