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The convergence of enterprise eCommerce and CMS platforms…

Commerce and content platforms have performed an awkward dance over the years. CMS was first to the party capturing the attention of marketing departments who were looking for better ways to build and maintain their corporate website. Commerce platforms hit the scene years later when IT departments and executives realized that most transactions would eventually be electronic. The result has become a tug-of-war between CIOs and CMOs to determine who “owns” the presentation layer, who owns the data layer and who owns the customer. This paper will identify best practices and provide an example for IT and Marketing executives to find both harmony and ROI in the marriage of commerce and content.

The customer experience is often disconnected…

Imagine a customer has just Google searched for a particular product. They ended up with hundreds of results directing them toward a number of resellers just trying to sell product and providing very little rich content. From there he or she decides to search for the manufacturer of the product and is directed to the online catalog of the manufacturer. The user finds plenty of content, videos and information on the item. They are ready to buy and are asked to visit a separate online store from the manufacturer, which has a separate product page and a very different user experience. Sound familiar? A very popular example of this is Apple. Even they have a separate online store and do not allow users to purchase from the “marketing site”. Does this sound like an ideal track for your customer? It’s not…and is far too common in today’s competitive landscape of platforms and service providers.    apple store screenshot

The admin experience is clunky…

Now imagine you are the head of marketing for the manufacturer above. You are looking to create consistency for the user but you only control what happens up to the transaction. Your team has a tool which can update content and product information quickly but that’s it. The IT organization may also have a tool (or lots of custom code) which runs the commerce site. Integration is light between the two systems and changes to improve both sites which should take minutes can take weeks or even months. The good news…there is a better way.

A better approach…

Who will win this battle? Waiting for CMS or Commerce vendors to build out the best of both worlds is going to take some time and will cost you valuable time. You need to move now and identify the best of breed platforms in each area, which also have a strong integration between them. This integration must be proven and demonstrated with reference-able customers using the combined solution globally. Digging deeper into this approach I would strongly suggest that you look hard at the key objectives for each site and persona. If that site is more of a marketing site focusing on new business, you may want the CMS to lead. However, if the site is more of a high transaction portal for your channel or b2b customers, you may opt for the commerce platform to take the lead. Either way you need to make a choice.

In March of 2014 Peter Sheldon from Forrester wrote a paper on this very topic. He observes that organizations need to put a stake in the ground and decide which system is going to take the lead for their sites and user personas. Consideration must be given whether the site is more of a marketing tool or a transactional tool for the organization. I agree with Peter and would encourage you to download his paper. To take his advice, your executive team will need to step in and make this project a high-priority for the organization. Identifying the right team, right plan and right platforms is paramount. And remember, the goal needs to focus on the ideal customer experience and NOT just solving your internal business problems.

Case study example…

thule

A great example of this integrated approach is Thule Corporation. Thule is a global leader in the transportation of recreational equipment. If you bike or ski, you have certainly heard of them. Thule worked with Insite and Sitecore to deploy portals for their customers and sales reps working globally. The sites were designed to bring industry leading personalization to the B2B users visiting their portals. The platforms accessed detailed product information along with complex B2B commerce business rules were necessary to complete the experience. Thule leveraged the integration between InsiteCommerce and Sitecore to deploy portals which have quickly been adopted by their channel and sales organization. Sites are now being managed by marketing and not custom developers.

Next steps…Start with a “roadmap”

As mentioned above, I would strongly recommend you lay out a roadmap with sites for all of the b2b and b2c personas in your organization. Consider the sites that need to be deployed to fully enable sales reps, resellers, channel partners and consumers.

From there determine which best of breed platforms will be used for commerce and content. Identify which platform will take the lead for each of the sites and go from there. Building a team with experience deploying and using these tools will only further guarantee success.

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